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When thousands of Europeans came to Ukraine during the high temperatures of the Euro 2012 football championship, Claude Bourdin from France visited all parts of Ukraine. He met young people from Foundations for Freedom who are helping to realise a number of projects and initiatives, following their commitment be responsible for their country.
Kiev. My participation in the Foundtaions for Freedom Committee Meeting, held in Kiev, was the deciding point of my visit. Apart from my Committee responsibilities, I also wanted to develop my knowledge of the Foundations for Freedom (F4F) team in Ukraine and to meet with farmers, as ‘Farmers’ Dialogue’ has also started to be active in this country.
While in Romania last March, I had already seen the way F4F is mobilising and inspiring so many of the younger generation in many countries of Central and Eastern Europe (Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, Belarus, …). For sure, the vision of F4F to train a new generation in ethical leadership and responsibility is becoming concrete. Many younger people, whether studying or at the beginning of their professional lives, are wanting to bring a spirit of service, justice, commitment and to make a difference in society.
The Committee Meeting gave a chance to get information about the many initiatives going on at the moment, directly under F4F or inspired by it. The programme 'Healing the Past' is an important one, trying to tackle the divisions among Ukrainians left from the past! Of course this is not only a Ukrainian problem, and this model could inspire other countries in that same direction of honesty, understanding and reconciliation. Could this approach help the continuation of the European process? We talked of the involvement of some of F4F members in topical issues (politics, minorities …), we heard about the many concrete initiatives taken by the two 'Club for Young Leaders' (in Crimea and Romania), as an expression of their individual and team commitment in society.
F4F, a young NGO, is slowly growing solid foundations, and we express much gratitude to all those who have given time and money towards this. Of course, funding is a key element, as is communication, and these two issues have been thoroughly studied in order to ensure progress and stability.
We also mentioned the strong involvement of many people involved with F4F who take responsibilities in Caux, the international conference centre of Initiatives of Change in Switzerland! It is a strong contribution, but it is also a way to give further training to those who take part.
Baranivka. I spent then four days in Baranivka, where some people have had the conviction to build a community centre to support the training ambitions of F4F, whilst the process of building is going on! What a vision and courage to start from hardly anything, in such a remote place! This was the strong comment of the Mayor of Baranivka who came to visit the place. We discussed our common experiences as mayor of our respective village or town, about agriculture in the area, but he wanted to know why some clever young people, well trained in higher studies, would give their time to this project! Lena, Nadia and Marina answered him. During my stay, a group of volunteers came for one day: they did some practical work, had a two-hour training session on 'the art of listening' and also had some precious personal talks all along!
I was able to meet two farmers (they lead small farms in Ukrainian standard)! One of them is in charge of the local Farmers’ Association. They expressed their despair in front of the difficulties they face: the sense of being ignored, looked down and not taken seriously, prices too low, no agricultural policies, high interest rates. I shall hear these comments with other farmers later in my visit! Can we help them in overcoming these difficulties, especially in meeting the right people to listen to them?
Crimea. The following step took me to Crimea, a very special part of Ukraine, both in history, identity, climate, nature … One word on the Crimean Tatar community: I met the grandmother of one of the young people who had joined the Eastern European group in Lorraine last May: aged 86 years old, she is like a living history book! Meeting other Crimeans, one realises the significance of the programme 'Healing the past' F4F project in this part of the country!
One day was dedicated to farm visits, with valuable discussion about the way 'Farmers’ Dialogue' could develop!
I took part over the weekend in a 'spiritual family retreat' organised by the local team of F4F: six young couples took part, listened to the input and experiences shared by Ian and Karin Parsons (Australia and Sweden), and searched together and as individuals and as couples about the values and the goals they have for their life, and tried to evaluate the gap between their ideals and the reality. The weekend was helped by three volunteers looking after the children, the food and the translation.
The vitality of F4F in Crimea was also confirmed in the meeting which was organised by the Club for Young Leaders around me: an occasion to talk with 15 young people about 'Farmers’ Dialogue', but also about the first steps of commitment, about the meaning of life, about values, using my own experiences and work with Farmers’ Dialogue and IofC …Discovering all the initiatives which they have taken (cleaning the beach, visiting an old people’s home, remembering in a positive way some crucial historic day, …), I am impressed by the way these young people seem to care for their country, for the practical needs around them, for Europe, and how each one of them is wanting to develop a meaningful life.
Krynychky. Last step: Krynychky, where Farmers’ Dialogue has started to take roots: there wasa main farmers’ meeting three years ago there and our two friends Misha and Peter are quite keen to think with us which next step to take. We could visit the farms and discuss some ideas which need to be followed up, but their main hope is that any step will enable real international contact between farmers.
To experience the spirit of the country while enjoying among Ukrainians the Euro 2012 football game Ukraine-France was a great end to my visit. Ukraine is a great country, part of the European continent: we need Ukrainians and surely they can contribute greatly! The commitment and dynamism of so many young people is already a real asset and a promise for the future! Thanks to all those who enabled this fruitful and inspiring visit!
Who we are: Initiatives of Change (IofC) is a world-wide movement of people of diverse cultures and backgrounds, who are committed to the transformation of society through changes in human motives and behaviour, starting with their own.
Purpose: We work to inspire, equip and connect people to address world needs, starting with themselves, in the areas of trustbuilding, ethical leadership and sustainable living.
Omnia Marzouk, President, IofC International
'Nothing lasting can be built without a desire by people to live differently and exemplify the changes they want to see in society.'