April 17, 2024

STEP Forward: Empowering Teens for Success

Our STEP program helps teenagers who are facing challenges to become independent and successful young adults. These teenagers live in care, are displaced, or their families are in crisis. We are building their resilience and career skills - and it's great to hear what this means to them!

291 teenagers joined our STEP events in 2023, participating a total of 2,082 times. These events included:

  • 125 life skills training workshops - covering career guidance, soft skills, financial literacy, active citizenship, cybersecurity, mental health care and more…
  • 5 culinary camps attended by 101 teenagers, including those from 3 children’s homes
  • 2 “Meet and Code” events introducing young people to digital design skills
  • 10 art therapy events across 5 locations
  • 3 two-day camps for 71 teenagers, including adventure therapy in the Carpathian Mountains and skills for mental health.

In 2024 our efforts continue to bolster education and mental health. Recent studies show that teenagers in Ukraine are worried about their future, and feel anxiety due to factors such as war and distance learning, leading to feelings of insecurity, isolation, and depression. But we can help!

Nurturing Resilience and Social Bonds

Since 2022, teenagers from foster families have weekly online group sessions with psychologist Natalia Hertsun. This provides a safe space for teenagers to discuss their worries and build up their resilience and reflection skills.

"It's a place where we bring up very important topics, and it's also my safe place where I can express my thoughts and ask valuable questions. These meetings are very important to me." - Anna, 15 years old.

"Most of all, I like that when we discuss something, they ask for each person’s opinion. I began to look more positively at different situations, find a way out of them and not give up." - Iryna, 14 years old

We talked about a lot of topics that gave me ways out of difficult situations and made me understand what would help me, and not to forget why I need to take care of myself and my health. We talked about how to improve the personal qualities that help in life, and it gave me a boost. Many thanks to the organisers and Natalia Hertsun!" - Anastasia, 16 years old.

To encourage peer interaction, board games have been organised at our Creative Hub, facilitated by a volunteer who is a foster mother and our team who make it a safe and fun environment. These gatherings offer a break from sometimes stressful routines and foster strategic thinking, creativity, logic, and communication skills. Participants appreciate the opportunity to connect with like-minded peers and enjoy meaningful time together.

"Playing board games with friends is awesome! It's not just fun; it's pure joy. The teamwork, the competition, it's all there! Plus, it's a fantastic way to bond and strengthen our friendships." - Maria, 16

"I loved chatting with everyone and finding pals who share my interests. And those games? Hilarious! I laughed until my stomach hurt! Board games show how cool and diverse people can be. I even learned a lot about myself!" - Artem, 13

"These meetups are the best! They spark creativity, make you think, and otherwise I'd just be scrolling on my phone." - Andriy, 13

Building career skills

In addition to training and group activities we give individual support, including help with skills for employment. For instance, 17-year-old Pavlo, facing challenging family circumstances, is training to become a pastry chef. He tries to work part time to help his family. Thanks to funding from Rotary Club Lake Starnberg International and "First Cooking Courses," Pavlo attended a two-day intensive on icing and decorating cakes. Future plans include providing Pavlo with necessary equipment to practice and sell cakes from home.

“The course helped me realize that I knew almost nothing about decorating pastries. I found the Chocolate Velour particularly fascinating; it was my first time trying it out. I will quickly put into practice what I have learned.” – Pavlo, 17

We are looking for more funding to equip young people in challenging situations with the skills and qualifications they need for future careers.

Huge thanks go to our partners, donors and team for their vital support in making these projects a reality. Let's empower teenagers as they step into the future!

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