For more than a year, “Feminist Workshop” supports the children of internally displaced persons. We have organized workshops and art therapy sessions, visited the galleries, and went to the planetarium and the water park. In the text, we share our experience and publish a guide listing leisure and educational locations for children.

NGO “Feminist Workshop” opened two shelters for internally displaced persons: one for women and children, and another for families. We established the shelter for mothers and children in June 2022, and the family shelter opened its doors in January 2023. Overall, during the existence of social housing, we hosted there 77 people. More than 60% of residents live here for more than six months. As of June 2023, two shelters host 28 residents, with 8 of them being children.

Activists of the “Feminist workshop” noticed that residents of the shelter lacked help with children, and it makes it hard for them to adapt to the new city. That’s why we offered babysitter services, introducing our volunteer Ivanka. A teacher by profession, she came here from east Ukraine.

How does the nanny spend time with the children?

Ivanka spends 15 hours weekly organizing leisure activities for children. She takes them on walks, workshops, and picnics, organizes museum and gallery visits. The nanny works with the children under 12 years old. The youngest shelter resident, Nadiyka, is four, and she also visits the events and goes on walks. Usually, the volunteer comes to the shelter on weekends and takes the children for half a day. “Then we embark on a lengthy walk, say, in the Znesinnya park. Children love constantly climbing the hills, it calms them down”, says the teacher.

Ivanka is a cyclist. The day of our conversation she sports a cycling jacket. “We were planning a picnic once. One of the shelter residents was about to turn 6, so my friend and I made a bike for little Artemchyk. He is now learning to ride it”, the volunteer shares. Ivanka explains: thanks to social work. she feels that she’s in the right place.

Thanks to the donors’ help, we can enrich children’s leisure activities. For instance, in February “Feminist workshop” was contacted by the blogger @viki_virgo. She painted a picture and organized a charity raffle. She then donated all proceeds for the needs of internally displaced children living in the shelters of the “Feminist workshop”. We spent the money on game equipment, as well as tickets to the water park, the planetarium, and the public aquarium. Ivanka points out, she made it her habit to contact the organizations before coming with the children for an excursion. “Private facilities often give us a significant discount, at least, I was never turned down. Municipal organizations sometimes grant us free entry or lower the ticket prices”, she shares.

The children and their nanny visited the planetarium in February, and the aquarium in March. In April they went to the water park together with their moms. In May the nanny organized sex-ed lessons for preschoolers and elementary school students. Most often, other volunteers also join the excursion to help with the children. Children of different age groups leave the excursions with different lessons learned: in the aquarium, younger kids were attracted by bright colors and the diversity of species. Meanwhile, older kids listened to the guide, they found the trip educational. The volunteer shares, that what children enjoy are the most cozy walks together, and one needs to motivate them to change the activity. “They truly cherish calm comfortable gatherings. They also enjoy clay work. After the lesson they leave their crafts for drying and firing and write me, asking when they would be able to take them home”, Ivanka shares.

Lyubov whose child attends gatherings shares her impressions: “All the walks are gadget-free. Each event is an exploration and an adventure that spins the children in a whirlwind of positive emotions. Children come back pleasantly fatigued and get to learn from their nanny something new about the world around them”. Nanny also shows the children both prominent Lviv sights and non-tourist locations. “I noticed that when we are drawing or sculpting, they tend to compare their artwork with others. That’s why I started taking them to different galleries, to the museum of contemporary art. I explained: “Look at this painting. You toss a glass of paint at the canvas – and that, too, is considered art”. That helped them to relax, distract from the idealization of their artwork, helped to open up”, the teacher shares.

What does leisure have to do with the adaptation?

Internally displaced children need help with integration into the new community. They find it difficult to adapt to the new collective and require help with establishing new social contacts.

When working with internally displaced children, you always need to be aware that they experienced the trauma of war. And they are still living through it”, tells the nanny. “They are more anxious and at times more aggressive with their peers. They are astounded and numbed by loud noises. Imagine that you’re 8: you have a room of your own, your favorite toy, swings in the backyard, your friends. And suddenly, a military invasion hits. The child packs their backpack, moves to a safer place – and all their previous life morphs into memories”. Residents of the shelters often recall their lives in the basements, evacuation routes. “They constantly return to their memories, do it unwillingly”, Ivanka says.

Not all kids go to the local schools. Parents are anxious, not sure if their kids will be able to adapt to the new group. Because of that, parents are prone to choose distance learning. Although these residents of the shelter that go to school or kindergarten share the positive experience regarding new collectives, still, other parents find it tough to overcome their fear and choose in-person learning. Ivanka explains her worries:

Some people live in the shelter for over a year. Under these circumstances, it is difficult to organize distance learning, as children lack their own private space where they can focus on their studies. Instead of integrating, making new contacts, and paving new routes – so to say, working at motivations and affections, children are stuck in uncertainty, living in memories and thoughts of the past. In-person learning speeds up the adaptation, while distant learning puts children on permanent standby”.

Active leisure helps to socialize and form the attachments even in the absence of in-person learning. On the walks, picnics, and hikes children get to know each other, exchange experience, gain knowledge, and experience emotions. They learn to establish contact with each other and healthily experience emotions, to set their borders and respect the borders set by other people.

Author: Iryna Sokolovska

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