The fifth episode of our column takes us to Ukraine, in the company of Anastasia Zolotova and the Ngo Emmaus.

1) How and when was Emmaus born? 

The history of Ngo Emmaus began in October 2010. The future founders of the organization attended a lecture by an Italian colleague, who founded an adaptation center for single mothers in Novosibirsk (Russia) and, inspired by her example, began working on the idea of ​​their own social project. After 6 months of fruitful work, legal training and consultations, in May 2011 the NGO Emmaus was officially registered.

The organization has chosen its own line of work: the founders and student volunteers began visiting one of Kharkiv orphanage for children with cerebral palsy and orphans to help its residents prepare for the final exams.

Later it became clear that apart from the gap in school knowledge, orphanage graduates do not have the skills for independent living. The team understood what these girls and boys really lacked – a home where they could live and adults who would be around them. The first assisted living apartment for girls with disabilities was created thanks to friends of the organization Filippo Bettarini and Lady Farisco, who organized a fundraiser among friends and colleagues. This is how one of the organization’s central projects, the Flying House, came into being, a place where girls and boys with disabilities are helped to adapt and respond with dignity to the challenges of adulthood after graduation.

The first residents of the apartment were accompanied daily by tutors of the organization: they were taught to cook and clean, plan expenses, follow the university program, communicate with government agencies and more. Gradually, the project expanded, as the girls began to invite their friends, who also needed help and support. They came to visit, attended classes with teachers and friendly dinners, talked about the difficulties they are trying to cope with.

A new page in the history of Emmaus was the purchase of premises for the Flying House adaptation center. During the Christmas holidays of 2014, a charity event Tende di Natale was held in Italian cities. At that time, groups of volunteers collected funds in their hometowns, which were then transferred to Emmaus.

On May 14, 2017, the grand opening of the center took place. Since then, 5 girls with disabilities and orphans have been living in the center, and another 15 boys and girls have started attending the center’s day activities: group and individual classes with teachers, lectures and workshops, dinners and meetings with the center’s guests.

In 2018, together with the Italian association “I bambini dell’est” Emmaus began work on the project “Tenth Planet” – a community of assisted living apartments for graduates of orphanages from 18 to 30 years. Currently, the team takes care of 15 boys and girls living in 6 apartments.

A separate area of ​​work of the organization is the creation of programs for the exchange of experience between operators of the social sector of Ukraine and Italy. The main project in this area is Incluendo, which has been implemented with the support of the Emilia Romagna Region since 2018.

In 2020, the Emmaus team opened the Inclusive Hub – the first open educational space in Kharkiv with a focus on inclusion, which offers a comprehensive training program, vocational guidance and mentoring for graduates of orphanages and young people with disabilities.

2) What are the main activities you carry out? 

The mission of Emmaus is to create and support the circle of friends that accompanies formerly-orphaned and young people with disabilities in search of their own way to life full of dignity.

The main projects of the organization are:

  • La Casa Volante and The Tenth Planet: apartments for supported living for young people with disabilities and orphanage After leaving the orphange, these apartments become a real home for boys and girls for several years. They live together in small groups of 3-4 people, each of them has his own private room. An educational team works with them: a tutor for adaptation to an independent life, a tutor for education and a tutor for career guidance and employment. An individual support program is developed for each boy and gorl, which allows them to gain self-confidence, develop their skills, find a vocation and prepare for an independent life.
  • Small universe: a project to prepare girls with mild mental disabilities for leaving the orphanage. The project was born in 2019 from an acquaintance with the director of one of the orphange in the Kharkiv region. Emmaus’ tutors began to visit the orphange and formed the first group of 6 girls who have the potential for life outside the orphange. Now our tutors are working with them and in the near future a new apartment of supported living will be created for them.
  • Emmaus Workshop: a social initiative that involves young people with disabilities in the development and creation of textile accessories and allows them to learn how to sew, weave, embroider and decorate. The main goal of the workshop is to help young people reach their potential, gain technical skills and provide an opportunity to earn money doing their favorite thing. In the future, the workshop will be transformed into a social entrepreneurship, which will employ girls with physical and mild forms of mental disability, creating their own products to individual orders.
  • Inclusive hub is a place for the education, development and vocational guidance of youth with disabilities and care leavers, as well as activities for the professional community aimed at reforming the field of support of vulnerable youth. Together with vulnerable boys and girls, an educational tutor works to design supplementary training programs for each beneficiary, taking into account their needs: support in performing on-going university assignments and writing coursework and diploma papers, engaging narrow specialists to deepen proficiency in basic disciplines, as well as in popular subjects, such as foreign languages, computer literacy, etc.
  • Incluendo is an experience exchange program with the involvement of Italian experts to improve the competence of workers in the social sector in Ukraine. The project began in 2018 in partnership with Avsi with the support of the Emilia Romagna Region. During this time, we have conducted a series of on-line and off-line trainings with the participation of Sergio Zini, Franco Nembrini, Silvio Cattarina. In 2020, within the framework of the project, we published a toolkit “Home: the experience of acceptance. Inclusion practices in Ukraine and Italy” and created “Roadmap of support for youth raised without parents and youth with disabilities” (an interactive site where young people can find organizations in their city that can support them.

3) What is the situation of care leavers in your country? What’s missing? What would care leavers need? 

In Ukraine 1500 young people leave orphanages every year but, due to a traumatizing life experience and the lack of psychological and adaptation predisposition, they often have deviant behavior, strong aggression and a tendency to addiction to alcohol and drugs. According to the latest research, in Ukraine after graduating from orphanage, vulnerable young people find themselves in the following situation:

  • 60% of graduates do not have the knowledge and skills necessary for independent living
  • 41% of graduates do not have their own housing
  • 20% of graduates commit crimes for which they end up in prison
  • 14% of are victims of human trafficking and / or prostitution
  • 10% of graduates commit suicide during the first 2 years of independent life

Living in orphanages, children with disabilities  and orphans face the following problems:

  • Isolation. The child gets to a orphanage at the age of 3 and from that time lives until the age of 18, studies, spends free time only here. Often orphanages are located in remote areas of the city or outside it.
  • Lack of warmth of family relationships. In the orphanage, the child is completely deprived of parental care, love and support.
  • Loss of the individuality. In a orphanage, a child’s life is subject to general rules, he does not have his own private space and things. Everything that happens around is not aimed at the needs and capabilities of a particular child, but at the general group.
  • Inability to develop emotional intelligence. A child from early childhood is forbidden to show emotions, it contains all the fears, pain, sadness, rejection of himself and his life story.
  • Almost zero level of education. Most adolescents who have reached the age of 18 have an education at the 2nd grade of primary school and, as a result, do not have a chance to enter college or university.
  • Lack of perspectives. At the age of 18, adolescents with mental or physical disabilities usually have only one option – to move to a nursing home, where they will stay for life.

4) How to stay in touch with you and support your organization?


  • BENEFICIARY ADDRESS: Ukraine,Kharkiv, 6 Karazin Str.,61002
  • BENEFICIARY ACCOUNT: 26004052106375
  • BANK: PJSC CB “PRIVATBANK”, 1d Hrushevskoho Str., Kyiv, 01001, Ukraine
  • IBAN CODE: UA203515330000026004052106375
  • CORRESPONDENT BANK: Commerzbank AG, Frankfurt Am Main, Germany

Anastasia Zolotova