Children’s programs in Ukraine

Caritas volunteers playing with children from displaced families in the child-friendly space in Dnipro, Ukraine. (Caritas Internationalis)

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Development and Peace — Caritas Canada’s partners in the region have been providing urgent humanitarian assistance through a network of local Caritas centers and parish hubs. Our main partner, Caritas Ukraine, has so far reached around 1.5 million vulnerable Ukrainians fleeing the conflict or living in hard-to-reach areas. While continuing to provide urgent assistance to each new wave of displaced people and in frontline areas, Caritas Ukraine has in recent months begun providing stabilization and recovery assistance, such as more in-depth psychosocial support for adults and children.

A network of communities of warmth and kindness

Before the war, Caritas centres across Ukraine offered a unique opportunity for training, spiritual recovery and recreation. Now they have been converted into accommodations for displaced Ukrainians. At these centers away from the front, those fleeing the war find not only their basic needs met, but also a community of warmth and kindness that provides the first steps in healing.

We strive to provide people with food, hygiene products, safe shelter where people can live in decent conditions and have everything they need. At the same time, we understand that the wounds of war are not only material. After all, we are talking about our mental wounds. — Fr. Serhiy Trifyak, Director of Caritas Kolomyja

Child-friendly spaces and other programs

To assist vulnerable Ukrainians in the healing process, Caritas centres have started programs that provide a safe place where children can play, communicate and learn. In these so-called child-friendly spaces, children’s psychologists, animators and pedagogues provide psychosocial support to stabilize the emotional state of the children and create conditions for healing. So far, around 35,000 people (children and parents) have already benefited from 53 child-friendly spaces.

For example, in Ivano-Frankivsk, the local Caritas Ukraine office has launched a free course with the assistance of UNICEF, called “Children and War: Learning Healing Techniques.” The course is aimed at children aged eight and older and includes meetings for parents, who also receive psychological assistance and learn techniques that can be used later with their children.

In the Caritas centre of Dnipro, psychologists and animators of the child-friendly space work with children while their parents wait in line for supplies or other aid. Therefore, instead of being bored, the kids spend time playing games in the fresh air while enjoying freshly prepared treats and making friends with each other.

Also, this summer, local Caritas centres organized at least 20 summer camps for children from displaced families. There were two types of camps: day and field camps. The day camps were held at the Caritas centres, while the field camps were in resort areas of Ukraine. At the camps, animators, psychologists and teachers worked with the children to help them recover in a secure and happy environment. The camp activities included sports, swimming, hiking, field trips, picnics and excursions. As Caritas psychologists note, such activities, including spending time in nature, have a special therapeutic effect, especially for children who have spent months in dark basements under shelling.

Thank you to our donors!

The work of these Caritas centres is only made possible thanks to millions of generous donors, including the Development and Peace supporters who have donated around $2 million to date. We would also like to thank the Government of Quebec for contributing $200,000 for our response to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.

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