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7 June 2020 - News

MAKING CHILDREN SMILE – SAVE THE CHILDREN’S COMMUNITY CENTER BRINGS POSITIVE EMOTIONS TO CHILDREN IN EASTERN UKRAINE

Alina began attending the SCI-sponsored Community Center in Bakhmut in September 2016 and is now thinking about how to find more time to visit it. (Tetiana Tesliuchenko/Save the Children)

As the winter ends and spring tries to take over in eastern Ukraine, the children of Bakhmut celebrated “Friendship Day”, a community party to support social activities for children. The event was organized by the local community center which is run by Save the Children in partnership with Zaporizhzhia Region Charity Fund “Child Smile” and with financial support from the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO).

Many children in eastern Ukraine continue to experience trauma as a consequence of the conflict. Their houses, schools and kindergartens and other civilian infrastructure have been damaged, and their environments are often unstable. Children are not only in need of humanitarian assistance, but also psychosocial support. Psychological trauma is not always visible to others, but it is a complex problem that can impact a child’s physical and emotional development, mental health, and their ability to interact with others.

“I was very surprised that this could be real in our difficult time”, says Halyna (65 years old), who brought her granddaughter Alina (8 years old) to the center. “Today we attended a “Friendship Day” party organized by the community center. It surprised us a lot. We never had anything like this center before and I’m so grateful to everyone involved in supporting it”

Halyna (r) and her granddaughter Alina (c) attending a “Friendship Day” party organized by Save the Children’s Community Center in Bakhmut, 25 February 2017 (Tetiana Tesliuchenko/Save the Children).

The Bakhmut Community Centre is a multi-purpose facility that provides a range of free services for community members, including support for children and their families. Specialized activities are designed for people who have been displaced due to the conflict, and host communities, with a focus on building community acceptance and integration.

Ekaterina, a Facilitator, has worked at the center since it opened in August 2016. She facilitates a range of activities to promote children’s emotional well-being, including Save the Children’s HEART program (Healing and Education through Art). According to Ekaterina, “Children, who live close to the conflict zone have often become introverted, anxious, and hyper-excited - and they also have nightmares”.  HEART activities allow children to express their emotions in a safe and supportive environment, providing a healthy outlet for their negative feelings and fears.   

Ekaterina and other facilitators from Save the Children’s partner organization Zaporizhzhia Region Charity Fund “Child Smile” at the “Friendship Day” party, Bakhmut, 2017. Funding for the event was provided by ECHO. (Child's Smile).

Ekaterina and other facilitators from Save the Children’s partner organization Zaporizhzhia Region Charity Fund “Child Smile” at the “Friendship Day” party, Bakhmut, 2017. Funding for the event was provided by ECHO. (Photo: Child's Smile).

Ekaterina states that the main problem is that often parents do not have enough time to talk to a child about his/her thoughts, fears and problems, as they are focused on finding money for survival.

“Such centers are definitely important and very much needed,” says Iuliia, who is also one of the facilitators at the center. “In the center, childrenand youth talk to each other, share their positive and negative emotions, and - this is very important - that they are not just listened to, but actually heard.”

Alina began attending the SCI-sponsored Community Center in Bakhmut in September 2016 and is now thinking about how to find more time to visit it. (Tetiana Tesliuchenko/Save the Children).

 

Alina began attending the SCI-sponsored Community Center in Bakhmut in September 2016 and is now thinking about how to find more time to visit it. (Tetiana Tesliuchenko/Save the Children).

Alina (8 years old) comes to the center only on Saturdays as she doesn’t have more time. However, together with her grandmother they come so early that usually there is nobody else at the center when they arrive. 

Alina attends the SCI-sponsored community center in Bakhmut on Saturdays and her favorite activity there is painting. (Tetiana Tesliuchenko/Save the Children).

Alina attends the SCI-sponsored community center in Bakhmut on Saturdays and her favorite activity there is painting. (Tetiana Tesliuchenko/Save the Children).

In the center, I like quilling and painting the most. There are many children in the center, even two girls from my school. My first activity when I came to the center was a painting of a small owl. I was praised for it,” said Alina proudly. 

By participating in different activities in the center, many children and their parents gain new experiences and make new friends. “Children copy their parents. And the main problem, I think is that parents cannot deal with so much stress. So first of all we have to protect adults from this problem. A calm parent means a happy child,” says Maryna, another facilitator at the center.

The community center in Bakhmut provides structured psychosocial support through facilitators trained by Save the Children staff. Some of the formal Save the Children programs include HEART, an art-therapy based program; Journey of Hope, which teaches children positive coping skills; Positive Parenting, a training course to teach parents about behavioral supports for children; and the Child-to-Child peer support program. In addition, trainings are offered in life-skills and resiliency for youth and caregivers, as well as opportunities for informal learning, recreation, and play.

Mobile outreach activities are also run from the community center to reach the most vulnerable children and their families who live outside of the city.

“Thank you very much to Save the Children and Child’s Smile for those unforgettable emotions that they gave us by opening the center. We have helped many people, both children and adults… This is a great chance to help those whose needs are greater than our own”, said Iuliia.  “When you see that your work makes somebody happy and helps, you want to do more and more and do not stop!”