A safe space for Ukrainian children to learn
One year after the start of the war in Ukraine, life has radically changed for countless children and their families. While more than 16 million people have fled, many had to stay behind. More than two million children are still in Ukraine, living in an active warzone.
With over half of all Ukrainian schools destroyed, these children are in desperate need of psychological safety and educational support. Save the Children is working hard to give these children a reason to hope. With your help, we’re providing safe spaces and educational technology so children can continue their schooling and begin to process what they’ve been through.
Forced to flee
Halyna,* 12, lived in Kyiv with her parents and younger brother. On the 24th of February she woke to find her parents watching TV and her mother crying. Soon, Halyna heard missiles overhead and sirens wailing. After a nearby explosion violently shook the glass in their windows, the family took their pets and rushed to a bomb shelter.
Halyna (12) lived in a bomb shelter for six days before evacuating to western Ukraine.
Halyna and her family stayed in the dark shelter for six days, only going outside to use the toilet or search for food. The terrifying sounds of war kept the children awake at all hours. Finally, the family found a train that could evacuate them from the city.
A quiet, safe place
Halyna and her family now live in a temporary home in Chernivtsi in western Ukraine, safe from the waves of violence that have continued to rock Kyiv. Save the Children has set up a space in the building where Halyna and other children do activities and try to take their minds off the chaos they’ve experienced.
Our friendly staff play games, dance and do sports with children so they can feel safe, cared for and calm. Specialists are on hand to provide psychological support and keep an eye out for children who need additional help. Critically, the space gives parents time to connect with other services so they can rebuild their lives.
We also help young Ukrainians like Halyna restart their education, including by dialling into virtual classes hosted by the Ukrainian Government.
Save the Children staff play cards with Kira (10) and her friend at one of Save the Children’s safe spaces for children.
Anna, who also fled the fighting last year to seek refuge in Chernivtsi, explains how Save the Children has helped her eldest daughter, Kira, learn online. “Facilitators help the children with how to login, how to use the equipment and it provides a safe place for the children to study,” she explains.
Kira (10) says her favourite subject is maths. The young girl says she loves learning at the centre “because its quiet here, I can go to school.”
A pocket library
As well as helping children feel safe and access their classes, we’ve published 195 digital books for Ukrainian children, with more to come. These have been uploaded onto yellow tablets and delivered to our spaces across Ukraine and in Romania, where many refugees have settled.
The books support children’s learning and psychosocial recovery and help keep them connected to their language and Ukrainian national identity.
Anna’s youngest, Oleksandra, is five years old and fascinated by the app. She loves reading on it with her big sister. The pair could while away hours exploring different worlds brought to them by the tablet.
The online library is also available globally on the free Library for All app, so children who like Oleksandra can keep turning the pages of their favourite story even after they’ve gone home for the night.
Anna and her two daughters, Kira (10) and Oleksandra (5) read books together on tablets loaded with digital books.
Finding hope in war
With your support, we’ve put educational technology into countless children’s hands. We’re helping them to keep learning and feel like children again. Together, we’re also training teachers and caregivers to make sure they have the skills to support Ukrainian children to learn remotely until they can go back to school.
As the new year dawns and the winter snow begins to thaw, families are facing the reality that the war is ongoing. We’re doing everything we can to offer Ukrainian children a glimpse of hope in the dark.
As one of our facilitators in Ukraine says, “for me Save the Children means more than work. We create the space to help children have their future.”
*Names have been changed to protect identities.
Photos: Save the Children.