New start and new friends for children at Spilno Spot
UNICEF’s Spilno Spot in Kropyvnytskyi offers children the chance to learn, play and make new friends, after months of war.
Inside a big white tent bearing the UNICEF logo in Kropyvnytskyi, children are finding joy through play every day, despite the ongoing war in Ukraine. Parents with infants play on rugs, older children busy themselves with board games, and teenagers take English lessons.
This is one of UNICEF’s "Spilno. Meeting Points", aimed at supporting children and their families who have been forced to leave their homes due to the war.
Vladyslav, Senior Coordinator of the Spilno Child Spot in Kovalivskyi Park, says children and their parents can enjoy master classes, training, lectures, board games, puzzles, learning games and a lot of toys here. There are stocks of hygiene products available, and families who visit may sign up for a consultation with a psychologist or medical worker.
"Volunteer teachers conduct lessons here,” says Vladyslav. “They, for example, teach both infants and adolescents English or origami”
"Our classes are free,” adds Vladyslav. “Both internally displaced people and local people can participate, as we are open to everyone who needs it. We want as many children as possible to come and have fun, develop and study with us.”
Fifteen-year-old Albina and Bohdan from Kherson are among those visiting this Spilno Spot. They met three years ago at a summer camp but later lost touch. During lessons at the UNICEF spot in Kropyvnytskyi, they unexpectedly found each other again.
"My family fled Kherson on February 24,” says Albina. “Here, in Kropyvnytskyi, I decided to volunteer with UNICEF, as I had some free time during the summer. This is my first experience and I like it a lot. They told us what to do and how to do it, so three times a week before English classes, we play and talk with younger children, and help the teachers.”
Bohdan, together with his mother and a pet, fled Kherson in June. Suddenly alone in Kropyvnytskyi, the teenager says that online education helped him to stay in touch with his peers at first. Then, at the end of April, his school suspended the educational process.
Having studied English at school for nine years, he began looking for any opportunity to develop his language skills in Kropyvnytskyi. The English lessons at Spilno Spot fulfilled his need. The teachers send students the topic and new words in advance, and then, during lessons, solidify it with practice.
“The most difficult thing was to leave our home with things without looking back,” says Bohdan. “When I came here, I realized I have to do something to distract myself from homesickness and difficult thoughts. That's why I decided not only to attend English classes, but also volunteer. I like the Spilno Spot because here I have support, much-needed communication and even care.”
Tetiana, a teacher in the Department of Folk Instruments at the Kharkiv State Academy of Arts, brings her nine-year-old daughter Nastya to the English class at the Spilno Spot. Their family managed to escape gunfire in Kharkiv on March 19.
"My daughter got used to the sounds of explosions, but airstrikes were the most terrifying,” says Tetiana. “We had no opportunity to study even remotely, as we were hiding in basements, searching for news. She was isolated from her peers as we almost didn't go outside. But here there are activities for children's development and creative skills, and classes in school disciplines, such as English lessons. We visit with pleasure. This is how Nastya keeps up with the things she has missed. It helps her to feel safe, be calm and meet new friends.”
Tetiana’s daughter Nastya enjoys the activities at "Spilno: Meeting Point". She has already attended art therapy and learned how to draw and do needlework. She also plans to attend English classes. But sometimes she just comes to play football and have fun with her peers.
“This communication, this atmosphere, and the feeling of being at least relatively safe, helps my daughter to recover,” says Tetiana.
“Some disciplines can be learned remotely but, for example, English language classes, physical education and fine arts are impossible without live communication. Therefore, we plan to combine distance learning with various activities at the Spilno Spot here in Kropyvnytskyi. But we hope that after Ukraine’s victory we will be able to return home and study at our school again.”