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Estonia to build four group homes in Ukraine for children orphaned by war

DAGOpen OÜ's
DAGOpen OÜ's "Hata," the winning design in an Estonian-Ukrainian architectural competition for family-type group homes to be built in Ukraine. July 2023. Source: DAGOpen OÜ

Estonia is building four small family-style group homes in Ukraine's Zhytomyr Oblast. The homes will be used for large foster families, who have taken in children orphaned as a result of Russia's full-scale military invasion.

"Supporting children who have suffered in the war must be our priority because these children have paid the highest price—they have lost their parents, their homes and their childhoods," said Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Margus Tsahkna (Eesti 200).

The first home is being built as part of the Olena Zelenska Foundation's "Room for Childhood" initiative. Estonia will provide approximately €370,000 in financing for a six-bed, five-bath, fully accessible home in Zhytomyr. The house itself will be 285 square meters squared and include an underground concrete bomb shelter in the yard. Construction work is scheduled to begin by the end of this year, with the house set to be completed in 2024.

To aid with scaling the initiative, Estonia is set to build three additional houses in the city of Zhytomyr. The Estonian International Development Cooperation Center (ESTDEV) organized an architectural competition together with the Estonian Architects' Union and the Ministry of Culture. From the 17 entries submitted, the HATA design, created by architectural firm DAGOpen was chosen as the winner.

The winning design stands out for its use of Estonian best practices in space creation, small group home housing design, and construction. Their design features a 212-square-meter house with seven bedrooms and four bathrooms, plus a bomb shelter. ESTDEV will announce construction tenders to build three such homes in Zhytomyr by the end of 2023, with construction work due to start next year.

In addition to building new houses, Estonia is supporting Ukraine to train foster parents and build 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 cooperation and reconstruction in Ukraine at ESTDEV.

At least 80 small group homes have been destroyed in the war. Although the families who lived there have now moved to safer parts of Ukraine, they currently have no fixed addresses.

At present, there are more than 1,300 small group homes in Ukraine, each housing between 5 and 10 orphaned children. 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 organizations an important opportunity to participate in the reconstruction of Ukraine. It is a joint effort," Gering said.

The construction of small family group homes will be Estonia's third major project to support the reconstruction of Ukraine, all three of which are based in the country's Zhytomyr Oblast.

At the start of the summer, Estonia built a kindergarten in the town of Ovruch, while the Malyn Bridge was reopened in October thanks to Estonian support.

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Editor: Michael Cole

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