Address by Liana Gent, Director of the International Step by Step Association (ISSA)


    Dear ISSA Member,                                                                                       

    The war in Ukraine has devastating effects, affecting so many children and families. At ISSA, we stand for all children affected by this terrible crisis.
    Here is an update on how we provide support from ISSA. We know you want to help and we share some suggestions for what (more) you can do. We also share a message from our member organization, the Ukrainian Step by Step Foundation (USSF).
    From the first day of the war, at the ISSA Secretariat, we try to help – here is how:

    • We raise our voice together with international partners at ECDAN, ECPC, ARNEC, AfCEN, ANECD, and Moving Minds Alliance in this joint statement, and in this editorial, together with Eurochild, our European partner in the First Years, First Priority Campaign on ECD.
    • We are in close contact with our Member NGOs in Ukraine, who continue to work on behalf of young children, even in life-threatening circumstances: USSF and REYN Ukraine in the Uzhgorod region. Together with members and partners, we provide emergency support to young children in Romani communities in that region in Western Ukraine.
    • We support and connect our members and partners in neighboring countries, where hundreds of thousands of refugees are fleeing. Together, we will ensure that the early childhood development related support offered to refugee families has a strong trauma-informed component – whether in transit or already settled.
    • We use all our network mechanisms to connect and share: e. g. lists of Ukrainians who volunteered to serve as translators or offer psycho-social support remotely. We connected the staff of an Early Childhood Intervention NGO fleeing Kharkiv with ISSA Members in neighboring countries, who will provide shelter, and hopefully also jobs to them. We want to make more such connections!
    • We work to collect and share educational resources:
      • Our USSF colleagues together with the Ukrainian Institute for Education Development put together a package of resources “Lets Learn without Borders!” in Ukrainian language for children of different ages to support children and families in the shelters with audio stories, fairy tales, other activities; and to support refugee children with educational materials in their language.
      • We started putting together other resources that have been developed by our partners and members, including those used for remote learning during the pandemic. We will work on translating the most relevant resources.
      • We work to support members in countries with a large Russian minority (e.g. in Latvia) to equip teachers to deal with increased violence among children based on inter-ethnic conflicts, and in general discussing about war.
    • We reach out to relevant agencies and organizations to stay informed about what other groups are doing, so that we can make connections and have a coordinated action. The situation changes from day to day, so a clearer longer-term plan of action will be developed soon.
    • We work hard to raise funds to make all the above possible, and to be prepared for the massive effort which will be need to serve refugee families and later (soon, we hope!) to contribute to the reconstruction of ECD services in Ukraine.

    Here is how YOU can get involved as an ISSA Member:

    We know that many ISSA member organizations are already in action – we will share soon on our website inspiring examples from their work. Contact us to let us know what you are doing already! Write to Ayça Alaylı at aalayli@issa.nl.

    What else you can do:

    •  If you are in a country where refugee families are transiting or settling, let us know what actions you (will) take, and we will support or make relevant connections for you. 
    • Join our teams who work on collecting and packaging resources to respond to the requests of our USSF colleagues in Ukraine and members in other countries:
      • Services for refugee children, with a strong trauma-informed ECD component
      • Activities for children in shelters: games, other activities (age 3-10)
      • Practical recommendations to preschool and primary school teachers on how to help and communicate with their students remotely
      • Recommendations on how to support children with special needs
      • Trainings on inclusion/diversity trainings for teachers in contexts of inter-ethnic tensions
    [Once we have a collection of resources, we will share with all members, so you can use or share them with those serving refugee families in your country.]
    • Explore if your NGO/University/Research Center can take in practitioners/professionals from among the Ukrainian refugees, as staff, interns, research fellows etc. We will be glad to help locate such professionals on the move, so they can take refuge in your country/organization.  
    • If you know individuals or organizations who want to contribute with funds, direct them here.

    Below we share a message from the Ukrainian Step by Step Foundation to ISSA Members:

    We are THANKFUL to ISSA and its members, and to countries giving humanitarian and other assistance, providing air corridors for Ukraine, and protesting against this insane war initiated by Putin`s regime in Russia!
    We are THANKFUL to all our neighboring countries for accepting refugees, including families with young children and assisting them with quality ECD services and education in your countries!
    Yulia Naida, Director, Ukrainian Step by Step Foundation
    Nataliia Sofii, Deputy Director, Ukrainian Institute of Education Development

    At ISSA, we will continue to work tirelessly together towards our vision of a society where families, communities and professionals work together to empower each child to reach their unique potential and embrace values of social justice and equity. In peace!  Our work is needed more than ever! We count on every member of our network!
    Liana Ghent,
    ISSA Director

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