Ukraine: People of the future

Article written by Kateryna Yasko and Vytas Buciunas

This summer my NGO OPEN KHATA (International Educational Initiative) has conducted two sets of 14-days “vertical development” programs for children age 9-15, based on the principles of integral approach, developmental psychology and knowledge about child’s cognitive, emotional, moral, etc development that are available for us so far. We’ve called the camp “People of the Future”. Since it happened to be an extremely interesting and insightful experience from the developmental perspective for me as a project leader as well as for my fellow colleagues, I decided to share some details with you. For the purpose of simplicity, I will use the Spiral Dynamics terms to describe what was happening.

We worked with 58 children, most of them coming from the war zone of Ukraine (Donetsk and Luhansk regions), few coming from Kiev, Kharkiv, Chernihiv plus one 14-years old boy from Sweden. The language of the camp was Russian and Ukrainian and it was supported by the Lithuanian and Swedish governments in frame of the project “Social Integration through development of emotional intelligence and peacemaking skills in schools in the East of Ukraine”.

13938587_10209390703219931_502142587991419319_nA 14-days program was designed in a way to harmoniously activate all the palette of mindsets/vMemes, available to each child at that moment. Each one took most of what they could take out of it.
We were focused on building healthy Blue through sports – in our case it was rock climbing. We believe rock climbing as sport helps simultaneously build strong character traits (perseverance, self-control, endurance), social and emotional skills (9-year old kids are taught to ensure each other – so they understand and feel that the life of a friend is in his/her hands), build team spirit and strong connections within the group. This activity is led by professional sports instructors and by the the end of their stay in the camp “they are all for one and one for all” 🙂

The Orange goal-oriented project-based approach was suggested to children of age 12-15. Within 2 weeks this group of 15 children had to prepare and issue a journal with their own articles and photos of the city Kamenets-Podolskiy (Western Ukraine), where the camp was located. They worked with a professional journalist and a writer, both were oriented towards fostering their freedom of thought and the ability to take different perspectives. Teenagers conducted real interviews with local businessmen (including those who destroy local flora and fauna), militarymen who came back from war, corrupt officials, and wrote articles in their journal (they gave it a name “HighLight”).
Every day children had photography lessons, led by the professional photographers. The goal was to teach children to contemplate the beauty of nature and the old city through the lens of the camera, as well as to transmit tot them the spirit of eco-consciousness. In the album below you can see the works of children.

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Another part of the group (age 9-14) was preparing a performance with an experienced Ukrainian-Russian producer, which was then shown at the central square of Kamenets-Podolskiy. Children were offered to chose a topic on their own. Part of the performance was dedicated to the theme of Love during the World War II, and it was their conscious choice. Decorations were made by children as well. The performance was really very touching, and seemed like it helped transform their concerns into creative energy. Here’s the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TkUH7rG4kac

Besides sports, drama, journalism and photography every day children were trained in Empathic communication (based on Marshall Rosenberg’s NVC-methodology). They exercised in mindfulness and together with a psychologist did the reflective circles with a candle, learning to give feedback to each other in a compassionate manner (Green). They also received some basic knowledge in educational neuroscience in order to better understand what is happening to their brain during highly emotional states and outbursts, and how to use various ways of switching on the prefrontal cortex at a proper moment to calm down their nervous system.

The alchemy of the mixture of methodologies and people has produced an outstanding effect of growth of creativity, freedom of thought, opened their hearts and helped develop trust and inner peace. The “tangible” final results – open performance at the city central square and the Journal “High Light” appeared to be extremely successful and were appreciated by the locals.

13903192_10209390679739344_5963263817968616869_nOur mission as organisers was to help people with different mindsets, both children and teachers, unfold their potential in a trustful a compassionate atmosphere, using a project-based approach. And to have fun, of course 🙂
Although our insights are not research-based, and we understand that the effect of a 2-weeks program cannot bring truly sustainable results, we still observe that after 14 days – the effects of trauma, social, parental and cultural conditioning seem to abate. Children became more responsible, supportive with each other, reflective, less fearful, more free and happy.
And we, 15 adults who were involved the Program, feel matured and very happy as well 🙂
From now on I dream to once organise an international “vertical growth” program for children from Ukraine and other parts of the world.

Much love from Ukraine 🙂

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