When the founders of LGBT NGO You Are Not Alone launched their organization in 2010, they chose the name in recognition of the need to support the LGBTQ+ community.
A year into the war, that name has taken on a broader meaning, said Coordinator Alexandra Semenova and Executive Director Maxym Bychynsky. “Now this slogan can be transferred to Ukraine and the whole world – we are not alone in our grief and in our struggle,” they said in an email.
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, You Are Not Alone has worked nonstop to ensure LGBTQ+ youth and others in the LGBTQ+ community feel supported as they face not only wartime hardships but also discrimination.
“It has always been difficult for LGBTQ youth in Ukraine – there are problems with general homophobia in the country, problems with coming out to parents and friends, bullying in schools and college,” Alexandra and Maxym said. “After a full-scale invasion, more problems were added.”
These include LGBTQ+ youth who have broken ties with their families not having a way to support themselves amid widespread economic difficulties; discrimination and persecution in Russian-occupied areas; and bullying by the military in territory controlled by the Ukrainian government.
In response to these challenges, You Are Not Alone is providing financial and humanitarian assistance to LGBTQ+ people and their families; helping lesbian and bisexual women with children evacuate dangerous areas; and offering online courses to help those who have lost their jobs learn languages and professional skills that can help them find new ones in Ukraine or abroad.
In addition, You Are Not Alone provides psychological and human rights support, promotes HIV and AIDS prevention efforts, and mobilizes the LGBTQ+ community to fight for equal rights. LGBTQ+ youth and other members of the community can sign up for free online consultations with You Are Not Alone’s psychologist or join online group therapy sessions. To increase acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community, You Are Not Alone has also conducted tolerance courses for psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and teachers to educate them about LGBTQ+ issues and rights.
As the war drags on, You Are Not Alone has noticed a change in the needs of LGBTQ+ youth. The organization now gets fewer requests for humanitarian assistance and more for help finding a job, getting a medical exam, or obtaining mental health counseling.
You Are Not Alone has also seen an increase in the number of transgender people asking for help evacuating and changing their official documents as well as a greater number of lesbian and bisexual women with children requesting help with evacuations and paying rent. You Are Not Alone continually monitors the situation of LGBTQ+ youth in Ukraine and conducts surveys to determine the community’s needs.
In response to frequent power outages caused by Russian bombings, for example, You Are Not Alone created an “Unbreakable Point” in the northwestern city of Zhytomyr. Since not everyone can afford to buy a generator for their home, the “Unbreakable Point” is a safe space for LGBTQ+ people to recharge their phones and connect to the internet; warm up; and pick up medications and cooking supplies. The organization also helps members of the community obtain heating devices for their homes, as well as power banks, flashlights, and candles.
The problems created by the war have strained You Are Not Alone’s small team. “Usually there is a lot of work, team members feel squeezed out like a lemon, and all energy is lost for any action,” Alexandra and Maxym said. “But you remember that there is a front, that other people at the cost of their lives protect your life. You pull yourself together and continue to work, because someone else’s life also depends on your work.”
For LGBTQ+ youth struggling during the war, Alexandra and Maxym shared a message: “We are all very tired, but we need to look for strength for further struggle. Victory is near!” they said. “If you have exhausted your resources, if you feel lonely, if you just need to talk, if you need help, contact our NGO You Are Not Alone.”
Since the war in Ukraine began, GFC has approved more than $2.6 million in emergency grants to 70 local partners in Ukraine and neighboring countries that are helping children and families under attack and refugees fleeing the country. Through GFC’s Ukraine Emergency Response Fund, You Are Not Alone has received grants funded by UBS and other generous donors.
Global Fund for Children (GFC) UK Trust, created in 2006, is a UK registered charity (UK charity number 1119544). We work to generate vital income, create new fundraising opportunities, and raise awareness of the invaluable work of GFC’s grassroots grantees. Our aim is to extend the reach of GFC in the United Kingdom, Europe, and beyond.
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