Sarah Friedman posted an articleHeat and power for a school shelter see more
Peremoha is the Ukrainian word for Victory.
The Peremoha Mini-Grants program was launched in the summer of 2022 in response to the Russian military invasion of Ukraine. Returned Peace Corps Volunteers can apply together with a Ukrainian partner they have worked with in some way during their past service. Funding priorities for the program include humanitarian aid to Ukrainian communities, and projects in alignment with sectors previously implemented by Peace Corps Ukraine: community development, youth development, education, and HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. We are proud to share with you the stories of the Alliance's Peremoha grantees.
RPCV: Katherine Braga, Teaching English as a Foreign Language, 2011-2013
Ukrainian Partner: Lesia, teacher
Region: Romny, Sumy Oblast
More than 10 million Ukrainians (nearly a quarter of the population) were left without power in the first winter of Putin’s war on Ukraine. Russia’s continuous attack on Ukraine’s power grid throughout the winter meant that civilians were often deprived of basic services and needs such as electricity, water, and heat. With bomb shelters usually located under ground, losing electricity often meant hours of sitting in a dark, cramped and crowded room dependent only on battery power to operate phones, lights, etc. With sub-zero temperatures, losing access to heat often meant life-threatening conditions and mentally traumatic experiences.
RPCV Katherine Braga and Ukrainian teacher Lesia received a Peremoha Mini-Grant to replace and purchase new equipment to heat and provide lighting for five air raid shelters located in one of the schools in the town of Romny, Sumy Oblast. These five shelters serve about 1,000 school children, teachers, and school staff as well as surrounding community members and internally displaced families. When the community is lucky, the shelters are only used 7-10 hours per week. However, they are often used for 4-5 hours per day.
The Town of Romny is located in the northeastern Ukrainian region of Sumy and has a population of nearly 40,000. With Russia’s rapid advance into Ukraine in the Spring of 2022, Romny found itself on a main transit route used by Russian forces to move military equipment from the border to Kyiv. The town’s strategic location meant that it was mostly spared from violent attacks, but often surrounded by hostile forces. Furthermore, as Russia’s troops sought to control other parts of Sumy Oblast, Romny was subject to many air raids throughout the winter - air raids that continue to this day.
Sadly, School No. 8 of Romny was bombed by a Russian drone on August 23, 2023. The attack killed the head teacher, her deputy, a secretary, and librarian. This adds to the more than 360 educational facilities that have been completely destroyed in Ukraine and more than 3,000 that have been damaged during the war with Russia. We mourn these losses even as we are relieved Lesia's school remains intact.
With the Peremoha Mini-Grant, Lesia was able to purchase 20 energy efficient lamps, 5 powerful heaters, 7 lamps with power accumulators and chargers, 2 portable power banks, and 100 liters of fuel.
The energy efficient lamps are installed in the school’s canteen, which serves as one of the shelters. The old lamps there used so much electricity that the generator couldn’t work properly, so improving efficiency was a high priority. The powerful heaters are used in the two coldest and wettest shelters located outside the school. The lamps with accumulators have solar panels. Since they are portable, they can be used to light the shelters, and also be moved to light the classrooms when the school is operating without electricity. The power banks are used to charge mobile devices, the portable lamps, or as a source for other electrical needs that arise.
Sumy Oblast has hosted dozens of Peace Corps Volunteers since the launch of Peace Corps Ukraine in 1992. As a community, Romny has opened its hearts and doors to five Volunteers who have collectively called the town their home for over a decade.
Click the video below for a short message from the children of Romny: