Psychosocial support for children

Children sticking their wishes to the wishing tree. Photo: Jane Munro/Australian Red Cross

In Tbilisi, the capital city of Georgia, a brightly decorated classroom has a special purpose.

Festooned with drawings and brimming with colourful toys, the space is designed for displaced Ukrainian children to decompress and receive psychosocial support.

Volunteers with specialised backgrounds in psychology run the space, playing games with the children, dancing and making art, playing music, and telling stories.

During a visit in April 2023, Australian Red Cross staff spent time in this child-friendly space, gaining insights into the needs of Ukrainian children and this dedicated support initiative.

In 2023, Georgia witnessed a surge in displaced people from Ukraine, prompting a comprehensive needs assessment by the Georgian Red Cross, supported by IFRC. The findings highlighted key needs: food, hygiene, healthcare, long-term cash aid, and shelter.

The assessment also revealed a lack of child-friendly spaces for Ukrainian children attending Georgian schools. That’s where this colourful classroom comes in.

During their visit, Australian Red Cross staff witnessed a poignant moment when children wrote their wishes on post-it notes and placed them on a picture of a ‘wishing tree’. Some wishes were universal and innocent, like wanting chocolate or money.

But others reflected the unique experiences of Ukrainian children who wrote down peace as their main wish.

In the branches of the wishing tree, the innocent universal wishes of children were intertwined with the hopes of those touched by conflict.

One of the Georgian Red Cross staff members who designed the program, Ketevan Kirkitadze, who recently finished her studies to become a psychiatrist, said, “Georgian Red Cross has many great activities, but this one is particularly close to my heart. When I see the difference between Georgian kids and the challenges being faced by Ukrainian kids, I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life.”

The profound impact of the program was clear to Australian Red Cross staff: children were laughing, singing, and joyfully engaging with the Georgian Red Cross volunteers.

Following a thorough program assessment, Australian Red Cross successfully allocated funding from our Ukraine Crisis Appeal to support the rollout of this Georgian Red Cross initiative.

These funds will be instrumental in creating an environment where displaced Ukrainian children in Georgia can experience joy, have fun, and find a safe space to navigate their new lives.


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