The “Helping Hand in Ukraine” International Relief Project was set up in 2015.

The Project is aimed at improvement of the psycho-social well-being of children and parents traumatized by Russian aggression and war against Ukraine, who are displaced internally and outside Ukraine, through immediate psychological aid and learning self-help techniques that prevent PTSD and further complications in the future.

Project Objectives

  1. empower children – equips children with skills to cope with their traumatic experience using self-help techniques, relaxation and recovery tools in conditions of intense war-related stress;
  2. empower trainers – trains psychologists, social workers and teachers to work with traumatized children using “Children and War. Teaching Recovery Techniques”;
  3. foster cooperation with state social services – ensures immediate attention from professionals to cases of mild and severe mental problems as well as constant aftercare and social support.

Expected Results

  1. prevented PTSD depression in children of war;
  2. no need for further specialized treatment in the future;
  3. children learn how to cope with stress;
  4. better social adaptation of internally displaced (IDPs) and refugees.
“Helping Hand for Ukraine” International Relief Project Provides psychological assistance for traumatized children

Situation Analysis

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) as of June 08, 2022, the intense military escalation of a Russian Federation military invasion into Ukraine, that has lasted since 24 February 2022, has resulted in the loss of life, injuries, and mass movement and displacement of 7.1 million civilian population internally throughout the country (IDPs) and 4.8 million to European countries, as well as severe destruction and damage to civilian infrastructure and residential housing.

The armed violence escalated in at least eight oblasts (regions), including Kyiv region and the capital city of Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv, Kherson region as well as Donetsk and Luhansk regions which were already affected by the war conflict with Russia in 2014. Western oblasts, where most of the internally displaced people (IDPs) have fled to, include Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Zakarpattia, Chernivtsi, Volyn regions.

The war in Ukraine continues to impact the mental health of millions of Ukrainians. The humanitarian needs of people affected, those on the move and internally displaced, are critical. Trauma care, primary care, essential medicine and medical supplies are urgently needed.

There is also an urgent need to scale-up reception capacities in places of arrivals of internally displaced people, including the possibility to provide essential protection services, such as psycho-social support and individual counselling. The pre-existing mental health and psychosocial support needs of the population have intensified.

Health care workers face overloading, and understaffing and are at increased risk of psychological distress and mental health disorders as a result of witnessing traumatic events. As the hostilities continue to develop, the need for psychological therapy and psycho-emotional support will only continue to grow during and after the war.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Health estimates on June 07, that 15 million people might require psychological support and treatment due to war-related trauma and stress, with 3 to 4 million potentially requiring medication-assisted treatment. Multiple UN agencies have also been raising the alarm about the long-term mental health impact of the war in Ukraine.

“Children and War” Therapy in Vinnytsia, 43 children, 56 adults

“Children and War. Teaching Recovery Techniques” – Methodology

The “Children and War. Teaching Recovery Techniques” methodology is an effective tool of psychological self-help for people with traumatic consequences of war, natural disasters, and other cataclysms. It works well with both children and adults, as it is a result of the combined years of direct experience of working with survivors of war and disaster.

It was developed in 1998 by professionals from the Institute of Psychiatry in London, the UK, and the Center for Crisis Psychology in Bergen, Norway, and has been used after earthquakes in Iran, India, Chile, and China, the tsunami in South East Asia in 2000, as well as war conflicts in Africa, Sri Lanka, Palestine, Iraq, Syria, and Ukraine. In Ukraine, the manual was translated and adapted by experts from the Ukrainian Institute of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (Lviv, Ukraine). Since 2015, it has been successfully used to teach trainers and to conduct therapy courses in Ukraine within the framework of the “Helping Hand in Ukraine” project, implemented by “HOPE worldwide Ukraine” Charity Foundation.

The program primarily aims to provide support to children. At the same time, we conduct therapy sessions also for parents and other adults. Unfortunately, many children who suffered from war exhibit traumatic symptoms and signs of post-traumatic stress disorder after they experienced life-threatening situations. Displacement, separation from their family, and disruption of the school studying process – all influence the mental health of children. Considering the growing number of Ukrainian children who suffered from war, it is important to equip them with the best trauma coping strategies and tools. “Children and War. Teaching Recovery Techniques” program is one of such strategies.

This innovative methodology promotes the development of special skills in children and adults for reducing the psychological after-effects of trauma through self-help, relaxation and healing techniques in the face of intense war-related stress. In addition, it is designed to reduce anxiety and prevent post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other complications in the future.

Therapy Proven Effectiveness

  • 0% re-traumatization during therapy sessions;
  • 90% of participants note improvement in their psycho-emotional condition and ability to cope with post-traumatic stress;
  • 100% of participants start feeling safe and relaxed within the group.
“Children and War” Therapy in Lviv, 39 children, 34 adults (March-May 2022)

How Therapy helps

  • During a therapy course children and adults acquire practical skills and techniques that help to cope with psychological consequences of disastrous events and can be used as self-help tools to cope with critical stressful situations in future;
  • Learning methodology is well thought-through by the experts and comprises tools that proved to be effective for over 20 years of practice in different cultures and conditions;
  • The effectiveness of therapy is impressive – children become less anxious, they sleep better, get rid of the nightmares, intrusive thoughts and panic attacks, and they start to feel safe more often;
  • It is proven that the participants of the program who learned and started to practice recovery techniques regularly will rarely need professional treatment in future.

To become a trainer in the “Children and War. Teaching Recovery Techniques” methodology one doesn’t need to have a psychological education. Teachers, youth workers, pedagogues, psychologists, counsellors, community leaders, volunteers, and other childcare professionals can take a 3-day training and become program trainers who can conduct therapy sessions with groups.

“Children and War” Therapy in Khmelnytskyi, 148 children, 63 adults

Project Achievements 2015 – 2021

  • Over 40 tons of humanitarian aid has been delivered to over 20,000 IDPs in different regions of Ukraine in cooperation with partner organisations.
  • Over 900 volunteers are engaged in project activities.
  • Over 600 practising psychologists, social workers, emergency service employees, and volunteers went through a 3-day “Children and War. Teaching Recovery Techniques” training in almost all regions of Ukraine.
  • Over 4000 children and over 1000 parents went through 7 sessions of the “Children and War” rehabilitation therapy course in Kyiv region, Zhytomyr region, Odesa region, Dnipropetrovsk region, Kharkiv region, Donetsk region, Luhansk region and other regions of Ukraine.
  • 5. 3 rehabilitation-recreation camps for 64 children from Maryinka, Krasnohorivka, Avdiivka and other settlements of the Donetsk region have been held within the “Children and War” program.

In 2022 during the first 3 months of full-scale war against Ukraine, more than 900 children and 600 adults have learned to cope with the traumatic psychological consequences of war thanks to the methodology “Children and War. Teaching Recovery Techniques”.

From March to May 2022, more than 600 trainers have been trained and started using these effective techniques, developed by Norwegian and British scientists, while working with internally displaced people and refugees all over Ukraine and abroad.

One of the many stories

Hope Worldwide - Ukraine logo

Maryna is 10 years old. Her family comes from Vuhlehirsk, Donetsk region. She does not have a father; he left them before the war started.

War is not an empty word to Maryna. She witnessed a missile hit her neighbour’s house. Maryna and her mother rushed to help as they saw their injured neighbour lying unconscious on the kitchen floor. They brought the woman to the hospital.

Totally absorbed in their neighbour’s situation, they could not even realize what was going on; they even did not care about themselves. However, they were struck with the aftereffects of stress that same night: the girl could not fall asleep because of memories of the dreadful bombardment, and her mother was groaning in her sleep. The next morning, Maryna’s mother’s legs were paralyzed.

The bombardments went on. Maryna looked after her mother for a few days until she recovered. The same day, the family went to Kyiv, then to Odesa. The mother had to work a lot; she hardly ever had time to talk to her daughter. Maryna did everything on her own: went to school, did her homework, and attended sports classes. Everything looked fine on the outside, an ordinary family, but both of them had their own pain.

The mother could not say a word about the events she had experienced. It was especially difficult to talk to her daughter Maryna. The girl did not tell her mother she couldn’t fall asleep because every night she heard the missiles exploding in her memories. Tired from insomnia she dozed away, but in her dreams, she could still see the bombardments.

She became insensitive to everything. She often shuddered at the noises in public buses.

Maryna and her mother took part in the programme “Children and War. Teaching Recovery Techniques” in Odesa. The first accomplishment of mother and daughter was that they could cry among the people who experienced the war as well.

The second achievement, thanks to different techniques they were taught, they started to cope with their problems. Maryna could sleep better, she was no longer afraid of loud sounds, and her mother took a day off in order to have some rest.

The biggest achievement was the day before the last class. Mother and daughter decided to drink tea together in order to look each other in the face and talk, finally! To talk without fear about what they experienced, how they love each other and how they miss their destroyed house.

What we do makes a difference

Now more than ever, children need help to cope with the trauma they're experiencing.

Children and War UK is working to give them essential tools to reduce the long-term effects of traumatic stress.

Thank you.