Date: 09-05-2023

ISSA Members Mobilized for Ukraine

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, ISSA Members in Ukraine and neighboring countries have mobilized, providing formal and non-formal services to children and families, supporting their physical and mental wellbeing while promoting smooth transition and inclusion in the new environments.

Ukrainian Step by Step Foundation (USSF) is one of these Members and since last year, they have been supporting 24 Ukrainian kindergartens from four regions of Ukraine, all located in de-occupied areas. Some of the kindergartens need to repair broken windows because of the shelling and others needed to procure furniture to substitute the one that was damaged.

In addition to this support, USSF has provided training to the kindergartens’ staff on psychological first aid (PFA) and trauma-informed practices. This training was developed jointly by ISSA, War Child Holland, and Amna and delivered to Ukrainian trainers in 2022.

“It is very important for us to support kindergartens, which still can operate and restore their work. Because of the missile attacks in Ukraine, over 3,000 kindergartens and creches were damaged or destroyed. Those kindergartens that can restore their operation will receive assistance and will be trained on new safety requirements and how to comply with those requirements,” says Oksana Kornieieva, USSF trainer, director of preschool Myr in Kostiantynivka, Donetsk region. “We started the internal projects as well. ISSA supported the project with the city of Trostianets that was heavily attacked by Russians, and there were kindergartens and facilities for children, which were heavily damaged and destroyed. We trained teachers and educators from Trostianets educational institutions in PFA.”

Cascade trainings continue

Through the training of trainers, entitled Foundational training on psychological first aid and trauma-informed practices, ISSA, War Child Holland, and Amna provided capacity building to ISSA Members on the ground in eight countries (Ukraine, Poland, Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Hungary and Czech Republic), equipping them to better support young children and families in Ukraine and fleeing from Ukraine. The training also helped early childhood development (ECD) professionals and practitioners who might have experienced trauma or toxic stress. Having a strong component on self-care, the initial training was addressed to around 140 master trainers within a cascade model, so that once trained they were able to train ECD professionals and practitioners working on the ground directly with young children and families.

“Throughout the last year, we trained ourselves in psychosocial support. Then, as a cascade, we trained people who will then train their colleagues. This is very important work that needs to be continued,” shares Inna Horbenko, USSF trainer, practical psychologist, co-founder of the ShchastyaKids private preschool in Kyiv. “On those trainings we did not just tell educators and teachers about some bodily or breathing practices and techniques. We actually did exercises with them so they could experience themselves how those practices work. I remember that once we did an online training, and then one of the participants was yelling that she sees a flying missile. Then I saw that some participants were very emotional about it. One lady was kind of frozen, and I couldn't understand if it was a technical problem, or she was just not responding to me. Then we did some techniques to be able to relax and to breathe, but she was still not responding… Then at some point she noted that she could hear me, but she was not really reacting because she was in shock. I said that it was a good moment for us to practice some breathing exercises, and we did that a little bit, and that brought everyone back to the present moment.”

The ISSA Network’s support for Ukraine

The ISSA network continues advocating to keep ECD high on the agenda of the humanitarian response as an effective long-term strategy in times of the war. At the same time, ISSA is supporting Members on the ground, leveraging their expertise built over years and scaling-up ECD programs that proved to work.

Read more about ISSA work on Ukraine and its 5 streams of action strategic response on early childhood responses to the war in Ukraine. Find resources and materials for those working with children of Ukraine, as well as for parents and caregivers here.