Caritas Volunteers are Improving How they Work with Mentally Challenged Youths


“At a time when our nation finds itself at the edge of two worlds, there is a growing need for people who can help children, isolated elderly individuals, and the disabled. Usually this type of work is done by social pedagogues or social workers. There are two reasons that illustrate the importance of attracting people to volunteer: help and socialization through self-determination, self-realization, self-education and self-discipline. However, in order for volunteers to work more effectively, they need theoretical and practical preparation,” states Lyudmyla Maksym’yuk, coordinator for Working with People with Special Needs in the Ivano-Frankivs’k Caritas.

To prepare volunteers the Help Another—Become a Friend project held 4 seminars in September-October (Getting Acquainted and Motivating Volunteers, Thoughts on Targeted Clients, Life and Skills for Living with a Disability, Communication/Conversation and Practicing Equality, Meeting the Clients) for 25 volunteers at the Caritas Ivano-Frankivs’k facilities.

Ms. Maksym’yuk says: “We gave ourselves a specific and concrete goalto broaden the foundation of individuals who will be interacting with and supporting special needs individuals. Each seminar consisted of theoretical information and practical activities so that the volunteers could better understand and integrate the information. After the seminars, participants were able to identify the basic concepts involved in providing psycho-social support for special needs individuals, better understand the lives and behaviour of special needs individuals, develop skills for identifying the needs and problems that young people in this group encounter.”

The volunteers conscientiously completed all their practical exercises and assignments. Their persistence enabled them to strengthen their teamwork skills and their communication skills. They are better prepared to understand the world of the disabled on a deeper level, to help remove psychological strain and to adapt to their surroundings.

Volunteerism is not work, it is a way to help our neighbours, the young people among us with special needs. After one seminar I kept asking myself: how would I feel if I was disabled? How would I feel if someone tried to help me? When I am with my friend I keep asking myself: What can I do for them today?” explained volunteer Yuliya Knyazyuk.

“During the seminar we learned the skills needed to work with special needs youth while perfecting our hearts! It is so important to be able to empathize in today’s world, to love others, to care about their pain. After the seminar, I started feeling more responsible about my volunteer work. The atmosphere which permeates the Caritas seminars allows a person to be open, to talk about their personal concerns and expectations. We don’t have the necessary skills but we want to learn them, we don’t have experience but we have experienced lecturers, we don’t benefit but we have the desire to make a change!” says Ira Karazub, another volunteer from the local Caritas.

These seminars were made possible thanks to the financial support of the Network of Cooperating Netherlands Foundations for Central and Eastern Europe, the Scan Foundation, and the Carpathian Foundation (Foundation to Develop Carpathian Euro-Region) and the Friends Program It takes Two: Help Another—Become a Friend.

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