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Bringing Changes in Mariupol: The Story of Olga Pikula

For many years, Olga Pikula had encountered firsthand the plight of homeless animals in her hometown of Mariupol, Ukraine through her own volunteer work. It wasn’t until working with IRI as a newly-elected LEO (local elected official) of Mariupol’s City Council, however, that she felt truly empowered to make a difference for these often-overlooked members of her society.

Earlier this year, Pikula participated in an IRI training program for young LEOs, before embarking on an IRI exchange trip for several Mariupol LEOs to the Chernivtsi City Council. Through these programs, she became aware of the tools and opportunities her new role provided her to bring about change in her community. Endowed with this newfound knowledge, Pikula says that she at last “saw a chance to resolve the problem of homeless animals and animal abuse on the municipal level in Mariupol.”

Pikula’s ambition in turn inspired several of her Council colleagues to the merit of her cause, including the City Mayor and her fellow IRI attendee Secretary Stepan Makhsma. Together, they began to conceptualize a model to care for their town’s neglected animals by examining modern shelters in neighboring cities. Much of their inspiration came from the Communal Enterprise Lev center in Lviv Ukraine, a pioneer in its field for its practice of a comprehensive capture, care, and placement program for the city’s displaced animals.

The program also relies upon the engagement of local volunteers to monitor the animals in their districts, thus ensuring they are accounted and cared for. Pikula was inspired by the humanitarian approach of the Lviv center, which demonstrates concern both for the animals in its care and the greater community it belongs to. The volunteer-based system encourages citizens to make a responsible and beneficial difference in their city, all the while aiding animals who have no voice to help themselves.    

In her own proposal to the Mariupol Council, Pikula drew both from the inspiring methodology of Communal Enterprise and the practical knowledge of communal shelter implementation she accrued while on her IRI exchange trip. Her resulting resolution for the Center of Contemporary Treatment of Animals (“Happy Animals”) was adopted by the Council in September, with construction work set to begin in November. This contemporary veterinary and sterilization center will be the first of its kind in Mariupol.

Pikula’s efforts on behalf of the homeless animals of her city have already encouraged fellow LEO IRI attendees to take up her torch. LEOs from Pavlograd and Slaviansk have sought her advice and detailed consultation on the issue of animal shelter development, hoping to design solutions in their own cities. While Pikula has already done much to advance the needs of animals in her own city and brought greater awareness to a neglected issue, she knows that there is much work left to be done.

It is Pikula’s hope that a successful program in Mariupol will serve as a role model for other cities in the region. Through her work, she aspires to provide others with the incentives and means to bring about change in their own cities for the betterment of the animals that wander their streets.