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Hungarian Interchurch Aid provides psychosocial support and good experiences to internally displaced children in Zakarpattia, Ukraine

Immediately after the outbreak of war, the staff of the Berehove office of Hungarian Interchurch Aid started organising programmes for the internally displaced children looking for safety in the many community shelters of Zakarpattia region, located in the west of Ukraine. In doing so their goal was to bring respite to the often traumatised children, and to help them cope with their horrible experiences. A total of 251 children participated in the 6-month programme funded by Christian Aid.

Their first project was the establishment of a playroom for these children at a high school-turned-shelter, where they were welcomed by trained professionals specialised in early development. The playroom sessions quickly became a favourite for the displaced children, especially with the arrival of Doxa, the therapy dog. In April, Dr Barbara Körözsi and her four-legged companion set out to help the children to process their traumas and regain a sense of security that they had lost after the start of the war. When these families had to flee, things happened very quickly and the kids had no influence whatsoever on what was going to happen to them. Since April, 18 of them had become regulars at the sessions, and after each meeting they cannot wait to see Doxa again.

Not only the dog therapy sessions were popular with the displaced children: HIA and local staff organised further 216 activities in 5 community shelters of the Berehove district throughout the 6 months since February. Dancing, sports, painting, arts and crafts and many other activities enabled 101 children to relive the joyful moments of carefree childhood.

In August, the Zakarpattia Regional Administration and HIA also organised a summer camp for displaced and war-affected children, held at a youth camp in Irsava. Here – as a courtesy of Christian Aid – 150 kids spent two weeks in the beautiful countryside surrounded by forests and mountains playing outside, doing sport competitions, excursions, hikes and sharing happy moments in the lakes and swimming pools of the complex.

For Hungarian Interchurch Aid the mental wellbeing and support of minors who had to live through the horrors of war is extremely important. In addition to the summer camp in Ukraine, the organisation has organised several other camps for nearly 200 children in Hungary – both for refugees and for displaced and war-affected children coming from all over Ukraine.