Our aim is not only to inform the international community about effective structures that have gained trust and demonstrated high levels of success, but also to bring together the efforts of these organizations from different parts of Switzerland, fostering closer relationships and inspiring collaboration.
Introducing "Amicizia dei popoli" (Association of Friendship of Nations) , a powerful organization in Lugano.
"Our strong point and difference from other volunteer organizations is charisma that motivates other people. When a person lacks motivation, they are less effective, - says Maya Budkova, CEO of the association. - I feel where I belong, and my inner motivation pushes me to help people and do useful things."
Maya Budkova, CEO of "Amicizia dei popoli"
The Ukrainian Association "Amicizia dei popoli" has been operating in the city of Lugano, located in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, for over seven years. It has united people from different parts of the world with the goal of providing aid to those in need. When a full-scale war broke out in Ukraine in February 2022, the Association's team came together to provide humanitarian aid to Ukrainians and support Ukrainian refugees in Switzerland.
Over the past year, "Amicizia dei popoli" have successfully implemented various important projects. The Association's team consists of representatives from various fields of activity, including drivers, psychologists, managers, journalists, and translators. They invest their time, effort, and talents in creating opportunities to provide support to others. Currently, the "core" team consists of 15 people, in addition to the direct volunteers.
Since February 2022, the Association's activities have been focused on helping Ukrainians who have found themselves in Switzerland, their social integration, as well as those Ukrainians who have remained in Ukraine, where the war is ongoing. The team's main goal is to provide humanitarian aid, implement cultural and social projects aimed at integrating Ukrainian refugees into Swiss society.
The Association has four main areas of activity: humanitarian aid to Ukrainians, social integration of refugees, their employment, and cultural promotion of Ukraine in Switzerland. Each department of the Association is responsible for a separate area of activity.
"At first, we were focused on collecting and sending humanitarian aid to Ukraine - in the first three months, we were able to organize 19 trucks with medicine and two ambulances, - said Maya Budkova. Almost immediately, a humanitarian warehouse was organized, where refugees from Ukraine could receive products and items, as they did not yet have adequate state aid in Switzerland. This warehouse still functions, albeit in a reduced capacity. Because the main humanitarian aid is going to Ukraine while our refugees are receiving assistance under the Swiss government program."
In addition to providing humanitarian aid to Ukrainian refugees in Switzerland, "Amicizia dei popoli" organizes various projects aimed at their social integration.
"For instance, when we first started, there were no language courses in Lugano, so our Association established language classes for learning Italian and English, - said Anna Vasylevska, the event manager of Amicizia dei popoli. We organized various events that facilitate people's integration into society such as cultural outings to museums, educational programs to help Ukrainian children enroll in local schools, and tourist trips to explore the local area. We also sought to help Ukrainian refugees continue their professional development in Switzerland."
A few months after the arrival of the first Ukrainian refugees, the Association began to consider their employment situation since some had decided to stay in Switzerland or reside temporarily while seeking work.
"The third area of the Association's activity - employment of refugees - emerged spontaneously, - said Maya Budkova. Many young specialists in IT technologies registered with us, so we decided to create a job search platform - ukrpage.ch. Both job seekers and employers can use the website, which has been operational since September 2022."
To facilitate the adaptation of refugees, the Association's team held informative meetings and consultations to help Ukrainians adapt to the Swiss labor market or explore new professions. The specialists also provided legal advice on contract execution, explaining the advantages and disadvantages of different options in each specific case.
Culture as a language of diplomacy
An essential aspect of "Amicizia dei popoli" is promoting Ukrainian culture in Switzerland. The organization arranges a grand event - the Ukrainian Culture Day, during which the Swiss audience can witness and experience our art, thus gaining a better understanding of the Ukrainian mentality.
"We were pleased that the Embassy of Ukraine in Switzerland supported our idea of hosting the Ukrainian Culture Day. The event's primary goal is not only to showcase Ukrainian culture, but also to facilitate cross-cultural exchange with Switzerland. This approach has enabled us to attract a larger audience and involve Swiss participants in the event." stated Maya Budkova. "The cultural day featured an art exhibition, two concerts, six workshops for children and adults by Ukrainian and Swiss artists, and a fashion show by Ukrainian and Swiss designers. The National Honored Academic Dance Ensemble of Ukraine named after Pavlo Virskyi's concerts were particularly well-received by the Swiss public, who appreciate the extraordinary talent of the performers."
Looking Towards the Future
The CEO of "Amicizia dei popoli" emphasizes that the priority focus of the association's work is the employment of Ukrainian refugees who have successfully adapted and improved their language skills over the past year. Another item on the agenda is preparing for a new Ukrainian Culture Day, Scheduled for the end of November.
Humanitarian assistance remains one of the main areas of the association's activities, including a medical project. The team plans not only to collect medications, medical equipment, and specialized transportation but to also organize and provide ongoing support and supervision for the treatment and rehabilitation of individual victims affected by the war in Ukraine (locating appropriate medical institutions and specialists based on diagnoses, handling logistics, and preparing a package of documents).
"Among the ideas we are considering for implementation in Ukraine are Swiss equipment and water purification technology for reservoirs since there are problems with water supply in Ukraine due to the ongoing war. We are focusing on the humanitarian aspect, not the commercial one," Maya Budkova emphasized.
Implemented Cases by "Amicizia dei popoli":
- Assistance in finding educational institutions.
- Language courses.
- Organization of events for refugees: museum visits, concerts, sports events, workshops for adults and children, career guidance lectures.
- Legal assistance.
- Employment: assistance and consultation regarding working in Switzerland at all stages of employment. An interactive platform (ukrpage.ch) was created for the employment of Ukrainian refugees temporarily staying in Switzerland.
- 2 concerts - 2000+ visitors.
- 10-day exhibition program - 3500+ visitors.
- 6 thematic workshops.
- Fashion day with the participation of leading designers from Ukraine and Switzerland.
- Collection and sorting of necessary goods (clothing, medications, household items, food).
- Part of the aid is sent to Ukraine, and the rest is distributed among refugees in Switzerland.
2500 people registered with the Association;
3210 food baskets and essential items were handed over to refugees;
30 trucks with 320 tons of humanitarian aid were sent to Ukraine;
300 refugee families received housing assistance from ADP;
570 refugees completed language courses;
34 refugees found employment.
AMICIZIA DEI POPOLI
Association of Friendship of Nations
Switzerland, Lugano, 6976, Contrada Vecchio Municipio 2
Photo: Yevgeniya Borysova