Artyom*, a tall boy with glasses and shy smile, walks into the big, airy room of Save the Children's Child friendly Space in Svyatohirsk. “Anya, could you help me with my homework?” he asks eagerly. Artyom unrolls a big sheet of drawing paper and puts scraps of material and colour paper around it. Save the Children’s Facilitator Anya brings over pencils and paints, and the creative process begins.
In 2014, 14-year-old Artyom and his 5-year-old sister Alina*were forced to flee their home in eastern Ukraine. Their mother Tanya* still remembers how they were sitting in their yard listening to the shells fall everywhere around them. Alina was crying and saying over and over again: “Mummy, I’m afraid. Mummy, I’m afraid.” They had hoped the fighting in Donetsk would stop soon and they could go back to Donetsk. But after a year, they are still far away from their home.
Both Artyom and Alina are very creative: they love to draw and make things. In Donetsk Artyom had lots of extra classes in English, handicrafts and swimming. But in his new community, there weren’t many activities for children outside of school, and Artyom and his sister often spent hours in their small room.
Things changed when Tanya heard of Save the Children’s activities at the Child Friendly Space (CFS). It was just what her children needed and she registered them immediately.
“They wake up in the morning and dash to the CFS. When they come back home for lunch, they eat their meal quickly, barely chewing it, and run back. My children adore the CFS and its facilitators,” Tanya says.
Artyom and Alina have been attending the CFS for three months and come every day.
Diana, one of Save the Children’s facilitators, says: “Artyom is amazing. He is so creative and so committed! There are lots of Artyom’s artworks on the walls of the CFS – paintings he drew and a story he wrote.”
Artyom has also had the chance to sell some of his creations. “Recently there was a table-top fair and I prepared some crafts, mostly made from paper origami,” Artyom says. “People liked them and I sold some. I think I'm good at handicrafts. And definitely that is what I like.”
Tanya is happy that her children have a place to play and spend their time learning and interacting with other children.
“You know here we have not had a place for children to play, and I’m happy that now we do. But what makes me feel happy most of all is the fact that my children have an opportunity to do the things they like to do,” she says.
Since the crisis in Ukraine started, more than 1.5 million people have been forced to leave their homes in search of safety. Many families left with only a few possessions and have found it difficult to rebuild their lives in new communities. Children have also witnessed violence and may be suffering from the loss of their loved ones.
With funding from The Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO), Save the Children has opened Child Friendly Spaces (CFS) in Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhia and Donetsk oblasts. We run CFS to provide displaced children with safe and caring places where they can play, learn and recover from their experiences. We also run psychosocial activities that allow children to express their feelings and needs, appreciate their identity and accept others.