"Keep a sincere heart," the well-known TV-host Ivanka Onufriychuk about her charitable project

Ivanna Onufriychuk

DestiNations.ua continues its series of articles about charitable projects aimed at helping Ukrainians in Switzerland improve their lives. Today, we will tell you about the Ukrainian TV presenter Ivanka Onufriychuk and her initiatives.

How did your charitable work start?

It all began with simple activity on social media. At first, it was about spreading information that someone needed help. Collecting funds for a child's medical treatment or surgery, assisting in fundraising for the needs of a volunteer organization.

I actively engaged in informing the audience about various needs. At that point, I began to think that it was worth stepping up to a more serious level and opening a charitable foundation.

Then, the war started, and I realized there was no more time to postpone my long-standing dream. A lot of people needed help, and for that, a charitable foundation was necessary.

My husband immediately supported me and helped establish the foundation in Switzerland. Truthfully, I'm the kind of person who likes to meticulously plan and think through all the details of organizing things. On the contrary, my husband takes decisive and active steps. In this sense, we complement each other well.

I was worried that opening a foundation would take a lot of time and effort, considering that we weren't locals and didn't know all the laws and regulations of Switzerland. But thanks to our activity and persistence, everything turned out much faster and easier than I thought.

Of course, considering the circumstances - the ongoing war that Ukraine is currently suffering from,  the main focus of our foundation's work became helping the families of Ukrainian refugees in Switzerland.

Helping refugee families encompasses a wide range of tasks. What do you focus on the most?

Children. I love children very much. I adore communicating with them, and I always manage to establish a connection with them. Maybe that's because I sometimes feel like a child, especially when interacting with little ones. Then, I automatically switch to their language, their "frequency," so to speak. I really enjoy this; it brings me joy. And besides, I genuinely believe that children have much to teach us. I do this gladly.

What was the initial focus of your foundation's work?

We opened a humanitarian aid collection point in Switzerland, which we then sent to Ukraine. It was the Ukraine SOS project in collaboration with the "You Are Not Alone" Foundation of the "1+1" TV channel. I have a lot of trust in the people who initiated this project; I saw how well-organized it was. Therefore, I had no doubt that the help would reach those who truly needed it.

Later, when many families from Ukraine who had come to Switzerland due to the war started coming to our foundation, I communicated with them constantly and gradually learned about other needs and problems of fellow compatriots. So, ideas began to emerge about how else we could help.

You decided that educational centers were needed. How did you come to this decision?

Once, I went to one of the local hostels where Ukrainian refugees live and organized a focus group there. People from various fields of activity and ages participated, including representatives from different regions of Ukraine. We had an active evening of communication, where everyone talked about themselves, their situations, their challenges with integration, documentation, and much more. I studied all this information and eventually decided to focus on creating educational children's centers where Ukrainian children could communicate, learn, develop their talents, and receive support.

Why is this particular type of activity most important to you?

I met so many wonderful and talented Ukrainian children! There are truly many of them. These talents need to be systematically developed and realized. Educational centers can become places where this becomes possible. Additionally, children will be able to showcase their talents and achievements at various events in Switzerland and other European countries, thus representing Ukraine.

Having lived in Switzerland for some time, I realized that the Swiss people know little about us. In my opinion, Europeans can get acquainted with our culture, mentality, and traditions through these educational centers and our talented children. They can learn how creative, cool, open, and positive our nation is.

Moreover, our initiative will help Ukrainians not forget their language and culture and support their national spirit. By implementing the educational center project, we want to help our compatriots preserve their roots and identity. We all need to remember who we are and where we come from, be grateful to our parents and the country where we were born and raised, and maintain a deep connection with our homeland.

As far as I know, Ukrainian books have made their way to Switzerland thanks to your foundation. Is that correct?

To support the Ukrainian language and culture, we launched the Ivalive Books program, which involves bringing Ukrainian books to Switzerland and distributing them to local libraries. When we visited one library, we received calls from other regions asking for engaging, educational, and helpful Ukrainian literature, primarily for children. Since many Ukrainian children were there who needed native literature, we began collaborating with them. Currently, our project involves six libraries and schools.

Additionally, we organize various children's events involving books. For instance, we prepared a concert, games, and contests for St. Nicholas Day, rented beautiful decorations, and had costumes made in Ukraine. St. Nicholas gave each child packages containing sweets and books tailored to their age.

Once again, this was a concert where Ukrainian refugee children performed and showcased themselves. This is very valuable. I got to see how talented our children are and hear their wonderful voices... This direction definitely needs to be developed and showcased to the world.

Do you have plans for further development in the children's direction?

When we first arrived in Switzerland, we realized that there was a problem with preschool education here. Particularly, there's a significant shortage of preschool facilities. Parents start looking for daycare centers even before their child is born.

I truly dream of showing Swiss parents how amazing and high-quality the approach to preschool child development can be. It is great to instill culture, traditions, and etiquette in little ones and how comprehensively their talents can be nurtured. I want to share our Ukrainian experience and organize something similar here. In Ukraine, a lot of time is devoted to child development, and children usually engage in something interesting daily. In Swiss kindergartens, there aren't any special approaches or unique concepts for child development. I think our experience would be interesting and valuable for Swiss parents.

Does the foundation support mothers?

We have psychological assistance programs for mothers. We organize various meetings, events, and workshops for Ukrainian women who are currently going through difficult times. Since they had to leave everything in Ukraine, lost their jobs and opportunities for self-realization, and came without their husbands, they now bear full personal responsibility for their families. These women search for answers daily on how to move forward, find their place, and provide for their children and themselves with everything necessary. It's a tremendous burden and a high level of stress. We help them transition from stress and slowly integrate into their new environment.

So, the foundation's activities are expanding?

Of course, we want and will help both children and adults. However, investments are needed for the foundation to grow and for our educational centers to open and implement various programs. Looking ahead, of course, I'd like this to be both a business and charity endeavor.

Post-war Dreams and Plans

In general, I dream that our foundation will reach an international level. I want to develop children's projects and programs worldwide. First and foremost, in Ukraine. I plan to expand my humanitarian mission. It's important to me that we globalize and have the opportunity to help Ukrainians and representatives of other nations in need. The world has many problems, and we should strive to help everyone.

You have a strong desire to help. How did it develop?

The call to help, support, and empathize with others has been with me since childhood. It was instilled by my parents, who taught me the right family and human values.

I grew up in the Vinnytsia region, in the village of Rakhni-Lisovi. Once, it was a large village with a population of up to twelve thousand. We had two large schools, several industrial plants, and an elevator. Nowadays, there are fewer people.

Our family was ordinary and not wealthy. My mother initially worked at the elevator, and my father was a simple farmer and a part-time musician. My mother always said that it doesn't matter who you become or what you achieve; the main thing is to remain a person with a sincere heart. And whenever possible, you should help those who need it. My sisters and I grew up near the church; I sang in the choir throughout childhood. And probably, spiritual life also influenced the formation of my worldview. For me, charity is not just empty words. Besides, I had my mother's example in front of me. She worked as a secretary at the village council for a long time and was involved in social assistance. From early childhood, I observed how she cared for grandmothers and helped poor families with children. And, of course, the idea was imprinted in my mind that this is the right and necessary thing to do for everyone. Moreover, I feel incredibly happy when the people I've helped smile, rejoice, and become a little happier. Doing something good and important for people and the universe is great.


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