Students in Ukraine learn about sustainable energy through UNICEF's UPSHIFT program.

Young People in Ukraine Gear Up for a Sustainable Energy Future

Participants in UPSHIFT, UNICEF's youth innovation program, are learning about alternative energy sources and working together to build a brighter future in Ukraine. 

During the coldest months of 2023, attacks on energy infrastructure left 7 million children across Ukraine without power. This year, enterprising young people are making plans to ensure access to sustainable energy in the future.

“We must learn to save electricity even when we receive it uninterruptedly,” says 16-year-old Bohdana. “Firstly, it affects our future life, as fuel resources are exhaustible. And secondly, it is an environmental issue, as energy production causes a lot of emissions into the environment.”

I will take all the knowledge I gained at UPSHIFT to my new projects or jobs. This is a good experience of ‘adult life’ because here, in addition to the idea, one also needs to work with documents and a budget. The program provides the necessary basic skills for the future. — Bohdana, 16

Bohdana, who is currently studying in the Ivano-Frankivsk region in western Ukraine, recently formed a team with her like-minded friends Oleksandra, Vasyl and Oleksandr to join the UPSHIFT youth innovation program run by UNICEF. The team received training, mentoring and resources to build awareness and implement new ways of generating electricity.

A museum employee demonstrates the devices for supplying electricity to the participants at a UNICEF UPSHIFT event in Ukraine.
A museum employee demonstrates devices for supplying electricity during a UNICEF UPSHIFT event. © UNICEF

As part of their initiative, the team conducts lectures and educational field trips for teenagers aged 14 to 18. During their presentations, they encourage participants to solve energy challenges  — for example, building alternative electricity supply systems out of construction sets, such as windmills and hydroelectric power plants.  

On Dec. 14, 2023, in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine, young people listen attentively to a sustainability presentation organized by a UNICEF UPSHIFT tea
On Dec. 14, 2023, in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine, young people listen attentively to a sustainable energy presentation organized by a UNICEF UPSHIFT team. © UNICEF/UNI500792/Pavlyuk

Learning to build solar charging stations 

The team has also set up a solar charging station; they demonstrate the device during their lectures, explaining how to construct it. Eventually, the team plans to donate the station to their school for use in an air raid shelter.

“We have already done the first tests of our station,” says Bohdana. “And we are confident it can charge more than 10 gadgets a day. But we are still investigating the device’s maximum power.”

More than 150 participants have already joined Bohdana’s initiative. But her team is not stopping yet. They also plan to create educational content on energy efficiency and launch joint initiatives with other UPSHIFT teams.

On Dec. 14, 2023 in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine, young members of a UNICEF UPSHIFT team share information on sustainable electricity production.
Young UPSHIFT team members share information on sustainable electricity production with their student audience. UNICEF's UPSHIFT program, started in Ukraine in 2018, provides young people with opportunities to come together with their peers to improve their communities. © UNICEF/UNI500789/Pavlyuk

A safe space to create community with other young change makers 

UPSHIFT is a global youth innovation program that was launched in Ukraine in 2018. In its more than five years of existence in the country, it has become a community of active and caring young people.

Participants say that UPSHIFT has helped them to believe in themselves and given them opportunities for professional development, learning about project management, teamwork and communication. Amid an ongoing war, it has also become a safe place where young people can express themselves and provide help to others. 

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TOP PHOTO: On Dec. 14, 2023, from left, Vasyl, Oleksandra, Bohdana and Oleksandr visited the Museum of Science in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine, to learn about sustainable energy production through UNICEF's UPSHIFT youth innovation program. © UNICEF/UNI500791/Pavlyuk