71 Ukrainian teachers and psychologists honed their skills on how to deal with trauma

“I am already eager to try out all these new techniques in practice” – 71 Ukrainian teachers and psychologists honed their skills on how to deal with trauma

School is an important meeting place where children can get help dealing with issues that weigh on their minds. That’s why we train Ukrainian teachers and school psychologists on psychosocial skills. 

71 TEACHERS and school psychologists received training on mental health and psychosocial skills in the Chernihiv region of northern Ukraine. Finn Church Aid organised the training in cooperation with the local educational authorities.

The trainer was the experienced psychologist, consultant Koen Sevenants. The two-day training included lectures, discussions, role-plays and group work. The goal was to strengthen the readiness of staff working in Ukrainian schools to deal with children and young people who have had to go through traumatic experiences due to the ongoing war. 

“What is valuable here is that we work with a coach who is an understanding person with experience internationally from working with people, particularly children, of different backgrounds who have gone through various traumatic events,” explains psychologist Liudmyla Lozova, who participated in the training. 
The training covered the effects of trauma on children and adults. Trained teachers and school psychologists were introduced to different tools, which they can later use in their own work.

A woman stands in front a blackboard looking to camera
Ukrainian psychologist Liudmyla Lozova participated in the training in Northern Ukraine in June. Photo: Irina Dasyuk.

”The information is conveyed in a manner that’s very easy to perceive. I am already eager to try all these new techniques out in practice,” Lozova continues and says that she has already found similar trainings useful in her own work. 

Psychologist Iryna Lisovetska says that she has been working as a volunteer psychologist ever since conflict started in the Donbass region in 2014. She has already worked with, for example, internally displaced children, soldiers and the families of fallen military personnel. 

”Now, having gone through the war personally, having spent some time under shelling and bombardments, we empathise with those people we are assisting much better. Both adults and children,” Lisovetska reflects. 

She says that she participated in the training because she believes that the new skills will be useful later in her work of responding to the trauma created by the ongoing war.

Missile strikes hit the area during the training 

Education in emergencies is at the core of FCA’s work. Children and young people who live in the middle of conflicts benefit from the continuity and sense of belonging that schools bring to their everyday life.

School is also an important meeting place, where children can find support from adults and seek help in dealing with stressful issues. That is why it is important that school staff – such as teachers and psychologists – have adequate tools to address trauma.  

A woman stands in a classroom looking to camera
Irina Lisovetska has been a volunteer psychologist in Ukraine since 2014. Photo: Irina Dasyuk.

Yannic Georis, FCA’s emergency response manager in Ukraine, who followed the training on site, says that based on the feedback, the participants were very satisfied with the training and its contents. 

“The atmosphere was good, and the feedback was 99 percent positive. We are still going through the feedback, but at first glance the participants seem very satisfied,” he said. 

The invasion of Ukraine began on February 24 and has lasted for more than four months. There are currently no Russian troops in the Chernihiv area, but Russia carried out missile strikes in the area during the training. 
“One participant had to leave the training in tears because her home was on fire. In addition, the home of one local staff member from FCA was damaged in the attack in the nearby Desna area,” Georis describes. 

A man stands in the middle of a circle of women, who are wearing headphones
Psychologist and consult Koen Sevenants held the trianings for participants. The days were full of action, combining discussion, roleplay, and other exercise. Photo: Kuva: Irina Dasyuk.

Finn Church Aid and the city of Chernihiv recently signed a cooperation agreement, thanks to which educational work can continue in the Chernihiv region in northern Ukraine. In the next phase of the education response work, summer activities, such as sports, arts and games, will be organised for up to 15.000 children in the area. For this FCA has ensured that teachers will be trained to also respond to children who have further need of psychosocial support. 

According to Ukrainian estimates, bombings have destroyed and damaged more than 1,800 schools. The students are currently on summer vacation, but classes are supposed to start again in September. 
Text: Ulriikka Myöhänen 
Photos: Irina Dasyuk 


Up to 600,000 children under the age of five are suffering from acute malnutrition in Kenya and Somalia

FCA granted 400,000 euros to assist East Africa suffering from a food shortage — Up to 600,000 children under the age of five are suffering from acute malnutrition in Kenya and Somalia

The worst drought in four decades along with inflation and problems with the availability of imported cereals (accelerated by the war in Ukraine) are causing the food shortage in the Horn of Africa. Within a short time, the price of a grocery shopping basket has risen by 36% in Somalia.

EAST AFRICA has been hit by the worst drought in four decades. The extreme weather caused by climate change has impacted Somalia, the eastern parts of Ethiopia and northern Kenya in particular. These regions have not seen normal seasonal rain for almost two years.

According to the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), up to a quarter (approximately 4.1 million) of the Somali population need urgent humanitarian food aid. By some NGO estimates, this figure is over six million people. In Kenya, more than two million people need food aid. According to estimates by experts, up to 600,000 children under the age of five are suffering from acute malnutrition in Kenya and Somalia. As the drought continues, the humanitarian disaster is expected to grow and spread.

somalinaiset istuvat maassa. Taustalla näkyy teltta.
PHOTO: Mohamed Abdihakim/FCA

Drought is not the only factor affecting the food shortage in Somalia and Kenya; rather, what is at stake is a multiple crisis which has been exacerbated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine as well. As much as 90 per cent of the cereals consumed in Somalia are imported from Ukraine and Russia. Since February, the price of wheat has risen in Somalia by as much as 300 per cent.

In April, Finn Church Aid (FCA) granted 400,000 euros for a humanitarian relief operation in Kenya and Somalia. Now we have started our operation.

Food prices sky-rocketed after the war broke out in Ukraine

Ikali Karvinen is the country Director of FCA Somalia. He has been following very closely the dramatic impact of inflation on the price of food and the effects of drought on the food crisis.

“Because of inflation, the price of food has gone up by 30 per cent,” he says. “The same goes for the price of fuel.”

The price of essential foods like cooking oil, maize, millet, sesame seeds, peas and beans has even doubled in places. Approximately 70 per cent of the Somali population lives below the poverty line, meaning people live on less than two euros a day. As the value of money falls due to inflation, the little money will buy even less of anything: for example, food. Indeed, inflation combined with drought has been estimated to impact the lives of up to six million people in Somalia.

“While the climate crisis is greatly impacting especially East Africa, this particular spring the war in Ukraine is impacting food and energy inflation possibly the most,” says Director Karvinen. “So, here we now have two major crises overlapping each other.”

Somalinainen pitää sylissään vauvaa. Kuvassa myös toinen lapsi.
Food crisis is affecting more than a quarter of Somalia’s population. The children under the age of five are among those most affected. PHOTO: Mohamed Abdihakim/FCA

He continues by saying the nomadic shepherd population in Somalia is currently in a very dire situation. The drought is killing the cattle and along with their cattle, families are losing their livelihoods. The threat for Somalia is that a situation like the 2011 famine will repeat itself.

In response to this humanitarian crisis, FCA began distributing cash aid. This is a fast and humane way of helping which saves on the cost of logistics.

“Cash aid works as long as there are markets, be they shops or marketplaces, where people can buy food and other basic supplies and where money has some value,” Director Karvinen explains.

Great part of Somali people depend on their animals and agriculture. They are in a very vulnerable position in the times of drought. PHOTO: Mohamed Abdihakim/FCA

The falling value of money can become a problem for cash aid distributions, however.

“If inflation continues to rise at this rate, we will face some serious questions,” Director Karvinen continues. “Will it make sense to continue with cash aid or will we be forced to start distributing food at some point?”

Lapsi katsoo äitinsä sylistä Somaliassa. Lapsen ympärillä on äidin vaatetta.
In Somalia, food and cash distributions have been hindered by the security situation. PHOTO: Mohamed Abdihakim/FCA

Food distributions demand logistics

Food distribution demands logistics. In Somalia, the process can be hindered by the security situation which is currently extremely bad according to Director Karvinen. Meanwhile, the coronavirus is also continuing to spread in East Africa.

By mid-summer, the humanitarian operation of FCA will seek to distribute cash aid to the areas most affected by the food shortage; this will include 700 Somali and 600 Kenyan households. The operation aims to reach especially those families who have had to leave their homes due to the disaster and those most threatened by malnutrition. Households that rely on widowed women or children for their subsistence are at the very heart of FCA relief work.

Contact information:

Ikali Karvinen, Country Director for Somalia, ikali.karvinen[a]kirkonulkomaanapu.fi, WhatsApp +358 40 509 8050, tel. +252 617 234 597.

“Most mothers are here alone with their children” — Ukrainian teacher Erika Pavliuk helps refugees staying at the school

“Most mothers are here alone with their children” — Ukrainian teacher Erika Pavliuk already misses her blackboard, but first she helps refugees staying at the school

When Russia attacked Ukraine, English teacher Erika Pavliuk sent her students home and started volunteering at the refugee shelter set up at the school. Pavliuk helps internally displaced people who’ve fled other parts of Ukraine by offering a bed, warmth, and food. 

“I HEARD the news from my husband. He was surfing on the internet and said the words that will always play in my head: our country has been attacked.” 

English teacher Erika Pavliuk sits in her empty classroom in Berehove in eastern Ukraine, near the border with Hungary, and runs over the events of an early Thursday morning. It was 24 February 2022, and Russia had begun a brutal war of aggression against Ukraine. 

Pavliuk says that she, in disbelief, dismissed the news at first. The family members continued with morning routines in uncertainty.  Their 5-year-old daughter was taken to daycare, and unaware of what was really happening, Pavliuk headed to her workplace in the local school. 

In the first class of the day, the teacher was standing in front of her 12-year-old pupils in the classroom. The atmosphere was dreary. 

“I remember a boy sitting in class looking really pale. His nose started to bleed. I told the pupils to put their books aside and decided to just talk about what the children were most worried about. Practically, my pupils were afraid of being killed soon,” Pavliuk recalls. 

After the first class on Thursday, the school received instructions from authorities. Teaching had to be suspended and all pupils were to be sent home. 

“The daycare of my daughter also rang me to say that she must be picked up immediately. As soon as I arrived, the children had already been evacuated from the building. They were waiting for their parents outside, and at that moment nobody knew what would happen next.” 

Working as an English teacher in a school located in the West Ukrainian city Berehove, Erika Pavliuk says that she, in disbelief, dismissed the news about the war at first.

A few of weeks later, we already know a little more about what would happen in the coming months. In March, Russia would carry out missile strikes against the most strategically important targets in western Ukraine as well, but the most destructive battles would take place elsewhere in the country. 

In early April, already four million Ukrainian refugees would have crossed the border to neighbouring countries. On top of this, western Ukraine would receive an immense number of internally displaced people. 

From a teacher to a volunteer 

As the war went on, Pavliuk, her colleagues, and other residents of the small town of Berehove began to understand the situation. Refugees from other parts of Ukraine started to arrive at the school already at the end of February. 

In a matter of days, the entire town of Berehove set out to help those fleeing war. The teachers, school cooks, and other members of staff started volunteering. Pavliuk and her colleagues went through donations, organised things on behalf of refugees arriving at the centre, and helped them with whatever issues they might face. 

The days were long for everyone, and there was no time for days off. Pavliuk says that time went by fast. 

“The energy just came from somewhere. People needed help. I didn’t feel tired during the day, but when I went home, I fell asleep immediately when my head hit the pillow.”

Luokkahuone, jossa on pyykkiteline. Luokkahuone, jossa on pyykkiteline.

The school soon became an important hub, as it was possible to prepare food for large crowds in its big kitchen. In normal times, 300 pupils go to the school. 

“During the first days, some refugees only stayed at the shelter for a few hours, took a shower, and ate something. After that, they continued towards the border. We didn’t know what direction the situation would take,” Pavliuk says. 

The school can accommodate approximately 80 refugees in bunk beds in the rooms previously used by school students. As the fighting dragged on, some of the refugees stayed at the shelter for weeks. Hungarian Interchurch Aid, a partner organisation of Finn Church Aid, provided the kitchen with new refrigeration equipment, numerous food deliveries, and a washing machine for the utility room. 

Fathers stay on the front line 

As a volunteer, Pavliuk has heard stories from various families fleeing fighting, and she feels moved recalling them. Many of those who’ve stayed at the shelter for longer don’t intend to cross the border to Hungary unless they absolutely have to. Many plan on returning home or at least as close to it as possible. Pavliuk understands them. 

“Every morning I wake up feeling thankful for having had a peaceful night here (in western Ukraine). I have grown up here, I was born here, my parents and many generations before them have lived here. I can’t even begin to imagine leaving my home and my town just because some aggressor forces me to do so.” 

Pavliuk deems witnessing the everyday life of mothers and children at the shelter particularly difficult. 

“Most of the mothers are here alone with their children. Normally they live closely together with their husbands, and now the men are in the army. My heart hurts just thinking about them having to look after their children in a place they don’t really know. There are eight people living in each room, and they don’t know these people, even if now they’re slowly getting to know each other.” 

Erika Pavliuk says she misses her students and is hoping to get back to her work as an English teacher as soon as possible.

Pavliuk sees a silver lining in the crisis: she says that the war and the consequential refugee crisis have made people work together in unprecedented ways. Just like Pavliuk, many people living in the border town of Berehove are citizens of two countries and cultures, and cohabitation hasn’t always been easy. 

“I’m Hungarian by nationality, but I’ve lived on the Ukrainian side all my life, so I’m also Ukrainian. There have been disagreements between Hungarians and Ukrainians as well as other minorities in this area. I feel like things are no longer like that.” 

Remote teaching started after pausing for weeks 

Pavliuk says that before the war, people in her school were already looking forward to returning to business as usual after a long pandemic. Due to the war, the state of emergency in the school has continued. Already knowing how to teach and study remotely came in handy in late March, when the pupils in Berehove returned to remote teaching after a three-week break.  

The children at the refugee shelter have been able to sign up for classes in Ukrainian schools in the town or continue studying with their own classes if their schools have been able to provide teaching. The children log in on classes in the computer classroom at the shelter. 

Pavliuk’s Hungarian-speaking pupils stayed at home, as their school was still full of refugees. During the day, Pavliuk works at the shelter, and in the evenings, she prepares her English classes for the following day. She seems moved when she talks about her 12 to 18-year-old students. 

“They’re teenagers. We have our ups and downs, but we can always find a solution to our difficulties. I love them.” 

She already knows that some pupils have fled from Ukraine to Hungary and they won’t be coming back to her classes. Pavliuk takes a deep breath and looks around in her own empty classroom. What is her biggest wish? 

“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.” 

Text: Ulriikka Myöhänen
Photos: Antti Yrjönen

Worst drought in forty years and aid cuts cause hunger for millions in East Africa 

Worst drought in forty years and aid cuts cause hunger for millions in East Africa

The worst drought in forty years is hitting East Africa, pushing many in the region to the brink of famine. Despite the situation, governments across the Europe, including Finland, are cutting funding from development budgets and reallocating it to Ukraine. Tackling one crisis at the cost of another is not a sustainable solution.

IN KENYA, an assessment conducted by Finn Church Aid (FCA) revealed that some main water sources – rivers, boreholes, water pans and shallow wells – have insufficient water for both humans and livestock. Many boreholes are already dry, forcing people to travel over seven kilometers to collect water. Almost one million head of livestock have died in Garissa county in Kenya. 

In Somalia, armed clashes, terrorist attacks, growing prices of food commodities are increasing the hardship caused by the drought.

“Aid actors are afraid that violence is making access to hard-to-reach communities even more limited, even to assess what the needs are, and we fear the worst,” said Ikali Karvinen, FCA Country Director, Somalia. 

Climate change is a man-made crisis

FCA is assisting people in Kenya and Somalia with cash transfers, particularly to families without adult members or those headed by pregnant or lactating mothers, which will allow these people to buy food until the rainy season. However, the World Food Programme reports that 13 million people are facing acute food insecurity and severe water shortages in East Africa.

“This is another man-made crisis, just like Ukraine, except that the cause of the drought is climate change,” said Jouni Hemberg, Executive Director, FCA. “Those of us who still remember the famine in Ethiopia in the ‘80s are haunted by it. This is a similar event across a larger scale, but we have the means to prevent the suffering that the ‘80s famine caused.” 

“I have eight children. This drought has affected my family greatly. There are days we go without eating. Life is tough here. Sometimes the food we get here is rice and beans”, said Fatuma Garane, a widow from Balambala, Garissa County, in Kenya. PHOTO: BRIAN OTIENO/FINN CHURCH AID

While climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of weather events, the funding needed to aid those who suffer is decreasing. Simultaneously, governments in Europe are reallocating funding to Ukraine. In 2017, 10% of development funding from Finland was spent on humanitarian programmes. In 2022, it is anticipated to be only 7% with the Finnish government planning to further slash aid levels for 2023.

Tackling one crisis while increasing instability somewhere else is not a sustainable solution. Concurrently these decisions seriously harm the relations created with developing countries. 

“Developed countries, those who are largely responsible for climate change, must take responsibility for this. We must help those who are suffering because of it,” said Hemberg. 

Contact information:

Executive Director, Mr. Jouni Hemberg, jouni.hemberg[a]kirkonulkomaanapu.fi, tel. +358 50 325 9579

FCA’s Somalia Country Director, Mr. Ikali Karvinen, ikali.karvinen[a]kirkonulkomaanapu.fi, tel. +252 617 234 597, WhatsApp +358 40 509 8050

Life in a backpack – millions of women and children are fleeing Ukraine

Just a month ago Dmitriy, 5, was playing with his friends. Now, the phone is alerting his family about air strikes in Ukraine

Four weeks of war, and over three million people have fled across the borders of Ukraine. A Ukrainian mother believes the next two months are crucial; she must be able to find work and send her kids to school. Finn Church Aid is helping refugees from Ukraine together with a Hungarian partner organisation.

“I HAVE SWEETS and a bottle of water, and here’s my cat. In Ukraine, I had a real cat, too,” says 10-year-old Maryanna whilst unzipping her light-coloured backpack in a playroom for refugee children set up at the airport in Budapest.

Maryanna takes out a pencil case and opens it. It’s full of colourful wristbands, necklaces, and rings. She has been busying herself with making baubles during her almost three-week long escape from Odessa in the south of Ukraine to Budapest, Hungary.

Maryanna, her sister Yelizaveta (5), mother Vironika, and grandmother Svetlana left their hometown soon after Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February 2022.

During the first three weeks of the war, more than three million Ukrainians have fled to the surrounding countries, 1.5 million of them children. On top of this, there’s an immense number of internally displaced refugees within Ukraine, who’ve tried to make their way from the eastern parts of the country to the west.

Two girls, one of them holding a Piglet doll. More people sitting in the background. Two girls, one of them holding a Piglet doll. More people sitting in the background.
It was a long way to Budapest from where Maryanna (10) and Yelizaveta (5) are from in Ukraine. The two sisters have only packed their most loved toys before fleeing the war. It was a long way to Budapest from where Maryanna (10) and Yelizaveta (5) are from in Ukraine. The two sisters have only packed their most loved toys before fleeing the war.

Some of them have found a place to stay with friends and family, some spend the nights at refugee shelters, and some are waiting for a lift at airports and railway stations. Many have left their homes in a hurry and packed only the most essential items.

“I packed everything myself. And by the way, I’ve made this myself, too,” Maryanna says, proudly pulling out of her backpack a small, dotted pillow.
She says she laid hear head on the pillow again last night, when the family was travelling from Krakow to Budapest airport. The journey was long, but Maryanna tells she had a good night’s sleep. She describes having curled into a ball on two seats, her head on her self-made pillow.

A bed, food, and something to drink

There’s another family in the playroom for refugee children at the airport. Mother Kate Pugachova and her sons Daniil (8) and Dmitriy (5) are playing Uno.

Kate says the family had spent the previous night in a makeshift bed in the corner of the playroom. There are other facilities with beds for refugees at the airport.

“However, last night there were a lot of small children crying and making noise,” Kate says. She points at the blue-coated workers of the Hungarian Interchurch Aid, FCA’s partner organisation, who helped them set up a bed in a calmer environment.

“We don’t have to pay for anything, which is extremely important in this situation. The organisations here are doing so much to help people. They’re playing with the kids and offering food and drinks. We can rest and sleep. That’s of huge and important help to refugees. I’m actually pretty surprised about all this support,” Kate says, visibly moved.

“Just look at them. They’re laughing and playing,” she says, pointing at the children bustling around.

Kate Pugachova (background) together with her two sons Daniil and Dmitriy is heading to Istanbul where family has friends.

The journey has been long. Kate and the boys left their home in Dnipro on 8 March, and they’ve been on the road and staying with friends for nine days already. Kate says that she had listened to the air raid alerts for four or five days before she made the decision to leave. The boys had already learned to go to the bathroom for cover when they heard the sound.

“I was sitting in my kitchen with friends when we heard yet another alert. That day it lasted for three hours,” she describes.

The following day Kate left with her boys. A few days later they were reading news about air strikes in their hometown.

“I give myself two months”

Daniil and Dmitriy are giggling and piling up colourful blocks to build a tower in the corner of the playroom. By accident, they place a blue and a yellow block next to each other, and for a moment, the highest part of the tower boasts the colours of Ukraine.

Kate is glad to see the boys busy. Fortunately, they didn’t need to witness nor experience the destruction of the war in their hometown, but they’ve seen photos and videos of the aftermath from all around Ukraine.

According to Kate, the children don’t quite understand the situation. The activities in the playroom at the Budapest Airport have made the morning easier for the mother. What seems to concern the boys most at the time of the interview is the flight ahead.

“It’s their first. They’ve been asking the entire morning when, when, when, when is the time to board,” Kate says, shaking her head.

Three children sit on a floor looking at their smartphones. There is a giant Lego tower next to children. Three children sit on a floor looking at their smartphones. There is a giant Lego tower next to children.
Daniil, Dmitriy and Yelizaveta enjoy the Budapest airport child-friendly space FCA have created together with their Hungarian partner HIA. Daniil, Dmitriy and Yelizaveta enjoy the Budapest airport child-friendly space FCA have created together with their Hungarian partner HIA.

The family is headed towards Turkey, where friends are waiting. They’re promised to let Kate and the boys stay for a month or two.

“I’ve decided to give myself two months,” Kate says.

After that, she’ll have to make a decision. Either she’ll get her documents sorted, look for a job in Turkey, and send her children to a Russian-speaking school – or return to Ukraine.

Her older son Daniil is on his second year of school already, but his schooling was cut short when the war started. The teacher has given classes remotely on Zoom every now and then, and Daniil has taken part, depending on the circumstances and connections.

School books were left behind in Dnipro, but the boy has used a notebook for his assignments. Kate deems education important but also says that it’s not the most pressing matter on her mind right now. First, she’ll need to find a safe place for her family, so she can give her mind a moment of rest.

War in Ukraine has forced 3.5 million people to seek safety as refugees. 1.5 million of them are children.

Schools suffer from war

The impact of the war on children’s schooling is immense. Classes haven’t been run normally in Ukraine after the war started. Almost 500 schools in Ukraine have suffered damages due to bombing and shelling, and according to estimates, 69 of them have been completely destroyed.
Maryanna, the girl who showed us the contents of her backpack, says she already misses going to school. She speaks excellent English and says English and math are her favourite subjects. She misses her friends the most.

“I have a lot of friends in Odessa, but now my best friend is in Germany.”

Maryanna’s teacher, too, organises remote teaching on Zoom. Maryanna has taken part in the classes as best she can, but it hasn’t always been possible. The long escape took the family first from Odessa to Lviv in western Ukraine, then Krakow and on to Budapest.

After the interview, Maryanna, her sister, mother, and grandmother are going to fly to Bulgaria, where their plan is to settle by the coast of the Black Sea for a while. Her father and grandfather are waiting for the women of the family.

Maryanna believes the family will return to their home in Odessa eventually.
“But it’s a good idea to go to Bulgaria, because our Black Sea is there. There we’ll be close to Ukraine.”

An entire life in a single suitcase

A few hours later, Maryanna’s little sister Yelizaveta and Kate’s boys Daniil and Dmitriy are sitting in the corner of the playroom, playing with phones. The phone in the hand of 5-year-old Dmitriy vibrates, and he takes it to his mother.

“An air alert in Ukraine,” Kate reads, shaking her head, and gives the phone back to her son.

Kate opens the suitcase slightly and takes out a toothbrush and toothpaste. She nips to the airport loo to brush her teeth, puts the boys’ Crocs sandals in a plastic bag, and closes the suitcase.

A group of women and children sitting in front of a big window A group of women and children sitting in front of a big window
Many families fleeing Ukraine are heading to friends and family living in the neighbouring countries. Many families fleeing Ukraine are heading to friends and family living in the neighbouring countries.

Kate has packed some of the family’s things in two plastic bags, because everything packed in just one suitcase exceeded the airline’s weight limit for luggage. In total, the luggage for the three-strong family – a suitcase and two plastic bags – weighs to the tune of 30 kilograms.

Soon it’s time to go. The boys put on their coats, and the family heads towards passport control. Kate hugs us, and we wish them luck for the journey.

I recall her earlier words. If things take a turn for the better, Kate and the boys will return to Ukraine.

“If it’s safe, if our schools are like they used to be. They might bomb a school tomorrow. Too many schools have been targeted.”

Text: Ulriikka Myöhänen
Photos: Antti Yrjönen

FCA is helping refugees in Ukraine and Hungary

  • FCA works in Ukraine and Hungary in collaboration with its partner organisation, Hungarian Interchurch Aid. By the end of March, FCA have granted 500 000 euros to support the work.
  • Our work is situated in Lviv and Berehove in the west of Ukraine. Additionally, we offer support in the Hungarian village of Barabás, refugee shelters in Budapest, and the playroom for children at the international airport in Budapest.
  • We offer humanitarian emergency aid to families who’ve left their homes. In practice, this means food, drink, and hygiene products. The aid is delivered to local refugee shelters and offered at border crossings between Hungary and Ukraine.
  • In addition to urgent immediate aid, we are currently working on providing refugee children with opportunities to continue their schooling.

FCA expands operation to aid people displaced by war in Ukraine

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.

People fleeing from Ukraine queuing for train photographed in the beginning of March in the Western city of Lviv. Photo: Antti Yrjönen/FCA

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.

Contact information:

International Communications Specialist Melany Markham
+45 9194 26709

FCA spokesperson Ulriikka Myöhänen
+358 50 576 7948
(on the ground in Ukraine and Hungary)

FCA grants its first euro 1/2 million to aid Ukrainians affected by the conflict

FCA grants its first euro 1/2 million to aid Ukrainians affected by the conflict

People lie on the floor in a subway station.
People rest in the Kyiv subway, using it as a bomb shelter in Kyiv, Ukraine on Thursday 24th February 2022. Photo: AP / LEHTIKUVA / EMILIO MORENATTI

Finn Church Aid (FCA) today pledged euro 1/2 million of its emergency response to aid displaced families in Ukraine and Hungary.

OVER ONE MILLION euro has been donated to FCA since the beginning of on the 24 February and the first part of the grant will help meet the basic needs, such as food, blankets and sleeping bags, of those affected by the conflict in Ukraine and refugees that have arrived in Hungary.

Hungary has received tens of thousands of refugees from the Ukraine. FCA funds Hungarian Interchurch Aid, which works both in Ukraine and Hungary, who is distributing 28 tonnes of food at the border area.

“There has been a profoundly generous response to our appeal for those displaced by the conflict in the Ukraine,” says Jouni Hemberg, Executive Director of Finn Church Aid.

“We are sending half of the funds raised directly to our Hungarian partner, who has established operations in Ukraine and Hungary. At the same time, we are assessing the needs of these people as to how we can help in the days and weeks to come.”

While FCA currently supports those affected by the conflict in Ukraine, it also has the capacity to meet long-term needs, such as food, sanitation, psychosocial support, education in emergencies and livelihoods through its membership of the ACT Alliance.

The need for assistance in Ukraine enormous. In a country of over 40 million people 3 million were already in need of humanitarian assistance before the current war. The United Nations refugee agency estimates that over half a million people have already crossed borders into countries neighbouring Ukraine. The need for assistance is expected to increase dramatically in the following days. Many of those who have fled describe the haste with which they left and their difficult journey.

“The women of my family have decided to take our children away from danger. We went where the car was taking us, I don’t remember most of the journey. My children were asking where are we going and I couldn’t come up with an answer. We heard that the Polish border is completely jammed, so we decided to cross the mountains and try to make it into Hungary. My sister is still on the way, I have no idea where she or my nieces are,” said Yelena, a mother of three children.

“We’ve been standing here at this border checkpoint for more than five hours, it is cold and my children are freezing. It is amazing to see that people are here to help, and even just talking to you gives us hope for a better future ,” she said.

Images of Ukrainian refugees by Antti Yrjönen can be found here -credit Finn Church Aid/Antti Yrjönen
For more information or interviews, please contact Melany Markham +45 9194 2670 melany.markham[a]kirkonulkomaanapu.fi

Afghan families receive food and blankets for a cold winter

Afghan families receive food and blankets for a cold winter

avustustyöntekijöitä selin rinteessä ihmisjoukon kanssa
FCA’s partner organisation HIA-Hungary has been working in Afghanistan since 2001 to deliver humanitarian assistance and engage in development cooperation. A water storage canal is being built near Mazar-i-Sharif. Photo: Giuliano Stochino Weiss / HIA-Hungary

The humanitarian crisis continues to deepen in Afghanistan. The latest estimates reveal severe food insecurity, with 95 per cent of the people facing hunger.

FINN CHURCH AID has begun delivering emergency assistance to Afghanistan together with its partner organisation, HIA-Hungary. Together they have allocated 200,000 euros for emergency assistance, including food and winter kits to keep people warm as the weather gets colder.

The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, a country with a population of 40 million, continues to deepen. More than 40 years of war, a conflict which has escalated in recent months, poverty, the Covid-19 pandemic and a changing climate are now threatening the Afghan food security.

Due to the current situation, many international organisations and funding providers have left the country. Amidst the crisis, the banking system has broken down, income opportunities have reduced and food prices increased.

Majority of Afghans do not have enough to eat

According to the World Food Programme, 95 per cent of Afghans are not consuming enough food and half of the population suffers from acute food shortages.

“I live hand to mouth on my small salary as a guard in a private hospital. Prices go up every day, making it hard for me to support my family. Now I have no choice but to bring home leftover food from my workplace,” says Mohammad, who lives in Mazar-i-Sharif.

Sayed, who lives in the same area, says he was an apprentice in a workshop before the situation escalated.

“I earned about 6,000 Afghani (57 euros) a month. Now I don’t have that job anymore. I have a wheelbarrow, so I get odd jobs and earn 80 to 100 Afghanis (less than a euro) a day. I can’t forget the time when we didn’t have oil for cooking for almost a week. I had to borrow money to buy some,” Sayed says.

As a result of the crisis, many have lost their livelihoods, making it impossible for them to meet basic needs without outside help.

Blankets for a cold winter

Finn Church Aid and HIA-Hungary distribute aid in the Balkh and Samangan provinces in northern Afghanistan. Their aim is to reach around 14,000 of the most vulnerable people.

Their assistance especially targets women and children, people with disabilities or in poor health, and people who live in tents or have taken in other families in need of help.
The food aid distributed to families includes wheat flour, rice, vegetable oil, beans and biscuits. The cold winter is also a concern for many locals.

“I’m worried because my kids need warm clothes. My main concern is that getting supplies to make bread has become difficult,” says Bibi, a widowed mother of five children living in northern Afghanistan.
One of the goals of Finn Church Aid and HIA-Hungary’s emergency assistance is to distribute warm blankets to 2,000 households.

HIA-Hungary has been working in Afghanistan since 2001 to deliver humanitarian assistance and engage in development cooperation. The organisation has projects across several provinces. The new aid operation will run from October to March 2022.

Names have been changed due to security concerns.

For more information, please contact:

Jan De Waegemaeker, Humanitarian Assistance Specialist, tel. +358 50 574 0481, jan.de.waegemaeker@kua.fi. Enquiries and interviews in English.

Tomi Järvinen, Deputy Executive Director, tel. +358 40 641 8209, tomi.jarvinen@kua.fi. Interviews in Finnish and English.

Women and girls became central in our pandemic work

Women and girls became central in our pandemic work 

Right after the declaration of COVD-19 restrictions and lockdowns, we understood that child marriage would become a pertinent issue in our working areas, writes Program Development Coordinator Deepika Naidu.

Intensifying gender-based violence (GBV), more domestic work, drop-outs from school, and increasing numbers of child marriage. The covid-19 pandemic hit us all hard, but the consequences of school closures and national lockdowns were especially serious for Nepalese girls and women. 

Right after the declaration of COVD-19 restrictions and lockdowns, we understood that child marriage would become a pertinent issue in our working areas. That’s why we wanted to focus on child safeguarding and make it one of our first priorities. We started implementing our activities which included child clubs in school, community dialogues and even educational street drama performances.  

We also erected billboards with a message on child marriage and its negative effects on children’s physical, mental, social well-being and legal provisions against child marriage. It was encouraging to see that the billboards were well recognized by the community and local government officials.  

In addition to child safeguarding, the pandemic forced us to respond to the crisis in many ways. Our food distributions addressed the immediate needs of the most marginalized groups, especially pregnant and lactating women, and households who had a person with a disability. 

As in many other countries, there were more reported cases of gender-based violence in Nepal during the lockdown. We did our best to tackle the problem with our family dialogues, media awareness campaigns and sessions on gender inequality with mixed groups engaging men, boys, women and girls of communities. Some of the cooperatives (supported by FCA) formulated advocacy plans of action including activities to reduce child marriage and addressing GBV, amongst others. These were submitted to the respective local governments. 

In consideration of the increasing violence and abuse against women and girls in the quarantine centres, FCA partners advocated for women-friendly spaces with local governments. Our efforts bore fruit: due to this collective voice of Civil Society Organisations, local governments initiated women-friendly spaces in the targeted quarantine centres.  

I’m hopeful because our constitution is very progressive and the policies and acts addressing child marriage and violence against women and girls are promising. The presence of the local units of the government at the community level aims to create an enabling environment for women and girls to thrive.  

Deepika Naidu Program Development Coordinator