EduCare Europe Fund
With the launch of the EduCare Europe Fund, the PATRIZIA Foundation reacted in a very short time after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine to acute resulting issues such as homelessness, displacement, traumatisation and the complete loss of any educational opportunities for children and young people. The aim of the EduCare Europe Fund is to support these children from Ukraine – through Education & Care. The fund finances trained emergency educators. They help traumatised children and ease their way back into everyday school life.
“The refugees are going through a nightmare right now. In addition to reconstruction, it will be just as crucial to train a network of specialists who will provide psychological support to help people process what they have experienced and thus enable them to find their way back into everyday life.”
Father Waldemar Pawelec
Pallottine Fathers PATRIZIA Foundation Project Partner
Help in three steps
The most important thing is to establish a secure framework for children. This provides a setting for positive experiences with others and mainly involves physical activity to lighten the load on the nervous system. And activities are organised to allow children to express themselves.
The conversations we have with the children take place in such a way that they don’t actually have to answer questions. So they decide for themselves what they want to say, or whether they want to say anything at all. You have to allow the children to join the conversation with the educationalists as if they’re going on a walk in their thoughts, so they can make new connections. One tried and trusted approach in such situations in life is to use fairy tales, as the images often reflect the situation of loss and fear you’ve experienced yourself, either good or bad, in a way that’s easy to grasp. And a really important point is that at the end of the story, good always prevails. We also show children how learning aids can be used to get back in touch with the things they lost because of the trauma they experienced – whether that be maths or a foreign language.
During the second phase, children start to process what’s happened on a much more conscious level. This will happen sooner or later, depending on how old they are. What’s important at this point is that they’re accompanied, so they acquire strategies for coping with the new challenges they face. So now teachers have to rely on the inherent curiosity of children and arouse the innate satisfaction they derive from learning. It can be quite challenging, all the more so when – as is so often the case – you have to do it in a language they haven’t learnt yet.
It’s only when you get to the third phase that you start helping children regain their sense of self-esteem and resilience, and help them take control of their lives again.
What actually is an emergency educationalist?
Emergency educationalists build bridges. They come into play whenever there’s a sudden and unforeseen situation and things start going wrong. So for example, they take care of things if there are no school books. Or they show teachers how to teach without books, particularly in places like refugee camps, because they don’t have ‘official’ schools. So emergency educationalists make sure children can continue learning, despite difficult circumstances. Emergency educationalists ensure that emphasis is given to the right teaching methods and that the content of teaching is based on the right processes.
Something to look forward to
Some 5.7 million people fled their homes between the beginning of the war in Ukraine on 24 February 2022 and the first week of May. More than half of those who fled – i.e. over three million people – have been taken in by Poland. The best way to understand the magnitude of such a challenge for a country like Poland is to compare numbers. In the first ten weeks of the war, Poland took in more than three times as many refugees as Germany took in during the whole of 2015 – the year some already refer to as the refugee crisis. An interview with Father Zenon Hanas about unprecedented times.
Lots of the partners we work with are overwhelmed at the moment; they feel they’re on their own having to deal with children from areas in crisis. They can sense that the things the children have experienced need a different answer than ‘it’s time for the child to go back to school again’. The task now is about integration and this always affects the overall class and the overall school community.
It’s not something schools can deal with by themselves. The children need a different place, away from the classroom, a place of retreat, a place they can enjoy themselves without worrying about being overwhelmed, so they can become strong. If you connect these places to the schools, that also makes it possible to offer language lessons, or work with parents, or run other programmes related to things going on at the school.
We have the right know-how to conduct this kind of integration work and train nursery staff and teachers. The PATRIZIA Foundation is working with a number of partner organisations to do this. Also long-standing partners of the foundation, such as the Pallottines and the Missionary Benedictine Sisters, are taking care of incoming refugees in Eastern Europe and giving them a safe place to stay.
The introduction of “safe spaces” with partners
According to current UN estimates, 14 million people have fled Ukraine. Children arriving in neighbouring European host countries from war zones are often severely traumatised. What they need now is a place where they feel safe and secure. These “Safe Spaces” offer a protected space where children can play, learn or simply cuddle. Together with its partner organisation, the Order of the Pallottines, the PATRIZIA Foundation is creating such needed accommodation in Poland. In recent weeks, the premises of the Pallottine Order in Warsaw have been refurbished for this purpose. In future, there will be room for 130 Ukrainian children and 70 mothers or accompanying persons. About 20 rooms are reserved for the teaching staff.
We act now. We act courageously.
The refugee situation due to the war in Ukraine brings with it a multitude of challenges. One of these challenges is that time is of the essence. Children, young people and accompanying persons who have had to leave their homes need our help now. We have moved quickly, pragmatically and courageously from planning to action: We are already implementing our goals in the first two projects and we are about to start in other projects.
An insight into our activities
To implement a comprehensive package of support measures, the PATRIZIA Foundation in Augsburg cooperates with the organisations “Ukrainischer Verein e.V.” and “Deutsch-Ukrainischer Dialog”.
The focus of the work is on targeted support for Ukrainian children and young people in the form of courses, school support, cultural and leisure activities and emergency educational intervention. With low-threshold offers, integration is promoted and support is provided in coping with everyday life. Together with our partners we provide professional training for the volunteers who are in direct contact with the children and mothers. In this way, we ensure that the help is provided in a sustainable and adequate manner.
Together with our partner, the Pallottine Order, we are in the process of creating accommodation for a total of 200 people (130 children/young people and 70 mothers).
young people and 70 mothers). In addition, three “Safe Spaces” are being set up, which serve as a place of support and encounter and where we can also carry out emergency educational measures. To ensure the sustainability of the project, support programmes have been designed. Here, mothers as well as external caregivers and teachers are familiarised with the requirements for dealing with traumatised children and adolescents.
On this basis, the children and adolescents can be accompanied on their way to a “new normality” and psychological wounds can be healed.
First “Train the Teacher” project in Warsaw
To support the teachers, “Train the Teacher” sessions are also offered in Warsaw. In these sessions, Ukrainian and Polish educators learn how to address the needs of traumatised children and ease their way back into everyday school life. The different developmental stages of toddlers, older children and adolescents are taken into account. The trainings are led by Beatrice Rutishauser Ramm, who has worked as an emergency educator in many crisis areas around the globe. The trainings are based on the emergency pedagogical approach “Essence of Learning (EoL)”, which has already proven its worth in various crisis situations and especially in dealing with traumatised children. Further trainings will follow regularly.
In the past weeks, the first volunteers were trained in Augsburg for the work within the framework of the EduCare Europe Fund. They will accompany families from Ukraine and especially children with trauma.
After a general introduction to volunteering, the training sessions focus on how to deal with trauma in children’s communication and learning behaviour. Together with the experienced emergency educator Beatrice Rutishauser Ramm, the volunteers develop techniques to support children in their learning process. In addition, the participants receive tools and advice on their own mindfulness so that they can process what they have experienced in their volunteer work.
The four-hour training is divided into three topics. At the beginning, the forms of volunteering and the motivations for doing so are discussed. The “Do no Harm” approach and the child protection policy as well as children’s rights also play a crucial role. One question at the beginning of the training is whether and in what way the volunteers want to enter into relationships (as a tutor, assistant teacher or mentor) or whether they prefer to act in the background (donation management, organisation, etc.).
The overarching theme of the second section of the seminar is dealing with traumatised children. When working with traumatised people or people affected by toxic stress, the emergency pedagogical approach “Essence of Learning” (EoL) is used. The methodology-didactics of EoL has been tried and tested thousands of times and has proven itself in many crisis situations worldwide. It is important to note that children usually react differently to traumatic experiences according to their age. Therefore, the volunteers work out together with the emergency educator how to deal with different age groups. The aim here is for the traumatised children to relearn a sense of security and trust, so that they can then use simple learning methods to gain access to education.
After also addressing verbal and non-verbal communication as well as conversational skills, the last part of the training begins: mindfulness towards oneself. Because taking responsibility for yourself means being aware of what you are getting into. To achieve this, the volunteers should learn to use their self-regulation. As adults, we may have acquired unconscious negative coping strategies – in addition to positive ones – that we fall back on from time to time. Volunteering can be an opportunity to revisit some of these unconscious negative coping strategies and supplement them with positive ones.
Care for Ukrainian children
With funds from the EduCare Europe Fund, the PATRIZIA Foundation supports its partners in setting up safe, child-friendly “Safe Spaces”. These are planned as a medium-term measure and are initially designed for a duration of three to twelve months.
In addition to the children, the “Safe Spaces” also offer their mothers or other accompanying persons a protected space where they can play, learn or simply cuddle. In Ozarow Mazowiecki near Warsaw, Poland, the Pallottine Fathers have recently started looking after about 40 children in such a “Safe Space”.
They are supported by two teachers from Ukraine. They look after about 40 children and educate them according to basic emergency educational principles. Father Zenon Hanas heads the project on site: “We are overjoyed that we can already provide adequate support for so many children – thanks to the funds from the EduCare Europe Fund. Among other things, these have made it possible for us to prepare the Ukrainian teachers well for this demanding task along the ‘Train the Teacher’ principle.”
During the four-day training, Ukrainian and Polish teachers learn how to address the needs of traumatised children and facilitate their way back into everyday school life. The different developmental stages of toddlers, older children and adolescents are taken into account. The trainings are based on the emergency pedagogical approach “Essence of Learning (EoL)”, which has already proven very successful in various crisis situations – especially when dealing with traumatised children.
“Nevertheless, there is still a lot of work ahead of us,” says Father Zenon. There are currently more than 300 children from Ukraine living in the Ozarow Mazowiecki parish and the renovation work on the “Safe Place” is not yet complete. “Fortunately, we have a second house about two kilometres away. There is a church community and a school there. Here we are also holding classes for children until further notice.” These are summer courses on various topics such as geography, mathematics and languages. But sports, art and music are also on the curriculum.
A three-month “EoL” programme is planned for September. If possible, this should be held in the newly renovated building in Ozarow Mazowiecki. And the chances of this happening are good: 27 two-room flats with bathrooms and three large common rooms have already been completed and can be used for their intended purpose. The rest of the building is also scheduled to be available in September.
Toy boxes – treasure chests highly valued by many
Play is a fundamental need of every child. Play allows children to achieve things they find interesting; they’re free to choose what they do, how they do it and define individual steps towards achieving their goal. The complexity of a game is largely dictated by the age of the child.
Children don’t need much to translate what they hope will happen during a playing process into reality. This is because most children have a delightful sense of imagination, which in itself is just about all you need. Nonetheless, some materials can be tremendously useful for supporting their imagination – with or without adaptation. Let’s take the example of toy bricks. Children have to put them together accurately or what they’re building will fall down. It’s an acquired skill that can be quite challenging for children, but young and imaginative bricklayers find it absolutely fascinating.
Children almost always decide to use Lego bricks if they want to put walls around a building, although they’re actually much more interested on what goes on inside it, recreating entire worlds and expressing themselves simply by mimicking things in life. They use fluffy animals, dolls or toy cars in such a way that you sense they’re re-enacting the outside world. By juxtaposing the realities of everyday life, completely novel and exciting situations arise.
The toys added to boxes should therefore include a sensible proportion of multifunctional materials and, if possible, a small number of materials for a defined purpose. The older a child, the more interested they are in toys that involve adhering to a routine – such as skipping ropes, balls, marbles, or even cards and board games – because these allow children to compete with others, such as friends and family. Puzzles or memory games also allow children to test their skills all by themselves.
Expressing creativity is a fixed element of every game. When they’re playing, children demonstrate their creativity through actions; when they’re painting, they express their individual imagination. This is why paper and crayons (as well as chalk for outdoor use) are really important ingredients of toy boxes; they’re basically ‘must-haves’. All of these play utensils can be used together and they’re good for stimulating conversation and exchanging ideas. Kids love that. Books should also be added to every toy box, whether they’re for reading by yourself or reading out loud to others. For children, apart from flicking through the pages themselves, very few things capture their imagination more than listening to someone reading a story.
Depending on the age of the child you give a toy box to, it can also include materials designed to foster inquisitiveness, as well as writing pads for children to capture their thoughts.
So as we see: toy boxes are not just boxes filled with toys and games. Depending on the age of the children boxes are given to, they need to contain the right things and they should be topped up regularly. Once the time comes when they’re no longer needed in one of our Safe Places, they can easily be ‘released for free circulation’ and donated to a school or similar institution.
Group therapy for Ukrainian young people in Augsburg
Many Ukrainian refugees need support due to their emotional and psychological stress caused by the flight, the war in their home country and difficulties adjusting to their new environment. Our partner, Deutsch Ukrainische Dialog e.V., offers group therapy for young people in Augsburg. The aim is to improve the mental health of the young people by helping them to process their experiences and giving them the opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings. This will help to strengthen their self-esteem and self-respect and support them in integrating into their new environment. Together with the Deutsches Kinderhilfswerk, the PATRZIA Foundation is supporting this important project.
You can also help by making a donation to the Ukraine campaign
All donations go 100% towards children affected by the war in Ukraine.
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