Oxford Volunteers for Chornobyl — 2011

2011 Oxford Volunteers for Chornobyl


Deadline for applications: 30 June 2011

When: 22 August – 10 September

Where: Ukraine, Kyiv and northern region of Ukraine (Polissia)

Who: Postgraduate Students

To apply: send your application via email or apply online

2011 Volunteers for Chornobyl Programme” is supported by the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine

The UN “International Chornobyl Research and Information Network" (ICRIN), Oxford University Ukrainian Society, the National University of "Kyiv-Mohyla Academy", Petro Jacyk Program For the Study of Ukraine and CERES at the University of Toronto, with the support of the UN Volunteers are happy to announce the opening of the applications call for the Oxford Volunteers for Chornobyl Programme.

2011 is the 10th anniversary of the International Year of Volunteers (IYV), proclaimed by the United Nations and the year of the 25th anniversary of the Chornobyl accident.

Six volunteers from universities outside of Ukraine and six volunteers from the National University of “Kyiv-Mohyla Academy” or other Ukrainian universities will spend three weeks in August-September 2011 working on specific projects targeting development of the Chornobyl-affected areas in Ukraine in line with the UNDP targets.

The goal of the programme is to provide knowledge resources and strengthen the developmental process in the Chornobyl-affected area through international cooperation, as well as to increase awareness of and share knowledge about the consequences of the Chornobyl accident and the developmental approach for overcoming them through the involvement of students from all Universities but in particular  from the University of Oxford (UK) and the National University of “Kyiv-Mohyla Academy” (Ukraine).

Volunteers will be familiarised with the area, history of the Chornobyl accident and under the supervision of UNDP and the National University of “Kyiv-Mohyla Academy” teams would conduct a small research resulting in a written report on one of the topics linked to the developmental agenda in a specific area. Depending on the selected projects, volunteers will work with local authorities, national experts, local businesses, community organisations, etc.

Students work closely with UNDP experts, local academics and graduate students as well as local villagers on several projects in affected villages. The villages ARE SAFE FOR LIVING. Students might visit Chornobyl, the location of the nuclear power plant, and the city Prypiat, on supervised excursions if permitted by the Ministry of Emergencies. Most of the intensive grassroots development community work, is completed in smaller towns and villages, with the cooperation (and even in some cases directed by) local residents. This is an exceptional kind of personal, practical, intellectual, and cultural exchange that is very hard to come by. Volunteers live with the local residents and have a chance to get to know true Ukrainian life in rural areas. Volunteers not only gain outstanding practical experience but also develop a personal understanding of the local culture and society..

Chornobyl-affected Areas

The Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant explosion took place on April 26, 1986, at 01:23 a.m., causing subsequent radioactive contamination of the surrounding geographic area. It is regarded as the worst accident ever in the history of the nuclear power. Large areas of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia were badly contaminated, resulting in the evacuation and resettlement of over 336,000 people. Nevertheless, more than an estimated one million people still live in the affected areas and face the accident’s long-term effects and challenges. The serious environmental problem has been exacerbated by the chronic economic crisis that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. With the region’s severe economic decline, many households have become reliant on government support to sustain their livelihoods.

Prospective projects for volunteers

Volunteers Livi Toye and Julika Erfurt designing a poster for the Youth Centre
to market its activities at Luhyny and Zhytomyr regions

Volunteers are expected to work in close cooperation with community leaders, local authorities, NaUKMA and UNDP experts to investigate the situation in communities and to indicate and develop community-based projects. All projects will target development and preservation of Polissia culture at the Chornobyl-affected areas.

Prospectives for Community-based or Green Tourism

Chornobyl-affected area is being quickly taken over by the wild life. How could these opportunities be used to benefit local communities that continue to live in the affected areas?

□ Preserving Polissia culture and opportunities for cultural tourism

‘Local tourism’ is being promoted as a solution for the culturally rich, but economically deprived Polissia area. In what ways could this concept be further developed and strengthened to serve the local communities?

□ Health and Healthy life style

The health is identified by Chornobyl communities as a priority area that should be supported by international and national community. How the state of health of local communities can be improved and how the healthy life style can be promoted?

□ Regional marketing strategy

It was identified that Chornobyl-affected areas are suffering from the negative stigma related to Chornobyl accident. At the same time Polissia is widely acknowledged by scholars to be the region where the oldest elements of ethnography and culture of Eastern Slavs are concentrated. How the region can be re-branded?

□ Development of international partnership between local authorities in Ukraine and abroad

In 2009 UNDP has supported partnership building between Ukrainian and Polish communities, as result 39 partnership agreement have been signed between local authorities. The role of volunteers would be to support communication and cooperation between partners

□ Infrastructure profile – challenges for development

Due to lack of investments at the territories that were affected by Chornobyl accident the infrastructure is believed to be underdeveloped. What are needs for the infrastructure development to ensure tourism and local development?

□ Youth Development and Information and Communication Technologies

UNDP has supported the establishment and the use of the Internet in a number of distant villages.

Assess the role that internet presently plays in local development and evaluate its further utility in facilitating the community development in Polissia region. How internet can be used by local youth to improve their opportunities for development? How ICT centres can cooperate with one another?

□ Dissemination of information on the consequences of Chornobyl to local population

What people know and do not know about Chornobyl nowadays? How does the local knowledge influences the opportunity for development?

□ Biodiversity conservation in the region

Chornobyl-affected area is being quickly taken over by the wild life. How could these opportunities be used for effective biodiversity conservation and for the benefit of the local communities?

How to apply?

Via email:

  1. Fill out the Application Form (DOC, PDF).
  2. Write a letter of motivation describing your qualifications, research project that you would like to undertake and possibilities to achieve it in expected timeframe. It is important that your research project corresponds to proposed areas of work or with the general objectives of the UNDP.
  3. Submit your application package to Ms. Dzvinka Kachur (dzvinka.kachur@undp.org.ua) with the subject line ‘Oxford Volunteers for Chornobyl Scheme’.

...or online:

  1. Fill out on-line Application Form

Financial and other arrangements

All travel costs as well as living expenses should be covered by volunteers themselves.  However, organizers will support logistics and finding the most suitable accommodation during the stay in the communities as well as during the seminars. The accommodation during community stay is very basic, village style. Approximate cost of stay in Ukraine for one week is about £100. The cost of roundtrip flight from London is about £80.

Volunteers are responsible for their medical insurance.

Scholarships and Bursaries

Participants from Ukraine have an opportunity to receive scholarship to cover their travel expenses to community organisations, the cost of accommodation and food during their stay in communities. The cost of accommodation in Kyiv for Ukrainian participants will not be covered.

Participants from universities outside of Ukraine could receive financial support to cover transportation to communities and some cost of accommodation to stay in communities.  No financial support to cover trip to Ukraine or stay in Kyiv will be provided.

To apply for these scholarships please state so in your application.

Two participants from the University of Toronto can receive a bursary in the amount of $750 CAD to cover the expenses of the programme ( upon their acceptance into the programme). For further details about opportunities for the students from the University of Toronto please contact: Dr. Olga Onuch at olga.onuch@utoronto.ca.

About UNDP priorities in Chornobyl recovery

School children in a Chornobyl-affected Kuhche village
(Zarichne district, Rivne region) where volunteers work

UNDP aims at boosting the recovery and development in Chornobyl-affected areas of Ukraine, in accordance with the February 2002 UN report on Human Consequences of the Chornobyl Nuclear Accident: A Strategy for Recovery. Additionally, UNDP supports the Government of Ukraine in its efforts to mitigate lasting social, economic and ecological consequences of the Chornobyl disaster and build more secure and prosperous living conditions for those living in affected areas.

UNDP is advocating a transition from humanitarian assistance toward a long-term development approach for Chornobyl-affected areas. This approach calls for Chornobyl development assistance that works to enhance the self-reliance of individuals and communities by building their capacity to lead their own initiatives for improved living conditions.

UNDP Objectives:

With a strong emphasis on economic development, the project builds a sustainable national framework supporting the return to normal life in the region and in particular focuses on the following areas:

  • Strategic solutions to support sustainable local economic development: provision of ongoing advisory support to the Government and  assisting in the elaboration of development-oriented solutions for rehabilitation of the Chornobyl-affected regions.
  • Enabling local governance environment to foster economic development - enhancement of local authorities capacities to transparently define and implement local development strategies, deliver public services, and foster local economic development, including support of strategic planning at rayon level and enhancement of local economic development agencies capacities to facilitate local economic development, provide services for business and authorities in the region.
  • Consolidation of community-based recovery and development –involvement of a larger number of affected communities in recovery and development processes, ensuring introducing of strong national ownership of the approach that addresses specific needs of communities, undergoes revision of radioactive-contamination zones; and targets youth specific issues in the region such as access to ICT technologies and Internet.
  • Human security through local information provision - development of national capacities to sustain community-based information provision network for the Chornobyl- affected regions and enhancement of local authorities capacities to improve public awareness and levels of human security in communities living around nuclear facilities based on the Chornobyl lessons learned.

Information on Partners

In 2011, the programme was supported by the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, as well as by Petro Jacyk Program for the Study of Ukraine, and the United Nations Volunteers.

UN International Chornobyl Research and Information Network (ICRIN)


The UN International Chernobyl Research and Information Network (ICRIN), funded by the UN Human Security Trust Fund and implemented in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, began in 2009 and will last three years. The project is s a joint effort by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Activities planned under the ICRIN project include publication of hands-on information materials; training for a range of influential local figures, including teachers, medical professionals, community leaders, and the media outlets; and the creation of Internet centres in rural areas to provide local communities with tools to find the information they need.

National University of ‘Kyiv-Mohyla Academy’


Kyiv-Mohyla Academy is one of the oldest universities in Eastern Europe. Today the University is the centre of international stature and finds strong support among scientific, educational, political and cultural circles both in Ukraine and abroad.

Oxford University Ukrainian Society


Oxford University Ukrainian Society was officially created on 26 November 2004 with the aim to provide a locus for Ukrainian students at Oxford and to promote the culture and traditions of Ukraine within Oxford University.

United Nations Volunteers Programme in Ukraine


The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme is the volunteer arm of the United Nations. UNV has benn established in Ukraine in 1993 in an effort to contribute to the international commitment to build up the Government's democratic policies and civic engagement, as well as to tap, together with UNDP, into the potential to work with civil society in promoting volunteering for development.

Agenda 2011





Arrival of participants to Kyiv




Orientation program: Volunteerism, community development process, Ukrainian culture

22-24/ 08/11

You will learn more about:

- community development process

- Chornobyl accident and radiation safety

- Ukrainian culture

- basics of Ukrainian language


- Kyiv sightseeing


Working in the field

25/08 – 30/09/2011

You will work on selected projects in the region with UNDP-partners

Polissia area

Visit to Chornobyl Nuclear Power Station


-         Field visit to the ‘Exclusion zone’: museum at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Station and Prypyat city which used to have 30 000 inhabitants and now is a “dead city” after the resettlement of 1986

Exclusion zone

Seminar on development & public administration in Ukraine


You will work with experts in the field of conservation and development on your selected projects as well as will be briefed on the partnership scheme between UNDP/Communities and the district administration

Polissia area

Working in the field


You will continue to work on selected project in the region with UNDP-partners

Polissia area

Networking seminar /



Volunteers are expected to make a presentation on their findings.  Experts, community leaders and other organisations involved in local development in the area will discuss the findings of volunteers.








Health and Healthy Lifestyle Development, Radiation Zone 3, Ukraine (M. Kubaras, V. Detgyar)

Lyubech, Ripky, Khomutec: challenges for development (M. Forde, M. Shpiker)

Marketing Recommendations for Expanding Tourism in the Chornobyl-Affected Regions:  The Cases of Manevychi & Borodyanka (K. Hays)

Development of International Partnership Between  Local Authorities in Ukraine and Abroad (M. Dalrymple)

Prospects for Green and  Cultural Tourism in Udryck and Prylisne (L. Vicente)

Testimonials from Previous Years

“In 2007, I volunteered to go and work in a community development project in the Chornobyl affected areas through the Oxford Volunteers Scheme – organised by the University of Oxford and the UNDP Chornobyl Recovery and Development Programme. With an academic background in History and Politics of Eastern Europe, I thought I knew a few things about Chornobyl – yet the confrontation with reality put a lot of things in perspective.

Working in the communities was a great experience and certainly something I will never forget. Although the conditions were not always the easiest and communication was not always as clear as we had wished, working in the villages was great and the people were really excited about us being here. They were very welcoming and friendly and showed a lot of interested in our every-day lives. The interaction with the young people was great, as was the contact with the community organisation leaders. We managed to get a few discussions going and exchanged ideas about projects: in one village, we developed action plans for the Youth Centre and tried to get support from other stakeholder in the village. In the other village, we focussed more on teaching English and strengthening ties between different community leaders.

Now, half a year later and graduated from Oxford, I find myself in an office of a UN agency in Geneva as programme officer for a project in which Ukraine is one of the focus countries. Although our project it is not directly related to the Chornobyl programme, it is good to know what the situation in the field is like. Having experienced how community development projects initiated from behind a desk are implemented in the field has proven an invaluable asset.

If you are interested in community development, Ukraine or working in a UN context in general, I can absolutely recommend participating in this programme. It is a great experience, and a lot of fun!”

Yuri de Boer (SEH 2007)

“We have never had foreigners come to our village and it was very strange speaking to foreign youth of the same age as us. We also were quite impressed by the concept of volunteering! Why did volunteers come to the Chornobyl territory? Because of this many people turned out for the presentation given by Gregor Lapanovski and Malini Daniels in our youth centre where not only young people were present, but also the older people came to see them. Everyone wanted to see the foreigners that were interested in our village Zamglay.

The ‘clean village’ campaign, which was organised by the volunteers, did not only clean the village stadium, but it also changed the whole perception of the village youth towards community actions. During the campaign the volunteers and villagers worked together and the foreigners did not require any particular circumstances. They showed us that the most important thing is communication and kindness and that they are open to the dialogue.

The coming of the volunteers to our village has become a huge stimulus for all of the members of our organisation to work!”

Yulia Dzhola, Head of the youth organisation “TEMP”, Zamglay village

“The stay of volunteers in our village changed me. I understood that it is very important to learn languages and that the foreigners are same as us. I thought they would be different, but they were very simple and easy to talk to.”

Kolya Savchenko, Member of community “Zhytychi”, Lystvyn village

“The Oxford Volunteers for Chornobyl Scheme” was an eye-opening and truly enabling experience.  Working through the UNDP, volunteers are afforded a frontline experiential understanding of post-conflict victimisation that challenges misconceptions about aid-dependency and radiation.  With access to health and government officials, I was personally able to design and lead a health-needs assessment that turned into policy recommendations and a new joint CRDP-nonprofit health initiative that I'm leading.  Along with other volunteers, I also worked on community development, particularly with youth, whose images are immortalised in a fund-generating photographic exhibition created by other volunteers that insists the viability and vitality of these populations.  The hopeful, unexpectant faces remind us that pressing need extends long-beyond commonly-understood time-scale definitions of conflict. I know I will continue to return to aid the recovery.”

Malini Daniels, MSc Global Health Science, Christ Church College

Further Information

Programme coordinator: Ms. Dzvinka Kachur, dzvinka.kachur@undp.org.ua

From OUUS side: Ms. Nadiya Kravets, nadiya.kravets@sant.ox.ac.uk

From the University of Toronto: Dr. Olga Onuch, olga.onuch@utoronto.ca



Mar 20, 2019
Event Series: "Depicting Donbas: Creative and Critical Responses to the War in Ukraine".

Date: Thursday, 25 April 2019

Time: 6pm - 7.30pm

Venue: UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies.

Date: Friday, 26 April 2019

Time: 10am - 4.45pm and 7pm - 9pm

Venue: Birkbeck School of Arts and Centre for Contemporary Theatre

The Birkbeck School of Arts and UCL SEES will host a series of three events over two days exploring how artists across genres are responding to the ongoing military conflict in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region.

Register here.

Feb 20, 2019
Marci Shore Talk: "The Ukrainian Night: An Intimate History of Revolution".

Date: Friday, 1 March 2019

Time: 1.30pm - 2.30pm

Venue: Deakin Room, St. Antony's College, Oxford, OX2 6JF.

Join us to hear Marci Shore discuss her newest book. Marci Shore is an Associate Professor of History at Yale University, and is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Human Scienes in Vienna. She focuses on intellectual history of Central and Eastern Europe, and is the author of several books and articles published in the New York Times, the Neworker, the Economist and others.

Jan 14, 2019
Sviatoslav Vakarchuk Talk: 'Real Changes in Ukraine - a Must for a Successful Future'.

Date: Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Time: 7pm - 8pm

Venue: the Atkee Suite, Porticullis House, Bridge Street, Westminster, SW1A 2LW

To attend RSVP to secretariat@britishukrainiansociety.org

The British Ukrainian Society is delighted to host a talk by Sviatoslav Vakarchuk, lead singer and founder of Okean Elzy, social activist and philantropist, in which he will discuss the necessity of new leaders and a new political culture in Ukraine, the rule of law and justice.

Nov 4, 2018
Serhiy Zhadan: Ukraine's Enfant Terrible

Date: Monday, 12th November 2018

Time: 7pm - 8.15pm

Venue: Knowledge Centre, The British Library,

96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB

Fee: £10

Book here

An evening with one of Ukraine's most iconic contemporary writers: poet, intellectual and ska ban frontman Serhiy Zhadan.

Chaired by Eastern Europe specialist Uilleam Blacker of University College London.

Organized by the British Library in partnership with Ukrainian Institute in London.