Stronger Civil Society in Belarus Better Serves Vulnerable Children

At-risk youth participating in an annual nature event organized by Yana Dashkevich and her colleagues.
At-risk youth participate in an annual nature event organized by Yana Dashkevich and her colleagues.
Courtesy of Nadezhdu Detyam
Improved NGO management significantly increases services
“There’s no doubt that living in an orphanage is a huge stress for children and often worse than being with their family, even if they sleep in a closet at home.”

November 2016—Three years ago, Yana Dashkevich would never have imagined that she would restore an NGO in crisis and improve the lives of dozens of vulnerable children in Belarus.

After volunteering at various NGOs over several years, helping other people had become Dashkevich’s life mission. She summoned a group of six like-minded people to support those in need on a systematic basis. The group began organizing parties and charitable activities for children from vulnerable families and eventually joined the Nadezhdu Detyam (Hope to Children) NGO in 2013, which supports children affected by the Chernobyl disaster as well as those from at-risk families.

When Dashkevich joined the NGO, its work was sporadic and fragmented because its members lacked experience and training in NGO management. Dashkevich and her group brought new ideas and a new vision to the organization, as well as motivation and critical nonprofit business skills.

Dashkevich took the lead by changing the NGO’s focus from children to the family ecosystem in which children live.

“Our main ambition is to prevent children from being sent to an orphanage and help them to adapt socially and remain with family,” she said. “There’s no doubt that living in an orphanage is a huge stress for children and often worse than being with their family, even if they sleep in a closet at home.”

The NGO also lacked tools to develop, learn and monitor its own effectiveness. In 2014, Nadezhdu Detyam contacted USAID’s Capacity Building for Civil Society Organizations project for organizational development support. As part of its support, USAID helped the NGO develop a strategic plan and adjust its management system.

“I strive for sustainability and effectiveness in our activities, and USAID-supported training helped us achieve that,” said Dashkevich. “Not only did we better understand how to make desirable changes, but we also learned from each other.”

As a result of the assistance, the NGO’s activities multiplied. “We are proud of the fact that the number of children who get targeted support increased from 40 to 100, and the number of sponsors and partners doubled,” explained Dashkevich.

Thanks to her team’s effort, Nadezhdu Detyam engaged new partners who provided orphans with adult support and friendship. In one such success, the staff of the Homel City Motorbike Club befriended some children under the care of the NGO.

“Nikita was 11 when he started living in the orphanage and quickly withdrew into isolation. One of the bikers took him as his personal friend. Now Nikita can’t wait to turn 14 to enroll in the Motorbike Club and become as strong and self-confident as his older friends are,” said Dashkevich.

USAID has significantly strengthened 23 NGOs in organizational and program development areas through the capacity building project, which runs from 2013 through 2017. During the 2013-2015 training campaign, the project provided over 8,500 hours of training to civil society activists and 1,500 hours of professional consultations for over 150 NGOs.

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Last updated: May 23, 2017

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