Although it is less present in the international news, the already four-year conflict in Eastern Ukraine is far from resolved. More than 54,000 children live in areas where shootings and bombs are part of their reality. Every week, hundreds of them are forced to spend time in the bomb shelters.
According to the 2017 UNICEF report “Children of the Contact Line in East Ukraine”, psychosocial distress among children remains one of the main issues. In 2017, Terre des hommes (Tdh) continued to provide the much-needed support, reaching more than 7000 children and their families in Luhansk region.
Since 2015, Tdh has been creating and continuously improving child-friendly and safe delivery of psychosocial support for children and youth. In 2017, the organisation provided child-friendly spaces in 75 schools and 5 professional lyceums in Luhansk region. Each of these spaces is furnished in a manner that ensures comfort to children and youth. Here they find board games, books, and materials for play, creative work and sports. "I enjoy this place very much. It feels peaceful here and it is always quiet. I spend time here to rest and play, during the breaks or after classes," wrote an eighth grader in a school’s "Gratitude Book".
Last year, 240 teachers trained by Tdh carried out more than 800 indoor and outdoor recreational activities with 7073 children. Although it is in a protracted crisis context, these child-friendly spaces and activities are extremely important for stress relief for children. This helps them release tension and reduce feelings of fear, isolation and depression, build caring relationships, confidence and positive outlook on life. Children develop their self-esteem, self-control and emotional self-regulation. By strengthening the skills in the psychosocial field, the inner resources of children and their environment are reinforced, thus guaranteeing them better protection.
Tdh brings together children who grew up in the communities where we work and the ones who are internally displaced. The creative and sports activities are a powerful tool for social inclusion, by creating a strong sense of community and togetherness. "I have noticed that, as a result of these activities, children started to communicate and cooperate better with each other, they became more connected and active. The relationships among them considerably improved. It helps us find solutions together to the distress caused by the conflict," shares a teacher from Novostriltsivka community. There are also organised joint activities for children and parents. "After these activities, parents say they are more careful to their children’s needs and feelings, they spend more time together," continues the teacher.
In 2018, Tdh continues the work on improving the emotional and social well-being of children and youth in Eastern Ukraine. "This continuous work is possible thanks to the great dedication of teachers who work on a voluntary basis. We heartfully appreciate it. Most rewarding for them is seeing children enjoy life again. This in turn motivates them to develop their personal competences and skills," mentioned Nikita Kovchuga, Child Protection Field Officer in Ukraine.