Help and Travel is a simple organization with a bold vision: HELP build a network of community-minded individuals to encourage social progress and community engagement and TRAVEL to lesser-served regions in Ukraine to do so.
A trash-strewn public playground gets a makeover. A museum expands the reach of its artwork online by installing an Internet connection. A historical site gains a sewage system. These aren't random instances of good fortune, but collective acts of goodwill conducted by a group of young Ukrainian adults wearing bright yellow t-shirts.
The group's yellow t-shirts read "Help and Travel," an organization with a bold vision: HELP build a network of community-minded individuals to encourage social progress and community engagement and TRAVEL to lesser-served regions in Ukraine to do so.
As high school students several years ago, Help and Travel founders Dasha, Denys, and Kateryna participated in the Future Leaders Exchange or FLEX program. This US Department of State-sponsored program brought them to the United States (Minnesota, West Virginia, and Hawaii, respectively) to live with an American host family and attend high school for one academic year. While in the US, Dasha, Denys, and Kateryna each volunteered over 50 hours in their host communities.
Volunteers install a sewage system at a historical site
Now back in Ukraine, the trio spreads the spirit of volunteerism one community service project at a time. Volunteerism has not traditionally been part of Ukrainian culture. For many citizens, encountering the Help and Travel group is the first time they have seen or participated in community service in-action.
"We envision Help and Travel as a communication bridge between rural communities and cities, and as a way to build a common understanding of what Ukraine needs right now," says co-founder Denys.
How Does the Help and Travel Project Work?
For each project, 25 volunteers, including FLEX alumni, travel by bus to remote towns across Ukraine for one week each summer to lead community service projects.
Volunteer efforts have so far taken place across 12 Ukrainian regions. These communities are often isolated from the resources available to larger towns and many of their public spaces have been subject to neglect since the start of conflict in Ukraine.
More Help, More Travel in Ukraine
There are now over 70 volunteers who continue to spread the Help and Travel vision by leading volunteer projects in their hometowns after the summer projects are over even organizing community service efforts in conflict-afflicted regions.
"Through our work, we have seen many instances when community service not only united, but also transformed, the mentality of the participants. They become friendlier, more open, and less likely to break simple social norms like throwing trash on the street instead of in a trash bin," says Denys.
The Help and Travel volunteers sleep in local schools to offset the costs of their projects
Can't Travel, But Still Want to Help?
Supporting the group in the yellow t-shirts means helping to spread understanding, knowledge, and inspiration throughout Ukraine. It means scaling Help and Travel's volunteer efforts to reach a greater number of people. It means working towards a peaceful and prosperous Ukraine.
The Help and Travel project is currently holding an IndieGoGo fundraising campaign to support their summer 2015 volunteer projects.
Follow volunteer efforts in action on the Help and Travel YouTube channel.