INARA in Ukraine

INARA's inaugural Rapid Response Program in Ukraine focused on Mental Health and Psycho-Social Support.

The launching of the Rapid Response Program (RRP) in Ukraine by INARA stemmed from the acute awareness of the profound impact of war on children. INARA's founder, Arwa Damon, recognized the urgent need to address the well-being of children affected by this conflict during her visit to Ukraine in 2022. Conducting an on-the-ground needs assessment, INARA identified critical gaps in access to care and support for these vulnerable children.

To kickstart our efforts, INARA successfully raised $56,620 from our dedicated supporters and extended our reach to Ukraine. We initiated new programs and shared our expertise with fellow NGOs operating in the region. Given the scale of displacement, with 7 million people forced to flee from their homes, children and teenagers emerged as one of the most vulnerable demographic groups impacted by the hostilities in Ukraine.

INARA's inaugural Rapid Response Program in Ukraine focused on Mental Health and Psycho-Social Support (MHPSS). They provided vital training and workshop sessions, led by their in-house mental health experts, aimed at enhancing the capacity of professionals, including nationwide hotline consultants, psychologists, and psychotherapists. Collaborating with local partners such as Caritas Moldova and La Strada Ukraine on the basis of a partnership MoU, INARA has executed a successful pilot training session. This session equipped teachers, social workers, and volunteers who engage with children in various centers with essential tools, knowledge, and trainings to support the children and facilitate their integration into the welcoming communities. Furthermore, on November 29th, 2022 INARA organised a training workshop for hotline consultants belonging to La Strada Ukraine, focusing on sharing experiences and strategies to address anxiety and stress during wartime.

Partnering with UN Women

INARA’s Rapid Response Program, created to address crises like COVID-19, the Beirut Blast and the Turkey-Syria earthquake, redirected resources to support children and youth in Ukraine in April 2022, recognizing an urgent need for mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS).

In light of its experience in the Ukrainian context and capitalizing on established partnerships with local actors in the Zakarpattia region, INARA is now engaged in a 6-month project, from June to November 2023, funded by UN Women and taking place in the Mukachevo area in the premises of a public school. The project’s overarching goal is to bolster the safety, security, and mental health of women and girls while respecting their human rights in war-affected regions. To pursue working on the outcomes of the pilot project, INARA partnered with Mariupol Youth Union in the region of Zakarpattia to create a safe space for IDPs, mostly children and youth, offering PSS and integration sessions, and with The Council of Women of Donetsk for women and girls’ safety, particularly to make awareness and avoid Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV).

The project aims to enhance safety, mental health, and human rights for women, girls, and boys affected by the war in Ukraine, mainly targeting internally displaced persons (IDPs). It includes:

  • Trauma-informed MHPSS services, life skills, and emotional support for 120 boys and girls aged 15-21 through a summer camp, online trainings and individual or group consultations with a psychologist
  • Emotional support group sessions for 150 women (18+) and mothers.
  • Customized life skills and self-reliance training for 75 women (21+).
  • Case management services for potential SGBV cases.
  • Emergency cash assistance to economically empower SGBV survivors and vulnerable women.
  • Capacity building for partner organizations on MHPSS and GBV.
  • MHPSS sessions for frontline workers to cope with stress during their humanitarian work and in emergency situations.

Therefore, the project implemented by INARA addresses pressing needs, in a still extremely complex situation. INARA assumed overall responsibility of the project implementation and for compliance with reporting, evaluation requirements and spending, including the disbursement of emergency cash assistance for female headed households as an early response intervention to help them gain agency over their lives. Moreover, INARA and its partners consider participation as necessary to increase the effectiveness and sustainability of the interventions. In fact, the participation of relevant local stakeholders, such as schools owners and municipalities representatives, is essential to ensure the strengthening of a local network that will sustain the work after the end of the project.

Seeds of Kindness

The project “Seeds of Kindness – Psychological support for children from IDP families temporarily staying in Kharkiv” – was initiated together with the local partner “TOLOKA – Community Foundation of Kharkiv” in response to the ongoing military operations in Ukraine since February 24, 2022. This conflict has forced nearly 395,000 civilians in the Kharkiv region to flee their homes, with approximately 83,300 children being among the internally displaced persons (IDPs). These children face severe psychological challenges due to the trauma, fear, and uncertainty caused by the armed conflict and displacement. In fact, according to the official data of the Educational Ombudsman of Ukraine, 75% of children have symptoms that require psychological assistance, such as feelings of insecurity, fear of the future, mood swings, anger, aggression, sleep disturbances, shame and guilt, alienation and isolation from the environment, and sadness for the past life.

The project’s primary objective was to provide psychological support and stability for 50 internally displaced children, temporarily residing in Kharkiv. These children are currently living in dormitories and shelters to avoid bombing. The project aims at reconstructing children’s traumatic and unpleasant experiences, reducing stress, and helping them to adapt to their new living conditions while facilitating integration into new social groups. Through the use of various psychological methods and techniques, such as art therapy, fairy tale therapy and interactive theatrical programmes, we promoted the development of children and tried to mitigate the disruption to their mental health caused by war or forced migration. Children particularly enjoyed the art therapy educational pursuit, as a safe space where they expressed themselves, processed their emotions, and rebuilt a sense of normalcy. Such activities not only stimulated children’s intellectual curiosity but also promoted teamwork, communication, and self-confidence.

The project started with the assessment of the initial psychological state of IDP children, the setting up and equipment of a dedicated space for psychological assistance within the dormitory where these children live and the development of a structured program for classes and communication with families.

Classes were held three times a week. Thanks to the project, the rehabilitated and fully equipped center is now available to the residents of the dormitory throughout the week, as a safe space for recreational activities for the children.

Overall, the project “Seeds of Kindness” aimed to provide crucial psychological support to IDP children affected by the Ukrainian conflict, offering them a safe space for healing, learning, and integration into their new environment, while also promoting community engagement and self-organization among their families. INARA’s unwavering commitment to delivering Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) services to children and youth affected by both human-induced and natural disasters is evident through our tireless efforts. We are actively exploring ways to broaden the pilot project impact and reach a more extensive range of beneficiaries. This demonstrates INARA’s dedication to enhancing children to overcome their vulnerabilities through holistic physical, mental and community interventions and the ongoing pursuit of more extensive positive outcomes towards our mission to fill in the gaps in access to life-altering services for children in communities impacted by human-induced and natural disasters.