Sixty five thousand children from Donetsk region attended summer camps across Ukraine


Ukrainian and international organizations help children from eastern Ukraine return to peaceful life. Activities and camps were organized for children this summer so that they can get away from their thoughts about the war.

Kyiv, August 16, 2016. This year over 65,000 children from the Donetsk region, including children from near-front areas, have attended summer camps. Some of them attended day camp programs in their hometowns or in other cities of Donetsk region (about 430 camps in total), others traveled to different regions of Ukraine. “We are very much grateful to the regions of Vinnytsia and Volyn, the city of Kyiv, the regions of Poltava, Ternopil, Kharkiv, Kherson and Chernivtsi that hosted over 500 children from our towns in the near-front zone including Avdiivka, Dzerzhynsky, districts of Volnovakha, Yasynuvata, Bakhmut and some districts of Mariupol,” said Lilia Zolkina, head of department on the affairs of family and youth of the Donetsk regional military-civic administration at a press-briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center in the framework of UCMC’s project “Spokesman of peaceful life” implemented with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Problems in the course of organizing the trips

According to Lilia Zolkina, one of the serious problems in this regard is the lack of financing; especially, when it comes to travel expenses to camps in other regions. The issue is partially resolved thanks to the support of state-owned companies, volunteers and the business community. Seven children’s camps established by professional unions are financially supported by the Donetsk regional military-civic administration. Another problem is reluctance of parents, especially of those living in the “grey zone,” to let their children attend the camps. “We were not holding exact calculations, our estimation is five to ten percent (of such cases). But we see the changes taking place, the scales of the problem is gradually decreasing,” she noted.

Role of international and charitable organizations

Both local and international charity organizations are actively taking part in organizing children’s leisure and psychological rehabilitation including the charity fund “Caritas Mariupol”. This summer they have organized a trip to the Carpathians for three groups of children. The program included not only leisure and entertainment, but also psychological rehabilitation.

Organizers tried to invite the children from towns in the “red zone” or the “grey zone” that are constantly under attack. “These children lost trust in silence. They wake up in the middle of the night because of their fears and phobias. They need constant support so that they learn to overcome their fears and return to staying calm,” said Father Rostyslav Sprynyuk, director of the charity fund “Caritas Mariupol”, priest of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church.

He noted that highly qualified psychologists are working with the children. Psychological rehabilitation program was developed in cooperation with Austrian and German-based Caritas organizations.

Organizers ruin stereotypes on other regions of Ukraine

With the trips volunteers intended to show other regions to the children as some of them have never left their native towns.

“When we were forming the first group, some parents had concerns on whether their children would be discriminated for not speaking Ukrainian. So we wanted to show them that Ukraine is friendly towards them,” explained the director of “Caritas Mariupol”.

Lilia Zolkina said that the next big trip is scheduled for October. “In October, 600 children from the near-front zone will travel for free to children’s camps ‘Moloda Gvardia’ and ‘ARTEK’ located near Kyiv,” she said.

Father Sprynyuk noted that after the start of the academic year, Caritas will continue working with children at schools, first of all with those who are having most complicated psychological problems according to psychologists. “Authorities, local activists, teachers and Caritas fund will cooperate over the issue,” he explained. Work with their families will also be conducted. Father Sprynyuk said he hopes that over the time closer cooperation with the authorities will be established.

Donetsk regional military-civic administration is considering an opportunity to organize study trips for children from the near-front zones to safer cities of Donetsk region or to other regions.