The Czech NGO making life a little better for war-torn eastern Ukraine

A Czech organisation is helping people in conflict-hit eastern Ukraine with both material and psychological support.

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 and the non-government controlled area, 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.

People in Need

One of the organisations working to support schoolchildren in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions is People in Need (PIN), a Czech nonprofit, non-governmental organization based in Prague, that implements humanitarian relief and long term development projects, educational programmes, and human rights programs in crisis regions internationally.

PIN has had a presence in Ukraine since 2003 and was in position to provide immediate humanitarian assistance after the onset of the conflict in the east of country in August 2014. PIN has been implementing a broad range of emergency food, non-food items, shelter, protection, livelihoods, WASH, medical and cash-based interventions along the two sides of the frontline in eastern Ukraine, both in the government and non-government controlled areas.

PIN has been working particularly closely with communities in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, supporting, for instance, a school in Popasna, 80 kilometres west of Luhansk, with the construction of a sports ground and recreational area, as well as with the creation of a “green class”.

This enables children to take classes outside, weather permitting, in an effort to minimise the spread of Covid-19.

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.

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