The UPSHIFT programme has helped a team of doctors to distribute healthy food boxes to internally displaced children in Ukraine.
My name is Ivan Panasko, I am the initiator of the Health-BOX project. My teammates are Vladyslav Tokariev and Catherine Penia. We are all intern doctors in Kharkiv (a neurologist, a traumatologist and a surgeon, respectively). I participated in the first wave of UPSHIFT, an opportunity to support youth and adolescents to become a force for positive social and economic change, contributing to a competitive labour force, sustained economic growth, improved governance, and vibrant civil societies. My then MedikaMenty team implemented the Step UP – School for Active Teenagers project. But for this UPSHIFT wave, I have come up with a new idea and a team focusing on health.
In my opinion, the saying “Children’s health is the nation’s health” is more than just words. After all, the health of our young fellow citizens underpins the well-being of the whole of Ukraine and its future.
“Hard times create strong personalities” – we are currently at this stage of history. Therefore, I believe that some of those children whose eyes I will remember for the rest of my life will become great people and change our country, and perhaps the world, forever.
In times of war, it is everyone’s duty to help those in need. We decided to do this through the Health-BOX project. The idea is to provide food filled with vitamins, minerals and nutrients to children who left their homes due to the war in our country.
I was an internally displaced person for some time, so I know what some of the humanitarian kits, in particular those for children and teenagers, include. There is almost nothing that contains vitamins and minerals. Therefore, when I saw that the topic of this UPSHIFT wave could be humanitarian aid, I immediately knew what my team would do. We understand the difficult situation that our young fellow citizens found themselves in, and we want to help them grow up healthy and strong, despite everything.
The most challenging thing during the project was to find suppliers, because many companies are not currently working. So many products that we would like to add to the boxes are not available due to production shutdowns or destruction. However, our tenacity and perseverance helped us overcome difficulties.
Currently, we have received all the components, collated our Health-BOXes and started distributing them. Three hundred children have already received healthy goodies from us. In my opinion, the last stage is the most pleasant, because you see the eyes and expectations of those you did all this for.
Our project operates in the Kharkiv region, which is (almost) the frontline area of Ukraine. Eventually, we plan to expand because, at the beginning of the war, many children moved to the western regions of our country.
I am grateful to UPSHIFT for the experience I gained – in particular, I learned the basics of project management. And most importantly, I gained faith in what I do. Now I am sure that when you aim for good and think through your every step in advance, everything will definitely work out for you!
I believe that only by uniting and maximising our efforts will we be able to contribute to our happy future, because healthy children are the health of the nation!