Olena Zelenska: Every child should have a family and a home

10 January 2024
The First Lady of Ukraine handed over the keys to a new home to a large foster family in Cherkasy region as part of the Olena Zelenska Foundation's “Room for Childhood” project.

A large foster family of Zhanna and Oleksandr Somovi received a new home. The family is raising eight orphans and children deprived of parental care: five boys and three girls.

The Somovi family are IDPs from the city of Beryslav, Kherson region. Due to the Russian occupation, the family was forced to leave their two-story house and seek safety in Cherkasy region, but had problems with housing of sufficient size and quality.

"When my Foundation was established to help Ukrainians overcome the humanitarian, educational, and healthcare challenges that arose from the war, one of the first people we took care of were large foster families. Now there are 3,100 of them in the country. We have provided every third one with the necessary stuff – from furniture to laptops. But during the full-scale war, more than 80 families lost their homes. And their main request was a new home. So we decided to replace the one they had lost by providing them with a new home. This is how the Foundation's project "Room for Childhood" was born. With the help of foreign patrons, we build houses for large foster families. This is important not only for these families, but also for the whole country, because every child should have a family and a home - a place of care, safety, and security. So what each of us does for Ukrainian children today will ultimately help all of us. After all, a happy childhood grows into a happy adulthood and a happy country," Olena Zelenska said.

As part of the “Room for Childhood” project, the Foundation is building 14 houses for large foster families in eight regions of the country.

All apartments are inclusive, energy-efficient, furnished and equipped with household appliances. The total area of each house is 285.5 square meters. Concrete shelters with metal explosion-proof doors are installed in the courtyards of the houses. The Foundation controls the entire construction process: from project documentation to interior decoration.

"It's happiness to have your own home. Participation in the "Room for Childhood" project came as a surprise to us. It was unusual to be taken care of, let alone have our wishes taken into account. My husband and I asked that a house be built for us here, in Cherkasy region. After all, our children attend school here and have found new friends. It was here that our lives started anew thanks to the Foundation," says Zhanna, a mother and educator.

This is the second family to receive the keys to a new home. The first was a large foster family of Larysa Drylchuk, who is raising seven children on her own. The Foundation built a house for them in Kharkiv region.

All the houses of the "Room for Childhood" project are transferred to the community balance. Families have the right to live in them as long as their large foster family exists.

The construction of the house for the Somovi family was backed by the Australian Minderoo Foundation.

Together with the Foundation, the "Room for Childhood" project is also implemented by the government of the United Arab Emirates, the government of Estonia (through the Estonian Center for International Development ESTDEV), the government of Romania (through Romania's International Development Cooperation Agency, RoAid), the Global Empowerment Mission, CLT panel manufacturer CLT Rezult, and other partners.