The Journey of the CSO “Building the Future Together”

Established in 2019, the foundation was the brainchild of a group of individuals united by a common goal: to initiate small-scale projects supporting children. However, the onset of a full-scale invasion necessitated a shift in their focus. The foundation swiftly pivoted its operations to aid the residents of the Kharkiv region, who were bearing the brunt of the russian invasion, thereby venturing into uncharted territory.

“Helping People and Learning Simultaneously”

From the first day of the invasion, the foundation remained unwavering in its commitment to the Kharkiv region. The team, based in Mala Danylivka near Kharkiv, extended their support to neighboring communities. Being locals themselves, the team members leveraged their intimate familiarity with the region and its people to work more effectively.

The foundation marshaled all available resources: evacuating people from high-risk areas, collecting necessities for those affected, and distributing humanitarian aid.

“We made every effort to evacuate people using our personal vehicles and then relocated them to shelters,” Daria Bulavina, the Director of the CF “Building the Future Together”, shares.

According to Bulavina, during the first two weeks of the great war, the team did not even think of making their activities as an organization. However, as requests and issues piled up daily, they decided to continue providing aid under the auspices of the foundation.

Despite the foundation’s lack of extensive work experience, they had to learn quickly on the job. At the beginning of 2023, the foundation’s team participated in an educational project-incubator organized by the Rescue Now civil society organization. Here, they learned to design grant projects, manage finances, plan activities, and more.

“We were helping people and learning simultaneously. This really united our team. It was challenging but exhilarating,” Ms. Daria recalls.

This knowledge proved invaluable later on. From the end of 2022 until November 2023, the team designed 10 different projects and received grants for them. One of these projects was supported by East Europe Foundation.

Valuable Experience of Organizing Repairs

The shelter in the Berezivsky Mineral Waters Resort, Berezivske village, is the largest one for internally displaced persons in the Kharkiv region. Karina Bulavina, the project manager of the foundation, mentioned that they were able to accommodate 450 people from the areas of active combat operations:

“Overall, it’s a suitable place. The majority of the buildings were in a reasonable condition, but the canteen needed some attention. So, we decided to undertake its renovation.

Upon learning about the Together We Shelter program by East Europe Foundation, funded by the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund, which aimed to bring about quality improvements and enhance people’s lives, they didn’t hesitate. The “Building the Future Together” Foundation applied for the first wave of the program and was awarded a grant exceeding UAH 1 million.

“The canteen is a common area. It sees a lot of footfall every day, and it hadn’t seen any renovation for a long time. The staff did what they could at their own expense, but it was clearly insufficient. Furthermore, we noticed the empathy of the canteen staff towards those affected. They brought everything they could from homes to help. They treated people with care and love. They also deserved better working conditions,” Ms. Karina recalls.

The support from East Europe Foundation enabled the renovation of four rooms: the canteen, the cooking and vegetable halls, and another room. They replaced windows, tiles, lighting, and bought new equipment. Ms. Karina says the staff were pleasantly surprised when they saw the final result: “They’ve been working there for 20 years and never imagined it could look this good.”

According to her, the experience of carrying out the repairs was valuable and largely positive, although there were few unforeseen issues. For instance, they had to repair the entrance for product delivery, which wasn’t part of their initial plans.

“During repairs, certain issues always come up. The workers come in, take measurements, provide estimates. But as it often happens, when you start digging deeper, you always find a surprise. And you can’t just abandon the repairs, so you have to see it through,” she adds.

“When You Experience People’s Warmth, You’re Inspired to Do More”

The team’s cooperation with East Europe Foundation continued into the second wave of the Together We Shelter program. The new project aimed to distribute household kits to the residents of Ruska Lozova village. Liudmyla Hasan, the project manager, explains that both projects are interconnected:

“Many people residing in the shelter we renovated were from Ruska Lozova. In our interactions with them, they expressed a steadfast determination to return home. They never contemplated permanently leaving their homes.

Ruska Lozova was occupied, and as Liudmyla recounts, entire streets and houses were destroyed there. Only four or five families live in the undamaged houses. The foundation’s team knew that people were making efforts to repair what they could. This led to the decision to design a project focused on distributing household kits:

“The number of people returning is on the rise. Some have exhausted their finances, while others have grown weary of shelter life. Currently, only those with absolutely no other options reside there. Moreover, charitable organizations are providing materials – windows, roof slates, chipboards. Gradually, renovations are underway,” the manager shares.

The CSO team distributed 262 kits of household items. In total, nearly 600 residents of Ruska Lozova village received aid.

Hasan emphasizes that despite the challenging circumstances, people made their decisions early on, either to return or to stay in settlements near the front line. The foundation assists them in every possible way. People also share their heartfelt positive feedback:

“Emotionally, it’s tough to go there. But you feel the warmth, dedication, and energy from these people. The aid truly matters to them. They express genuine gratitude, thanking and embracing us. This inspires us to do even more.”

We Aspire to Improve Everything Beyond Its Original State”

The collaboration with East Europe Foundation was successful. “Building the Future Together” is the only organization to win a grant competition in both waves of the Together We Shelter program.

“We received substantial support from East Europe Foundation. Their experts were always available, advising us on reporting issues, as the grant conditions were quite demanding. Everything had to be prepared impeccably. We appreciated their detailed feedback and guidance on areas to revise or rewrite. It was fantastic as we felt a mutual interest, and our project design skills only improved,” Daria Bulavina shares her impressions.

The “Building the Future Together” team works round the clock, without weekends or holidays. They continue to develop new projects and seek funding because russian aggression continues to devastate peaceful Ukrainian towns and villages:

“Derhachi, Mala Danylivka, and Solonytsivka communities were once top-tier. They boasted modern infrastructure. Everything was built to endure. Nowadays, for instance, there are numerous destructions in the Derhachi community, and a school in Mala Danylivka is severely damaged. Therefore, our current priority is to work on recovery issues. We aspire to improve everything beyond its original state. So that we can move forward and enjoy a normal, successful European life.”

The Together We Shelter Program is implemented by East Europe Foundation with financial support from the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the position of East Europe Foundation and Ukraine Humanitarian Fund.