Children and young people with refugee experience face many problems while outside their country. Misunderstanding, alienation, cultural and linguistic differences, as well as the trauma they have experienced accompany them on a daily basis. The Humanosh Foundation, together with the City of Warsaw and the UNICEF organization, for the third time conducted a Program to bring cultures closer together. The program was aimed at supporting and extending care to children and young people from Ukraine residing, living or attending schools in the City of Warsaw. As part of the project, cultural assistants appeared in schools, students received psychological support, therapeutic workshops were held, tutoring in math, chemistry and geography, and there were workshops and reading meetings.
Culture a way to traumatize...
...or how in Warsaw we support children far from their homeland
For proper human development, healthy existence and proper functioning, certain conditions are necessary. Abraham Maslow distinguished five main factors conducive to human maturation: physiological needs, the need for security, the need for love and belonging, the need for respect and recognition, and the need for self-actualization. The war - armed struggle between states - deprived the Ukrainian population of all the aforementioned requirements. Instead, it has given adults and children traumas.
Childhood and adolescence are stages that have a significant impact on a person's subsequent functioning. Physical and psychological experiences leave permanent traces in the brain, hence childhood trauma has a role in the formation of personality, and its impact lasts for a long time.
It is impossible to experience severe experiences with the help of imagination alone - accompanying thoughts, emotions, behavior - their vision will very likely differ from the state in which a person experiencing them in reality would find himself. Even attaching to the imagination full of details the accounts of the direct participants, it is virtually impossible to obtain an approximate effect. The task becomes infinitely more difficult in the case of children, who by nature are endowed with childlike imagination, individual logic and often perceive reality quite differently.
And yet already a change of school or home address is a difficult event for a young person. So what to say in the case when children with their parents hurriedly packed their most important belongings and left their apartment, their city, their country? When they are worried about their loved ones, about their own lives, when the immediate danger and death of their compatriots were seen up close? And completely unexpectedly, they settled in a foreign country, usually without knowing the language, among unknown people.
An adult should be a support for the child to cope with the emotions experienced, the tension and the assimilation of the current reality. However, parents themselves cannot find their way in the situation they have found themselves in against their will - this puts taking care of their children's psyche beyond their reach. Unfortunately, the lack of help from an adult, results in the disintegration of the child's world, and thus leads to feelings of guilt in the child and difficulties in finding themselves in new conditions. The trauma experienced is exacerbated by the other problems that accompany life in a foreign country - misunderstanding, alienation, cultural, linguistic and other differences.
In view of the situation, the Humanosh Foundation, together with the City of Warsaw and the UNICEF organization, for the third time conducted a Program for the rapprochement of cultures. The program was aimed at supporting and extending care to children and young people from Ukraine residing, living or attending schools in the City of Warsaw. As part of the project, cultural assistants appeared in schools, students received psychological support, therapeutic workshops were held, tutoring in mathematics, chemistry and geography, and there were workshops and reading meetings.
Cultural assistants undertook to build understanding between students, students and teachers, and teachers and parents. They actively supported students in class and during extracurricular activities, helped with homework, and sought out extra classes and tutoring. The role and tasks they performed are invaluable in terms of tolerance, acceptance and solving problems that, often, no one but the child knew existed.
Undoubtedly, in many cases, psychological consultation was indispensable. Professional knowledge and years of experience resulted in effective conversations, the resolution of many difficulties, and the understanding and support so necessary for young people. The best evidence of the positive outcome of the meetings were the expressions on the students' faces.
Therapeutic classes address trauma. Among the various forms of treating trauma are phototherapy and therapy through movement.
The "New Home Project" photography workshop was aimed at improving attentiveness, noticing the unusualness of the environment, expressing trauma through images and symbols, as well as arousing curiosity and expanding knowledge about photography. Participants used cameras to tell their story - not always supplementing it with words. Children and teenagers from Ukraine and Belarus took part in the activities - the time spent together and similar experiences helped bring the young people closer together and reduce conflicts between them.
The "Fashion portrait" mobile photography workshop focused on understanding oneself through the creation of unique, personal images. The creative approach, creative solutions and actually unnoticeable to the participant psychological work of the instructors, allowed to credibly notice the young person, his uniqueness and previously undiscovered abilities, while beginning to regain self-confidence and increase self-esteem.
The dance workshop "Movement as a way to understand oneself" was a work with the tense body. The classes helped to focus on one's own body, reconnect with oneself, loosen hard muscles and relax. Definitely, the workshop started the participants' journey to their own inner self, showed how to be able to unwind and calm down in a pleasant way.
The program for the rapprochement of cultures is the work of quiet heroes who look at each person with due dignity and respect. The activities undertaken are changing the world for those who have had virtually everything taken away from them. They offer support, understanding and attention to young people who are in the all-important process of growing up, and who have been deprived of their fundamental need for security. Every gleam in the eye, every smile, every hope rekindled is worth every effort and effort made.
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The founders of the foundation have been actively helping refugees for more than 15 years. Humanosh Foundation has been operating since 2020, with the help of the family, volunteers and thanks to the support of donors we help refugees and spread the story of the Wołosiański family.
Our mission is to build a reality in which every person feels safe and dignified, regardless of his or her background, race, religion or skin color.
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