Ivan is from Irpin and is 12 years old. In the beginning of March, he watched as his father attempted to negotiate passage to safety with a Russian soldier. The soldier pulled his weapon and shot him multiple times, thinking he also hit Ivan. Ivan fell to the ground beside his dad and stayed still, his hoodie covering the sides of his face and head. The soldier stood above him and shot another round at his head, thinking it would finish the boy’s life. Ivan stayed frozen. The bullet that made a hole in Ivan’s hoodie hit the floor instead of his skull. When he felt sure the soldier had left, Ivan got up and walked away leaving his father lying dead in a pool of blood. I heard this story yesterday from a Ukrainian medic who helped with evacuations during the early days of the war.
It's for children like Ivan that Novi works in Ukraine. He is our why.
Over the past two days there were more than 80 missile attacks in six cities. These missiles hit 45 apartment buildings, three schools, one kindergarten, five health institutions and six cultural institutions. These are not only terrible acts against a sovereign country, they are war crimes.
Whether aging systems of Russian weaponry or deliberate targeting of civilian sites are at fault, the end is the same. People die, masses of people are traumatized, and children like Ivan endure the violence of war. To one degree or another, children are traumatized or suffer from challenging mental health issues because of what´s happening. That´s why the Novi community is here.
I read last night that many large organizations closed operations and sent their expatriate staff home until it is deemed safe to be here. This is understandable as the risk of harm is elevated. Liability insurance, funding obligations, and the rules of diplomacy all play into the industry of foreign aid and dictate operational decisions.
It is our opinion that now is the most important time to be here, not to leave. Now is when the children of the war in Ukraine need us most. Their future potential can be so much greater with the support we’re here to offer. To leave now feels to be a departure from a moral imperative. We’re staying.
The bomb shelter we’ve had to start our training in isn’t great. It’s cold, smells moldy, and is dark. But it’s ample for our purposes and the group gathered to learn a new way to work with children reactive to trauma and suffering from PTSD. At break times participants dart to their phones to check on family. Some quietly cry as they talk with loved ones in cities under attack. When the air raid sirens finish, we all move to a warmer room upstairs until the next siren forces us back down below street level.
The two psychologists we have with us are experts in early childhood trauma. One developed the Jacaranda program for children of war and another is a renowned expert from Norway. They are giving participants at two separate events tools to help heal the inner wounds of war. Additionally, we are hosting two camps for children in shelters in East Ukraine and setting up our first two clubs of teenagers in partnership with Young Peace Builders.
For our team, these are exciting times. We are working with the highly motivated Ukriane Volya Foundation to host training events and gain government support for this work. The impact we are making is clear and the long-term results are promising. Working to multiply awareness of how war affects children and capacity to help them is meaningful.
It is our hope that you who read this will join our efforts. We are a charity that depends on public support. We don’t seek government grants or have corporate funding. We are free, non partisan, and will not submit to funding requirements that would keep us from helping kids like Ivan. We are a grass root movement that is organized for impact, not profit. Would you please consider supporting this work? Along with the financial needs we have, there are opportunities to volunteer. Send me a message and let’s figure it out.
The frequent air raid sirens and news of landing missiles is provoking, but the people of Ukriane go about their days with what seems to be concentrated calm and kindness towards one another while standing in lines to buy food from the grocery stores, pitch black due to blown up power stations. I haven’t seen any panic, hoarding, or selfish behavior among the crowds of people being targeted by Russia's war machine.
We’re safe, with crisis contingencies in place, and carrying on with our plans. Ukrainian people are resourceful, brave, and humble. They make it feel like an honor to lean into this challenge. We are here to stand alongside them with support during this crisis, not act as superiors or saviors.
Thank you for caring, for supporting, for joining our efforts to transform a war zone into a place of peace, promise, and human flourishing. One of our participants remarked between meetings, “Our children need help now.” Let’s keep helping them together.
With Regards from Ukraine,
Hanna is from Kharkiv. Last week, she went back to her war-torn home.
When evil-doing comes like falling rain, nobody calls out, ‘Stop!’