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Solution 14:26 06 Dec 2022

"Children with different eyes": how art therapy works for young displaced people in Kyiv

Thousands of children lost their homes because of the war. Together with their parents or other guardians, they have become forcibly displaced and need not only housing, food, things, and toys but also attention. The Veles Idey NGO is helping to meet the last need in Kyiv. It organizes workshops for young migrants and teaches them how to cope with their experiences with the help of creativity. Rubryka attended one of these master classes and learned how the initiative works.

What is the problem?

"Children with different eyes"

Велес Ідей

Kyiv. Obolon city district. The noise is increasing in the large hall of one public space. Nine children are busily taking seats at a wide table in the room center. Later, a tenth girl will join. Their parents are seated in the chairs by the wall.

At first, everyone behaves exceptionally quietly. But within 20 minutes, the children are laughing, making plans for McDonald's across the street, and setting battles between their newly constructed minions. This is how another master class by the NGO Veles Idey takes place. And this is what rehabilitation and help look like.

Арттерапія для дітей

"It is for children that we've held creative master classes since the beginning of a full-scale war. Before that, we also worked with children, but mostly with teenagers. We organize a school of leadership and various career orientation events. In addition, there was a school for young cooks, events with the police, painting crossings…

But when a full-scale war began, a great need arose to somehow occupy younger children with something to distract them. Moreover, the younger classes and kindergartens were mainly closed, so parents needed to figure out where to send their children during working hours. That's why we took this category of children," says the head of the NGO, Olena Serhiieva.

The woman has been at the head of Veles Idey since the first days of its existence for four years. However, she has been engaged in public activities to develop children and their inclusion in society for much longer. 

Olena encountered the escalation in Kyiv and decided not to leave. She was able to quickly cooperate with other people and, from the first days of the full-scale war, looked for and delivered humanitarian aid. Later, it was possible to return to working with children. But now, Olena says, these are children with entirely different eyes.

Велес Ідей

"When we started, we gathered children, among whom were both Kyiv residents and migrants. But every time, we saw a huge psychological difference between them. It cannot be expressed in words. These are just children with different eyes. Everything is different here," Olena shares.

What is the solution?

"And when can I come again?"

Велес Ідей

When everyone being awaited gathers in the space of Vcentri Hub, Olena asks the children, sitting and looking at each other in silence, looking back at their parents, to get up and follow her. Now everyone goes to make a circle, get to know each other, and show with which movement everyone should be associated. After a few minutes of dancing and gymnastics, everyone returns to their seats with smiles.

Арттерапія для дітей

Today, they make minion-shaped pen holders. Ten pairs of little hands bend, fold, and glue the materials together. A little further on, parents use an opportunity to breathe out. On the day of our visit to the master class, migrants from Mykolaiv, Kherson, Kharkiv, Skadovsk, Kramatorsk, and Donetsk gathered here. 

"We try to make the children work in a team and more or less at the same pace. If someone is behind, we try to wait for them. And we make sure that these children want to come again. 

They often hug my colleague and me after class, and almost everyone asks when the next master class will be. I remember one case when we combined Kyiv kids and IDPs in one group. A ten-year-old boy, who had just been evacuated from Mykolaiv, arrived. He sat stiffly, did not communicate much with other children, and had sad eyes. We knew about it. Mom came here just to ask something, and I offered them to attend the master class. It was evident that this child was in shock. But he went home with a smile. And this is the most valuable and important thing in what we do," Olena says.

Велес Ідей

Велес Ідей

When the last minions are glued at the final stage, the children who finished earlier start playing, and one by one, they ask Olena and Iryna if they can take these works with them. After getting affirmative responses, they ask: "And when can I come again?"

Арттерапія для дітей

After minions, children start making paper foxes—two pieces in an hour, and then 10 minutes dancing with animals from YouTube. 

How does it work?

"We've been working with children since my child went to school"

Велес Ідей

Iryna helps the children next to Olena. While Olena explains all the steps in general, her colleague approaches each child and, if necessary, shows how to wrap the paper better, where more glue is needed, and so on. 

She says that their first days of the full-scale war were spent in one of the basements of Borodianka, and when she came to Kyiv, she realized that she wanted to help and joined the initiatives of Veles Idey even more than before.

"We have been working with children since my child went to school, and she is at the university. Then we started to do some initiatives in schools, some charity fairs. Even then, Iryna and I started this project, and everything grew so much that we had to create our organization so as not to come and say, 'I'm a mom from some school,' but we are representatives of the NGO. This has already made it possible to develop projects involving children on a slightly different level.

We have already held a competition for children's projects twice. A small amount was provided for the implementation of various ideas. The children showed themselves very well. It's like a public budget but in a child's way. We paid 10 thousand hryvnias for all this. There was a presentation of the projects, voting, and then implementation," Olena says.

Велес Ідей

Арттерапія для дітей

Now Veles Idey organizes master classes for young migrants once or twice weekly. Vcentri Hub provides them with the space free of charge, and Olena and Iryna buy all the materials for the work with their money.

Previously, Rubryka talked about Veles Idey in its Facebook community of readers interested in Ukrainian change drivers. So, thanks to our readers, we gave the organization packs of colored paper, plasticine, and glue so that children could continue to practice art therapy. However, the needs of the initiative are still not fully covered. 

Велес Ідей

"What we need most are materials. Based on what I would like to do, I choose materials that are not too costly and interesting for the child because I don't want to do any trivial things. I want everything to have some benefit.

If you look ahead, there will be the New Year's holidays, and we prepared ideas for items to create. Little by little, I buy materials when I see promotions. In addition, all children expect to be treated with something. We give them little surprises. We try to make small gifts. Everyone wants a surprise, something tasty. We can't always prepare this because it's all done with our salaries," Olena says.

Велес Ідей

And when the master class ends, one of the boys approaches Olena and Iryna, clutching a cookie in his hand: "Can I take some home? I have a little sister there, and I want to share with her." Women, of course, allow it. Then the boy asks for the third time when the next lesson will be. 

If you want to support the NGO Veles Idey and help with the organization of art therapy for internally displaced children, you can do it on Rubryka's Patreon by following the link with the note "art therapy."

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