Educating the next generation of children in South-West Somalia
The right to quality education is at the core of FCA’s work. In Somalia, FCA helps children access free education in the Bay region through our EU funded Accelerated Basic Education programme. The programme helps kids with school equipment, catch-up classes and extracurricular activities.
Many of the schoolchildren we help have missed out on primary education due to fleeing conflict, drought or poverty. 2286 children have been reached since July 2021 in the Baidoa, Hudur, Elbarde and Wajid districts of Somalia. Starting with FCA cash transfers, families can buy children school uniforms, books and stationery to attend class.
FCA also helps to provide sports and child-friendly spaces, which improve kids’ overall psychosocial wellbeing to combat distress caused by conflict and other crises.
Two students enrolled on the ABE programme recently shared their experiences.
“I had to stay home and help with the chores”
Lulay Osman Ibrahim, 14, attends Mustaqbal Integrated Primary School and lives with her mother and five siblings in Baidoa camp for internally displaced people. Her mother, Safia, made the decision to leave Dinsoor two years ago due to violent conflict in the region and ongoing drought.
“I was living with my children in Dinsoor and had a small farm where I grew vegetables but due to the prolonged drought and long conflict in the town, it was no longer possible” says Safia.
“Life became difficult, especially for single mothers like myself, so I decided to come to Baidoa town and settled in the IDP camp to seek support ” she adds.
Lulay wanted to go to school, but there were barriers to her attending.
“When I saw the hard life in the IDP camps and the struggle my mother was undergoing, I became more eager to go school and study so I could later help my family. That was my dream, but my mother could not afford to buy me uniform and books, so I had to stay home and help her with the house chores,” says Lulay.
“I used to see my friends going to school in the morning, I felt sad, but I had no choice since my mother could not afford to take me to school,” she adds.
Thanks to community awareness efforts by staff from FCA’s Somalia country office, Lulay learned about the APE programme. With her mother’s support, she registered with the school and her family soon received cash support.
After one year, Lulay aced her exams and joined the mainstream classes. She’s now in third grade and hopes to one day become a teacher.
From livestock to learning
Abshir Adan Borow, 17, came from a life of looking after livestock in a remote village. Due to increasing drought, he was sent to live with an aunt in Baidoa.
“I never thought in my wildest dreams that I will find myself in a classroom and learning. I didn’t even know the ABCs when I started going to school, and my numeracy and literacy skills have improved tremendously.”
Abshir also attends Mustaqbal Integrated School under the ABE programme and after two years can now read and write.
The programme also enabled his brother Ismail to attend school, later both transferring to formal primary school classes after passing the ABE transition examination.
“It’s incredible how life can change in just a short time. We might have lost our livestock, but the FCA education programme has given us a ray of hope to look forward to a brighter future,” Abshir gushes.
“One day I want to work as agricultural and livestock expert to assist my community in climate change initiatives and horticulture.”
“Getting an education means I learn to think in a different way” – young refugees are getting access to university studies in Uganda
For many bright young refugees getting access to higher education can be next to impossible. Tuition fees are high and the distance to proper universities long. That is why Finn Church Aid, in partnership with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), supports young refugees with full scholarships to be able to go to university and obtain a degree.
“Studying at a university was a desire I always had, but I didn’t know how to get there”, says Anita Magret, a 24-year-old second-year student of Social Work and Social Administration at the Ugandan Christian University, one of the top universities in Uganda.
She is sitting at a fireplace outside a few small huts in Bidi Bidi refugee settlement, where she lives with her aunt while away from university for her internship. Many of the students return home for internships or when they are on leave.
Another Bidi Bidi resident and university student is Luate Richard, 22. He studies Microfinance at Kyambogo University in Kampala.
“Being able to study at a university means a lot. Nobody in my family had studied at a higher level before, so this opportunity means a lot for my family”, he tells us.
Both Luate Richard and Anita Magret escaped South Sudan with their families during clashes in 2016, and have been living in Bidi Bidi refugee settlement since then.
From refugee camp to university
The refugee settlement is one of the largest in the world, home to an estimated 270,000 refugees, over half of them children. Still, the number of learners advancing all the way to university is miniscule due to manifold challenges.
That is why Finn Church Aid, together with UNHCR, are supporting 53 learners with full scholarships. The scholarship makes it possible for students to attend their university of choice.d
“My hostel, my tuition and my upkeep are all covered. My family wouldn’t have any possibility to cover these kinds of expenses, so this is an answer to my prayers”, says Luate Richard.
“When it was confirmed that I got the scholarship my whole family was so full of joy, everyone was in tears. It was not easy to reach this point, but when I made it, everybody was very happy and excited”, says Anita Magret.
In addition, the scholarship also covered the unexpected expenses that came with COVID-19. The pandemic forced students into remote studies. Since access to the internet can be quite expensive in Uganda, that was covered too.
Bringing their talents back to their communities
Both Luate Richard and Anita Magret chose to do their mandatory internships in the refugee camp. In the future, they hope to be able to work in their communities.
“In microfinancing we try to find active poor, the ones who are willing to start businesses, finance their ventures and give them financial knowledge so that their business will be successful. I would like to do this in my own community”, says Luate Richard.
Anita Magret also intends to use her education to better people’s lives.
“I feel like I needed to go far to be able to come back and help people with what I learned in school. I want to improve the social well-being of my community and others in need.”
She already feels the opportunity of getting out of the refugee camp, going to university and meeting people with diverse backgrounds, has expanded her thinking.
“The change has been huge. I can really notice it now that I am back for my internship. I notice how I can bring everything that I learned into my work”, says Anita Magret, who is interning with the organization Hope Health Action, giving counseling and guidance to people in vulnerable states.
“It really moves me, when I am able to help. It feels like I chose the right field of work.”
Education opens up horizons
Luate Richard also sees education as a tool that opens up new horizons.
“Education is so important. Life is hard in the refugee camp, and it is easy to fall into a mindset where hardship and poverty is normal. Getting an education means I learn to think in a different way. Through that I have the opportunity to change things for myself and for my community”, says Luate Richard.
The young university students also see their studies as a possibility to be role models for their younger peers. Anita Magret thinks it is important that young people in the refugee camp are able to see that it is possible to achieve your dreams.
“I have been giving career talks for girls who are in secondary school. It is great to be able to show that you can access better things if you put your heart and efforts into it. I want to give the younger girls courage and hope, and make them believe in themselves.”
Ukraine: One year of a war that shattered lives and put millions in need
All photos unless indicated: Antti Yrjönen
On 24 February 2022 the world changed for Ukrainians. After Russia’s invasion, millions of people became refugees, displaced within and without the borders of their country. Children were especially affected with schooling interrupted and families often split up.
SINCE THE very start of the war, FCA has supported Ukrainians with humanitarian aid, working with our partners. Now, we are heading a multi-million euro project to make sure children can continue to access quality education safely, whether in Ukraine or elsewhere. This is the story of Ukraine and FCA in the past year.
Phase 1 – people on the move
After Russia invades Ukraine, many people are forced to flee their homes leaving most of their belongings behind. Most are women and children. Not knowing where they are going or for how long, and often forced to leave fathers, brothers and grandfathers behind, the stress on people is huge.
Alina, 10, holds 3-year-old Emilia in her arms at a refugee aid post in the village of Barabás, close to the Ukrainian-Hungarian border.
Escaping with nine children
A kindness of a friend meant Masha & her nine children could flee Zaporizhzhia, near the Crimean Peninsula.
The car they owned only had five seats, so her husband asked his friend for a minivan. His friend handed over the keys, no questions asked.
“As I was travelling I was crying. I was very upset. I was scared and afraid that something would happen on the way,” says Masha.
They packed pillows, blankets, documents & warm clothes as well as 3 violins for some of the musical children. One child had to leave their beloved piano behind.
When they finally arrived in Hungary Masha’s daughter, Alina (10) met a friend Emilia (3) at the aid post in Barabás where FCA’s partner, Hungarian Interchurch Aid distributed aid.
Alina brought one toy, her clothes and a colouring book with her. She gave the colouring book to another girl as they were on the journey, because the girl had no toys with her.
1 million euros within 4 days
Millions of Ukrainians are fleeing, often with nothing more than a small bag. FCA launches a fundraising campaign, raising 1 million euros within 4 days to provide refugees with emergency aid.
People give generously to help Ukrainian refugees during the first days of the war. Photo: Saara Mansikkamäki
In the first few days of the war, the United Nations refugee agency, the UNHCR, estimates that over half a million people cross borders into countries neighbouring Ukraine.
The first wave of refugees are mostly women with children. Exhausted and scared, the first stage is to give them urgent items, like food, warm clothing and shelter and, in many cases, psychosocial support.
Fleeing Kyiv wasn’t Kristina’s first experience of escaping fighting. She had left the place of her birth, Luhansk, in 2014 for the safety of Ukraine’s capital. Now that was no longer safe.
“It wasn’t so simple to leave. It was so crowded, people couldn’t get into the train.”
Kristina & her cat, Lisa, managed to squeeze onto a train to the border with Hungary, where she received assistance.
“My husband, his family, my brother, my aunt, my uncle, they stay in Kyiv. Most of my friends are in Kyiv too. It’s terrible. We have just emotion and crying.”
Nadiya was at home when the first bombs hit near her house in Kharkiv, which is located near an army base. The attacks were loud & frightening. She doesn’t remember leaving.
“My kids just took me with them.”
Her family managed to reach the Chop railway station in western Ukraine. Now they’re waiting to cross into Hungary.
Nadiya’s biggest hope is that things will change for the better and the war will end. “Many children are suffering because of the war.”
FCA’s partner, HIA, sets up refugee points wherever there is a high concentration of people.
In Budapest airport, parents can take a rest, while children play in specially constructed play areas.
3 million refugees
flee to the surrounding countries during the first month of war, 1.5 million of them children.
Yelizaveta (5) hugs a soft toy. She and her sister Maryanna (10), mother Vironika, and grandmother Svetlana left their hometown of Odessa soon after Russia invaded Ukraine. At Budapest airport, they are thinking of heading to Bulgaria.
“I had a lot of friends in Odessa, but now my best friend is in Germany. But it’s a good idea to go to Bulgaria, because our Black Sea is there. There we’ll be close to Ukraine,” says Maryanna.
Eugene, Vitaly and their children were at hospital in Kharkiv when the bombings started. They were in the hospital because 10-month-old Ivor needs a heart operation. Now Ivor is in his father’s arms and cries out frequently.
Forced to leave the hospital in Kharkiv due to the increasingly intense bombings, their journey to Lviv took more than 24 hours. They came by train; children were sleeping at railway stations and on the floor of the train, they did not have anything to eat.
Phase 2 – sheltering
With fighting ongoing in the east with no sign of an end, Ukrainians often opt to shelter in the relative peace of the west. Locals open their homes and schools to their fellow countrymen, many volunteering long hours to welcome people, feed them, and make sure they have a safe, warm place to stay.
FCA SUPPORTS operations in Berehove and Lviv, the largest city in western Ukraine, providing temporary shelters for those who want to stay as well as continuing to help people on their onward journeys. Meanwhile, children are still not attending school, although some teachers are trying to provide remote learning opportunities.
The IOM estimates that there are around 8 million displaced people within Ukraine with humanitarian needs.
Larysa, her husband, daughter and the cat Bella escaped from Kharkiv on March 1, 2022. Before fleeing, they spent four nights in the basement to escape the bombing raids.
“Everyone wanted to travel out of Kharkiv. There were a lot of people at the train station. The train ride was free of charge, but getting on the train was difficult because of the crowds,” Larysa says.
Larysa has cancer. She received treatment in Kharkiv, but the hospital was destroyed in the bombings. She hopes to get treatment for her illness in Hungary. Now Larysa and her family are staying in a refugee shelter in Berehove, western Ukraine.
“We are happy to have a place to sleep where it’s warm. We get food three times a day, we can wash and do our laundry, because there is also a washing machine here.”
Two weeks later FCA visited the same shelter and heard that Larysa was finally getting treatment in a Ukrainian hospital in the west of the country.
When Russia attacked Ukraine, English teacher Erika Pavliuksent her students home and started volunteering at the refugee shelter set up at the school.
She also provides her students with online lessons. Some of them stay at home, as their school is full of refugees, but some have also fled. Erika is visibly moved when talking about her students.
“They’re teenagers. We have our ups and downs, but we can always find a solution to our difficulties. I love them.”
Erika takes a deep breath and looks around in her own empty classroom, as we ask about her hopes for the future.
“To be able to teach normal classes. I want to write on that blackboard and…,” she hesitates for a moment and starts laughing tiredly, “…yell at my students for not having done their homework.”
Ivonna Kobypyavska manages a kitchen at a refugee shelter set up in a school. She’s worked in the same kitchen for 27 years already, but now she’s feeding refugees instead of school children.
Ivonna’s son went to fight in Kyiv, so she wanted to do something useful; hence, she continued to work in the kitchen without pay.
Ivonna volunteers from 6am to 11pm in the shelter in Berehove, western Ukraine, cooking 400 meals a day in a school kitchen designed for 40 kids.
“It’s not a big deal,” she shrugs. “Routine, routine…”
A warm welcome
In the outskirts of Lviv, Viktoria (14), Maria (9) and Ivan (3) have just arrived at a shelter with mother Katerina and grandmother Svetlana.
Maria will have her 9th birthday in two days. The family left their hometown of Malyn because of the war. When the war started, the family waited, thinking it might finish soon. But when they started to hear bombs, they packed their bags and left their home.
The family was told that there were buses that could take them to Lviv and Poland. However, they did not want to cross the border to Poland and decided to stay in Lviv instead.
“We are incredibly happy and thankful to be here. We were welcomed in the shelter,” says Katerina.
They left the rest of the family behind, so they want to get back to their home as soon as possible. Both Katerina’s and Svetlana’s husbands are fighting in the war.
8 million displaced people
within Ukraine with humanitarian needs.
676 metric tons
of assistance delivered by summer 2022.
reached by our operations.
A sports hall serves as a temporary community shelter for displaced people in Lviv, Ukraine. Photo: Melany Markham/FCA
Phase 3 – coming back
While fighting continues in the south and east of the country, some places are safe enough to return. Many buildings are destroyed and electricity is unstable. The threat of air raids still looms. FCA’s operations evolve into the next stage – bringing teachers and children back to school and restoring a sense of normality after a long period of upheaval and trauma. With EU funding, we lead a €14 million consortium to restore formal education to 45,299 children.
“I see there’s a gap in understanding how to approach certain categories of people and provide them with qualified psychosocial support.
Now, a large number of citizens from other regions are coming to stay in Chernihiv, while at the same time, the city is doing its best to get back to the normal state of things.”
Oleh Halepa, Psychologist-Volunteer at Chernihiv Joint Volunteer Center. Photo: Iryna Dasiuk / FCA
Oleh participated in FCA supported psychosocial support training to be able to support traumatised children.
“The coach impressed me a lot. He’s a very active, vivid person. The amount, structure and style of presentation of the information that we’ve learned during the training is something worth learning to apply in our future work.”
A taste of normality
In the summer of 2022, FCA organises several summer clubs for children, where they could play together and take part in activities. For kids and parents, it’s a small taste of normality.
Tanya Slautina and her husband Andzey are from Chernihiv where 60 per cent of the city’s 285,000 inhabitants fled to other parts of Ukraine.
“War has touched every aspect of our lives. The worst months in Chernihiv we were isolated in our home. Fear, explosions and panic were our daily companions. Fortunately our children did not see anyone dying, but they were quiet and sullen. All we could think about was survival.
Our home is OK, but others were not so lucky. We organised a collection of clothes and other necessary items to help other families. Before the attack I worked as a bank clerk, but I left my job to be able to help my children and our community. The stress and fear brought us closer together.
We all need help with our children, and the summer clubs are a huge relief for us parents, too. Our children Anastasiya, 6, Valeziya, 10, and Maksim, 12, have been going to FCA’s summer clubs for six weeks.”
“The best thing about summer clubs was seeing my classmates and friends. Nothing has been completely normal for a long time. First we had to study at home a lot because of the coronavirus pandemic, and then the war began.”
“During the attacks, we just wanted to go somewhere and hide. I’ve noticed that I feel much better now that we do things together. Working together and talking with others about how we feel and what we think has been extremely helpful.”
Sophia (14), FCA summer club participant.
Teachers play an important role
FCA’s education response for Ukraine emphasises teacher training and support. Without quality teachers, there is no quality education.
In a context like Ukraine, where war is ongoing, teachers need special training and mentoring to be able to assist their students, but also to cope with their own needs.
“Many have lost trust in the world”
Zhanna Kudina is a psychologist and teacher in Chernihiv.
“The war has caused a great deal of stress in children and young people. Some have had to endure exhausting journeys to escape, others have lost loved ones or seen things children should never have to see. The most typical symptoms include lack of appetite, sleep disorders and difficulty concentrating.
In summer clubs, we have used various therapeutic tools, such as arts and crafts. At first, drawings were very dark-coloured, with soldiers, guns and missiles. Over the weeks, more colour, sunshine and flowers began to appear. Many have lost trust in the world, and with the clubs we try to provide them with a place where they can feel safe.
As a psychologist, I know that support should be offered urgently after a traumatic event. The longer children and young people have to wait, the more difficult it becomes to deal with the mental scars. But I am hopeful, because I am here now, doing something for them, and because we have received a huge amount of support from Finn Church Aid. We are deeply grateful for that.”
Psychosocial support to 4,590 children
FCA leads a project to provide children with psychosocial support services.
Training for 905 teachers
to provide specialist support to children suffering from trauma.
participated and benefitted from FCA’s summer club activities.
Phase 4 – preparing for the winter
The war enters a new phase, where attacks on critical infrastructure are common. The lack of heating makes learning in schools already difficult, and that’s coupled with the almost daily air raid alerts.
THE FREQUENT power cuts also make it hard for students to learn remotely, either at home or in different cities. FCA and partners respond by providing winterisation kits to families and starting work to make mandatory bomb shelters in schools suitable to continue learning in, even during an air raid alert.
We went back to see Ruslana, a teacher in Chernihiv, Ukraine who received psychosocial training from us during the summer.
“Everyday is a challenge. The war has had an influence on every aspect of our lives, our daily routines. Now we are planning how we could organize the teaching in shelters as we spend quite a lot of time there depending on the week.”
Children seem to be quite flexible when it comes to psychosocial wellbeing. However, you never know what triggers them. It might be an air raid, the sound of a siren. Some of them start crying. Some of them just stay still. Of course, some of the students stay positive, but some of them are really pessimistic and in despair.
The new methods and psychosocial support skills we learnt have supported us during this autumn. Many of our teachers are using those methods on a regular basis here at school.”
“This has been a life lesson”
We also revisit Zhanna, who explains that, after so many months of war, she and her colleagues are doing their best to overcome the anxiety syndrome and stress many children are currently experiencing.
According to Zhanna, approximately 30 % of students show signs of stress syndrome. They show symptoms like anxiety, loss of appetite, bad sleeping, and screaming while having nightmares.
She explains that during the Russian military presence in the region, three students of her school lost their lives. Some students experienced violence and oppression.
One of the school shelters has been organized as a psychosocial hub for children. It is a safe place where children participate for example in art therapy and learn relaxing breathing techniques.
When asked about her thoughts on the future, Kudina says that she hopes for the best and peace. “This all has been a kind of a lesson to us by life. It has developed our survival skills, the skills with which we can live this over. We should somehow try to program ourselves for the best. Positive thinking will bring a positive future.”
Power outages or “blackouts” are frequent in Chernihiv and across Ukraine. Sometimes cities only have a few hours of electricity a day.
FCA supports the installation of generators in schools to cope with the loss of electricity.
Children spend Christmas without their fathers
Many families will spend this year with fathers, brothers and uncles at the frontline or never coming back from the war. FCA supports 71 children in Chernihiv with Christmas gifts and activities.
Oleh (11) and Polina (13) both lost their fathers in the war. Both students are learning online, despite power cuts.
Says Polina, “I love drawing and have been doing arts for eight years. I like online learning, because it’s safer and the teacher can give you specific attention.”
“My family is the best family in the world. We have some Christmas traditions, such as decorating the Christmas tree on the 24th of December. This year it will just be me, my mother, grandmother and my brother.”
Schools, as well as hospitals and critical infrastructure have all suffered intense damage. For Ukraine’s young people, it’s been a disorientating and distressing year.
Since September 2022, the 1,200 students of Lyceum Number 25 in Zhytomyr have been studying in temporary learning spaces.
Kateryna Tkachenko is a 9th grader at Lyceum Number 25 in Zhytomyr, Ukraine. The school was destroyed by a missile strike on March 4, 2022.
“In spring 2022, we had to take a two-month study break, and then we continued with online lessons. I felt so lucky when I was able to start my 9th grade offline. I prefer offline learning because of better communication.”
“The war has caused a lot of problems in Ukraine. Thanks to my parents, friends and teacher, I have coped with all challenges. I miss everything in my destroyed school: the building, classrooms and atmosphere. It was very important to me.
I want to finish school with excellent grades and go to university. I want to travel the world and have a good life.”
3,098 education institutions
have suffered bombing, FCA will support the rehabilitation of 147 schools.
in Chernihiv supported by FCA in 2022 with Christmas gifts and activities.
31,100 learner kits
will be distributed to children in need in the project locations.
Phase 5 – looking to the future
As the country reaches one year at war, Ukraine’s children must return to school. FCA leads a multi-million euro set of programmes to make sure teachers and students have everything they need to learn safely, in comfort and flexibly.
The New Year’s celebrations at this family’s house are a moment of joy. Mother Oksana was injured in a rocket attack at the start of the war and daughter, Maria, is still shaken by witnessing her mother’s plight.
15 year old Kyryl plays chess with his father, Mykola, who is home from the war during New Year.
In Ukraine, the new year is celebrated by children going door to door and singing for candy.
The New Year brings families back together
In Ukraine, the New Year is celebrated between the 13th and 14th of January. Many families celebrate, with some male family members being able to return for a few days to join their families.
After months of online learning, often interrupted by power outages, children have the chance to come back to the classroom.
With EU-funded FCA support, schools are rehabilitated with improved facilities, like reinforced windows and specially equipped bomb shelters, where kids can continue learning even during air raid alerts.
FCA also works to develop school curriculums, in order to make learning as flexible as possible, so that children can have access to education wherever they are.
School number 21 was completely demolished during the fighting in Chernihiv, Ukraine in spring 2022.
FCA works with rehabilitating schools and arranging temporary learning spaces.
”I do not like to learn from home. The best thing at school is to spend time with my friends”, says Daryna Khomenko.
Daryna is now excited to return to the classroom after the rehabilitation of her school has been finalised in early 2023. She’s also received learning materials through the project funded by EU Humanitarian Aid (ECHO).
Ukrainians join FCA Staff
There are now over 20 professionals working in FCA’s Ukraine country office and most of them are locals like Marianna Zhurbenko.
Marianna remembers how on February 24, 2022 she stared in disbelief at the sky from the window of her own home in Gostomel, west of Kyiv.
Helicopters buzzed in the sky and the phone rang non-stop. Friends called in distress and told Marianna and her family to flee. The war had started suddenly, and the front line was only 500 meters from Marianna’s home.
In the evening, the uproar of artillery fire began, and that’s when Marianna and her husband decided to leave. They packed the family’s 9-year-old son, a six-month-old baby and a dog into the car and set off first for Kiev and then for western Ukraine. Marianna and the boys lived there for the next months.
Marianna stayed awake a lot and listened to her elder son’s crying at night. Fortunately, the youngest didn’t understand anything about the situation.
“Random families took us in to live with them. We tried to offer them payment for the water and electricity we used, but they refused to accept it,” says Marianna and describes how the war has united Ukrainians. She would also open the door to foreign families if such a situation came up again.
“The war has changed my own values. I realized that material don’t matter. Life, health, family relationships and love became important values for me.”
In May, it became clear that although her former workplace had not been destroyed in the war, all the workers had fled elsewhere and were not going to return.
In June 2022, Marianna started as a logistics coordinator at Finn Church Aid. She is responsible for procurement and that supplies going to FCA-supported schools find their destination.
“I was an IDP, and I know how people feel. I love being able to help children. I like myself doing this job,” says Marianna.
Kyiv, Chernihiv and Zhytomyr.
operations and support.
Head office in Kyiv, field office in Chernihiv.
Learning continues in bomb shelters
Nowadays, a functioning Ukrainian school must have a functioning bomb shelter, because there can sometimes be several air raid alerts per day.
FCA equips school bomb shelters so that everyday life can continue in them as normally as possible even during an air raid alert.
FCA will stay in Ukraine, providing quality education for all through curriculum development, training and reconstruction.
“There are a lot of challenges in Ukraine, but FCA with its Ukrainian partners sees that education is a real investment in the future. It’s not always something that you can see immediately. You know, if somebody is hungry and you give them food, you can see immediately that the need is satisfied, but education is more of a long-term investment.”
“We have students who need some hope for the future. And without the ability to learn and to create opportunities for themselves in terms of future learning, future employment, all those other basic needs are not enough.”
FCA Ukraine Country Director, Patricia Maruschak
The future of children and youth cannot be put on hold
Although fighting continues, children can’t wait to go back to school.
Quality education is a super power, which stems from a genuine desire to build a better life and to help others do the same.
The right to quality education is an essential requirement if we want to reduce poverty and create jobs, achieve economic growth, equality and stable democracies, and combat climate change. Once you have an education, no war or crisis can take it away. It is therefore essential that we invest in education that is accessible to all children and young people – including girls and young women, and vulnerable children and youth, especially those with disabilities.
For children living in areas affected by conflict, crisis and disasters, schools offer a safe environment. 222 million children and young people living in areas affected by crisis need support for education.
We believe that the very fact that access to education is one of the priorities of many countries’ development cooperation programmes – including that of our country of origin, Finland – it should be more strongly reflected in the allocation of humanitarian assistance.
Education must adapt to a changing world
Education is increasingly important in an ever-changing world. It provides people with the knowledge and skills they need to better adapt to new environmental demands and to solve new problems. Similarly, education plays a key role in instilling democracy, human rights and sustainable development. In most parts of world, climate change is currently not even mentioned in the curriculum.
In African countries, some 10-12 million young people enter the labour market every year, but only three million new jobs are created. Vocational education and training or entrepreneurship training remains on the sidelines in many developing countries. There is a significant mismatch between young people’s skills and employers’ needs.
In order to improve access to quality education, more attention should be paid to teacher training and the well-being of teachers. Sadly, however, teachers are rarely consulted when efforts are made to create better education and training programmes.
Vocational education and training must also evolve
Increasingly, jobs are being created in sectors for which vocational training is non-existent or insufficient, such as creative industries, digital transformation and the green transition.
FCA, as a longstanding expert in the education field, has much to offer in several areas, including vocational education and training, investment in new industries, and teacher skills and competence development. Our roots in Finland and the high regard Finnish education standards are held reflect that expertise. Finland’s educational expertise and its school system have gained recognition worldwide. Education is a priority in Finland’s development policy, and there is a broad consensus among Finns that support for education is essential. We know that to achieve the best results, it is important to bring together civil society organisations, the private sector and public sector organisations.
We know that to achieve the best results, it is important to bring together civil society organisations, the private sector and public sector organisations.
At FCA we pioneer vocational training in the creative industries and circular economy livelihoods. We are urging governments, including Finland’s, to invest more in technical and vocational education and training, especially those that offer youth a chance to earn while they learn.
Our vision for quality education
We want to push forward the role of education and training in development cooperation with updated strategies to focus on youth and digital and green economies.
Many organisations focus on primary school aged children, which is essential, but we want to ensure access to quality education to all and that means supporting youth and adults as well.
Quality education won’t happen without properly trained teachers. We also want to focus on teacher skills, competence development and support for teachers’ work. These are areas that are currently unaddressed in international education cooperation and where FCA and Finland has something to offer.
Each year, we supported between 245,000 and 350,000 children and young people to go to school.
With the help of our support, a total of 2,700 disabled children accessed education or continued their schooling.
In addition, we invested significantly in the development of inclusive education as part of teacher training in several program countries.
We trained nearly 20,000 local teachers around the world in our countries of operation.
Through long-term advocacy work, career counselling was included in Cambodia’s national education strategy. FCA trained the first study counselors in the country.
In 2022, we supported education in Ukraine amid crisis caused by the ongoing war. We trained teachers to provide psychosocial support to children and organised summer activities for around 6,000 children in the Chernihiv region, a part of Ukraine that was shortly occupied by Russia at the start of the war.
Repairing schools in the midst of war is useless, isn’t it? FCA’s education specialist Pauliina Kemppainen responds to 13 tough claims.
In front of 200 first graders in Uganda, Pauliina Kemppainen understands that it’s not always possible to complain about class size. Now, the senior education expert answers a numbers of comments that pop up on FCA’s social media. This is how Kemppainen survived on the spot.
“All children should be in school”
You’ve previously worked as a teacher, volunteered for Teachers Without Borders, and have plenty of international experience in education. You think the best thing in the world is children getting to go to school. Absolutely. Children have the right to go to school everywhere in the world, regardless of their background.
“Teachers carry a great responsibility”
Finn Church Aid trains teachers. That’s important, because teachers are raising a new generation. Most kids and young people attending education spend more time at school and with the adults at school than with their parents. The more competent and better educated the teachers are, the better their opportunities are to support the kids and adolescents they spend their days with.
“Best way to help children in developing countries is to donate notebooks and pens”
The best way to help school children is to provide schools with materials such as notebooks, pencil cases, and ABC books. The materials are a part of school, but ABC books and pencils don’t do much teaching without a trained teacher. If I had to choose between a teacher and a pencil, I’d go for a teacher every time.
“Building schools in war zones is a waste of money”
Finn Church Aid repairs schools in conflict zones. That’s not very smart, because war can damage the schools again. We use fields to grow the grain we eat. Is it smart to grow grain again? I’d say it is. Similarly, there’s a reason to repair the schools, because there will always be new children and young people who need a school to support their growth and development.
“Why only girls’ education gets support?”
At least in Finland boys are doing worse at school than girls. It’s odd that Finn Church Aid focuses so strongly on girls’ education. We focus on everyone’s education. It’s just as important for boys and men to go to school as it for is girls and women. However, girls are in a weaker position than boys to start with: their education is still obstructed in various places. In order to reach the same starting point as boys, girls need an extra boost, which we are trying to give them without hindering boys’ opportunities.
“There are children in need in Finland, too”
Why are you training people abroad? There are plenty of children and young people in Finland who need support in school. Each and every Finnish child and adolescent has the right to go to school just like children and young people in Central African Republic, Kenya, and Myanmar. In Finland, there are resources and opportunities for education even without Finn Church Aid.
“Education gets wasted if people live in mudhuts”
It makes no sense to train people living in mudhuts without a livelihood. The basics should be sorted out first. Whether the person wakes up in the morning in a house made of mud, brick, or wood has nothing to do with how skilled they are or how productive they are for society. Education is a human right and the first basic thing that needs to be fixed. Hence, we at Finn Church Aid invest in vocational training in the fields that are in demand in our regions of operation.
“Those educated with development aid never get a job”
Development co-operation is only used to train mechanics, carpenters, and hairdressers. Some of them will never be employed. Planning vocational training always begins with a market analysis, so we can outline the fields of expertise that are required locally. If the region really needs more carpenters, we’ll train carpenters – but just as many as are needed. We won’t train a thousand, if there is only need for ten. In addition to traditional professions, there is also demand for digital-based professions such as graphic designers, photographers, and web designers, which are part of today’s world but also the future.
“The use of cash distributions should be strictly decided by aid organisations”
FCA has distributed cash allowances to families. Cash is important, and it can be used to cover expenses like school transport. Cash allowances are an important form of aid, because they give families the opportunity the decide what to spend the money on. It’s part of a humane life to be able to make decisions as to how to use one’s money and be an active agent instead of a passive aid recipient.
“Wrong things are taught in schools in the developing countries”
In many schools supported by FCA the only point for education is to study the Quran or the Bible. We don’t do missionary work. We always try and co-operate with local education authorities, if it’s ethically possible and in line with international law. If we were to build a parallel education system, it would collapse after we leave. If the local curriculum contains lessons of Quran or, for example, a Buddhist faith, it’s our responsibility to enable teaching them in school. We have no right to decide what religions are taught.
“Education is important to children living in the middle of conflicts”
Education plays a significant role in rebuilding Syria and Ukraine, for example. Yes. Education is a human right, whatever the surrounding situation is. It’s not the fault of the children and young people if there’s a war raging around them. Education and going to school are important not only from an educational perspective but also for providing psychological support. Going back to school creates and re-establishes routines, brings back memories from life before war, and adds meaning to the day by offering something meaningful to do. Through vocational education we can train people in professions that are especially needed in reconstruction.
“It’s more safe to stay home in the developing countries”
Many children in developing countries must travel long and unsafe distances to attend school. It would be safer to stay home. Things can happen during school journeys – in Finland, too. Do we still choose not to send our children to school, or do we try to improve the safety of the route? People everywhere in the world think the same and aim to ensure the safety of their children’s schooling. With the help of education, people learn to read and write, which helps them be better off in the world.
Again and again, studies show that the most efficient way for families to rise from poverty is educating women. In comparison to uneducated women, educated women are more likely to send their children to school. Yes, there are risks, but are they big enough to make education not worth it?
“Finns can’t learn anything from the developing countries”
The Finnish education system is so superior in comparison to others that there’s nothing we can learn from anyone else. That’s a bold statement! Are we Finns overall so superior next to others that there are no lessons we could learn from anyone? Have we, completely on our own, created the large school reforms that form the basis of our success? Or have we maybe learned something from somewhere in order to be able to make these changes? I spent a year in Uganda as a volunteer for Teachers Without Borders. I had been trained in Finland, and I was shocked. Previously I had complained about having 24 kids in class, but in a refugee centre in Uganda, teachers had up to 200 first graders in a classroom. I had to rethink teaching entirely. For me, it was a huge learning process.
Open letter: European Commission leadership on Education in Emergencies and support towards Education Cannot Wait
222 million children’s dreams are on hold due to preventable factors like the climate crisis, war, forced displacement, and conflict. Education Cannot Wait works to provide access to education to the world’s most vulnerable children, from Yemen to Afghanistan. With an increasing number of children affected by conflict and crisis, they need support from world leaders more than ever.
Dear President von der Leyen, dear Commissioner Urpilainen,
Thank you for your leadership on global education, and for the strong support you have given thus far to Education Cannot Wait (ECW) – the United Nations-hosted global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises – since its establishment in 2016.
Early next year, ECW will hold a High-level Financing Conference (HLFC) in Geneva, from February 16-17, 2023. The Conference, co-hosted by ECW and Switzerland, will be co-convened with Colombia, Germany, Niger, Norway, and South Sudan, with the aim of mobilizing $1.5 billion in funding to allow ECW to deliver its Strategic Plan for the period 2023-2026.
The conference comes at a time when urgent support for education in emergencies is needed, more so now than ever before. Growing humanitarian needs are depriving children of their right to an education. ECW’s latest research shows that 222 million children and adolescents affected by emergencies and protracted crises are in urgent need of education support, up from 75 million since similar estimates in 2015.
In Ukraine, the Sahel, Afghanistan, the Middle East and many other places around the world, young people are denied education because of conflict, climate change and forced displacement. A generation of young people are at risk of being left behind, either missing out on education completely or not learning the basic skills needed to develop and help build peaceful, prosperous, and healthy countries. This is particularly true for the most vulnerable children such as children with disabilities.
The European Commission has been an education champion, even more so under the current mandate: a driving force for other players globally. The Commission has been a fundamental donor to ECW from its inception and its continued, multi-year support will be absolutely critical to ensure ECW can meet its 2023-2026 Strategic Plan goal to provide education to 20 million children and youth in crises.
We therefore call on you to pledge at least EUR 160 million for the period 2023-2026 at theHLFC next February. This funding will directly support over 2 million children and youth affected by crises to receive an education and will bring the EU closer to achieving its target of investing 13% of its development budget in education, as announced at the 2022 Transforming Education Summit. A pledge of this value will also help ensure that by 2026, 40 million more girls will be in school, in line with the 2021 G7 Ministerial Declaration on girls’ education and the EU’s Gender Action Plan III. It will also ensure that the EU delivers on the priorities of its Youth Action Plan in EU external action 2022 – 2027, which explicitly mentions the EU’s intention of leading the support to ECW.
Due to the limited resources available in the NDICI – Global Europe’s Global Challenges lines, the European Commission should draw mainly from the unspent funds initially allocated under the Geographic Windows to fund this pledge. This support would be well justified given the majority of the new country Multiannual Indicative Programmes have education components.
Strong EU leadership is sorely needed at this critical time and will incentivise other donors to address the financing gap and enable ECW to carry out its vital work. We would welcome the opportunity to meet with your team to discuss the above opportunities and how they can be used to advance our shared goal of realizing the dreams of the 222 million children affected by crises, and in need of educational support.
Michael Sheldrick, Co-Founder & Chief Policy, Impact and Government Affairs Officer, Global Citizen
Sabrina Dhowre Elba, Europe Board Chair, Global Citizen
Ylva Sperling, Director, Save the Children Europe
Tomi Järvinen, Interim Executive Director, Finn Church Aid
Joseph Nhan-O’Reilly, Executive Director, International Parliamentary Network for Education
Jeroen Uytterschaut, Executive Director & EU Representative, World Vision EU Representation Office
Philippa Lei, Chief Global Advocacy Officer, Malala Fund
Serap Altinisik, Head of Office/EU Representative, Plan International EU Liaison Office
Emily Wigens, EU Director, The ONE Campaign
Irina Popusoi, Secretary General, The Alliance of Active NGOs in the field of Child and Family Social Protection (APSCF)
Blandine Bouniol, Deputy Director for Advocacy, Humanity & Inclusion
Isabella Olsson, Head of Global Advocacy, LM International
Emanuele Russo, Coordinator of Global Campaign for Education Italy and Global Citizenship Education Head Officer, CIFA Onlus
Pilar Orenes, President of Global Campaign for Education Spain
Girls in class boost boys’ grades in a Syrian school
Although the crisis in Syria has disappeared from headlines in recent years, the need for help remains extensive. A boys’ school supported by Finn Church Aid opened its doors to girls in the countryside of Hama. The new set-up was a challenge to the pupils, teachers, and families alike, but the efforts have been rewarded.
THE JOYFUL NOISE is deafening. In the countryside of Hama in western Syria, around 30 girls and boys between the ages of 11 and 14 have packed into a tiny classroom.
The situation might seem ordinary, but in today’s Syria, it’s a rare one. The war has dragged on for almost 12 years, and during its course, girls and boys have gone to separate schools. School directors assure that this hasn’t always been the case; before the war, girls and boys sat in the same classes. During the war, rules and practices became stricter.
Together with the EU humanitarian aid, Finn Church Aid supports a former boy’s school that has taken on girls in 2022. FCA support refurbished the school and provided teacher training. 380 girls took part in remedial lessons organised in the summer, and now there are approximately two dozen girls in the school of 400 students.
The school staff say that the reforms has filled the classrooms with cheerful energy and positive competition. A teacher and two students share their experiences of life in wartime and how the school experiment that brought girls and boys in the same classrooms has broken the ice in the community.
“Now I even have boys as friends”
“My family didn’t flee; we stayed in this region throughout the conflict. In 2018–2019, we spent a year sheltering below our house, for about 20 hours a day. I was 11 years old, and I was afraid when I heard helicopters, missiles, or shells. One of them hit our house, and my brother blacked out. We had no water or electricity. My father had a small store, and we emptied it in a year.
My girls’ school was closed that year. Once my father tried to take me to a school in another district, but that didn’t work out. Everyone was scared, and there weren’t any teachers. We dropped education for that year.
I think my situation is better now than it was before. The atmosphere in the mixed school is happy. Previously, when I was attending an all-girls school, it was difficult for me to talk to boys. Now I even have boys as friends. My school friends Ahmad, Muhammad, Ali, and others are part of our group of friends. I used to just be friends with the boys in my family.
Initially my family was concerned that the boys in school would harm me. However, this experience has strengthened the relationship I have with my family. They trust me, and they think that their daughter can go to a boys’ school and look after herself.
What do I think about girls’ education? Education is my right. Studying, working, and travelling are women’s rights. We have exactly the same rights as men. Our place isn’t just at home. I hope to become a doctor or an engineer.” – Student Foton, 14
“I suppose they are strong women in a way”
“My family and I left our home, when the battles in our region were really intense. We fled and took nothing with us. Throughout the entire conflict I was really scared because of the shells and missiles. I still have anxiety thinking someone might attack us.
Finn Church Aid organised revision lessons in our school. The sounds of the war have been playing in my head for a long time, but the activities gave me something else to think about and helped me forget about the horrors.
This is my school, and it used to be just us boys here. We were all somehow similar. Now we boys want to prove that we’re smarter than girls. We compete for good grades in front of the teachers. We try to be polite and respectful towards the girls. Things can often get tough among the boys, but now there are girls in the classroom, too.
During this experiment, we boys have gained more self-confidence. I’m used to thinking that girls are shy. When they came to our school, I noticed that girls are confident. I suppose they are strong women in a way.
I don’t mind continuing like this at all, studying together with girls. I have to admit that it hasn’t been very easy. I sometimes feel a little shy and think that it would be better if they went back to their own school. But would I really want that? No, no, no! They boost study motivation for us boys. – Student Turki, 13
“Now girls and boys are classmates, friends, and colleagues”
“A lot has changed in Syria during the war. In many respects, rules have been forgotten, and sometimes groups of people don’t respect each other. During the war years, we have lost plenty of opportunities and been left behind in global development.
We have to fix our ways of thinking in terms of gender issues as well, because we must be able to accept each other. It’s important to start driving the change here at school. Why? As a teacher I want to think that all of my students will move on to university studies. At university, women and men study together. That will be difficult, if these young people have never done anything together before.
It’s great to have girls in this school. Unlike before, now we have activities and teaching that bring boys and girls together. I’ve noticed that after the initial awkwardness they’ve started talking to each other. They treat each other normally: sit and learn next to each other, without having to constantly interpret the situation. Now they are classmates, friends, and colleagues to each other. The ice has somehow been broken.
Girls tend to do better in school than boys but, bringing girls in the former all boys’ school has showed boys are now improving their grades. FCA support refurbished the school in Hama, western part of Syria, and provided teacher training. 380 girls took part in remedial lessons organised in the summer, and now there are approximately two dozen girls in the school of 400 students. Photo: Erik Nyström / FCA
As an English teacher I must say that the reform has had its share of challenges. The girls who joined the school hadn’t really studied English before, and I’ve had to revise everything from the beginning.
Ultimately, this situation has been really useful. Based on my experience, girls tend to do better in school than boys. A new situation, in which the girls and boys take the same classes, creates positive competition between the students. The boys have improved their grades and overall performance.
Education plays a significant role when we plan a future for Syria. Children spend more time in school than at home, and a teacher is like an extra parent to a child. Everything starts at school: we can impact the child’s ways of thinking, help them develop their skills, and thus also have an impact on the direction Syria takes and how reconstruction proceeds.” – Teacher Najah Kasem
Text: Ulriikka Myöhänen Translation: Anne Salomäki Photos: Erik Nyström
Peer support vital for children and young people in a crisis
Summer clubs organised by Finn Church Aid gave war-affected Ukrainian children and young people a chance to go to school, play games and sports, and do arts and crafts.
IN UKRAINE, two very different realities coexist. On the pavement, pedestrians are nearly knocked over by electric scooters swooshing by, as in any European city. Children in the park are engaged in boisterous play. Adults seem to be in a hurry, perhaps on their way to work.
At first glance, nothing in central Chernihiv suggests that just months earlier, 60 per cent of the city’s 285,000 inhabitants fled to other parts of Ukraine and neighbouring countries. But things change in an instant as you go around a corner and see a neighbourhood hit by missiles.
The town of Chernihiv and the surrounding municipality in northern Ukraine have been under heavy air strikes since the offensive was launched on 24 February. In April, after the Russian troops withdrew, residents started to return. Today, almost 200,000 people live in Chernihiv.
The war closed schools, too. After the situation returned to normal, teachers did their best to make up for lost time to allow children and young people to move on to the next grade. The summer clubs organised by Finn Church Aid and its partner organisation DOCCU finally gave school children a much-awaited opportunity to have fun together.
Below, local people share their thoughts on how the summer clubs changed their daily lives.
The war has caused a great deal of stress in children and young people
Zhanna Kudina, psychologist and teacher
“I escaped from Chernihiv three weeks after the war broke out. I travelled via Lviv to the Czech Republic, where I stayed for about a month. When I heard that the situation in Chernihiv was better, I felt I had to go back. I feel very strongly that this is my home and the schoolchildren need me.
The war changed the teachers’ work dramatically. We are not just teachers anymore; we also provide therapy. I took part in a teacher training course organised by Finn Church Aid in June. During the course, we learned about mental health and psychosocial support. Although I have a background in psychology, I learned many new things about how different games and exercises can support children’s wellbeing in a crisis.
The war has caused a great deal of stress in children and young people, who react differently depending on their experiences over the last few months. Some have had to endure exhausting journeys to escape, others have lost loved ones or seen things children should never have to see. The most typical symptoms include lack of appetite, sleep disorders and difficulty concentrating.
In summer clubs, we have used various therapeutic tools, such as arts and crafts. At first, drawings were very dark-coloured, with soldiers, guns and missiles. Over the weeks, more colour, sunshine and flowers began to appear. Many have lost trust in the world, and with the clubs we try to provide them a place where they can feel safe. In one of the exercises we do, children are asked to fall backwards and trust their friend to catch them.
As a psychologist, I know that support should be offered urgently after a traumatic event. The longer children and young people have to wait, the more difficult it becomes to deal with the mental scars. But I am hopeful, because I am here now, doing something for them, and because we have received a huge amount of support from Finn Church Aid. We are deeply grateful for that.”
“I feel much better now that we do things together”
Sophia, 14, student
“The best thing about summer clubs was seeing my classmates and friends. Nothing has been completely normal for a long time. First we had to study at home a lot because of the coronavirus pandemic, and then the war began. During the attacks, we just wanted to go somewhere and hide. I’ve noticed that I feel much better now that we do things together. Working together and talking with others about how we feel and what we think has been extremely helpful.
At first I was hesitant about the clubs because I was afraid they would involve traditional lessons where teachers wanted us to get things done. But I was wrong – it’s been really relaxed here and the teachers cheer us up. They organise fun activities for us, and we play ball games. What I liked most was the discussion club, where we played democratic decision-making. We learned how to negotiate and make compromises.
Although life is more normal now, we are still afraid that something bad might happen. Many adults do voluntary work. Like them, we want to do something to make things better. When I’m here in the summer club, I feel like we are doing something for the common good.
Before the war, I had many dreams about what I wanted to do in the future. All I can think about now is that I wish we were at peace. It is difficult to focus on other dreams. Being in the company of other people my age makes it easier to put up with the situation. At home, it was much more difficult.
I hope that instead of distance learning we can soon go to school like we normally do. We just want to be together.”
“The summer clubs were a huge relief for us parents, too”
Tanya Slautina, mother
“War has touched every aspect of our lives. The worst months in Chernihiv we were isolated in our home. Fear, explosions and panic were our daily companions. Fortunately our children did not see anyone dying, but they were quiet and sullen. All we could think about was survival.
Our home is OK, but others were not so lucky. We organised a collection for clothes and other necessary items to help other families. Before the attack I worked as a bank clerk, but I left my job to be able to help my children and our community. The stress and fear brought us closer together.
We all need help with our children, and the summer clubs were a huge relief for us parents, too. Our children Anastasiya, 6, Valeziya, 10, and Maksim, 12, have been going to the summer clubs for six weeks.
Our daughters beam with pride as they show us their drawings and crafts. Our son enjoys sports. For them, having the opportunity to learn new things and become inspired is and will be extremely important. They need to be able to think about something other than the crisis, and spend time with people their own age. Seeing our children happy, playful and smiling again is the most precious thing for us parents. It gives us a strength and keeps us going.”
The summer clubs were organised in cooperation with FCA’s partner organisation DOCCU in July-August 2022. DOCCU is a professional Ukrainian NGO specialized in education and human rights.
Finn Church Aid opens Kyiv office, focusing onrestarting education for children in northern Ukraine
Schools have suffered enormous damage in the ongoing war in Ukraine. Finn Church Aid wants to be among the first organisations to support the return of children to school.
FINN CHURCH AID is entering the next phase of its emergency assistance programme in Ukraine; this includes support for the education sector that has suffered from the war. Work will begin in the city of Chernihiv in northern Ukraine, approximately 150 kilometres northeast of Kyiv. To make this possible, Finn Church Aid is opening an office in the Ukrainian capital.
Jouni Hemberg, Executive Director of Finn Church Aid, was recently on a field visit to Ukraine. He emphasises that Finn Church Aid wants to support the return of Ukrainian children to school.
“The summer holidays are coming soon; the schools have to be repaired now so that children returning to their home districts can get back to their lessons in the autumn,” he explains. “There are currently few education sector players north of Kyiv, so that’s why we’re heading there with our work.”
Russian troops withdrew from the Kyiv area in March/April. After battles, bombings and occupation, the schools in this area are in poor condition. There are unexploded munitions and mines in the area.
“Finn Church Aid’s team visited the area and assessed the condition of the schools there after the occupation and how they are damaged,” Hemberg continues. “Most of the schools have suffered somehow, and most of the ones that are still standing have been vandalised in many ways; even doors and windows have been stolen.”
Schools are important to children living amid war
The bombings have destroyed and damaged schools all over Ukraine. The Chernihiv area has seen missile strikes as recently as May.
“We believe that targeting schools with hostilities is inhumane and prohibited outright by humanitarian law,” says Hemberg emphatically. “Attacking schools means that the rules of war have not been followed, and it is also clear that such acts have a negative impact on the civilian population and the prospects of children and youth.”
Education in humanitarian crises is a central expertise of Finn Church Aid. The organisation leads education work in eleven countries on three continents.
Education in emergencies can be viewed as a life-saving activity. Schools bring routines and a sense of normality to the daily lives of children living amid war or as refugees. Schools can also disseminate vital information, for example, about unexploded mines and munitions; in Ukraine there are large numbers of these, due to the current and past conflicts.
Psychosocial support is also an important part of educational work in the midst of a humanitarian crisis. Finn Church Aid has long experience in this area in all of its programme countries, such as providing essential training to teachers on psychosocial support. Ukraine has many children who will need multi-layered support due to the long-term psychological effects of war, and this will form a key part of Finn Church Aid’s work in the region.
Finn Church Aid continues relief distributions in Ukraine
In addition to working in support of the education sector, Finn Church Aid will continue to provide internally displaced people with emergency aid, together with Hungarian Interchurch Aid, its local partner organisation.
Part of this work has involved the delivery of 662,000 kilograms of aid including food and drink, nappies and other hygiene products. Furthermore, refugee shelters opened in places like schools, nurseries and church premises have been supported with washing machines and kitchen refrigeration appliances.
The relief work began in March on the Hungarian-Ukrainian border and in Lviv. Just recently, aid lorries belonging to Finn Church Aid and Hungarian Interchurch Aid have reached areas in eastern Ukraine as well.
For more information:
Executive Director, Mr. Jouni Hemberg, jouni.hemberg[a]kirkonulkomaanapu.fi, +358 50 325 9579 Communications Manager, Mr. Erik Nyström, erik.nystrom[a]kirkonulkomaanapu.fi, +358 5038 07250,
Photo: A wrecked school pictured in the city of Chernihiv in March. Lehtikuva / AFP
Finn Church Aid expands operation to aid people displaced by war in Ukraine
Finn Church Aid (FCA) announced on Monday that they are scaling up their response to the war in Ukraine by deploying staff in Ukraine and neighbouring countries and expanding their programs beyond immediate aid.
IN RESPONSE to the war, which has forced over three million people to flee Ukraine, FCA announced plans for a multi-country response that includes the deployment of staff to the Ukraine and Hungary. Currently, FCA supports Hungarian Interchurch Aid (HIA) who is assisting people in Hungary, the Transcarpathia region and in Lviv with food, water, hygiene items and life-saving medical equipment.
“Finns have donated generously to our response to aid those who have been affected by the war in Ukraine and we are responding now and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. Our experience serving refugees in other countries, particularly in education, will be invaluable in assisting those inside and outside Ukraine, especially women and children,” says Jouni Hemberg, Executive Director, FCA.
15,254 people have already been assisted by the joint efforts of FCA and HIA by the delivery of seven million euro of life-saving medical equipment to Western Ukraine and 278 metric tons of food and other essential items to a number of locations where displaced people are located. HIA has established reception centres for those who have fled the conflict, both on the Hungary-Ukraine border and in Budapest.
“Some of these people have left their home in ten or twenty minutes – they have left everything behind. Their journey to Lviv and further has taken 24 hours or more. Some of the families have been living in shelters for days, even weeks. Their needs at the moment are acute – they are hungry, thirsty and exhausted,” says Ulriikka Myöhänen, FCA spokesperson, who has visited Lviv and other areas in Ukraine in the past week.
FCA is assessing more partners in countries hosting refugees from Ukraine
Staff from FCA will work in Hungary and Ukraine to support HIA with the management of the response, education in emergencies and communications. FCA is also assessing other partners so that they can expand their operations into other countries that are hosting refugees from Ukraine.
“We pray that peace will come soon but, even if it does, the war has already taken an unimaginable toll on Ukraine and its people. As experts in education, one of the things that we can do is ensure that children continue their education and we aim to find ways to do this for children who have been displaced by this conflict,” says Hemberg.
“All of them worry about the future, how to earn a living and how to get their children to school again,” says Myöhänen.
International Communications Specialist Melany Markham melany.markham[at]kirkonulkomaanapu.fi +45 9194 26709
FCA spokesperson Ulriikka Myöhänen ulriikka.myohanen[a]kirkonulkomaanapu.fi +358 50 576 7948 (on the ground in Ukraine and Hungary)