Oxford Volunteers for Chornobyl



Supported by the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine.


To apply, please fill out the Application Form (DOC, PDF) and email it to Dzvinka Kachur (dzvinka.kachur@undp.org.ua) or fill out an online Application Form by 30 June 2011.

Detailed information can also be found at: Summer 2011 Application.

Every summer since 2007 Oxford University Ukrainian Society, together with its partners in Ukraine including the National University of “Kyiv-Mohyla Academy”, the UNDP Ukraine and UN Volunteers, has been sending Oxford and European undergraduate and graduate students to volunteer in the Chornobyl-affected territories. This year we have also partnered with the Petro Jacyk Program For the Study of Ukraine and CERES at the University of Toronto, and extended our invitation to apply for the students from North American universities.

The goal of the programme is to provide knowledge resources and strengthen the developmental process in the Chornobyl-affected area through international cooperation. We also aim to increase awareness and share knowledge about the consequences of the Chornobyl accident, and the developmental approach for overcoming them through the involvement of students, in particular, from the University of Oxford, University of Toronto, and the National University of “Kyiv-Mohyla Academy” in Ukraine. The initiative has been actively supported by the British Council in Ukraine and Ukraine International Airlines.

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 NOT in the most affected zones but in the areas located in the concentric circles of zones surrounding the Chornobyl plant and city Prypiat. Students will visit Chornobyl, the location of the nuclear power plant, and the city Prypiat, on supervised excursions. 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.

Initiated in the summer of 2007 by an Oxford Alumna, Dzvinka Kachur (2005-2006, Green College) from the UNPD Chornobyl Development and Recovery Program, the Oxford Volunteers for Chornobyl Programme has been a successful undertaking, changing and enriching lives of the volunteers and people they helped. Over the years, 36 students had a chance to receive deep knowledge about UNDP’s approach to mitigate consequences of Chornobyl accident through participation in the programme. Some 30 settlements in the Chornobyl-affected territories have been supported by volunteers through different activities.

Support Us!

Since all travel costs as well as living expenses are covered by volunteers, not all who would like to volunteer find the means. Thus, the programme always looks for financial partners who can support this initiative directly or in kind. If you would like to donate or sponsor this programme please get in touch with Dzvinka Kachur at dzvinka.kachur@undp.org.ua.


“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 Chirch College
Department of Public Health and Primary Care

More information

Chornobyl Recovery and Development Programme: http://www.crdp.org.ua/ua/106.htm

Recent UN Report on CRDP efforts: SGReport.




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To attend RSVP to secretariat@britishukrainiansociety.org

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