Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, close to 8 million people, mostly women and children, have left Ukraine in search of asylum (UNHCR, November 2022). They have experienced long days and nights in bomb shelters, hiding from rockets, and traveling dangerous paths until finally reaching safety. These families have lost everything that is dear and familiar to them – their family and friends, their homes, their safety and stability – and they have been forced to build a new life in a foreign place. Young children, who are currently in critical formative years of their development, are especially vulnerable in this situation.
As of March 2022, Early Starters International has established early childhood safe spaces – providing to the immediate needs of young Ukrainian children and their families, as well as continuing to support the long term needs of refugees. Our safe spaces allow for sustained access to early childhood education and care and the least amount of disruption to young children’s development, amid the chaos they have endured. Furthermore, they provide stability and routine, and lower the effects of trauma children have experienced. They are warm places where children feel safe, participate in creative and developmentally appropriate activities and receive emotional support that promote their resilience. Each space has professional staff members who speak their language, and know their culture, and is equipped like a home with games, toys, cozy areas for quiet time, materials for socio-dramatic play, and creative materials for personal expression.
To date, ESI has developed 16 early childhood safe spaces for young children, in Moldova, Israel and Prague and over 3500 children have participated in our activities. Our staff, mostly women refugees from Ukraine with relevant experience, receive professional development and support in dealing with challenges that arise. The young children’s safe space is also a base where community activities for mothers are organized – such as family visits to museums or hikes, and complementary services like legal advice and language studies.
Thank you to our supporters of this project: the UJA Federation of New York, The EGL Charitable Foundation, the Diana and Guilford Glazer Foundation, the Ministry of Education, Israel, JFNA Volunteer Support, OLAM.
We work in close collaboration with international and local organizations such as IsraAID, AJEEC, Variety Center Jerusalem, Yalduta, Mashabim, Ave Copiii, Greengate, Amiga.
Our cooperation with Governments, International and local NGOs and private organizations is essential and crucial to continue ESI activities while there is no end to the growing financial needs. We look forward to engaging with you and joining our ventures.
Help support our work and bring childhood back to children refugees.