Ukrainian Refugee Crisis

A Warm Place
Early Childhood Education and Care Spaces for Ukrainian Refugees

According to UNICEF, more than 1.5 million children have fled Ukraine since the start of the conflict.  Ukrainian children have lost their homes, their families, and their sense of safety and security.  With no access to education and care, at a time when young children’s development is so crucial, their futures are also at risk.   According to UNICEF, during a humanitarian crises, education receives less than 3% of aid, is often the first service that is interrupted and the last to be resumed.  As humanitarian organizations work towards providing basic needs to refugees, too often is early childhood education and care forgotten.  However, access to early childhood education and care is a universal right as well as a basic need, such as food, security, health, and shelter. Within emergencies and humanitarian disasters the right to education must exists, including education and care for the youngest children.  Access to early childhood care and education builds resilience and supports the development of coping abilities in young children during the crisis as well as dramatically affects their future.

The Model
Early Starters is developing spaces for early childhood education and care for Ukrainian refugees, aspiring to create optimal conditions for the development of children – places where children can be children, where they will feel safe, play, learn and grow. In a situation where significant adults in the children’s lives may be absent, or not available to meet children’s emotional needs, other adults must be emotionally available, meeting the child’s needs, providing a sense of normalcy and routine, and reinforcing a sense of stability and security among the child.

Following this concept, Early Starters has built a model that combines the establishment and operation of safe spaces for early childhood (Early Childhood Education and Care Spaces – ECECS) run by educators and caregivers with relevant experience who receive educational guidance along the way.  The spaces provide a warm setting for young children and their parents (especially their mothers) in which they can feel safe, engaged in positive experiential action and emotional discourse that promote their mental resilience. Parents are also able to receive advice on how to deal with the crisis they and their children are experiencing. The team recruited for this initiative includes early childhood educational and therapeutic professionals who speak Russian and Ukrainian.  The team of two volunteers manage the space for two to three weeks, and are continuously accompanied and supported by the Early Starters staff.  The space is equipped with games, soft pillows and spaces for quiet time, dolls and creative materials for personal expression, and toys to play.  As the conflict continues, we will train local organizations working in refugee shelters, on how to create a space for young children in refugee camps, and help support them to operate the space themselves. 




Amount (US$)

Flights & Insurance

For the entire ESI team


Ground Logistics (inc. stipends)

Accommodation, Transportation, Communication, Food


Sector Materials & associated expenses

Materials for the program, local organization stipend


Program Management

For program oversight, management and implementation


Contingency Fund

5% to respond to the changing situation on the ground






Early Childhood Education and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR)
Program Assistance and Resources in early childhood disaster risk reduction, addressing young children’s needs after disasters and building resilience.  Programs in strengthening social-emotional development in order to help build resilience and respond to changing situations.  Furthermore, programs that are developed for kindergartens and preschools for disaster risk reduction, such as teaching manuals and activities teachers can do in school to prepare young children in case of disasters. 

Young children have specific needs which can be addressed in disaster risk reduction processes and activities. Resilience building among young children, is an important DRR factor for young children and children in emergency situations benefit from being informed and involved in their community.  Children can also learn important behaviors and what to do if a disaster occur. Finally, ESI can help build children friendly spaces for communities, specifically tailored to young children and their needs. 

Early Starters International was founded by experts who have over 30 years of experience in the early childhood education system in Israel. Our team includes a network of early childhood education specialists skilled in program design and development in collaboration with local partners, led and sustained by the community. We have taken lessons learned and cutting-edge knowledge from the Israeli education system and apply it to diverse communities across the globe. Our goal is to make early childhood education playful and intentional – with an eye to resilience building, community building and innovation. Our expertise is to work in poor communities with diverse children and those from high-risk families to close their achievement gap in the classroom through intentional curricula and effective and tested methods where children learn numeracy, literacy and life skills in preschool, with an eye to the future.