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“He cried and asked when we would go home” – how Mariupol children are helped to survive the war. Part 1

“He cried and asked when we would go home” – how Mariupol children are helped to survive the war. Part 1

The Center for family support of Ordzhonikidze social service is located in “Vostochny” micro district of Mariupol. It is the district which was cruelly shelled on January 24, 2015. At that time 29 people perished and dozens were wounded. Locals are not in a hurry to restore the damaged houses. Some of them are expecting more shelling: several windows in each house are scotched for them to stand the blast wave.

The building of the Ordzhonikidze district center of social services to the family, children, and youth was half-destroyed. Local authorities helped only to coordinate local activists and volunteers', on the one hand, and international organizations'  efforts, on the other, aimed at restoring the building. Thus, the Center for the Family Support at UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) was opened.

Vera Kachura is the administrator of the Center. She has been rendering help to the militaries and internally displaced persons since the very beginning of the anti-terrorist operation. She was a businesswoman in her native Shyrokyne – she was a shop owner.

- I am an IDP from Shyrokyne. I left Shyrokyne in the autumn, 2014. I started volunteering, helping people get some accommodation here and survive. It is not difficult for me to understand IDPs and the people from “Vostochny” as I myself am an IDP.



- First IDPs came to Shyrokyne from Slovyansk in April, 2014. The population of Shyrokyne was 1.5 thousand people and there were 2.5 IDPs too. Local businesspeople helped them. We were about 37 and we tried to do our best. We tried to accommodate the people in available holiday centers. So, it started like that, as Vera says.

According to her, the idea to open an aid center in Mariupol appeared because the majority of IDPs wanted and needed it. The initiative was supported by local authorities and social services. The premises for the new center were needed: the place where families could come, talk to others, and solve their problems.

The citizens' idea was supported by a UN international organization, So, an abandoned part of the social aid center was refurbished, and classes for children started. At the beginning, there was just a room for children; art therapy was conducted; and an individual psychologist worked. Later, there appeared group classes, a class for preparing for school, a speech therapist, a self-defense course for teenagers, and a video skills development class. Now they are going to introduce pilates for moms and meditation for moms with kids.

The classes with kids – victims of shells – started this February.

- There are psychologically vulnerable children. Because of their specific nature, world perception, and specific “educational background”, they cannot stand the events which are taking place in our country, and which a lot of adults cannot stand either. In our Center, there are victims from Shyrokyne, victims of the shelling of “Vostochny”, and IDPs from the whole occupied territory. And each kid requires an individual approach to their psychological injuries. For some of them the very fact of moving house without any explanation, why they cannot stay at home with their family and friends may cause stress and extreme anxiety (which without treatment may turn into a syndrome of chronic anxiety). Others got stressed and traumatized when their house was hit with shells or when they saw covered corpses in the street, says Mariya Pronina, a consulting psychologist.

Mariya is an IDP too. She came to Mariupol from Donetsk. She says she is ready for the work with children who are victims of the war, and she is proud and happy when her small patients are recovering. She says that one of the most common problem that IDPs' children experience is fear to loose their family: children cannot stay without them.

- Speaking in general, not about particular cases, IDPs' kids as well as children from “grey zones” are afraid of loosing their folks, they experience constant stress and anxiety which are physically expresses in tic, enuresis, itching, speech problems. They have phobias and fears. The situation is a kind of a catalyst which causes a lot of health problems. Children are afraid of darkness; they cannot sleep without their parents; they are afraid of being alone (even in the toilet); they demand parents' attention all the time, adds Mariya.



These problems make the life of IDPs even more difficult: they have to survive in new conditions and that is not easy when the child experiences health and psychological problems.

“He cried and asked when we would go home” – how Mariupol children are helped to survive the war. Part 2


New service "Explain Ukraine". This is a daily mailout of three articles which were written about the situation in the Donbas by Donbas journalists and translated into English. Honest vision of people who work in the field is unbiased and fresh which is crucial in the world which is full of desinformation and propaganda. We try to share this vision in out daily mailout.  You can subscribe here.

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