Chris Palusky, the Response Director of the Ukraine Crisis Response, visited the World Vision office in Georgia with the mission to oversee the program’s activities, learn about the results and its impact on Ukrainian refugees in the country. From the first day of the crisis, World Vision has been responding to the urgent needs of the Ukrainian people affected by the war through Global Response Program reaching more than 1.3 million people in the following countries: Ukraine, Romania, Moldova and Georgia. Initially, World Vision has been responding to the humanitarian needs of the Ukrainian people by providing food and sanitation kits, clothes and other essentials, however with the evolution of the situation, the organization diversified its support and now World Vision along with existing services is running various development programs in the mentioned countries to support and empower Ukrainian families and their children before the war ends.
The Response Director had an opportunity to meet with the local staff, partners and interact with Ukrainian refugees in Georgia who have been benefiting from the support provided by World Vision. As part of his trip, Chris Palusky visited World Vision's Multi-Service Centre, which is dedicated to supporting refugees from various countries, including Ukraine. The centre was established in close cooperation with United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Georgia (UNHCR) and its main function is to assist refugees in their resettlement and integration process. He also met with state authorities, local and international partners to learn more about the context and challenges, discuss the ongoing activities and promote joint future initiatives to create a greater impact in supporting Ukrainian refugees in the country.
By engaging with the World Vision Georgia team, field staff, and refugees, he gained valuable insights into the impact of the organization’s programs and initiatives in the region. Additionally, Chris Palusky had a tour of Happy Space, a nurturing and supportive environment designed to help children and parents overcome the trauma they have experienced due to the war. The availability of different classes indicates a holistic approach to healing and recovery, incorporating various therapeutic and educational activities to address their emotional and psychological needs.
“It is a child-friendly place, where kids can come, feel safe, loved and connected. Here they are doing catch-up classes, attending art therapy and processing the trauma they have been through. They are enjoying themselves, here kids are being kids. And World Vision is partnering with other organisations to provide wrap-around services for these children to help them overcome stress and develop in a healthy environment,” - he elaborated.
The Response Director also met Ukrainian mothers whose children attend various classes and who themselves benefit from counselling and other supportive services. It is noteworthy that some of them run their own CSOs to help other Ukrainian refugees in the country. Hearing about the hardships they have overcome and their dedication to staying positive while supporting their families and others in a different country was truly inspiring. He got acquainted with various activities the centre also offers to Ukrainian women, such as English language courses, psychological therapies and classes on entrepreneurship, which have a positive impact on their personal and professional development. Chris Palusky also emphasized the importance of supporting and satisfying the psychological needs of moms for their well-being. “Mothers' psychological needs have to be met so that they can raise happy and healthy children,” – he added.
Happy Space - the Education and Development Centre is managed by one of the Ukrainian mothers Svitlana Vyshnevska who was also forced to leave her homeland and upon arriving in Georgia joined the World Vision team as a Community Mobiliser. Before the outbreak of the war, she was working as a psychologist and now she continues supporting others in Georgia.
“I feel honored to be a part of this project and to be a member of this incredible team. Our mission holds immense significance for thousands of Ukrainians, who have been compelled to leave their homes behind. This centre is much more than just a place for gathering. Apart from offering various nonformal activities and courses, it serves as a lifeline, where parents can feel connected and safe, find solace and support”, - the Coordinator of the centre stated.
Chris Palusky also held discussions with the Head of the Ukrainian Sector in Georgia, where they placed emphasis on the importance of allowing Ukrainian children to study according to the Ukrainian curriculum and in their mother language. “Having such a program in place is crucial since it enables children to integrate into the Ukrainian education system when they return home,”-said he. World Vision Georgia contributes to this process by actively cooperating with Government agencies and equipping schools and children with necessary resources, technical equipment and educational kits.
Ekaterine Gurgenadze, the National Director of World Vision Georgia stressed the importance of Chris Palusky's visit to the country since itserves as a testament to the organization's commitment to helping Ukrainian refugees in Georgia and aligns with their global Ukraine Crisis Response mandate.
“We take pride in being at the forefront of providing vital, life-saving aid to Ukrainian refugees, and Georgia has become a home for many of those seeking a safe place to live. In response to the urgent needs of refugees, we have implemented a diverse range of initiatives, including multi-purpose cash assistance programs and winterization vouchers designed to help them cover pressing expenses until their employment. Recognizing the importance of mental well-being, we offer a variety of psychological services and counselling to children and their families. These services guide them through the challenging circumstances they are facing. Access to quality education is a fundamental focus for us, and we supply teaching, learning, and other necessary materials to educational institutions that cater to Ukrainian children. Moreover, our Happy Centres in Tbilisi and Batumi serve as empowering spaces for children and their parents, providing support in various aspects of life. By raising awareness of refugee women, we aim to prevent and address issues related to gender-based violence timely and effective. As an organization, we remain resolute in our dedication to this cause, with a special emphasis on improving the lives of those most affected, especially children”, - she stated.
Following a comprehensive review of the response program in Georgia, Chris Palusky expressed a highly positive evaluation of the local office's work. Once again, the director reaffirmed the organization's commitment to providing ongoing support. The Response Director stressed that while providing essential support and responding to the urgent needs of the people in Ukraine, Romania, Moldova and Georgia, World Vision is implementing economic development activities and assisting people find jobs to help them adapt to their current environment, whether they are living within their homeland or outside.
“We want to make sure that we are meeting the emergency needs with the evolution of the situation and at the same time we are starting new activities. World Vision is here today and will be tomorrow meeting the need as it changes, ” – Chris Palusky summarised.
In Georgia, the local office with the support of World Vision International, Aktion Deutschland Hilft (ADH) and United Nations High Commission for Refugees has reached more than 16 766 Ukrainian refugees, providing diverse services within World Vision Global Crisis Response program. World Vision Georgia continues to actively support Ukrainian children and their families to satisfy their immediate and medium-term needs as well as provide all the necessary assistance to ensure their wellbeing and smooth integration into the host community.