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In the slum of Gawan-Slabotka (Mariupol, Southeast Ukraine) education and employment are scarce. Many children and adolescents, as a result, grow up in extreme poverty, often aggravated by a parent’s dependence on alcohol and/or illicit drugs. Also, they often face discrimination, isolation, as well as physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. They then tend to adopt high-risk behaviour, such as engaging in criminal activity and/or consuming psychoactive substances.

Young people in Gawan-Slabotka usually have nowhere and no one to turn to for help. Blue Cross Ukraine has been working to address this gap by helping these affected children and adolescents face everyday challenges and offer support that can help them shape a future where there is real hope for a wholesome, decent, and socially integrated life.

Country context

Alcohol abuse and addiction take a heavy toll on the nation’s health, longevity and productivity. Drinking starts early and the beer and booze are cheap. Ukrainians have a preference for hard alcoholic drinks, and their children drink much more than in the rest of Europe. A 2008 World Health Organization study found that 40 percent of children in Ukraine drink alcohol – mainly beer – at least once per month. This was the highest rate among nations surveyed, followed by Israel. An estimated 30 percent of men aged 25-30 are alcohol addicted and according to the Health Ministry, about 40,000 deaths annually are caused by alcohol poisoning and other related diseases, as well as alcohol-related accidents.

Project Summary

As early as in 2002 Blue Cross Ukraine started building up its work for neglected children from families affected by alcohol in the slum area of Gawan-Slabotka. Here many children and adolescents grow up in families that are suffering from alcohol and drug abuse and caught in a spiral of poverty and helplessness. These vulnerable children and youth often face discrimination, isolation, physical and sexual violence, and sometimes, engage in high risk behaviors, including crime and drug abuse. There are no places for them to turn for help. In 2009, with financial support from the Norwegian TV Campaign, Blue Cross Ukraine was empowered by the International Blue Cross to establish a drop-in centre located at the heart of the slum, including a building that was finalized in 2010 – the “Children’s House Gawan.” Today, this centre provides a daily program of structured leisure activities, delivers psychosocial support as well as counseling on substance abuse and HIV/AIDS and other supportive services including tutoring and pre-employment assistance. Adolescents are encouraged to begin an education or apprenticeship, or to find a formal job and are supported in this process. Warm meals are distributed for free to cater for the most urgent health needs of the children.

Project Objective

The objective of the project is to provide support services for children of substance-dependent parents and reduce the consumption of alcohol and drugs in the slum of Mariapoul, Ukraine.
Target Group
The primary target group is 120 + children and 25 adolescents daily at the Children’s House Gawan. Additionally, the parents of the children are also reached through home visits, education and information services.
(need to find picture of the House)


• Manage the Children’s House Gawan in Mariapoul
• Counseling, treatment, after-school activities, home visits, care for the elderly, distribution of food to homeless population
• Networking with 24 institutions across Ukraine working in the area of substance abuse

Key Achievements to Date

• Children’s House Gawan built and operational
• Provision of daily services including tutoring, hygiene promotion, nutrition and support to 120 + children and 25 adolescents
• Reduced substance abuse and its negative consequences on family members and the community in Mariapoul
• Established network of 24 partners for the care of substance-dependents and their families in the area of Mariupol and throughout Ukraine

Project Duration

2009 – present

This project is generously supported by the Herrod Foundation.

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