In Ukraine, the “oblasts” (regions) have youth centres that are kept with the help of community budget.  These centres belong to the community and deliver youth work and other services to young people. Local authorities and governors are always trying to influence and interfere with the youth centres’ independence. In this case, the authorities are apparently trying to block the renovation of the youth centre, thus shrinking the physical space of young people and youth workers.

Physical spaces for youth centres are permanently shrinking

I am a youth worker at a community youth centre financed by the Community budget which itself is managed by the local authorities in Ukraine. In 2015 a new administrative change was applied. United territorial communities were created in Ukraine meaning that settlement councils, rural councils, and a city of district significance can unite in a new larger administrative unit. Our region is also involved in this kind of enlarged community. Unfortunately, people who are in charge of governing our youth centre are far from reality and unaware of what a youth policy is.  Also, they are responsible for opening and organizing new youth centres. However, due to these circumstances, it is nearly impossible to explain to them the importance of youth work development.

Our Youth Centre is located in the old cinema building next to the town hall in the city centre. When the centre was founded, it was allocated to an almost useless building in the city centre. It is a former cinema and not in any way applicable to a youth centre. Moreover, the building is so old that it is, literally, being demolished on its own.

Two years ago, we applied for the renovation of our youth centre, collected and won the tender. However, we encountered many problems as a lot of people were against the renovation.  One reason could be that due to the renovation a theatre which was supposed to move there long before, would no more be able to.  As we belong to the regional administrative district, there always have been a clash of benefits and political games. In Ukraine, we have a tender of the Ministry of territorial administration where you can apply if you are a communal institution, as our youth centre. After we won the tender and were ready to start the repairing of the building, the government banned us from doing so, claiming that it was a local monument and a historical building. The interesting thing is that when we were preparing all the documents for the tender application, we had meetings with the representatives of the building and other departments and were, therefore, given their consent for the repairing.

However, since then a lot of complications have occurred: the government has accused the youth centre.  It was like a political game. Later the director of the department of sport and youth was fired. As a result, young people of our region lost the incredible opportunity of having a modern physical space, a youth centre, that could develop and improve youth work in the region.

According to the rules of the tender, we should already have started the repairing/renovation, but the local authorities do not allow us to do this, claiming that this is a monument of local importance and cannot be reconstructed by us. As a result, we had to rewrite the project which means that we could no longer access the money for the repairing. The public council, which represents the interests of the public, justified all the actions afterwards. We had the impression that by hindering the renovation of the youth centre, they were, perhaps, defending someone's interests. The directors of the Department of Youth and Sports and the director of the youth centre were charged and prosecuted followed by the resignation of the director of the department.

Now we have written a new project for the renovation of the youth centre, but we don't know if we can win again, because officially we have already won it. This was, indeed, a bad experience for us.  In this situation, we see that our regional government blocked the repairing of the youth centre. On the high ministry level, this renovation was approved, but the sum of the renovation project was so big that our governments couldn’t share their roles in this matter. Unfortunately, we just want to make a better space for the youth of the region (our region had fewer opportunities in Ukraine) and inclusion groups. However, we continue our mission with 9 people working in a small room with cracks inside and outside. It is really dangerous to even pass by the centre as the walls seem to be breaking apart. Just a few days ago, the governor of the region announced his resignation, stating that local authorities prevented him from assembling a team for the elections. For us, this means that there will soon be a new governor of the region, and our renovation story will have an unknown future.

The most interesting thing here is that the mayor’s office is literally next to these ruins.  However, it seems like we live in totally different worlds- the mayor's office with perfect renovation and infrastructure, and the crumbling youth centre that is fighting to be the better place for the youth.