Last week (13-15 February 2023), I took part in a three-day workshop in Bratislava, Slovakia, which we hosted together with UNICEF Slovakia, and which focussed on child helplines and frontline workers supporting children and young people displaced from Ukraine. This was the second in an ongoing series of in-country trainings we have organised as part of our Ukraine crisis response which we are conducting in partnership with UNICEF ECARO.
During the first two days, we focussed on building capacity. We learned about human trafficking in conflict, sexual and gender-based violence, trauma-informed care and counsellor wellbeing – all topics which these vital services may encounter in the course of their work in responding to the war in Ukraine. We also explored Child Helpline International’s Core Quality Standards for our child helpline members, and what these meant in the context of emergencies.
On the final day, we engaged in a stimulating group discussion around the three most common challenges the participating organisations faced: collaboration, continued capacity building, and being able to reach out to Ukrainians in Slovakia in order to be able to raise awareness of the services they could offer. We then exchanged ideas and solutions on these topics.
We were joined by a variety of dedicated organisations operating across the country:
- Linka Detskej Istoty – Our Slovak child helpline member.
- Comin Nitra – A centre that supports the social inclusion of foreign nationals.
- Human Rights League – A civil society association dedicated to providing legal assistance to foreign nationals and refugees in Slovakia.
- Linka Nezabudka – A toll-free, 24/7 helpline and crisis line.
- Mareena – A NGO working to help foreign nationals integrate into Slovakian society.
- Nadacia DEDO – A human rights organisation running an integration centre for refugees who have fled the war in Ukraine.
- Slovenská Humanitná Rada – The Slovak Humanitarian Council
- UNICEF/UNHCR Blue Dot Centres – Toll-free helplines providing a variety of child and family-friendly services.
As well as presentations by our own Eva Veldhuizen Ochodničanová (Child Protection & Gender-Based Violence Expert) and Magdalena Zimnowoda (PhD), (our Quality, Research & Data Officer), we also had the honour of hearing and learning from several other trainers and panellists:
- Teona Aslanishvili, Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF Slovakia
- Dr Peter Collins (PhD), forensic psychiatrist, University of Toronto and Ontario Provincial Police
- Guillermo Galarza, Vice President, Partnerships & Law Enforcement Trainings, the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC)
- Aagje Ieven, Secretary General, Missing Children Europe
- Alexandra Malangone, Slovak lawyer and Associate fellow, KIND and Johns Hopkins SAIS
- Dr Zuzana Neupauer (PhD), Clinical Psychologist, UNICEF Slovakia
- Dr Lucia Benč Orlická (PhD), clinical psychologist and psychotherapist.
I found the participants’ selfless efforts, professionalism and openness to make sure many Ukrainian voices as possible are heard and protected very moving, and I know that we have accomplished some incredible work through this training event.
I returned home to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, but I won’t be staying here for long – the date for our next in-country training is already rapidly approaching, and so I have only a brief couple of days to catch up with friends, family and colleagues before setting off again. Next stop: Sofia, Bulgaria!