19 February 2016

Ukraine: Children sketch a future without war

Cherevataya Daria, 16, Podgorovka (Lugansk region)

An exhibition of drawings from talented and vulnerable children living on both sides of the conflict in the Lugansk and Donetsk regions was recently organised by SOS Children’s Villages Ukraine in partnership with Swiss Embassy and the Maximal youth organisation in Donetsk.

An exhibition of drawings from talented and vulnerable children living on both sides of the conflict in the Lugansk and Donetsk regions was recently organised by SOS Children’s Villages Ukraine in partnership with Swiss Embassy and the Maximal youth organisation in Donetsk.
 
Baranova Alexandra, 12, Kramatorsk (Donetsk region)
Baranova Alexandra, 12, Kramatorsk (Donetsk region)
 
More than 500 young people, ages three to 18, in ten locations participated in the ‘We are for peace’ project and provided answers to the following questions through their art:

- What are the genuine feelings of children living on both sides of the conflict in eastern Ukraine?

- How does the war affect their lives?

- What are their experiences, fears, dreams and hopes?

- What do “peace”, “peaceful world” or “the world I want to live in” mean personally?

Alexiev Sasha, 4, Lugansk
Alexiev Sasha, 4, Lugansk

The project seeks to promote dialogue as an alternative to war rhetoric, and to enhance peace by supporting co-operation.
 
Nearly 80 drawings from both sides of the conflict were selected for the exhibition in Kiev, jointly organised by the Swiss Embassy and SOS Ukraine; Donetsk, organised by Maximal; and in the Lugansk city of Severodonetsk, organised by SOS Ukraine. While genuineness was the most important selection criteria, aesthetics and a balanced representation played roles as well.

The result is a surprising collection of issues representing the emotional and physical toll war has taken on young people and their families. Some of the participants take a more abstract approach, expressing their ideas of peace as images of the sea, nature or a beautiful landscape. But mostly the drawings represent in the most creative, diverse and positive way the deep hope for a peaceful, bright future, where people and nations share the world in harmony.
Jirnov Sasha, 11, Lugansk. 'Fireworks': After a night of fireworks, peace begins.
Jirnov Sasha, 11, Lugansk. 'Fireworks': After a night of fireworks, peace begins.

Children’s fears and thoughts expressed through art are a major part of the Lugansk programme specialists’ everyday work. Most of the conflict-affected children in the city of Lugansk and internally displaced children in the parts of the Lugansk region under government control experience fear.

In 2015, the geography of SOS programmes expanded to Bilokurakine and Novopskov districts as well as Severodonetsk town (in addition to a programme based in Starobilsk and Starobilsk district, and Lugansk), through projects funded by UNICEF, the UNDP and the Japanese government. The Lugansk programme supported 803 children and their 450 families within the family-strengthening programme (420 of the children were internally displaced and 277 were inhabitants of Lugansk), and 26 children within family-based care in the region. The children and their families received social and emotional support, humanitarian and health assistance, educational help, and capacity-building services.

Kondratyuk Anastasia, 16, Belolutsk (Lugansk region)
Kondratyuk Anastasia, 16, Belolutsk (Lugansk region)

Additionally, through a project funded by UNICEF, SOS Children’s Villages Ukraine supported 1,832 children and adults, or a total of 601 families, in the northern Lugansk region. Even more people participated in events within the framework of this project. With the financial support of the UNDP and Japan, SOS provided 205 individual psychological and psychotherapy consultations to internally displaced children and their parents, 30 family-oriented consultations, while 522 people participated in group work and 512 children enjoyed arts and recreational activities. Nevertheless, the needs of children and their families in the Lugansk region are much higher than SOS Ukraine could meet.

The two-year-old conflict in Ukraine has had a profound impact on children and has displaced some 1.5 million people.


[This article was adapted from information provided by SOS Children’s Villages Ukraine and the Swiss Embassy in Ukraine]