Supporting children along the line of contact in eastern UkrainePublished: Dec 21, 2020 Reading time: 2 minutes
More than six years of armed conflict in eastern Ukraine have had a profound impact on the well-being of the nearly 670,000 school-aged children living in the region. Schoolchildren living in settlements close to the contact line, which separates the government-controlled area (GCA) and the non-government controlled area (NGCA), have faced the most difficulty accessing education due to poor transport infrastructure and the damage that some schools have sustained in the conflict. The COVID-19 pandemic has only further compounded these challenges.
In order to support schoolchildren in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, People in Need (PIN) has been working closely with the communities in the area. For instance, PIN has supported a school in Popasna with the construction of a sporting ground and recreational area, as well as with the creation of a “green class”. This enables children to have classes outside, weather permitting, in an effort to minimise the spread of COVID-19.
Valerii Mashyn, headmaster of Popasna School #20, says: “The school was shelled and nothing remained to be saved. There was no roof and no windows, but the school continued to operate and the educational efforts went on. Through the efforts of the teaching staff, NGOs, and the state budget, we’ve managed to restore all of this in the shortest possible time. Valuable support was provided by PIN."
Invisible scars of the conflict
In addition to the physical impacts of the conflict, children in Donbas have been affected psychologically. In order to support the children and their teachers, PIN psychologists visit frontline locations, providing psychological counselling, group sessions, and trainings for educators.
Olena, an art teacher who lives with her grandson and her mother in the frontline city of Zolote, says: “I met Natalia, the PIN psychologist, during the training on compassionate communication she conducted for us here in Zolote. The training was great. We stayed in touch after the course, and she has been providing me, my grandson, and my mother with individual counselling.”
Olena’s grandson, Dmitry, who witnessed strong fighting in Zolote, enjoys his sessions with Natalia. Four years ago, he started creating artwork. Dmitry says: “I started making magnets because I was scared, I had to do something. Later on, I started creating large artworks from plasticine. Now I participate in different exhibitions and win prizes.” Regular communication with Natalia has helped Dmitry overcome the challenges of living in an area affected by ongoing conflict, and to find the strength to continue with his art.
PIN continues to support children, adults, and seniors living in the frontline settlements in Donbas with generous financial support from USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance.