September 11, 2023
The traumas of war have a life-long impact on a child’s social, emotional and educational development. In times of war, children and young people are therefore among the most vulnerable. Since the full-scale invasion of Russia in February 2022, hundreds of thousands of children in Ukraine have been exposed to deeply traumatic events, leaving them in urgent need of psychosocial support. Stener Vogt, a child protection specialist at NORCAP working in Kyiv, warns:
“We will see long-term mental health problems for the children of Ukraine if we don’t address this properly now.”
Here at VolunteeringUkraine, we believe that every child matters and that volunteers can make a real difference to the lives of Ukrainian children now and help them look with hope to the future.
The United Nations Security Council has identified and condemned six spheres of wartime aggression as violations of a child’s fundamental human rights. These include attacks on schools and hospitals, denial of access to humanitarian aid, child abduction and recruitment of children. There is mounting evidence that Russia continues to engage in violations of the rights of Ukrainian children. The devastation caused by the abduction of Ukrainian children by Russia merits full discussion in a future blog. Here, we focus on Russia’s destruction of Ukraine’s vital infrastructure and blockading of humanitarian aid, and we will talk about the essential support provided by our partner organisations in the face of these violations. All these organisations are seeking volunteers and welcome enquiries.
In the first year since Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022, there have been over 707 violent attacks on hospitals, health workers, and other medical infrastructure, destroying or damaging 18 hospitals and clinics. 48 hospitals in Ukraine have been targeted repeatedly by Russian missiles. Bashtanka Multiprofile Hospital was attacked despite having a red cross painted on the roof, indicating that it is a medical institution. The hospital director Alla Barsehian said:
“We hoped this would somehow save us. But it turns out nothing is sacred in this war.”
Research conducted jointly by several human rights groups reported that these attacks may be construed not only as war crimes but potentially also crimes against humanity.
Since 2022, Russian forces have destroyed more than 1,300 schools in Ukraine and many others have been badly damaged. UNICEF reports: “Inside Ukraine, attacks on schools have continued unabated, leaving children deeply distressed and without safe spaces to learn.” Yana, a teacher whose school in Mariupol was destroyed, describes the tragic impact of such destruction on children:
"Like hundreds of other teachers, in a blink of an eye I lost the opportunity to work within the walls dear to my heart. When I look at the pictures of another destroyed school, I don't see destroyed walls, I see shattered dreams."
In Kharkiv, more than 1,000 children are receiving lessons in classrooms built within metro stations. Many Ukrainian children have been forced to switch to online learning throughout the war. Lack of face-to-face contact not only impedes a child’s ability to learn, but also adversely affects social development and mental health.
Equally disturbing is the report that from the start of September 2023, children in Russian-occupied Crimea will receive military training in line with Russian plans to militarise Crimea. Ukraine’s human rights ombudsman, Dmytro Lubinets, said: “Crimean schoolchildren from grades five to nine will attend extracurricular classes – ‘basics of military training’. And for students of the 10th and 11th grades, it was included in the OBZ program.” 25 Crimean teachers have already completed military training courses, including assembly and disassembly of automatic weapons, radiological, chemical and biological protection and tactical medicine.
Education is essential to child welfare during the current critical situation. Two of our partner organisations are seeking English-speaking volunteers to support children with learning English and psychosocial wellbeing.
GoGlobal is a Ukrainian educational foundation that has been piloting, implementing, and scaling up education projects for 8 years. GoGlobal sees children as the subjects, not the objects, of the educational process and actively engages them in the transformation of the education system. With over 5000 Ukrainian teachers, GoGlobal has established over 4000 schools all over Ukraine where more than 170,000 children and young people participate. Since Russia’s full-scale invasion, GoGlobal has focused on offering psychological support to Ukrainian teachers and providing students with the skills and knowledge needed in the modern world. Volunteers are needed for the following non-formal education projects:
Make it Possible is dedicated to assisting displaced Ukrainian children by providing them with educational opportunities and a chance to experience joy and positivity in their lives. Make it Possible organises summer camps for children in shelters in western Ukraine and provides English lessons, creative workshops and entrepreneurial classes. Currently, the organisation is running several programmes in shelters in Lviv, where the main focus is now a summer camp. The camp aims to engage and educate the children through a wide range of activities designed to inspire and bring smiles to their faces. The main goal is to provide these displaced children with an opportunity to forget about their challenging reality and experience the joys of childhood to the fullest.
As a volunteer, your role will involve teaching English, participating in English speaking clubs, book clubs and English movie nights and accompanying children on field trips. You will organise lessons, games and competitions to create a safe environment where the children can have fun and enjoy themselves. This is a chance to share your skills, talents and interests with the children, inspiring them to follow their dreams and set goals for themselves. You don’t need to have teaching experience, just empathy and enthusiasm for supporting and encouraging the children.
A different way to support Ukrainian children’s education is by volunteering with Brave to Rebuild, an organisation that repairs vital social infrastructure, including schools. Brave to Rebuild is currently restoring 12 war-damaged schools in Kyiv, Chernihiv, and Kharkiv regions as part of the Local Schools Rehabilitation for Resilience initiative. Volunteers are needed to dismantle rubble, repair damaged buildings and distribute humanitarian aid.
In contravention of international law, Russia has been blocking humanitarian aid from reaching those in need in Ukraine. Examples of this include the blockading of aid to Mariupol in April 2022. Petro Andryushchenko, the Mayor’s aide, reported on Telegram that Russia prevented humanitarian supplies reaching residents trapped in Mariupol. Despite promising to allow a ceasefire, the humanitarian aid corridor between Mariupol and Zaporizhzhya was not opened. Similarly, following the flooding of the Nova Kakhovka Dam on 6 June 2023, Russia rejected the United Nations’ offers of humanitarian aid to affected communities across southern Ukraine.
All over Ukraine, volunteers play an essential role in ensuring that food, medical supplies and clothing reach those in need.
Siobhan’s Trust – Ukraine is on a mission to provide both sustenance and practical assistance to internally displaced Ukrainians who have been deeply affected by the Russian invasion of their homeland. Siobhan’sTrust has operational bases in Lviv and Zaporizhzhia but offers a mobile service across Ukraine. In mobile trucks, they cook frozen pizzas and deliver these free of charge to vulnerable people, such as orphans, displaced persons, and the elderly. They make daily visits to 2-3 sites, where they not only deliver hot pizza but also lift people’s spirits. Volunteers are needed to cook pizza (you don’t need to be a chef) and serve hot drinks with a smile. The Trust welcomes all volunteers who are warm, compassionate and fun. Drivers are particularly needed for their 3.5t trucks.
Since March 2022, Hell's Kitchen has been preparing meals for those who have suffered due to the military aggression of Russia. They also provide humanitarian assistance, such as medical supplies, personal hygiene products and clothes to those in need. Volunteers are needed to help with general kitchen duties, delivering humanitarian aid, social media pages, co-ordinating the work and providing information about the organisation. If you are dedicated, reliable and want to make a difference to people’s lives, Hell’s Kitchen would love to hear from you.
Volunteering in any of these organisations will not only support children through the war but will enable them to look to the future with hope and excitement.
September 8, 2023
Culture and History