What is the problem?
Studying amid war
Because of the war, thousands of Ukrainian children lost the opportunity to study in their schools. More than 2,500 educational institutions were damaged, and at least 285 of them were completely destroyed. Hundreds of thousands of families left their towns and villages and became displaced persons. The issue of quality education for children has become even more acute for such families because the horrors of war and socialization in a new city have also fallen on the children's shoulders.
What is the solution?
The "Inspiration cafe" hub is a new format of school education. Here they work to ensure that internally displaced children can continue their schooling and find inspiration. The educational hub provides quality classes for children in four areas: education, psychological support, integration into the community, and career guidance.
With the beginning of a full-scale war, the teachers of the Kyiv Educator Lyceum had to leave for safer cities. One of them is Uzhgorod, where educators started volunteering to help other displaced people in shelters. Having talked a lot with internally displaced parents, the team realized that there is a big problem with the education of children who have left their cities. Some lost contact with their teachers, while enemy missiles destroyed others' schools. In addition, many children did not have gadgets for online learning. So one of the lyceum teachers, geographer Mykola Goshovsky, had an idea: why not create a temporary hub where children will learn and integrate into the new reality?
The lyceum team was sure that such a format should be completely free of charge, so they started looking for donors and grant-makers and asked Uzhgorod volunteers for help. Thanks to such support, it was possible to launch a hub in Uzhgorod at the beginning of May and in Kyiv in July.
Donors of the Uzhgorod hub were the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Facility, Yenamin Foundation, and Global Fund for Children. GIZ: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit helped with the opening of the hub in the capital.
The project's driving force was the Educator lyceum teachers, but later other internally displaced teachers joined the initiative. For them, the project became not just another place of work but made adapting to a new city much easier. Twelve IDP teachers joined the core team of the "Inspiration cafe." As many have joined as experts and trainers who support the team and periodically conduct special classes for children. Most of the teachers moved to Uzhgorod from Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
How does it work?
"We had a classical curriculum, which was studied in a non-classical way"
At the start of the process, in May, the project's founders conducted a survey and found that many children did not have any educational process in the current semester. There were no tasks in Viber chats or Zoom conferences in March and April. Not all teachers had the opportunity to organize lessons; not all students had communication. Therefore, the project's first goal was to make up for what was missed as soon as possible.
IDP children began to study in the newly created hub according to the program of the classes they were graduating from. At the same time, the teachers emphasized where the children had the biggest gaps due to interrupted classes in their schools.
"We had a classical curriculum, which was studied in a non-classical way" — this is how project coordinator Rostyslav Semka describes the beginning of the hub's work.
In addition to the academic component, the hubs pay attention to psychological support. Children have individual and group classes with a psychologist, including games to stabilize their emotional state, work with accumulated aggression, and understand their emotions and their expression.
Today, Inspiration Cafe provides free education to children in grades 1-11 who were forced to leave their homes. The space is divided into classrooms according to the age of the children. Since the project team received 150 applications for training only at the start, they decided to launch the hub in several shifts. Each of them lasts 4.5 hours and has its own schedule.
In total, it was possible to attract 512 children aged 5 to 17 from Kharkiv, Donetsk, Luhansk, and other regions of Ukraine to study in the Uzhhorod hub from May to August. 503 students attended classes in the Kyiv hub in July-September, most of them from the Kherson region. About 50 students from different parts of Ukraine, including front-line cities, are currently studying in the hub in Uzhgorod.
Why is this hub special?
One of the most important features of the initiative is project-based learning. During classes, students are involved in creating their own mini-projects and volunteering in the new community. This approach develops diverse skills and helps to find new friends.
"The socialization component is extremely important for us," says project coordinator Rostyslav Semka. — We also include project activities in it. That is, when children, individually or in teams, can write their projects in different directions — creative, scientific, quests, etc."
Lessons are maximally interactive, teachers combine online and offline formats, and a psychologist constantly accompanies children. The hub promotes the development of children's soft and hard skills. Education takes place within the framework of the Ministry of Education and Science program, but, in addition, everything is done here so that the child not only receives theoretical knowledge but also understands how to apply it in life.
"This is how we engage in career guidance activities," explains Rostyslav Semka, "so that the child can find their vocation and realize their dream." We want the academic component of our work to be closely connected with real life."
Inspiration Cafe has psychologists on staff who have been trained to work with children who have experienced traumatic events. With each class, they conduct group classes — a "psychological circle." And based on the results of this and other exercises, they make their own conclusions about the psychological state of children.
Children have the opportunity to work through their pains and emotions through art therapy or other formats. For example, hidden aggression can now be seen in many children of war. In addition to psychologists, there is also a tutor assigned to each class, who is a psychologist-coach for children.
"Bomb summer" in the hub
The "Inspiration Cafe" hubs worked most actively in the summer. The children continued to engage in the four main areas of the hub's work: psychological, project, academic, and sports.
As the project coordinator Rostyslav Semka noted, children do not want to study in the format of a regular school in the summer, so the program was built in such a way as to implement the academic component through creative workshops. For example, physics and chemistry are "bomb experiments." And the Ukrainian language was taught through a game under the teacher's control. Most of the lessons were held not only for knowledge but also for socialization. Thus, in Uzhgorod, local children and teenagers came to some workshops — this helped the displaced people better adapt to their new life.
Also, the "Inspiration cafe" project in the summer helped children get used to the new space in which they were forced to live. Thanks to this, they were able to transfer to local schools with less trauma from September.
Does it really work?
One of the main goals of "Inspiration cafe" is the socialization of children not only here, in the hub, but also in the local community. Many children moved to Uzhgorod and Kyiv from those regions where it will not be possible to return for a long time — from the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Mykolaiv regions. And if they can find their place here, it will be easier for their parents.
The children created impressive projects by using their academic knowledge and skills in negotiation, joint decision-making, taking responsibility according to their role in the project team, and interpreting the results of their activities together. Among the ideas were Telegram bots, which are already fully operational and have their own audience. In addition, there are projects of social direction. One of them is the creation of an entertainment room for preschool children, which now operates on the basis of the "Inspiration cafe" hub.
Children are actively developing project topics related to volunteering and animal protection. Some of them are aimed at IDPs or assistance to the military. In the hub, learning takes place in a natural way, unobtrusively, because the goal for children is not to learn something but to complete a task and get a result, which is really motivating.
"It was a new way of learning for me. It was interesting here. I had good teachers and made many new friends here. When I was in the hub, I felt at home. Thanks to this, I found friends from other parts of Ukraine," says Vlad, a hub student.
Sixteen-year-old Kristina, who became one of the students of the Uzhhorod hub, says that thanks to "Inspiration Cafe" she was able to realize her own idea and get an inspiring result:
"My project is called "Happy together." It is aimed at bridging the gap between generations. It solves the problem of conflicting interests and difficulties in mutual understanding between young and older people (60+). So the idea is meetings where representatives of different generations could communicate, do something together and share experiences. The first event has already been held. By the way, it was extremely sincere and pleasant."
How is the project developing?
Initially, the initiators of the project planned to work for only 3 months, but received such a large request from parents and children for continuation that the Uzhgorod hub "Inspiration cafe" continues its work even now. Now, if a child needs a cozy learning space, teacher supervision, stable Internet, or gadgets for studying at their school online, they can come to the open space in the first half of the day. In this space, children learn online and, if necessary, receive advice from subject teachers.
If, for some reason, the child does not attend school, does not have online classes, or does not receive the necessary knowledge in a lesson at a regular school, then in the afternoon in the hub, there is an "express school." In this space, children attend high-quality, informative lessons on basic subjects.
Therefore, the Inspiration cafe team continues to work to make the project as sustainable and long-term as possible, while children and parents need such support.
Even more useful solutions!
The prize — for books
In October, the educational project "Inspiration cafe" became a nominee for the annual "Change Drivers" award, which Bendukidze Free Market Center, in partnership with Atlas Network, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation Ukraine and Belarus, and Rubryka media holds.
According to project coordinator Rostyslav Semka, it was very easy to decide what to spend the prize on. The hub was just thinking about creating libraries for sharing books in their communities, so the funds received will be used to purchase a set of books for students. Considering the relevance of studying Ukrainian and English languages, the project is currently actively replenishing the library, which will provide an opportunity to freely use books by Ukrainian and foreign writers.
"I think that now everyone has their own front. Therefore, now more than ever, it is important to do what you know how to do, to be useful where you can, – answers Rostyslav Semka. — Personally, for me, being a Changemaker means, in fact, not being afraid to take responsibility, being ready to participate in shaping the world, and changing people, events, and circumstances for the better. Especially today, when our compatriots and the state need help, we should not be afraid of difficulties and help where we can and how we can.
Our project began as a response to a need that arose. Step by step, we formed a team and found resources. As a result, the "Inspiration cafe" project helped more than a thousand students and their parents in five months. He also helped the team — taught them to overcome challenges and difficulties and thereby develop themselves. Here, in the project, I met a lot of cool, motivated adults and children who ignite and encourage to act even more. Education is the most valuable investment, so I am sure that everyone should have access to it. And our project and team will do everything to contribute to this!"
How to support the project?
"Inspiration cafe" is open to partnership and cooperation. If you want to join as a volunteer or support the project financially, you can contact the team at: [email protected].
The project is currently looking for a partner who would help with equipment for robotics classes with students in grades 1-8. Also, many children come to the educational space to get access to the Internet and gadgets. The hub has purchased a certain amount of devices, but given a large number of children in the space at the same time, they are sometimes in short supply.
There is also a constant need for materials for art therapy classes. In addition, "Inspiration cafe" is currently working on arranging a musical space in the Uzhhorod hub, so if you have the opportunity to donate musical instruments, do not hesitate to write to the project's mail.
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