Military childhood: how to restart parental potential

In every country a military conflict leads to the fall of parental potential. For different reasons, but firstly because of the sudden decline of the living conditions, parents are struggling even harder at fulfilling their duties. As a result, it often leads to the family disruption and growing chances for a child to become an orphan. In this meaning, Donetsk and Luhansk regions, because of the high mortality level of the working-efficient people and because of the crime rate as well as other social factors, have even earlier been unfortunate. But the war intensified these factors.

Families, who for different reasons got into difficult living conditions, strongly need various kind of help and support – material and social services. However, the state, because of the lack of the financial and qualified human resources, cannot fully satisfy the needs. State payments to such families often can cover only survival. Especially if we are talking about internally-relocated persons who lost their jobs, regularly environment and housing, which most of them are forced to rent now.

The level of prosperity of the internally-relocated persons, comparing to the years before, has grown a little bit. First of all, for those who live in big cities. In villages and small towns, where there are no job offers, it is harder to survive. Especially if you are a single mother with small children and you have no skills in agriculture. Here charitable organizations come to help.

One of them – “Charitable fund “SOS Children’s towns” Ukraine“ international charitable organization – had a long way of development in Ukraine and for already more than 14 years has been introducing in Ukraine complex programs of the family support and children rights. The goal of its project, performed by Luhansk regional department within the framework of the “Pope for Ukraine” Action, is a decrease of the influence of the military conflict on the life of the sensitive children and their families.

During the realization of this project (December 2017 – March 2018), monthly humanitarian aid in the form of baby formula sets and baby hygiene items will be delivered to 1000 children, living in the front-line area. 200 obstetrical sets are intended for pregnant women, preparing to become mothers. 200 more sets – for parents of the new-born. Within the framework of the project there are also plans of reconstruction, providing material support for winter period preparations, procurement of medicines and payment of medical services, psychological and psycho-therapeutic consultations. In general, this aid will cover a t least 4200 persons.

“This project is working on the front-line – in Stanychno-Luhansk, Popasniansk and Novoaidarsk regions, in each of which there are distribution points – Stanytsia Luhanska, Zolote and Popasna, Shchastia and Novoaidar, correspondingly, – tells us a project coordinator Kateryna Duvanska. – Aid is delivered by addresses, after previous selection of families in need. Our main targeted groups are: families in difficult living conditions, single mothers, under-privileged, multi-child, internally relocated persons and families with a disabled child or disabled parent. We have been working in these regions for more than one year already.  Within the framework of the UNICEF joint projects, for instance, transportable teams visited educational institutions and village councils, worked with children and their families. That is why we made both formal and non-formal relationships with village councils, social services centers for family, children and youth. We are constantly exchanging information with children social services who register families in difficult family conditions. We connect children’s and women’s consultations.

Did the war affect the number of the families living in difficult living conditions and parental potential? You know, when we came to Popasna for the first time, all adults were shocked – children didn’t smile or laugh in the nursery. They were playing in the sandpit with frowning faces. Their pictures and conversations were all about the war and horrible events they witnessed. Psychologists in the war regions are much in demand. Their deficiency was felt even before the war. Unfortunately, the culture of turning to the psychologist here, as a rule, isn’t formed yet. Many people see psychologist as a psychiatrist. And going to the psychiatrist means you are sick.

Step by step we taught (and we continue to do so) people to treat psychologist as a specialist you can trust, someone who would always help you.

There are many traumatic situations, caused by the war. In particular, there are many of those caused by the lack of work. For example, many citizens of Luhanska Stanytsya were engaged in agriculture – they used to grow vegetables. Their products were sold mostly in Luhansk. Right now it’s impossible for them to sell, all greenhouses are empty, filled with wild grass.  People have no prospective. Many of them have no job right now and try to save on everything possible, have no money to buy even the smallest essentials for their children. Many of them, after having left to the safe place, had to return back – because there they have a home, while outside they get financially and mentally exhausted.

There are stationary centers working in Severodonetsk, Stanytsia Luhanska and Starobilsk within the SOS Children’s town Ukraine. Here we have a complex process undergoing on the family potential development. By the way, with the internally relocated persons it’s even easier. Most often their potential got simply frozen because of the stress. And due to the team work of the psychologists, social educators and social workers, this potential gets restarted.

As for the local families in difficult living conditions – it’s much more complicated. In this situation people live and breathe for a long time. Many problems go back to the families of today’s grandparents”.

SOS Children’s town Ukraine project within the framework of the “Pope for Ukraine” Action foresees also psychological consultations for families from the grey zone. Even though it is aimed at humanitarian support, which is as much important. For some families such support today – is a question of survival and health of their children. And that is as much essential as, for instance, reconstruction works and accomplishment of 50 households for families – program, in which internally relocated persons are included, when they decide to stay and start to rebuild their homes on a new place, as, for example, Hanna from Luhansk does.

Before the war she used to work as an engineer in the mechanical department at the post. Favorite job, 7-year old son has just finished first grade…

“When first bombs flew to Luhansk, it was scary, – tells us Hanna. – We used to live close to the border crossing checkpoint and that was seized first. And actually, all war activities started close to us.

At first I brought my child to my parents in Shulhinka village. There my friend helped me to rent a house. I was holding to my job. I used to be a head of department there and I couldn’t leave everything just at once. And when I left I found out that I was pregnant.

I gave birth to my daughter, she is 2,5 years old now. Labour was complicated and now we are undergoing medication, my daughter has problems with her eyesight. My elder son also has health issues.

I and two my children live in Shulhinka. There is a music school here and my son continues to learn what he started in Luhansk. SOS Children’s Town Ukraine helps us a lot.

Together with children we visit the center of child’s development in Starobilsk, we work with the psychologist. My elder son loves these lessons, when they make hardware pieces with a particular meaning. Recently, for instance, he brought home a charm of good dreams.

We live in a rented house. The owners let us in for free. But the house still needs care and reconstruction. And the fact that SOS Children’s Town Ukraine within the framework of the “Pope of Ukraine” Action helps us with the reconstruction, is a fairy-tale for us. They helped us to install a water-pipe and electricity, the house became warm. I am very grateful for that. I hope that children will get sick more seldom now.

We survive at the cost of the state – maternity payments, payments to the lower-income families and internally-relocated persons payments. Our neighbors help us a lot with food. Potatoes, cabbage… this kind of products we have plenty of.

The biggest problem in the village is a lack of job. I try to participate in entrepreneurship management and self-employment programs. We have a hatcher, a few gooses and hens. Last spring we were selling hens. We are engaged with the yard as well. However, it doesn’t give much result yet. Agriculture is an unusual activity for me. That is why we mostly continue to live on state payments.

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In Shulhinka village there is also another Hanna, who also came from Luhansk and raises 4,5 years old Bohdana on her own. “ We left when the war was only starting. My daughter was only 6 months, – says she. – At first, we went to Lozovynka, there we rented a house with no conditions, it was very cold there. And later we moved to Shulhinka. Here I have friends. I am paying by installments every month. There are no living conditions in the house – humidity is so high here that it’s hard to breathe. That is the reason why my Bohdanka is very often sick and doesn’t go to the nursery. Here, in Shulhinka, nursery works till 12:00, that is why we go to Polovinkino. But right now we are staying at home.

I used to work as a plasterer on the factory. I can find work in Shulhinka only during summer – at old people’s houses. It is impossible to drive to the city for work. We are surviving at the cost of the internally relocated persons payments as well as at the cost of the single mother’s payments. If I find some work I always take it. If my friend agrees to stay with Bohdanka… For instance, here we have private farmer households – swine houses. That’s how it is for now…

I am very grateful to the SOS Children’s Towns Ukraine project within the framework of the “Pope for Ukraine” Action, which helped us with the reconstruction. At least we don’t have humidity any more. They covered walls with gypsum plasterboard and installed shower – now we have place to wash ourselves. It has become much warmer. Thank you for that. Probably, Bohdanka will be healthier now and will go back to the nursery. And I will have more opportunities for job-hunting”.

According to the National monitoring system on the internally relocated persons for December 2017, even though their employment grew up to 50%, part of households with money enough only for food, remains high and makes 33%. 11% of internally relocated persons are forced “to limit their expenses even for food”. The largest part of the employed internally relocated persons live in big cities, while the level of employment in towns and villages is much lower. The way of living of eastern people is completely different and women often say they are not used to agriculture. Most of the internally relocated persons continue to rely mostly on the state support. Support from humanitarian organizations, in particular from the SOS Children’s Towns Ukraine project within the “Pope for Ukraine” Action remains an essential support for them.