human development, social justice and sustainable social systems

Sharing expertise on work with kids in Ukraine

Local Caritas get stronger sharing knowledge

Last week, Caritas Mariupol and Caritas Kramatorsk, in Eastern Ukraine, organised and led parallel 2-day knowledge-exchange sessions on working with youth and children for two groups of Caritas colleagues.

The groups were very diverse and included participants from both Western and Eastern regions, as well as smaller and larger cities where children centres operate such as: Kharkiv, Kam’yansky, Lviv, Zaporizhzhia, Boryslav, Poltava, Drogobych, Ivano-Frankivsk, Odessa, Severodonetsk, Ternopil and Kyiv. The variety of roles of the participants, such as centre coordinators, psychologists, social workers and social pedagogues, made the groups and exchange even more enriching.

This is the fourth of these knowledge-exchange sessions, after the first three were hosted by the children centres in Lviv, Khmelnytsky and Ternopil earlier this year.

The recognition of the scope and richness of knowledge, skills and experience possessed by colleagues working with children and youth within the Caritas network, as well as the variety of tools and best practices developed and used, have been the foundation for organising these kind of sessions internally. We all work towards the same goal: to ensure decent childhoods for all children, including those from vulnerable groups.

Besides the idea of mutual learning, it has been an effort to strengthen the network, create opportunities for further formal and informal exchange, and join efforts in helping children to overcome challenges they face.

The host centres presented a wide range of methods and techniques they use in working with children and youth. In particular, the focus was on:

  • preventive and correctional measures (art-therapy, neuro-gymnastics, etc.) to maintain a child’s physical, psychological and social well-being;
  • traditional games and “learning by doing”; socially-oriented activities (eco-friendly initiatives, eco-volunteering);
  • techniques to develop basic life skills (culinary class, financial literacy);
  • exercises for overcoming stress, tension and anxiety, as well as restoring psychological stability;
  • inclusive group activities for children with autism (working with clay); wood-working workshop;
  • forum-theatre (where children plan the plot and act, this way addressing important issues such as relationships with peers and teachers)

As well as many other activities and exercises.

Participants had the chance to try out various activities, to gain experience in working with children, and to make further analysis and reflection on what was learned. They shared their own experiences, what worked and what did not, and what they were going to “take home”.

This trip has influenced me a lot and made me feel as if I belong to something bigger, to the team. I have changed my views on the work I do, I think it will impact the quality of my work too. I am convinced that such trips are necessary for staff to maintain that fighting spirit, to feel inspired, to avoid burnout, to come up with new ideas, and to be able to learn something from others.”

Lyubov Zakharchenko, social pedagogue at Caritas Poltava.

In Mariupol, participants were also familiarised with the organisation as a whole and its other areas of work beyond “children and youth”, such as the crisis centre providing urgent assistance to various target groups, work with volunteers, and the resource centre that encompasses such activities as lobbying, fundraising, legal services and public relations.

An additional bonus was the sightseeing around the city. In Slovyansk, colleagues had the opportunity to interact with children and learn how much Caritas means for them.

Such exchange is a great opportunity to get to know colleagues in different regions personally and share the experience with my team … Over these two days, I became convinced that people working at Caritas do what they love and are highly professional in what they do”.

Alina Mutz, social worker at Caritas Ternopil.

Despite the diversity in the groups and not knowing each other, the atmosphere was very warm as if they had “come to visit distant relatives”, according to the participants. “I thank the organisers for this wonderful opportunity. In fact, at first I thought “Well, what new can I learn? All Caritas centres work in exact same way and have the same objectives. But I was very wrong. When I got home, I brought a baggage of knowledge that I am already eager to share”, says Victoria Tushchenko, social worker at Caritas Kamianske.

We are grateful to Caritas Mariupol and Caritas Kramatorsk, and in particular the staff of the children centres, for their truly heartfelt welcome and organisation at a highly professional level.

More about Caritas work with children and youth in Ukraine

The network of Caritas child centres operates in 20 cities in Ukraine, from East to West, and seeks to protect the rights of vulnerable children, empower them and strengthen their potential in order to ensure a decent childhood, and future living in society. Children served by Caritas centres include those from impoverished backgrounds, those from families with multiple children, weak family functions, single parents, labour migrants, internally displaced, children with behavioural or socialisation problems, and others. Altogether, the centres provide professional assistance to over 2000 children per year. While approaches, techniques and tool of the centres vary, they are guided by the same concepts of socio-pedagogical and psychological work with children and youth, and the Child Protection Policy and Procedures.