Goodacity – Dare to be Good

a childhood without war

“To bring smiles back to children’s faces and to rescue their war-torn dreams is the task I set for myself,” says Olena Shevtsova from Pryluky, Ukraine.

“Now, children’s dreams are in dire need of their own space, and children need a place where they can return to a childhood without war…”

This war has stolen a year of childhood from our children – wherever they may be. Childhood during wartime…

a childhood without war

That which gives children the sun

“My work with children started almost two years ago,” says Ms. Olena. “Symbolically, it was on June 1st, Children’s Day. A little backstory: my family has a private estate called “Hospitable Court” in the village of Ivkivtsi in the Pryluky district, Ukraine. It was founded by my husband’s family – his father was always involved in charity work, giving people kindness and especially helping children. So, we came up with the idea – why not do something interesting and exciting for our rural children? So, on June 1st, 2021, I organized a holiday for local children – I invited an animator, a pastry chef who held a master class for the kids, ordered paint for face painting, and started painting the children myself. There were dances, entertainment, soap bubbles show – it was an unforgettable event for everyone, and kids even came to us from neighboring villages!

The holiday ended, but the emotions remained – I saw how much children need such events and the impressions they leave behind, and I decided to please them more often.

I invited people to our estate who organized various master classes for children, and then I realized that I can and want to independently give positive emotions to children! That’s how the children’s workshop “Hospitable Creativity” was born, and I started developing author’s programs and master classes for children. All of them do not require special materials – we can create something interesting and original with improvised means.”

a childhood without war

Therapy with toys and love

With the start of the full-scale Russian invasion, our work with children was temporarily suspended,” says Olena. “Many children left because the first priority was to protect them during the war. Battles were taking place very close to us, and there were shelling… When I resumed my work at the children’s workshop, I set a goal to save as many children as possible from the horrors they experienced because they are the future of Ukraine. I am also a mother of a 9-year-old daughter, and I understand how difficult it is for children now and how much they need a childhood without war…”

Children have inspired me to pursue a second degree in psychology, despite already having a Master’s degree in economics. I am constantly improving my qualifications and have completed numerous international trainings in providing first psychological aid to children.

My desire to bring joy back into childhood has led me to join an international project from the Lviv Institute of Art Therapy, under the guidance of Victoria Nazarevych. I am thrilled to have joined the project, and we have created a therapeutic toy room in our homestead – the “Toy Therapy Room”. We carried out extensive renovations in our homestead, and I selected a room to become the children’s therapy room. 

I would like to thank the Goodacity platform for their “toy” donation to fill the room and for helping us purchase a “dry pool”. My happiness knew no bounds when the “Toy Therapy Room” opened in October of last year!

діти без війни

It’s a very interesting technique – using a toy to “level out” a child’s psychological state. The child comes into the room, which is filled with soft toys, and chooses a “friend”. With this toy friend, they go through the entire session, later drawing, molding, or doing an appliqué together with their favorite toy. After the session, the child can take the toy home or leave it in the room and visit it again next time…

Today, local children and those from neighboring villages and Pryluky come to the room. Such rooms exist all over the world – in Poland, Canada, America, and Ukraine too. There are only three such rooms in Chernihiv region, Ukraine, – ours in Ivkivtsi, one in Snovsk, and one in Chernihiv. Sessions are free for children whose parents serve in the Armed Forces, refugee children, children from families in difficult life circumstances, and children who need psychological support.

a childhood without war

Returning to childhood without war

They felt it everywhere – during lessons in school shelters, while holding their mother’s hand and evacuating to another region or country, and listening to air raid sirens… Our children grew up very quickly and understood what pain and fear were… However, they also felt the need to help – the little ones rush to draw pictures for our defenders, the older ones make trench candles or weave nets… Together, we made dumplings for our defenders at the front, wrote notes to them with wishes for victory. The dumplings went to Bakhmut, Ukraine, and the children were happy to help.

щасливе дитинство без війни

From the first days of the war, our family took the path of volunteering – we help the Armed Forces of Ukraine at the local level and send aid to hotspots. In addition to helping our military, I teach and encourage my children to do good. Even before the war, I had my own project called “Warm Children’s Hands” – I told children about oncology patients and for St. Nicholas Day, we made candles and candle holders and sent them to the oncology center – together with the “Tabletka” fund. I want children to understand that no matter how old you are, you can create and multiply goodness!

In the “Toy Therapy room” for children, in a friendly atmosphere, kids can play, receive psychosocial support, and communicate with their peers – in short, restore their sense of normal life and return to childhood without war.

Yes, a child from the front-line area comes to me, who at the age of 5 saw real horror… At first, she was very closed and reluctant to make contact, but now she is an absolutely positive and bright girl!

I can see the difference in her eyes. When she first came to us, there was no trace of happiness in her gaze. But now there is. I welcome the children with a homely, natural, hospitable warmth, with a great soul and love. Our classes take place on weekdays and weekends. And this is despite the fact that I have a main job, and this year in March I plan to defend my candidacy – I don’t even know how I manage to do it all…

I am inspired by the children, and they are inspired by me! The youth in the village are not engaged in any social activities – so I invite them to be animators in our classes with the children. For them, this is not just a part-time job, but socialization, an opportunity to feel needed and involved. The way they play and have fun with the children, how they take care of them – it moves me how well they have been able to unite!

I am happy to see positive changes in the children, and their desire to engage and come to me, eagerly waiting for Sundays to visit our workshop or “Toy Therapy room.” Their smiles and positivity, which they radiate, is the most important thing! There is so much warmth and love in this. For me, it’s not just a job or a business, it’s my life! My father-in-law, Volodymyr Petrovych Pishchenko, used to say, “Let there be goodness.” And he passed this life motto onto us! So let there be goodness!