Creative Safe Spaces for Children in Eastern Ukraine

Although the war in Ukraine has largely disappeared from media coverage, it has by no means ended. Shooting continues along the front line, such that in the course of one week up to 60 houses are damaged.

According to figures from the OSCE, over 400 people have died since the start of the year alone. The continuous shelling creates an atmosphere of fear, which seriously limits normal community life. Data from the UN crucially show that more than 500,000 children are suffering in this conflict zone.

Because the proximity of many places to the front makes it too dangerous to let children play outside, they have to occupy themselves at home, isolated from their friends and left to their own devices. In turn, this can amplify fear, depression and trauma among the children.

Many of these children are traumatised, they have sleep and development issues and also suffer from stress stemming from their parents who, through the transmission of this stress, put an even bigger strain on family life.

We want to change this:
we want to establish urgently needed safe and creative spaces on the ground, fitted out with everything that children need in order to play, to have opportunities to develop, experiment and be able to learn. Together with our Ukrainian partner organisation Vostok SOS, we have chosen five locations directly in the frontline region for these safe and creative spaces. There, children should feel comfortable and be supported in overcoming the fear and trauma caused by the war.

Safe Spaces for Children in Five Places:

(1) Zolote: This small town is divided in three parts: one part is controlled by the Ukrainian state, another is occupied by one of the paramilitary separatist units, and the third is in a “grey zone”. There is still shooting today in Zolote. In order to give the children some balance, an afternoon school for art and creativity will be founded in a cellar. Yet materials are lacking, even when the supervisors improvise as best they can.

Your donations could supply the school with pens, paints, easels, paintbrushes, drawing paper, books and other materials for creative design.

(2) Toshkovka: Located seven kilometres from the frontline, this village has been cut off from regional infrastructure because of the war. As such, the youth and children’s club “Lighthouse” is the only creative centre for children in the area. Supervisors dance, sing, build and play with the children and youth. Unfortunately, not only is material lacking here, but so are artists and pedagogues to organise workshops. The stereo system has already been repaired many times and functions only irregularly, which is why events often have to be cancelled.

We are collecting donations for a new stereo system, craft materials and for the travel costs of volunteers, who come from other places to offer workshops encouraging creativity and more physical movement.

(3) Voitovo: In the middle of the East Ukrainian fields, and directly on the front line, lies the village of Voitove. The school has been closed; children are taken daily to a school in a neighbouring village. But frequently the school bus does not run. Sometimes it doesn’t come for weeks, because there is no petrol or the road is blocked. The children have no place where they can come together and play. Now parents and other volunteers are trying to turn the village’s former house of culture into a small oasis for these children. The authorities have agreed, but there are no means for reconstructing the badly damaged building.

With you donations, we can renovate the house of culture, in order to create a safe and comfortable place where the children can meet, play together and learn.

(4) Shtshaste: Shtshaste is the Russian word for ‘luck’. Yet this small town directly on the frontline is far from its namesake. Children’s daily surroundings here are soldiers holding weapons, military vehicles and checkpoints. At home they look forward to overwhelmed parents, many of whom are unemployed, who have barely come to terms with their own experiences and worries and who therefore often do not have the capacity to support their own children.

With your help we want to organise continuous psychological assistance. To do so, psychologists must be paid to work directly with the children and parents, and voluntary helpers trained in how to support the psychological well-being of the children through play.

(5) Stanitsa Luganskaya: After three years of war, many houses, families and lives have been destroyed here. Fifteen kilometres from Luhansk, this place with the half-destroyed bridge is the only “border crossing” on the occupied side. There are two schools, but no place for children with disabilities. So that they can also develop their personality and build their social surroundings, volunteers have begun to build a special development centre.

In order for this project to succeed, it requires material and technical assistance. We are collecting donations for the furnishing of the centre. In concrete terms, we want to buy furniture, braille books, audio books, writing materials, a keyboard, as well as material to support motor functions (i.e. playdough and kinetic sand).

Our partner on the ground:

Vostok SOS organises logistical, psychological, legal and humanitarian help for people in need as a result of the war in Ukraine. Furthermore, this NGO documents human rights abuses and advocates for democratic change. Founded in 2014 by human rights activists, Vostok SOS was one of the first initiatives to deal with war refugees, former prisoners and other war victims.

Donation information:

Libereco – Partnership for Human Rights is an officially-approved charitable organisation. Donations to Libereco are tax-deductible in Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands. We mail donation certificates for the past year at the beginning of each year.

If you would like to receive a donation certificate, please state your complete address or send it to spenden@lphr.org.