I want to share a touching encounter I had with a young boy named Sasha in Ukraine's Kherson region.  I am not sure of his exact age, but he appears to be around seven years old. Had you met him, you might have felt a twinge of concern for this pale, slender schoolboy who avoided eye contact and spoke sparingly. When we first arrived, he lay on his bed, seemingly lost in thought.
Sasha’s home was occupied by Russia for a while. “The Russians didn’t treat the people in our village bad,” said his father. “In the neighboring villages, though, horrible things happened, and many died there.”
In his village we saw houses with broken windows and some destroyed buildings. Besides that, not much is a reminder of the enemy who just months ago occupied the village. When I was there, we were invited into Sasha’s family’s home. They had cooked a feast for us. They called it breakfast, but on the table was rabbit stew, potatoes, sandwiches and cupcakes. My colleague told me that the family, although poor, had cooked the best they had for us. “This is Ukrainian hospitality," he said.

Sasha (to the right) with him mom, dad and brother, Andri, in their home

He didn't eat with us

Sasha refrained from joining us at the table; he merely observed silently. In the living room lay his 18-year-old brother, Andri, who couldn't speak due to a muscle disorder and a mental ailment. He smiled while he watched us. Their mother made sure he was comfortable. Her weariness was apparent.
Sasha's father, in stark contrast, radiated life. A music-loving farmer, he serenaded us with his guitar playing and singing about Ukrainian bravery during the meal.The dad was very happy, because we had brought him a new guitar. Until now he had been playing a beat up 12 string that he restrung as a 6 string and it was 97 years old.  
We enjoyed the music, the fellowship and the food. But I kept wondering about Sasha. Why did he show no interest in the delicious meal, the dad’s new guitar, my goofy friend who wanted to play with him?

Sasha receives a Novi Life Kit

His heart was full of the bad things that had happened

Perhaps Sasha's heart was already full with countless emotions, leaving no room for anything else. Could his thoughts, feelings, and fears connected to the occupation be so overwhelming that he remained consumed by them?
After our meal, we presented Sasha and Andri with a Novi Life Kit, hoping it would aid them in processing their complex emotions and fears related to the occupation. We demonstrated how to use the kit to their parents, explaining its potential benefits. At last, a smile graced Sasha's face—an inspiring sight.
Later, we gathered at the local church, where a group of eager children awaited us. We organized games in a circle and distributed Novi Life Kits, explaining their purpose. We ensured parents understood how to use the kits with their children.

In this group setting, Sasha underwent a transformation. Enthusiastically, he embraced the various activities from the Life Kit, displaying a newfound curiosity and happiness. As we departed, Sasha's smile lingered, a testament to the positive impact we had shared.

Blowing bubbles while his friends eagerly wait for their turn.

The Novi Life Kit serves a specific purpose: aiding children in managing their emotions. During times of conflict, children often grapple with fear, anxiety, depression, and various damaging emotions. Verbalizing these feelings might prove challenging for them.

However, through engaging in trauma-informed activities, playing, and social interaction, the kit enables them to initiate the process of understanding and regulating these emotions, ultimately leading them toward a state of calm.

If you want to read more about the different methods we use to help children, go to this link.

For Sasha and hundreds of children like him, it makes a difference.

Oddny Gumaer

Founder and CVO, Novi


other articles