Have you ever worked with kids
whose language you don’t even know?

Workcamp: Summer With Theather

Привіт! Cześć!

Have you ever worked with kids whose language you don’t even know?

The volunteers at the workcamp Summer with Theatre (Integration of Refugee Children in Kalisz) did so! And… succeeded in that!

Okay, let me just introduce myself. My name is Svitlana Kukharuk, I am a Ukrainian who came to Poland after the 24th of February as an ESC volunteer in SCI Poland. In the frame of my volunteering project, I had an opportunity to coordinate one of the workcamps this summer.

So, let’s start from the very beginning. Due to the circumstances of russian aggression against Ukraine, there are a lot of children who came to Poland with their parents to find a safe place. Following this, it is extremely important to support these kids during the integration process in the new community. So Dom Sąsiedzki, which means Neighbourhood House, in cooperation with SCI Poland organized a workcamp on the integration of refugee children in Kalisz.

The goal of this project was to guide a group of 25 children between 9 and 13yo, both from Poland and Ukraine, in a project, which has as its main theme the concept of “Change”, through different activities and workshops, run by professional artists, that helped children explore this topic in a creative way. Kids showed the results of those activities in a performance on the second Saturday of the camp.

The topic of the workcamp was presented in daily activities and was a great chance for kids to reflect on changes that are happening in their lives and how to deal with them. Our main job as volunteers was to support educators in organizing workshops for Polish and Ukrainian children; assist in creating and installation of scenography and decorations for the final performance; technical and logistical support for the workshops; spend time with the children and have fun with them.

The activities with kids for sure were the highlights of the group’s life during the camp. It was interesting to communicate with them, especially in a non-verbal way, as volunteers mostly didn’t understand the kids, as well as they didn’t understand the volunteers. It is time to say that there were 5 of us from different countries, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Finland. Of course, as I am from Ukraine, I could communicate with Ukrainian kids and I was trying to talk to kids from Poland, as I understood them and already had some Polish classes. Despite all of that, there was a great connection between the volunteers and the children. One of the highlights of the workcamp was the final show that the kids created. It was built on the concept of ‘change’ which is very important nowadays. Besides, it was very nice to spend time together in Wroclaw and to have nice conversations in the evening.

Our volunteer from Finland took the book about Moomins, as this book was originally written there. So, we all were sitting in a circle with kids, and Terhikki was telling the story in English, Natalie (one of the educators) was translating it into Polish, and I was translating it into Ukrainian. I liked this activity so much, as Terhikki was also showing us very nice pictures from the book! And then, she asked the kids to draw the place where they feel the safest.

Also, I liked to talk to kids, and some stories of Ukrainian kids were so heart-touching that I was about to burst into tears. One of the girls who came from the city that is regularly under russian shelling now was telling a story about how she misses her grandmother, who had to stay there, and also… how she misses her cats. I noticed that she just loves cats. You could see the T-shirt with cats, accessories with cats, her drawings with cats on them, and, of course, more. She said that they were able to bring with them from Ukraine only three cats, and two of them had to stay with her grandmother in Ukraine. However, she believes that she will meet her grandmother and cats as soon as possible. So do I.

As the workcamp was a part of a Together for Climate and Peace project, 6 hours of workshops on the topic of climate justice were organized by me and my co-coordinator as local volunteers from SCI Poland for the participants of the workcamp. We showed the movie ‘The true cost’ which is a 2015 documentary film directed by Andrew Morgan that focuses on fast fashion. As it also touches on the topic of social inequality, we decided to show this movie and make a discussion on this topic. As well we brainstormed, have been working in groups, and have been actively discussing the climate justice topic. Moreover, we touched on the topic of human rights. The great part of the workshop was when participants were sharing their ideas on how we can make an impact on raising social justice in society. Besides, we shared the initiatives which already exist, and which are great and make a nice impact.

I am happy to have this experience and very grateful for the opportunities like this for kids to integrate with a new community. However, I truly believe, that Ukrainian kids will not have to experience the horrible circumstances and flee from their homes because of russian bombs and shelling, and that very soon these kids as well as all Ukrainians will be able to live in a peaceful Ukraine, where we will feel safe.

The workcamp took place in 2022

Poland, Kalisz

The story was written for us by Svitlana Kukharuk

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