Featured Participant: Olga Dolinina

August 17, 2015

The GSMP was amazing. It made such a big impact in my life that when I got back home everyone noticed it. I was not a different person, but I completely improved. I came back with a widened horizon both personally and professionally. And I’m already feeling already like I’m no longer an ’emerging leader,’ but just a leader. Whenever I plan something or implement a project, I go back to my experience in the program and I see so many ideas and so many inspirational people. It’s that kind of inspiration that sticks around even when I don’t have any energy.

Despite an unstable political environment and continued military conflict in Donetsk and other parts of eastern Ukraine, Olga Dolinina has made major progress on her action plan since returning home.

As a result of the violence, Olga was forced to leave her position as the marketing and public relations director for HC Donbass after armed intruders set fire to the club’s stadium and invaded its offices in downtown Donetsk. After moving back to her hometown (Dnipropetrovsk), she took a position as a project coordinator with Save the Children Ukraine, where she has been promoted twice in less than a year and is now responsible for measurement and evaluation. This new job gave Olga the opportunity to work directly with the refugee children she hoped to reach when developing her action plan at the NHL with her mentor Susan Cohig during the GSMP.

The main goal of Break The Ice is to promote positive social change and peacebuilding in the communities most affected by instability, social tension and ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Table and ice hockey are Olga’s vehicles for peacebuilding. Through friendly competition and learning activities, girls and boys between the ages of 5 and 12 from internally displaced families can find some stress relief and rehabilitation.

In order to guarantee the success and longevity of Break the Ice, Olga has forged successful partnerships with the International Table Hockey Federation (ITHF), Ukraine’s Department of Education, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and Save the Children, which will provide facilities and volunteers for table hockey tournaments Olga has planned for 2015 and early 2016. Already Olga has organized two tournaments in Mariupol and Dnipropetrovsk, serving 200 children and mobilizing 10 volunteers, coaches and special guests (including European table hockey champion Roman Ignatenko).

Funding for Olga’s project has come primarily through three grants from the following: the U.S. Department of State, NHL Players Association, and Office of Public Affairs of the U.S Embassy Kiev.

During the summer of 2015, Olga registered Break the Ice as an official NGO in her country. She is very excited about the increased opportunities it will give her to use table and ice hockey to impact the lives of potentially thousands of refugee children struggling with PTSD and other issues.

Read more about Olga’s work in Ukraine: