Date: 23-11-2023

ISSA Member in Romania empowers psychological resilience among Ukrainian refugees


ISSA Member in Romania empowers psychological resilience among Ukrainian refugees

Since the war in Ukraine began in 2022, ISSA Member Neohumanist Education Association (NEA), Romania, noticed a lack of psychological first aid (PFA) in the humanitarian response and contributed by equipping non-governmental organization staff and volunteers working with refugees with skills to provide PFA.

NEA has been helping Ukrainian refugees in Romania and internally displaced people in Ukraine through Neohumanist Education – an approach that lays the foundations of the sustainable cultural practices to empower children for the social and ecological demands of the 21st century. NEA’s work aims to build resilience on a community level by empowering the individuals with the skills to do so.

Recently, NEA trained early childhood practitioners in Odesa, Ukraine, to lead workshops designed to increase the psychological resilience of parents to continue caring for their children. In addition to their experience in delivering PFA, NEA along with fellow ISSA Members, benefited from the “Foundational training on psychological first aid and trauma-informed practices” provided by War Child Holland, ISSA Member Amna, and ISSA.

This training of trainers (ToT) aims to empower master trainers to train ECD professionals working with young children and families. With an emphasis on the importance of self-care to help practitioners manage their own stress, this training fills a critical knowledge gap in the early childhood workforce capacity – to meet the needs of young refugee children and their families that surfaced due to the war.

Empowering Ukrainian early childhood practitioners

Speaking with a local Ukrainian news channel, President of NEA, Didi Devapriya, highlighted the strength of the Ukrainian early childhood practitioners in the face of adversity, discussed how NEA helped participants recognize normal stress responses to abnormal situations – like living through a war, and the techniques they teach to deal with elevated stress levels.

NEA illustrates one’s stress threshold with a cup that is overflowing—thus requiring one to cultivate skills to empty it. One of the fundamental tools participants were trained in was deep breathing—a simple yet underestimated way to trigger the body’s relaxation response. This is an attainable approach as it is easier for one to alter a physical state compared to one’s state of mind.

By empowering individuals, NEA wants to build community resilience with both acquired skills and accessing existing resources. For example, participants shared how they have been managing stress and cultivating resilience through physical activities – running, gardening, meditation – but also by helping others. Counterintuitive as it may seem to lend a hand amid your own suffering, Didi Devapriya highlighted how this positively transforms the feeling of powerlessness that accompanies trauma, by creating a sense of agency through initiating action.

Learn more about NEA’s work and how the ISSA Network is responding to the crisis in Ukraine here.