Ukraine launches nationwide campaign to provide psychological support to children in air raid shelters

Published 22 September 2023 at 13:35

To help children feel more comfortable during air raids, the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine and East Europe Foundation have launched the #BraveKidsUkraine campaign. Its goal is to create the most favourable psychological conditions for children in shelters.

As part of the campaign, celebrities, opinion leaders, musicians, actors, and bloggers from Ukraine and abroad record short videos. The videos contain words of support, wishes, exercises, games, and interesting tasks – all of which are easy to repeat while in the shelter. Since children can be anxious, stressed, and even scared during an air raid, these videos will help them stay calm in shelters.

The concept for the campaign came from the East Europe Foundation. It emerged when the organization, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, Ukraine’s State Emergency Service, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, began to equip shelters in educational institutions last September. Having talked to children and teachers, the project experts realised how important it is not only to provide students with physical but also psychological comfort in such premises.

"Last year, we realised that the problem of overcoming stress during the air raid was very acute. That's why together with psychologist Svitlana Royz we developed a free online course on psychological safety for teachers. And now, with the start of the new school year, we decided to launch this new initiative. We understand and know how important it is," emphasised Viktor Liakh, President of East Europe Foundation.

Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine Oksen Lisovyi was one of the first to support the #BraveKidsUkraine campaign. In a video message to the children, he emphasised that it is normal to be afraid: for both adults and youngsters. Even superheroes sometimes get sad and feel insecure. "But the coolest person is not the one who is not afraid, but the one who is afraid but acts," the minister told the children in the video.

"The Ministry's team is focused on creating safe conditions for children and teachers. The government has allocated UAH 1.5 billion (more than USD 40 million) for the construction and equipping of shelters in schools. Meanwhile, it is important for us not only to provide children with shelters, but also to create comfortable conditions for their stay there. I am proud of Ukrainian children – a generation of brave and extremely resilient people. Therefore, we have created this campaign for every Ukrainian child: from preschoolers to teenagers, because we want them to feel confident and calm in the shelter," said Oksen Lisovyi.

This year, children who studied online last year started school. Some have recently returned to Ukraine and have no experience of being in a shelter. Therefore, it is necessary to take care of them and stabilise their condition, says Svitlana Royz, a child and family psychologist and supervisor of the new campaign. She emphasises that the psychological component is just as important as staying in a safe place.

"It is difficult to predict how a particular child will react to stress. But the child's condition also depends on the adults who are around. Therefore, it is important to have many different tools to guide the child's activity, give specific practices, help reduce anxiety and restore a feeling of resilience. And this project gives a feeling of support from people who are authoritative for children of all ages. They offer non-preachy, simple, sometimes funny practices in a form that is easy to grasp. And they make us feel resilient wherever we are," said Svitlana Royz.

The winners of Eurovision 2022, Kalush Orchestra band; the winner of Eurovision 2016, singer Jamala; volunteer Serhiy Prytula, as well as famous British actor Stephen Fry and children's writer and BBC TV presenter Nicola Davies, are already helping children to cope with stress and find inner resources. The list of opinion leaders who have supported #BraveKidsUkraine is constantly growing. They offer children not only words of support but also interesting tasks, exercises, games, and challenges.

You can follow #BraveKidsUkraine activities on several platforms: the campaign's websiteFacebookInstagramYouTube, and TikTok.

The #BraveKidsUkraine campaign is part of the Safe School Program implemented by the East Europe Foundation in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, the State Emergency Service of Ukraine, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine. It is implemented with the support of the Phoenix Project, funded by the European Union.