From the Smallest to the Largest

In the fall of 2022 STAN NGO started implementing the “Ukraine crisis response – 2022” project. The project is realized in a partnership with the Czech organization “People in need” with the financial support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Canada. Child-friendly spaces or CFSs were opened in Kolomyya, Vorokhta, Burshtyn, Nadvirna of Ivano-Frankivsk region and Lukavtsi of Chernivtsi region. These are spaces where kids and teenagers can safely spend productive time. There are facilitators and psychologists and all necessary equipment to work and study in the CFSs. What has been accomplished during this half a year – in this publication.

Where they started

In the beginning of the project implementation, STAN together with partners found spaces for CFSs, but all of them needed renovations. Wiring had to be changed, the walls – renewed. Also, in some spaces the heating system was replaced with a new one, the doors and windows were renovated or changed, and additional toilets were equipped. The floor had to be renewed in most of the spaces. All these works needed time. 

While engineers and renovation workers were doing their job, the CFSs teams had to operate on the premises they had at their disposal. They found alternative places and started working with the kids there. It was mostly in the same buildings (like libraries or community houses) where the future CFSs were going to be opened, but in different rooms. 


The project team had a vision that CFS should be a space where children would like to spend time, where they would feel safe, and would have all they need to study and organize events like cartoon or movie screenings. To understand how it could be put into practice, the teams studied the know-hows of other organizations that had already had experience of opening such spaces in Ukraine or abroad. The teams also paid attention to the practices of creating the digital spaces. All this was useful, but did not provide all the answers. 

“We have a different story here. We combine the format of a child-friendly space with the educational digital space. At the same time, our partners proposed that we should work in the spaces that are the municipal property”, says Olha Symchych, CFS branch coordinator in the project. This condition is important in order that everything the teams would be able to accomplish and create stay in the community. 

New life of old buildings

As for the design of the spaces, every team in every community started out from the needs and the specificity of the spaces they had. In Kolomyya, for instance, the building of a library at Lesia Ukrayinka boulevard is a 100 years old architectural heritage. Bright colorful walls would not fit it at all, but the old wooden doors on the building were renovated. In Burshtyn, on the contrary, CFS in Prometey palace is notable thanks to its color palette. 

The building of the CFS in Vorokhta is also a historical one, built in the 1920s. 

“The first floor was alright, and the second one was a sad story. The walls reflected the epoch when the house was built. The stairs that led to the second floor were also not in the best condition. That’s why the walls in the corridor that leads to the space were renovated, so while you walk to the space, everything around you is wonderfully renovated”, says Alina Hrynkiv, Vorokhta CFS coordinator.  

Here, a holistic approach is important. It’s not right to have the inside of the CFS newly renovated, while the hall is in poor shape. This is why the shelters for IDPs in all five communities were renovated, not only CFS rooms. Many children live in shelters and they need decent living conditions, not only conditions in the child space. 

New opportunities 

As it was mentioned before, alternative rooms for CFSs were often located in the same buildings as the actual CFSs. In Vorokhta cultural center it was in the same building, one floor down. After CFS moved, children still had the same view from the window: mountains and one of the famous old viaducts. 

So, from the location point of view, there are minimal changes. However, many things have changed regarding the convenience. 

“The equipment was delivered – 10 laptops, mice, Wi-Fi router, audio speakers, screen and projector, thermopot. Drawing books, pencils, paints for facilitators’ work and many other things. Also, we’ve got home care products for cleaning and everything we need to function”, says Alina Hrynkiv. Furniture was also brought and mounted recently. Tables for laptops were put near the windows in the renewed CFSs, and one large table for workshops and several smaller tables for little kids to draw and do other creative activities were put in the middle of a room.  

Shadow, light and friends 

Renovations are finished, equipment and furniture are mounted, and CFSs can start operating according to a plan. And it is worth mentioning during the half a year of their formation the teams were able to achieve a lot, even resource-constrained.  

“Facilitators often brought their own utensils they needed to work in the CFSs. I’m happy for such an engagement. It’s so pleasant to see people in the project do care. Some alternative spaces looked nice, others we liked less, but we understood working in those spaces was the best solution until the renovations in the main spaces finished. Despite not perfect conditions in the spaces, despite electricity cuts, children stayed, they did not want to go home, they were ready to stay even if they needed to wear jackets due to the low temperature in the rooms – they just wanted to stay with facilitators, to stay together. People are everything”, says Olha Symchych.  

During six months, more than 700 events and activities were organized in CFSs. These are regular classes facilitators have with children, integration events, psychologists consultations. Around 600 children attended these events, they have visited the space for more than 5000 times. These activities helped to destroy the barriers between the locals and the IDPs. They helped people to familiarize themselves with the new towns. “I’m here almost every day. I come when I have a chance. I like everything here. I started attending the space in summer when there were workshops. And in the fall this CFS started working. We draw, we work with clay. And my friends are here”, says Yaroslava Hetman who came to Vorokhta from Kharkiv. 

Events in the CFSs sparked interest from the start. 80 people came to the first event of CFS in Vorokhta (it was an opening and meeting with facilitators). One recent event in Burshtyn gathered more than 100 attendees. It was a shadow play show based on Ivan Malkovych story “Big city, small rabbit and honey for mom”. It is not easy to prepare such a show. Several dozens of stencils had to be made from black cardboard paper. A proper lightning and a screen had to be found, all the rehearsals had to be organized to bring the story to life on a screen. The whole team of the CFS was working on it, and the children who attended the drama club played the roles in the show. 11-years old Marta Borbuliak is one of the young actors. “When I learned about the drama club I decided to attend it. I was very curious. When I was a child and played with dolls and toys I voiced them with different sounds. For my whole childhood I’d been dreaming to voice somebody, and here my dream has come true”, says Marta. 

A circle of trust and support

In every one among five communities, CFS has become a place where children make new friends, a place they visit with an interest. Administrators and facilitators, parents and children themselves mention this all the time. For kids, this is a place where they feel good, a place they don’t want to leave. For parents, the spaces serve as an additional support. 

“People who are creating this for us… I have a feeling like someone has come and hugged me. I am alone here. No friends who can help me. But I have a feeling someone stands behind my shoulder and I have this someone to turn to”, says Olha Yurchenko who came to Kolomyya from Irpin, and whose daughter attends CFS. 

Today, CFSs are starting a new page. “For six months, we’ve had a process of organizing the space and filling it with everything we would need. We’ve invested a lot in renovations, improvement of the space, and procurement. Simultaneously activities in the CFSs were ongoing and psychological support was working too. And now we finally filled these spaces out, and they will be operating on a full-scale, children will study and entertain in the fresh rooms equipped with laptops and all necessary facilities”, says Yulia Menshakova, “Ukraine crisis response – 2022” project coordinator. 

All the necessary long-awaited items are in place. However, the intangible things are the most important, thighs that cannot be photographed, cannot be just delivered and mounted. Trust, support, friendly communication circle. People who fill CFSs out, and who will make the spaces even better. Administrators, facilitators, psychologists, parents and children. Everyone who relishes child-friendly places, from babies to adults.