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Creating a Family Support Centre as a Model of Integration of IDPs and Host Communities in Ukraine

Ukraine is a country facing many problems, particularly of a social nature. The biggest problems include the marginalisation by authorities and society of the issue of integration of internally displaced persons into local communities, their acceptance by local communities, as well as openness and activeness of the internally displaced persons themselves to new challenges.

There is a need for continuous psychosocial support, to strengthen the attitude of internally displaced persons so that they manage well in the new situation, while showing the local communities and opinion-forming authorities (teachers, the church, authorities, media) that displaced persons do not pose a threat but carry developmental potential.

Creating a Family Support Centre as a Model of Integration of IDPs and Host Communities in Ukraine

The activities are carried out in seven localities of eastern and western Ukraine: Kharkiv, Zaporozhye, Kryvyi Rih, Kamianske, Kolomyia, Drohobych and Ivano-Frankivsk. The implementing entity is Caritas Polska and the local partner is Caritas Ukraine.

The purpose of the project is to promote professional and comprehensive support for the family, as the most effective approach to integration of both communities (internally displaced persons and the host community). The project calls for the creation of a sustainable model that actively engages the beneficiaries in changing their situation, encourages work with all family members and the involvement of external entities to support integration. This is a change in the orientation of work with internally displaced persons, from the ”humanitarian aid” model to the ”open opportunity” model.

The first stage was to adapt premises to group meetings, particularly with children, the purchase of technical equipment, office supplies and equipment for sports activities. Playgrounds for children were also set up. At this stage, training was also provided for new employees, and team building for teams from the east and west of Ukraine. The training was aimed at getting acquainted, building a team and working out common, uniform standards of work.

In the next stage of the project, seven Caritas Family Support Centres (FSC) were established, with the innovative post of family assistant. The Centres work towards integration and provide psychological and social support. Full support is organised for families of internal refugees and families of the host community, with particular emphasis on integration of both groups. The assistants conduct group activities for children, young people, parents, elderly people, with integration activities for the displaced persons and the host communities and also accompany families during various events. Psychologists give individual consultations, organise therapy groups for families of beneficiaries and support groups for teachers. The problems most frequently reported by children are solitude, lack of friends, homesickness or lack of fatherly attention. Adults report difficulties in relations with their children, lack of trust and overprotectiveness towards children, combating stereotypes and a hostile reception by the local community. In addition, there are meetings with the clergy and teachers, to make the host community aware of the displaced persons’ needs.

The project also includes social support by the case-management method and these activities are carried out in three centres: in Kharkiv, Zaporizhia and Kamianske. The method consists of an individual approach to each family and an appropriate assessment of the situation, thanks to which help is provided in the most critical areas.

The project serves to implement the human capital priority, established in the Multiannual Development Cooperation Programme 2016-2020, point b) increased social integration of internally displaced persons, including in particular elderly people and children, in the host communities, and point a) better access to infrastructure and social services, particularly in health care, and psychological support for internally displaced persons, mainly elderly people and children, within the host communities.

Creating a Family Support Centre as a Model of Integration of IDPs and Host Communities in Ukraine

All aims of Module 1 and 2 were achieved in accordance with the assumptions. In the first year of implementation, in all Family Support Centres adaptation work was carried out and the rooms were prepared for meetings and individual consultations. In the next stage, the centres received the essential infrastructure, enabling the staff to create suitable conditions for work. In Kryvyi Rih and Kamianske, playgrounds were set up. All employees completed training on team building and on how to work out harmonised common work standards.

Psychological and social assistance was provided in all centres. Each family was assigned an assistant who helped them reach appropriate social services and when necessary referred them to psychological help or workshops. In 2017, nearly 7,000 people benefitted from this form of aid. During the same time, activities were organised to integrate the local community with the displaced persons, attended by 1,850 persons, i.e. twice as many as had been planned.

The Centres also became a place for integrating displaced persons with the local community. Hobby clubs and field events are organised regularly, helping to overcome mutual stereotypes and to integrate the Ukrainian society.