Ukraine’s families find hope at festival founded by youngsters
A team of young people taking part in the UPSHIFT programme organized a festival to support parents and children
Amid the ongoing war in Ukraine, a group of young people have organized a festival to bring together families, featuring workshops, counselling and art therapy.
The festival was held in Kropyvnytskyi by four participants of the UPSHIFT youth innovation programme, run by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Determined to support children during the war, the ‘Little Family’ team – Valeriia, Mariia, Ruslana, and Anastasiia – underwent training and received resources for their idea.
"We initially planned an initiative to help children cope emotionally and psychologically,” says 24-year-old Valeriia. “However, we soon realized that parents needed support just as much, being emotionally connected to their children and transferring their experiences to them. That's how the idea of organizing an event for the whole family emerged.”
The four women brought a wealth of experience to their festival. For example, both Valeriia and Mariia teach fine art to youngsters.
"The main purpose of our masterclasses was to unite each family in a common activity," explains Valeriia.
"For instance, children enjoyed creating a drawing depicting the hands of all their family members. First, a dad put his handprint on the paper. Then, the mom did. And finally, their kids joined them. This moment, when the youngest participants put paint on their parents' hands, made them radiant."
As well as counselling and art therapy, the festival also offered a range of sports activities, including frisbee games, darts, table hockey and arm wrestling. Open mic sessions and an organized flash mob provided families with the chance to share stories or sing.
"We wanted to capture every joyful moment of the parents and children at the event," says Valeriia.
"Our photographer took pictures during the festival, printed them and handed them to the families right away. Everyone was thrilled with this opportunity because, during the war, it's not often possible to take a picture together."
First aid training was on offer, with five psychologists providing support. There was also a dedicated space where parents and children could talk with specialists.
In total, the festival welcomed 78 parents and children, including internally displaced people.
"I was overwhelmed with emotions that day," says Valeriia. "Many people approached us and expressed warm words. I've probably never felt such gratitude before. This experience will stay with me forever."
Since 2022, the ongoing war in Ukraine has presented significant humanitarian challenges across the country. Recognizing the pivotal role of young people in communities, UNICEF has actively engaged UPSHIFT participants in addressing these challenges. Over the past year, 115 teams comprising 464 young people aged 14-24 participated in the UPSHIFT programme, developing projects that reached over 27,000 beneficiaries.