Two girls with art smocks sit at a table painting at the Informal Education Center Diversity youth center


Making A Difference for Children in Ukraine

Step inside a youth center in Moldova funded by Comic Relief US, where children escaping the horror of war at home find safety, emotional and psychological support — and fun.

February 23, 2023

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Step inside a youth center in Moldova funded by Comic Relief US, where children escaping the horror of war at home find safety, emotional and psychological support — and fun.

On any given day, a youth center in Moldova blazes with the creative life of children who are drawing, sculpting, and making theater. In the crisp white rooms, kids are gathering excitedly at tables with art supplies, grabbing a brush and some paint, or maybe a lump of clay, and then letting their imaginations roam free.

Safety is a cherished landscape for these children, as they are refugees from the war in Ukraine. Their safe place is a youth center run by Informal Education Center “Diversity”,  which is funded by a rapid response grant from Comic Relief US through our partner, Global Fund for Children. The Center quickly shifted its focus, from using informal education methods to promote human rights and combat xenophobia, to helping Ukrainian refugee children and teens work through their trauma from the war that Russia has inflicted upon Ukraine since they invaded a year ago, on February 24, 2022.  

Moldova, a former Soviet republic to the west of Ukraine, plays a key role in supporting its neighbor. Nearly 16 million people have fled their homes, including two-thirds of the country’s children. More than 750,000 of them arrived in Moldova, a number comprising more than a quarter of Moldova’s population of 2.1 million. Roughly 102,000 refugees – more than half are children – have remained in Moldova, while the rest have traveled on to other countries.

The “Diversity” Center opened its doors to children ages 9 - 17 seeking refuge from the war in Ukraine in April 2022, and gave them refuge in art. Here, they find a warm and welcoming venue that opens their creative channels as a means of helping them to heal.

The children who come here are using creativity as a way of dealing with what they have experienced because of war. The Informal Education Center “Diversity” supplies all art and theater materials, as well as necessary items they may not have, such as clothing, toiletries, and food. Just as importantly, the Center gives them a chance to meet other kids and develop new friendships as they might do at the schoolyard or arts center back home in Ukraine. This social bonding is essential for their development, and just hanging out together can provide the emotional and psychological support that we all need to stay healthy.

In addition to the restorative features of art and theater, the Center provides mental health services to address the trauma the young people have experienced. Professional counselors work with children one-on-one or in groups to help them process their experiences of leaving home and creating new lives in a foreign country.

The Center also cares for parents. It’s a safe place to leave their children while they navigate the world that comes with being a refugee, the most prominent ingredient being uncertainty.  

Providing outlets for refugee children and their parents makes the Center essential to creating a sense of normalcy for families displaced by the war. Global Fund for Children and its partner, the Informal Education Center “Diversity” are among several organizations Comic Relief US has partnered with to address the crises stemming from Russia’s attack on Ukraine, including Save the Children, Action Against Hunger, and the Lumos Foundation. Support from Comic Relief US enables our partners to meet families’ basic needs by providing food, water, and shelter, and ensuring the physical safety and emotional well-being of those who have left, as well as those who are still living in Ukraine, where there is no end in sight to the violence.

We are proud to support several disaster response efforts led by community-based organizations in and around Ukraine, in addition to the Informal Education Center “Diversity”, through our partnership with Global Fund for Children. Locally-led organizations offer assistance to children and young people before disaster occurs and long after the immediate crisis has receded.

Informal Education Center “Diversity” offers an inspiring example of how organizations shift their approach in times of crisis to meet the needs of new community members, nurturing the spirit and the imagination of people whom war could not destroy. It is that spirit and imagination that will create a new future. We are committed to supporting the children and families of Ukraine until the war is over and, long after, to help their imaginations soar to wherever they dream they can go.

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