“We Care Deeply, and We Are Not Alone in This Journey"

Established in 2019, the Regional Development Agency “Office of European Integration” in Kherson Oblast only began to flourish in 2021 with the formation of a dedicated team and the initiation of the first regional projects.

With the onset of the full-scale invasion, the Agency, in an attempt to escape Russian aggression, halted its operations and dispersed globally. However, undeterred by the challenges posed by the invasion, the Agency managed to assemble a new team within nine months and resumed its operations. While the organization’s functions and tasks remained unchanged, the focus shifted towards supporting and rebuilding the communities of the Kherson region.

Alina Kuzmina, the Director of the Agency, sought individuals who were well-versed with the unique characteristics and requirements of their region:

“Our shared values for the Kherson region have united us: we feel the pain, we care deeply, and we are not alone in this journey.”

In 2023, the Agency embarked on a new phase of its operations. The team prioritized restoring lost communications, defining the mission and vision, assigning team roles, and kick-starting operations.

It was during this time that the the Regional Development Agency “Office of European Integration” in Kherson Oblast received an invitation from East Europe Foundation to participate in project management training. The Foundation’s Recovery and Resilience Program aims to support civil servants and representatives of regional development agencies.

Our champions, Alina Kuzmina, Director of the Agency, Maksym Khlupin, her deputy, and Natalia Melnikova, project manager, also joined the program.

Over the course of two months, the Agency’s team, as part of the Recovery and Resilience training, gained insights from leading experts in project management, fundraising, monitoring and evaluation, institutional development, and communication.

Subsequently, the participants were tasked with developing grant applications. To achieve that, the team of East Europe Foundation engaged the PMI Ukraine Chapter mentors certified in project management and experts in the non-governmental sector and institutional development in the program.

Under the expert guidance and supervision, the Regional Development Agency “Office of European Integration” in Kherson Oblast team has been diligently preparing a project application, focusing on the development of a corporate identity and website for the organization. They have already submitted their application to the grant program, marking their position as the first and sole participants.

“I found the training to be both comprehensive and well-structured. Unlike the general information often provided, this was different. The mentors shared their expertise and maintained weekly communication with us. Their thoughts, comments, and advice were invaluable,” Alina says. 

“We had attempted to secure support previously. We submitted a project last year, but unfortunately, we didn’t receive the grant. It was after attending the training that I understood the reasons for our previous failure,” she adds.

Thanks to the training, the Regional Development Agency “Office of European Integration” in Kherson Oblast has successfully initiated its project activities. The team is now in anticipation of the results of the institutional support grant competition, which could potentially amplify their efforts if they are victorious.

Photo: Agency’s team with mentors and experts of the program

Under the Recovery and Resilience program, the Agency’s team was able to develop several project applications simultaneously, with the guidance of mentors and through brainstorming sessions. However, some ideas had to be temporarily sidelined.

For instance, the project aimed at restoring the school’s roof had to be halted due to the area being under constant shelling. Despite this setback, the organization remains steadfast and undeterred.

“We are hopeful that we will have the opportunity to meet and communicate with numerous community representatives. Their feedback is crucial for us as it provides us with a clear understanding of the issues at hand,” Alina Kuzmina says.

The team is tirelessly working to establish connections with communities, engaging in dialogues with representatives of the administrations of both the right bank and the occupied left bank of the Kherson region. Their goal is to garner the necessary resources through innovative ideas and collaborative projects.


The Recovery and Resilience Program was executed by East Europe Foundation, funded by the Federal Government of Germany and supported by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.

The program objective was to help public servants improve their project management competencies. The program was attended by approximately 40 representatives from regional state administrations, municipalities, and regional development agencies across Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Dnipro, Chernivtsi, and Zakarpattia Oblasts.