A respite for children in Zaporizhzhia

Children at the center drew pictures. OCHA Ukraine.

Ukraine | 2022 | CERF

Ukraine, Zaporizhzhia. The humanitarian hub here offers many services for people on the move – legal help, healthcare, clothes, and the like. But there is a special space just for children living through the most difficult days of their lives. A specially-trained spaniel greets them as they come in – evoking happy smiles during a difficult time. The therapy dog is only one “service” on offer here.

The child-friendly space, run by Ukrainian NGO People in Need with funding from the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund, is staffed by an experienced psychologist. Children can speak with the psychologist, join in art therapy, or just play inside or outside in the garden. Friendly activity leaders lead them in crafts. “These are the most fun gingerbread cookies in the world!” laughed one child.

Children come from all different places affected by the war – Dnipro, Donetsk, Kharkiv, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia itself. Through the center, over 1,500 of them have accessed psychological support and found a place to play before moving on in their journeys.

Aliona, a psychologist working in the center, says “The dog’s presence alone helps improve the children’s [mental] state. Reading books and telling story, dance and movement therapy” and more are all available to the children.

Almost all the walls are decorated with colorful art, and words of appreciation. Each art piece reflects the history of one child whose escape from the war led them through this place.

More information on the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund:

OCHA – POOLED FUNDS DATA HUB – By Country (unocha.org)