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18 August 2020 - News

SUPPORTING VULNERABLE CHILDREN THROUGH CRISIS

The story of Olga who now helps vulnerable children and their families to get through hardships brought by armed conflict and the pandemic.

RE-ESTABLISHING LIFE AFTER FLEEING FROM HOME

In 2014, when the armed conflict broke out in the east of Ukraine, many people had to flee and start their lives in new places. Olga and her family are just a few of the nearly 1.4 million internally displaced people in Ukraine. Soon after they fled, Olga started looking for a job. Having participated in workshops and trainings by Save the Children on psycho-social support, she applied to be a facilitator. In 2015, she was offered the job and started helping children cope with the negative psychological impacts of the conflict.

 “My children utilized Save the Children’s services and received the psycho-social support they really needed at that time. It was a blessing for me to see how my children benefited from these services, from my work, and were able to better cope with the changing circumstances as a result. It was at that point that I knew I was on the right track.” 

Now, Olga works as a Programme Officer with Save the Children. She still enjoys being in direct contact with people and being able to see the impacts of her work. She regularly goes to the field and talks to people. However, Olga also says that it is impossible to be a humanitarian worker for a full eight hours each day.

“Working on the ground where things are actually happening can be difficult and emotional, as you hear heartbreaking stories, yet you are supposed to be focused on how you can best support children and their families. The hardest part for me is speaking with children who are part of our case management interventions.[1]Families with children with disabilities also often live in very difficult conditions. It is not easy to let those images go from your head when you come home and it took me some time to realize that I will only be functional in my job if I can manage the emotions I feel when I see these difficult scenes on regular basis.”

REMOTE WORKING DURING COVID-19

When the COVID-19 outbreak was announced as a worldwide pandemic in March 2020, children in eastern Ukraine became even more vulnerable, and the need for humanitarian assistance became greater.

“Together with our technical advisers, we developed guidelines for working during lockdown and adaptive quarantine. We have continued going to the field to deliver hygiene items. We observe all quarantine measures, making sure that everyone around us observes them as well. In humanitarian work, you need to be flexible and keep your head cool in order to operate effectively and respond to needs of vulnerable people. Since COVID-19, the workload has doubled because we need to proceed with the usual routine tasks, while adapting them to our new reality,” says Olga. 

According to her, children in the east of Ukraine have been some of the hardest hit by the health crisis and related quarantine restrictions, as the virus has imposed new risks to their safety and wellbeing.

“Children have been some of the hardest hit by the health crisis and related quarantine restrictions”

Meanwhile, Olga’s two daughters (a school graduate and a first grader) had to switch to distance learning.

“I cannot overestimate the support my family has provided me with during these times. We turned our apartment into an office. Sometimes my husband, our eldest daughter, and I would all have virtual meetings at the same time, but everyone treated each other with respect, and it worked well for all,” she says.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, I have managed to successfully combine my two roles as a humanitarian worker and mom. Through Save the Children, I am constantly learning new information, trying to apply it in my personal life, and vice versa. Support from my family helps me get through the daily hardships of humanitarian work. During COVID-19, it has been a bit tough, but I think I have learned how to handle it. My eldest daughter recently told me she would like to be like me and become a humanitarian worker. It seems like I have done some good and I am proud of it.”

“I have managed to successfully combine my two roles as a humanitarian worker and mom”