In December 2022, the NGO Ukrainian Deminers Association (UDA) started the implementation of the first project with the international non-governmental humanitarian organization Save the Children.
During our joint work, we started 4 projects total, 3 of which were successfully completed in October 2023. The main goal of all projects was “immediate mine action response”, in the framework of which certified UDA instructors conducted explosive ordnance risk education (EORE). In all UDA and Save the Children projects, the main focus is on children, including children with disabilities and special educational needs.
The ultimate goal of our painstaking work is to change the behavior of children and adults to a safe one when they encounter explosive ordnance and preserve their life and health.
Considering the success and relevance of the previous projects, another joint project was launched in September of this year and another one is planned for January 2024.
Results of joint projects between UDA and Save the Children
Children are the most demanding and sensitive audience, so it requires careful training of specialists. The association is constantly developing and improving for the effective implementation of mine action tasks, especially in the first part of its component – the explosive ordnance risk education (EORE) of the population. We are looking for new approaches, developing interesting methods of working with different risk groups, taking into account the age and other characteristics of different categories of the affected population.
1. Trainings for trainers
In May and June 2023, two Trainings for Trainers (ToT) were held in prder to train certified UDA instructors. They were conducted by highly qualified trainers of Save the Children. During the trainings, the trainees gained knowledge on the basics of psychosocial and social support and psychological first aid for children in conditions of armed conflict. UDA instructors gained important skills regarding the inclusion of all children, without exception, to educate them EORE.
As a result, all 10 instructors successfully passed the exams and obtained certificates that give them the right to conduct educational sessions. They went to the most affected and de-occupied regions of Ukraine, as part of mobile EORE groups.
2. Trainings for partners
During the implementation of joint projects, UDA representatives took part in three trainings for partners and facilitators of learning and educational spaces, which were organized by Save the Children. The events were conducted by experienced experts of Save the Children with a high level of qualification, on the following topics:
- “Children protection in emergency situations. Minimum standards for the protection of children in humanitarian activities”,
- Psychosocial support and psychological first aid,
- A working meeting with representatives of partner organizations that have been involved and continue their work in the Kyiv and Mykolaiv regions on Save the Children and HF projects.
The participants learened some skills regarding the first psychological support of children in emergency situations. Trainings included many practical tasks, role-playing games and work in small groups, where the participants mastered methods of psychosocial support for children affected by crisis situations. A lot of attention was given to the formation of methods and tools for overcoming stressful situations that children find themselves in during active hostilities.
3. Explosive ordnance risk education (EORE)
Saving the lives of Ukrainian children is a priority for parents, teachers, government and the entire society. Because of this, children very often have to stay in bomb shelters for many hours
Education of children in shelters requires specific skills of teachers for the educational process. During the organization of EORE sessions, certified UDA instructors actively worked in bomb shelters to form the safe behavior of children school age in order to reduce the risk of injury and death from mines and other explosive ordnance.
It is worth noting that UDA instructors conduct training sessions exclusively in buildings that are equipped with bomb shelters or other safe shelters. And when an air alert is announced, they immediately stop the training process and act according to the protocol of the institution where the training sessions are held. After moving to a safe place they continue training there.
Despite constant shelling and air raids, certified EORE instructors continue to conduct a series of training sessions for children, parents and teachers.
All children, regardless of their physical and psycho-emotional condition or the presence of an intellectual disability, have the right to access EORE sessions. Therefore, when conducting such sessions, our instructors take into account the aspects of education, which are based on the principles of non-discrimination, the multifacetedness of the child and its effective inclusion in the learning process. It is very important for our organization to reach vulnerable categories of children with special needs, as well as to respect their interests when conducting educational EORE activities.
During the project implementation period, Mykolaiv region became the first to conduct adapted EORE sessions for children with disabilities and special educational needs, including children with autism. Work to restore and stabilize the psycho-emotional and physical health of such vulnerable children took place in shelters and special boarding schools.
Children belonging to vulnerable categories of the population were also present among the audience: internally displaced persons, children from large families and those who lost their homes, and children evacuated from temporarily occupied territories.
Тож, протягом 2023 року (станом на вихід статті) загалом було проведено понад 900 EORE сесій, які охопили понад 24 580 бенефіціарів, включно з дітьми з особливими потребами молодшого, середнього та старшого шкільного віку. Сесії проходили в таких областях України: Київській, Одеській, Чернігівській, Черкаській, Херсонській та в м. Київ. Важливим також є те, що багато сесій проводились для деокупованих громад Миколаївської області (села: Широке, Червона Долина, Павло-Мар’янівна, Партизанське), а також у містах Вознесенськ, Нова Одеса та Южноукраїнськ.
During 2023 (as of press time), a total number of held EORE sessions was more than 900, reaching over 24,580 beneficiaries, including children with special needs of elementary, middle, and high school age. The sessions were held in the following regions of Ukraine: Kyiv, Odesa, Chernihiv, Cherkasy, Kherson and the city of Kyiv. It is also important that many sessions were held for the de-occupied communities of the Mykolaiv region (villages: Shiroke, Chervona Dolyna, Pavlo-Maryanivna, Partyzanske), as well as in the cities of Voznesensk, Nova Odesa and Yuzhnoukrainsk.
Approach to sessions with children and feedback mechanism
Sessions with school-age children are held in an interesting interactive form. UDA instructors educate children the rules of safe behavior when dealing with abandoned and suspicious objects that could be explosive, using modern training formats, animal therapy, in the form of a game, simulation of situations.
During and after the training, students have the opportunity to leave in the feedback box in writing (anonymously if necessary) wishes, ask questions, complain and comment on the information and recommendations they have heard. All information submitted to the box is carefully analyzed and taken into account by UDA experts during the preparation of the following training sessions.
Our instructors received many positive and grateful feedback from respondents for modern and interactive teaching methods that keep children’s attention. Most of the respondents thank international donors and UDA for the opportunity to acquire very important knowledge and skills that will help them survive and remain unharmed in the face of explosive ordnance.
This video was made with gratitude to us by one of the institutions in the Kherson region, where our instructors conducted an EORE session for children.
4. UDA Training Platform for children
In November 2023, we opened the Training Platform for children. It hosts EORE courses adapted for children of 6-11 and 12-18 age categories. The main goal of creating a children’s platform was to provide children with access to important information throughout Ukraine, especially where our instructors cannot go.
In 50 days of operating, the platform showed good results. More than 12,500 children registered for children’s courses. More than half of the registered children have already received diplomas of EORE experts!
A short video instruction on using the UDA Training Platform has also been developed for users.
5. EORE games for children
The best way for children to learn any information is a game. So, as part of one of the joint projects, with the support of our partner Save the Children and the direct participation of our security expert, two educational board games “EORE” and “Actions during shelling” were developed.
The “EORE” game is intended for children over 6 years old, and the game “Actions during shelling” is intended for teenagers over 12 years old. Of course, adults can also join both games. The first 6,000 and 1,000 copies of each game were printed, accordingly, and have already been distributed among children in the most dangerous regions of the country.
Another educational board game is already in development and is scheduled for release in 2024.
The entire UDA team is grateful to our partners from Save the Children for our joint productive work and we look forward to further cooperation with the same efficiency.