Thanks to the high-quality work and precise actions of our editorial team, we were able to reduce queues at doctors’ offices. Seven families received assistance, four people found employment, and over 10 thousand displaced persons now have information that facilitates their adaptation. We did all this exclusively as journalists, as a media outlet. After all, we worked with information and with people. Use our experience and help your communities!

I want to tell you about how our editorial staff solved two problems in Fastiv town community. In fact, there were more than two problems; however, I will focus on two in this article because they are particularly revealing. Since we did this at about the same time, the results for the editorial staff are organically compiled from the results of both projects. So it would be difficult and impractical to highlight one of them. Instead, they complemented each other; this synergy added greater value to our work for the residents.

People were constantly asking about the same thing, so the tension was growing

We cover a fairly large audience of 168,000 people. Our digital audience is 142,000 people and is formed from the audience of the FastivNews.City, Telegram channel, and Facebook page. The printed part of the audience includes 25,000 readers of Nash Horodok magazine.

The first issue that we set out to solve was residents’ access to medical services. Last year, the town established a medical call center; however, many people were unsure about the proper steps to reach a narrow specialist. This issue was especially painful for older people. They went to the central hospital, but were not accepted; instead of scheduling an appointment with a doctor, the registry directed them to do so through the call center. People went to the other end of the city, looking for a call center that works only in phone mode. They were also denied acceptance there, as the reception only handles requests made by phone. Discontent grew.

Many people, unfamiliar with the process of scheduling appointments through the newly established medical call center, arrived at the hospital only to face rejection, leading to growing dissatisfaction

The second issue, highlighted by residents for its significance, involved the relocation of IDPs to a new place. Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, Fastiv community has received more than 10,000 internally displaced persons, who began to arrange their lives in a new place from scratch. After engaging in conversations and interviews with IDPs, we discovered that these people need a guide, a document containing essential contacts and information on where in Fastiv one can restore lost documents, how to enroll a child in kindergarten and locate these facilities, where to access humanitarian and psychological assistance, which organizations assist displaced persons, and how to consult a doctor in the absence of a concluded declaration, among other crucial details. At that time, the staff of the Humanitarian Center, which was in operation, couldn’t provide answers to all of these questions.

Article on website

In fact, there was a similar situation in both cases. People constantly asked the same thing from doctors and other professionals. This information should have been presented in a user-friendly manner. It wasn’t the role of doctors or specialists to provide explanations; their primary responsibility was to perform their duties. With increased rejections, tension escalated.

Not even all community leaders knew about the new mechanism for making appointments with doctors

Since it became clear that the lack of high-quality communication has a very negative impact on both of these issues, we decided to first help people discuss these matters directly by organizing face-to-face meetings for residents and professionals. After all, in such conversations, important new questions could arise, and the anticipated answers to these questions were deemed highly valuable.

Initially, the medical staff received our proposal with hostility, stating that measures were already in place to minimize queue sizes and guide people to the correct medical institutions and times. Through the intervention of a meeting mediator, we learned that people were apprehensive about potential criticism from journalists, perceived a political context, and had other concerns. After negotiations, round tables and meetings, doctors were convinced that we want to help, and not devalue their work. And then the cooperation became effective.

Initially, the medical staff received our proposal with hostility but after negotiations, round tables, and meetings, they were convinced that we wanted to help, and not devalue their work

Several joint meetings involving representatives of the call center, the Central Hospital, and local authorities allowed us to discuss the citizens’ pain points and compile the information into a step-by-step guide on “How to schedule an appointment with a doctor.” We conducted meetings with veteran organizations, where we also provided guidance on how to schedule appointments with doctors in today’s conditions. Furthermore, information posters with these instructions were displayed in all medical institutions. We have established communication with the call center, which now informs people through our media resources about schedule changes, innovations, and so on. We visited the prefect districts of the Fastiv community, conducted informational meetings, and disseminated instructions. Village councils in communities serve as the main sources of information for residents. We were helped with logistics issues by representatives of the community’s business, who understand the importance of our initiative and were happy to support it. And the result was impressive.

The Guide “How to schedule an appointment with a doctor” and the Roadmap for IDPs

We discovered that not all community leaders were aware of the process for scheduling appointments with doctors, preventing them from effectively explaining it to the people. A total of 97 older people received information during offline meetings and practiced how to schedule an appointment with the right doctors through a call center. Additionally, 3,000 people received printed instructions distributed in crowded places, including the waiting room in the Pension Fund, all pharmacies in the city, supermarkets, markets, and self-organization committees. As a result, queues in community medical institutions decreased, while according to the call center, the number of calls increased by 20%. Our editorial staff received 2 commendations from the management of medical institutions.

Thanks to our efforts in medical institutions, queues under offices decreased, the number of citizens’ calls to the call center increased by 20%, and the editorial staff received two commendations from the management of medical institutions

Without the grant project, we wouldn’t have had the means to disseminate information to such a vulnerable demographic, including older people and rural residents. They mostly do not read online media and feel confused in the world of technology.

Before us, no one thought to collect all the necessary information for IDPs in one place

For the second issue, our team decided to collect, structure, and disseminate as much important information as possible for those who have only recently settled in the community. We have developed an information booklet “Roadmap for IDPs of Fastiv community.” No one has done this before – neither local authorities nor volunteers – although the decision seems to have been on the surface.

We have compiled in the booklet all the necessary contacts and addresses of institutions whose assistance is vital for people who have lost their homes and are striving to rebuild their lives in new territories. The booklets were distributed to all volunteer centers, shelters, administrative service centers, religious and public organizations that work with IDPs. We also made 24 publications about opportunities for displaced persons, and distributed them on the website, in a print magazine, and on social media. We shot 8 video stories of displaced persons. As a result, 2,500 IDPs have received a printed roadmap, providing them with all the necessary contacts of institutions and organizations in the community that offer services to displaced persons.

Svitlana Bondarenko from Mother and Child Center with the Roadmap for IDPs

After showing video stories, 4 people received job offers. The editorial office was also contacted by patrons who expressed a desire to help families with children. They provided assistance to 7 families: they purchased 2 washing machines, a laptop, a computer, two sofas, children’s clothing and other necessary things.

2,500 booklets, 24 articles and 8 videos helped 7 families get help, 4 people found jobs, and well over 10 thousand IDPs got access to useful information that facilitates their adaptation

I would like to emphasize once again that no one before us thought of collecting all the useful information for IDPs in one document to make it easier for people to adapt. After the completion of the project, institutions dealing with IDPs contacted the editorial office and requested additional copies of the booklet to be printed. We printed 100 copies on the printer and provided a mock-up for further reproduction.

We are proud that our work is appreciated

It is these results, where our work enables us to positively impact the lives of individuals and the community as a whole, that inspire us the most. We are really proud that from now on, we are approached by public institutions, organizations, volunteers and public activists of the community as an information partner and facilitator of meetings. Everyone realized that if someone needs to convey information to people, provide explanations, and organize and conduct discussions, our media will become a powerful support for them in this.

“I didn’t want to appear in the video, but the girls from the editorial team persuaded me, and I have no regrets. People need to understand what we’ve been through, those who lost everything. Surprisingly, after the video was released, I received a job offer, and now I’m employed! Vasyl bought a washing machine for our family, and Tetiana, a deputy in our regional council, invited my son for a vacation in Poland. This feels like a miracle!” shared the heroine of our story.

Here is one of the reviews that the volunteer center shared with the editorial team: “My husband died near Zaporizhzhia. My child and I have been living in a village near Fastiv for a month now, and I feel overwhelmed because I need to collect a lot of documents. I’m unsure where to start or where to go for assistance. Recently, a volunteer center gave me a booklet that helped me navigate. I also learned from the booklet that my child can attend the Leisure Center for free. This helps me a lot! While I’m visiting various state bodies, my son spends time productively with other kids. I even made several photocopies of the booklet and distributed them to my displaced friends,” Oksana said.

Yana from Lyman, Donetsk region, shared her memories with us about February 24, 2022. She talked about her family, including her child who was in Kharkiv for school, the city that was first shelled on the day of the large-scale invasion. She recounted how she had to evacuate her mother from the occupied area and also care for her mother-in-law…

The Mother and Child Center in the city sent a video expressing gratitude to the editorial team for providing structured and useful information for IDPs in a single document, which their specialists now possess. After mothers with children are registered at the Center, they are provided with a roadmap to facilitate socialization.

But the reviews don’t show the scale of our results. Therefore, right after completing the project, we conducted a survey among people in medical institutions to determine whether they know how to schedule an appointment with a doctor through a call center. And how did they come to know about it? Fifteen out of the 62 people surveyed mentioned that they learned about this from instructions provided by their community leaders or from friends.

A quarter of respondents noted that they learned about the new procedure for scheduling an appointment with a doctor from the instructions developed and distributed by the editorial staff

We have 2 commendations from the main medical institutions of the community for our help in solving problems with patients and doctors. For example, Liudmyla Dubas, Chief Physician of the Medical General Center, noted, “Our doctors have a heavy workload, so we simply did not have the physical opportunity to explain the recording algorithms for doctors of different levels to everyone. We are grateful that the editorial staff helped to do such a huge explanatory work. Now most patients, even from remote villages, know how to schedule an appointment through a call center so that they don’t have to go to the city in vain. This work must continue.”

At the meeting with the committees of self-organization of the population and the heads of prefect districts, Lesia Tkhorzhevska, the Chief of Staff of Fastiv City Council, distributed our roadmap for IDPs, along with instructions on “How to schedule an appointment with doctors through a call center,” and thanked the project team for such an initiative: “Our local journalists have done a tremendous job. We are grateful to them and the donor organization for their participation in solving community problems. I ask everyone to distribute these booklets and instructions, and make additional copies if necessary. This will help both our IDPs and community residents navigate these difficult times without confusion.”

Our reach has almost doubled

In this project, the editorial staff turned out to be a powerful communication platform. We organized 12 round tables, meetings, and negotiations, attended by 65 people, including the mayor, representatives of medical institutions in the community, city council deputies, heads of self-organization committees, village prefects, and members of the public.

Relevant and valuable content has garnered attention, and our digital audience has expanded. For example, the Facebook coverage before the project was 56,900, and after, it increased to 111,458. This is almost twice as much as it was (1.95 times more). While not as dramatic, the number of views on the website has also increased, rising from 32,000 per month “before” to 48,000 per month “after.” The number of Telegram followers jumped from 2100 to 3140.

The reach on Facebook increased by 1.95 times, on the website by 1.5 times, and on Telegram, it almost doubled, reaching nearly 1.5 times

But in addition to quantitative indicators, trust has also increased. We helped people solve the problems mentioned above. And we realized that we can unite people. We successfully engaged both local authorities and business representatives in the project.

Thanks to the project mentor, we launched a chatbot on Telegram. Now, we receive numerous requests from residents who, following the project’s implementation, have realized they can also address their problems to the editorial office.

This is what the Telegram chatbot looks like

This, of course, is not all the results that we have received. We also endeavored to help create a literary studio (work is ongoing) and encouraged the community to adopt an active lifestyle, with 40 women and children joining yoga classes, among other initiatives. In other words, this project proved to us that big things are done in small steps.

Our project became sustainable. Together with the editorial team, we decided to create a non-governmental organization. We have successfully registered and are already involved in activities that contribute to problem-solving in our community.

This publication was created with the support of the European Union. The content is the sole responsibility of the Ukrainian Media Business Association and does not necessarily reflect the position of the European Union, whose financial support made the project possible.