Kid's Games for refugee children faces serious challenges

12 Feb, 2016 | Ukraine
OM International
Kids Games kicks off in the freezing foyer where refugees have been housed for almost two years.
In the Kuyalnik sanatorium close to Odessa, hundreds of refugees are living through their second winter in an unheated building. Many of them are in wheelchairs… Recently another sanatorium closed it’s doors for refugees and families with around 200 children were moved to the Kuyalnik sanatorium. 

For months OM Ukraine Odessa team spent hours in preparations, discussions, and negotiations with local government and the director of this centre. Some of the adults who have been living in this summer sanatorium have voiced the need for the children to be busy with something. In this communal setting there are no activities for children, the kids are not feel welcomed. Sometimes they are yelled at by stressed out administration staff when they run in the freezing hallways. 

Thus the idea of holding a Kid’s Games outreach came about. 

The plan was to meet with the children, get to know them though fun activities and build relationships with them. Everything was in place for a huge opening celebration in the concert hall at the sanatorium. Less than 24 hours before the start the team received a phone call with very bad news from the area head of social services … “Cancel everything”… 


OM Odessa team leader, Slavik Puzanov, was not going to just let things be cancelled. After another phone call to the social services, they decided to try ones more to speak with the director of the sanatorium. He refused to let our volunteers and team members use the concert hall - but agreed that we could meet the kids in the foyer of the centre. From the 200 children living in the centre only 10 were there to meet the team of volunteers. 

The team set up right in front of the elevators and soon the word spread that … although we had no humanitarian aid or presents… some fun stuff was going on for the kids. By the end of the day 39 children had joined in the festivities in the cramped foyer. Parents also hanged around and all were impressed with what was presented. Kids games usually need lots of space, which wasn’t available during this first meeting. Now the team in Odessa is rethinking how to continue with this outreach and hope that social services will be able to organise a school hall within the city and transport for the children in order to hold the Kid’s Games program as planned.

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