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Estonia to Build Four Small Group Homes for Ukrainian Children Orphaned by War


ESTDEV Ukraine
Estonia is building four family-style small group homes in Ukraine to house large foster families who have taken in children orphaned by the war.

“Supporting children who have suffered in war must be our priority because these children have paid the highest price—they have lost their parents, their homes and their childhoods,” said Foreign Minister Margus Tsahkna.

The first home is being built according to the Olena Zelenska Foundation’s “Room for Childhood” initiative. Estonia will provide approximately 370,000 euros in financing for a six-bed, five-bath, fully accessible home in Zhytomyr. The house itself encompasses 285 square metres and includes an underground concrete bomb shelter in the yard of the house. Construction is scheduled to begin by the end of this year. The house will be completed in 2024.

To aid with scaling the initiative, Estonia will build three additional houses in the city of Zhytomyr.  The Estonian International Development Cooperation Center (ESTDEV) organised an architectural competition together with the Estonian Architects’ Union and the Ministry of Culture and the HATA design by architectural firm DAGOpen was chosen as the winner out of 17 plans submitted to the architectural competition to find a standard design for the small group houses.

The winning design stands out for using Estonian best practices in space creation, small group home housing design, and construction. Their design features a 212-square-metre house with seven bedrooms and four bathrooms, plus a bomb shelter near the house. ESTDEV will announce construction tenders for building three of these homes in Zhytomyr by the end of 2023, construction will start next year.

In addition to building new houses, Estonia supports Ukraine in training foster parents and building an inclusive social welfare system.

“In cooperation with the Olena Zelenska Foundation, we have selected suitable properties in the city of Zhytomyr . We have also met families who are moving into our houses because their own homes have been destroyed in the war. One of these families currently lives in a three-room apartment with eight children. It’s not easy for them, but they are positive about the future, thanks to the housing that will be provided to them and other foster families by Estonia,” said Margus Gering, Head of ESTDEV’s Cooperation and Reconstruction in Ukraine.

At least 80 small group homes have been destroyed in the war. Although the families have moved to safer areas in Ukraine, they live without a fixed address. Currently, there are more than 1,300 small group homes in Ukraine, and each houses 5-10 orphans. According to the Olena Zelenska Foundation, 40 of these foster families have an acute need for new housing.

“Supporting children who have suffered as a result of the war is a priority for Estonia. The construction of small group homes offers Estonian companies, Estonian NGOs and public sector organisations an important opportunity to participate in the reconstruction of Ukraine. It is a joint effort,” Gering said.

The construction of small family-type group homes is Estonia’s third major project aiding the reconstruction of Ukraine. In early summer 2023, Estonia built a kindergarten in the town of Ovruchi, and in October, the Malyn Bridge was reopened thanks to Estonian support.

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VIDEO: Olena Zelenska Foundation