Ukraine – 30 March 2018

The displaced who help the displaced

Many of the SOS Children’s Villages staff who help vulnerable families are also casualties of the conflict

This year marks the fourth anniversary since the start of the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Many of the SOS Children’s Villages employees who are supporting children and families know all too well the challenges and the trauma they face, having been forced to flee their homes or are themselves separated from loved ones.
 
“About 90% of our staff in the Luhansk programme are internally displaced persons themselves,” says Yevgeniya Rzayeva, Project Manager for the emergency response programme at SOS Children’s Villages Ukraine. “All of our management team, our coordinators, and many of our field staff are themselves displaced. … They have experienced difficult situations themselves, and at the same time they are helping and supporting others who are in the same condition.”


There is not a single family that does not suffer from this situation and the environment where they live.

Yevgeniya Rzayeva
Since the start of the Ukraine conflict, SOS Ukraine has played an important role in helping children and families affected by the conflict in eastern Luhansk and Donetsk or who fled to other parts of the country. Sporadic fighting continues along the contact line that separate the conflict parties.

“The war is ongoing and puts pressure on these families and on the children,” says Ms Rzayeva. “There is not a single family that does not suffer from this situation and the environment where they live.”
 
SOS Ukraine’s emergency response project works on both sides of the contact line in the Luhansk region, including the city of Luhansk, which is in the non-government controlled territory, and Starobilsk, Sievierodonetsk and Stanitsa Luhanskaya that are controlled by the Ukrainian government.
 
“SOS Children’s Villages Ukraine is the only organisation to provide holistic support to families on both sides of the line of contact,” says Ms Rzayeva, adding that other organisations provide food, educational support or child friendly spaces for displaced families. “But what makes SOS Children’s Villages different is our individual approach. Our social workers know the individual families, their problems, their successes and they work together to identify their needs through an individual development plan. We work to ensure that each family has access to the support it needs, on an individual basis.”
 
A programme to assist around 700 families who were displaced by the conflict and relocated to the Kiev area ended in December 2017. At-risk households that were part of that project continue to receive family strengthening support from SOS Children’s Villages.
 
Thousands of people supported
The emergency response project provides emotional and health care, family strengthening, humanitarian help, educational support and activities for children. More than 5,000 children and adults have been supported.
 
Ms Rzayeva has been Project Manager for the emergency project in Ukraine since August 2017 and previously worked with vulnerable families in the Donetsk region that borders Luhansk. Ms Rzayeva is now based in Kiev and travels regularly to programmes in the conflict zones. She, along with her son and mother, are among those who were displaced by the fighting and struggles with her separation from her home and relatives who still live in Donetsk.
 
“Our work demands a lot of mental and emotional effort, in order to do the job well,” she explains. “But when you see the results of our work, when you are able to help a child or a family in need, you get such a good feeling. It gives power, hope and optimism. It gives me the inspiration to go further and do more.”
 
SOS Children’s Villages works with families on both sides of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, including this mother and her daughter in Starobilsk [top photo]. Yevgeniya Rzayeva [left] is project manager for the emergency response programme at SOS Children’s Villages Ukraine. With her in the Kiev office is Anouk Boschma [centre] of SOS Netherlands and Oksana Medvedeva, head of public funding and communications at SOS Ukraine. Photo [above] provided by SOS Children's Villages Ukraine. Top photos: Katerina Ilievska.

Background on our emergency response in Ukraine
SOS Ukraine’s emergency response project works on both sides of the conflict: in Luhansk region, including the city of Luhansk, which is in the non-government controlled territory; and Starobilsk, Sievierodonetsk and Stanitsa Luhanskaya that are controlled by the Ukrainian government.
  • More than 5,000 children and adults have been supported through emotional and health care, family strengthening, humanitarian help, educational support, and activities for children.
  • Around 700 families who were displaced by the conflict and relocated to the Kiev area were helped in the first years, and 20 at-risk households continue to receive family strengthening support from SOS Children’s Villages.

Read more about our global emergency response work.