You cannot accept that there is no solution to a problem that had been bothering you for years just because others around you doubt that you can solve it.
A few months ago, our team decided to start fighting ragweed – the most dangerous air allergen in Ukraine. Every year during the period when ragweed flowers, people who suffer from allergies experience runny eyes and noses, itching, breathing problems, coughing, and sometimes hay fever. This plant's pollen can also cause allergic dermatitis and bronchial asthma.
I know how ragweed affects human health from my personal experience. Since childhood, my life has become a real challenge during this plant's flowering period: I have allergic symptoms, conjunctivitis, and a severe runny nose. Because the schoolyard is covered with plenty of ragweeds, I cannot attend gym classes at the beginning of the academic year.Our project aims to primarily help people in our home town Kupiansk — a city in Kharkiv Oblast of north-eastern Ukraine. After conducting a small survey among its residents, we learned that 73 out of 100 respondents believe that the city needs our project. They either have relatives and friends who are prone to allergic symptoms, or they themselves suffer from ragweed pollen.
The problem of hay fever is a personal issue for our team; each of us experienced allergy symptoms at least once. For some of us, fighting with them became a seasonal routine. This motivates us greatly to solve the problem of hay fever in our city.
We came up with the idea while participating in the UPSHIFT youth programme. While brainstorming, we identified a problem that bothers the people around us. After weeks of training, my friends, Andrii and Karina, and I created AmbroSTOPia – a project driven by a sincere desire to help the city feel free to breathe easier in summer.
Although it is almost impossible to completely eradicate ragweed, controlling it can prevent or alleviate allergies in people who have not previously been exposed to it. How can ragweed be effectively removed? It's a reasonably straightforward but painstaking job. It should be uprooted and replaced with other types of cultivated plants with robust root systems. This helps to reduce the number of ragweed plants and the concentration of pollen in the air.
Our project serves a threefold purpose: organizing community clean-up events, conducting awareness-raising campaigns and selling craft bags with seeds of perennial plants that prevent ragweed pollen from germinating. Clean-up events helped us to eliminate ragweed in the most crowded places and plant lawns and flowers instead. We managed to engage around 100 volunteers thanks to cooperation with local community organizations and schools. Together we cleaned 500 square metres of land of ragweed.
Currently, we are dreaming about creating a solid brand for our AmbroSTOPia project that will become popular in Ukraine and empower people with a specific solution to the problem. This is why we teamed up with designers and printing agencies to develop branded bags with 'Miracle seeds'. The package is printed with instructions on how to sow the plants we have selected. In addition, we also placed links to our social media platforms so that everyone can join AmbroSTOPia's activities, learn more about hay fever and explore life hacks to combat allergic symptoms caused by ragweed pollen.
While planning the awareness-raising campaign and working on the idea, we travelled to another city to record the perfect promo video, looked for free studios, wrote scripts, and brought together many people around our goal. We even created our own superhero Ambrostopman, who should save the world from ragweed. And it seems that he is succeeding at the moment!
Sabina Babayeva, 15, from Kupiansk, Ukraine, is Ambrostopia project’s team lead. She created and implemented her project through the UPSHIFT Youth Innovations Programme, supported by UNICEF.
UPSHIFT is a global innovations programme, that covers 23 countries worldwide. It is intended to develop young people’s 21st century skills and spread knowledge of social entrepreneurship. The Programme is supporting young people through training, mentoring and provision of funding to their initiatives that are intended to solve the problems of youth and find innovative solutions for their communities.