Every summer, Caritas Ukraine has been carrying out charitable initiative “School Backpack” for almost twenty years. The initiative is aimed at provision of assistance to children from crisis families to get ready for school, collect school kits and share some festive occasion and support during these rough times. Schoolbags, notebooks, pencil boxes, coloured pencils, pens, markers, scissors, rulers, drawing sets, coloured paper and other stuff rather necessary for studies are quite often difficult to buy for families in difficulties, and our hard times show that a number of people in need is only increasing. ‘I am mother of a large family, we raise three sons and a daughter, all of them are pupils. To prepare one child for school we need at least UAH 5 thousand. My husband and I would have had to spend at least UAH 20 thousand to get children ready for school, without the assistance of people who care would not have managed. It is absolutely awesome that we have Caritas with its initiative’, Bohdana, a mother of pupils from Ternopil says.
During the whole summer, Caritas staff and volunteers from local centers together with benefactors, business structures and not indifferent individuals worked hard to make nice presents to their wards. Without a shadow of a doubt it can be said that this year initiative was extremely successful and covered Ukraine from Novovolynsk to Mariupol, from Kyiv to Odesa. We are sincerely thankful to all people who have joined the initiative. We managed to ensure two thousand children with school backpacks filled with necessary school kits using our joint efforts.
Moreover, this year school backpacks were presented not only to kids in cities where Caritas operates, but in other residential areas where children also needed help. Caritas Kyiv staff helped not only Kyivites, school backpacks with necessary stationary were delivered to 80 pupils from big and poor families in Cherkasy, to 35 kids in Radomyshlia of Zhytomyr region and to 20 children from villages in Fastiv district. Unlike big cities, these places are rarely visited by benefactors, but they still need assistance. More than 500 school backpacks were prepared with the assistance of Caritas Kyiv. Children from big families, families of IDPs and defenders of Ukraine from Kyiv got 300 backpacks.
120 children from IDP families and families in difficulties from Khmelnytskyi and Khmelnytskyi region received necessary school stationary and backpacks with assistance of Caritas Khmelnytskyi. Except for traditional types of fund raising and stationary collection, alternative methods were used to enlarge the scale of the initiative. For example, a chain of stores Office Center, a traditional partner of the organization, launched a two-month initiative “Bring an old backpack to the store and get a new one with a 20% discount“. All received backpacks were given to Caritas. Previously used bags and backpacks in good condition were collected not only in Khmelnytskyi, but in other cities as well, in particular in Mariupol. Such assistance is extremely essential for many families.
More than 200 children from Odesa got school backpacks. A number of benefactors involved was also high. “This year, we applied to many companies which run their activities in Odesa with a proposal to join the initiative. Many of them agreed. They launched fund raising and stationary collection among their colleagues; some organized charity fairs inside a company and then transferred funds or bought stationary on raised money. We are very pleased that our initiative is becoming more and more popular each year and we have the possibility to help more children’, Kira Menaker, Caritas Odesa employee tells.
“School Backpack” initiative of Caritas has become a heartwarming tradition in Ternopil, where 250 pupils got ready for a new school year. “We take care of children from Ternopil and region, as boys and girls in need are everywhere. Many parents turn to us for help. We thank all who joint the initiative and heard our appeal“, Director, Father Andriy Marchuk reports.
It is not that easy to pack a school bag. Children, their requirements and needs are rather different. Children of different age need different stationary. It is much more expensive to get ready a fist-grade pupil for school. That is why Caritas staff had to use a creative approach to distribute school kits and choose those who need it the most. ‘Actually, it is rather difficult to make a choice’, Kira Menaker from Caritas Odesa says. ‘Especially when you have 650 applications and you do not understand who extremely needs it and who can wait a little. But we estimated that when children start school they need everything from soup to nuts. It is easier with older kids as a backpack or stationary may remain from a previous year and thus expenses are lower’. Caritas Ivano-Frankivsk resolved the problem otherwise – out of 152 pupils from socially vulnerable categories who received the aid, 100 children got a UAH 600 gift certificate, the rest (mainly first-grade pupils) got school backpacks with all necessary school kits.
A festive occasion also came to children from eastern Ukraine, as even despite the proximity to the combat zone, children are still children who believe in good magicians and wait for a celebration and presents. Caritas local staff did everything possible to become such magicians, create a festive atmosphere for children and teenagers and make them feel the support of people who care. Money was collected with special boxes installed at school markets, cafes, flower shops and with involvement of local sponsors. More than 100 kids from Kramatorsk, Sloviansk, Mariupol received school backpacks and visited celebrations organized by Caritas Kramatorsk and Caritas Mariupol with the support of partners and benefactors.
The initiative took place in other cities too. 54 school kits and 50 school backpacks were transferred to young wards of Caritas Zaporizhzhia. 22 children from Drohobych and villages nearby got new bags, 13 pupils received school kits and stationary; Caritas Volyn prepared school backpacks for 41 children from IDP families; 51 kids received packed for school bags thanks to Caritas Kolomyia-Chernivtsi Eparchy. The initiative is still taking place in some Caritas centers as donations are coming and a demand for help always exceeds possibilities.
Caritas Ukraine wants to express its deep appreciation to those who are not indifferent and supported the initiative, turned the Knowledge day into a celebration with their contribution, and thank such business structures as Bank Credit Dnepr, SoftServe, LeBoutique, Ukrposhta, METRO Cash & Carry Ukraine, Pharmaceutical firm “Darnytsia“, publishing house of Ivan Malkovych A-BA-BA-HA-LA-MA-HA, chain of filling stations UPG, REHAU Ukraine – window systems , Derby as without their active participation the initiative would not have become so successful.