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Ukraine Crisis Response: 3-day Workshop in Hungary

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As part of Child Helpline International’s Ukraine Crisis Response project, from 13 to 15 March we conducted a 3-day workshop in Budapest. This training, the fourth in a seven-part series of in-country sessions conducted in partnership with UNICEF ECARO, focused on increasing child helpline counsellors and front-line worker’s knowledge of mental health and psychosocial support issues (MHPSS), Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) and Trafficking in Human Beings (THB) related to the conflict in Ukraine.  

Since the invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, 3.8 million people have entered Hungary from Ukraine, among them 34,000 have applied for temporary protection (as of January 2023, UNICEF Hungary).  Our child helpline member in Hungary, Kék Vonal, plays a vital role in supporting these refugee children and families, providing counselling and guidance in Ukrainian and Russian, and through raising awareness such as through their popular and creative TikTok videos. Alongside Kék Vonal, a wide range of civil society organisations, NGOs and UN agencies form an important support ecosystem for Ukrainian children and families Hungary. 

This workshop was one of collaboration and unity, bringing together a broad range of professions and fields of expertise motivated by a single goal: to ensure that children, young people and families affected by the war in Ukraine have somewhere to turn and can receive relevant, quality and safe support. 

 We welcomed 38 participants from seven different organizations: 

  • Kék Vonal – our child helpline member in Hungary 
  • Migration Aid – an NGO that provides support to refugees who arrive in Hungary. They currently operate Hungary’s largest transit refugee hostel. 
  • Child Welfare Center- Debrecen – an institution that provides general and special services to children and families who are in crisis situations, including counselling, medical care, and social work support.  
  • Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) – a Hungarian public research university based in Budapest. 
  • The Hungarian Reformed Church Aid (HRCA) – charity service of the Hungarian Reformed Church which provides food, hygiene kits, information, spiritual support and shelter to those fleeing Ukraine. 
  • Terres des Hommes – an international children’s rights humanitarian organization. 

All images © Kovács Tamás Sándor

On day one, our Child Protection and GBV Expert, Eva Veldhuizen-Ochodnicanová, lead sessions on THB and SGBV in conflict. We discussed risks and vulnerabilities that make children a target for traffickers, and crucial indicators that practitioners could look out for to enable them to intervene. Participants also shared their own experiences of supporting minority ethnic groups as well as techniques for creating a safe environment in which children feel able to open up about their experiences of these issues. 

On the second day, after a session on standards and guiding principles for child helplines working in emergency settings, lead by Martina Tomic Latinac, Child Protection Specialist at UNICEF Hungary, we dived into a dynamic session on trauma-informed care by Clinical Psychologist and trauma specialist, Dr. Dulia Enkhtor. During this engaging session, Dulia guided participants through two case studies of Ukrainian children fleeing the war and we discussed how to ‘step into the child’s shoes’ and understand their needs in ways that are safe and protective for both the child and the counsellor. We talked about how to deal with adverse reactions and difficult emotions, what the symptoms of trauma are as well as a wide range of creative techniques to encourage children to process difficult experiences.  

This lead into the last session of the day on counsellor wellbeing, which was presented by Dr Maggie Brennan, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Dublin City University. During this session we talked to us about compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma and burnout, which counsellors are at risk of when working as hard as they do in challenging settings. We turned to brainstorming solutions for self and collective care, including ways organisations can best supervise staff, facilitate processing of difficult cases and create a culture of openness and support. One solution was the Schwartz roundtable exercise, a confidential space for teams to reflect on the challenges and enablers they face in delivering care. This method, which actively avoids discussing clinical solutions for certain cases, places the social and emotional impact of the counsellors’ work at the centre and enables teams to build connections and to feel heard and understood. 


All images © Kovács Tamás Sándor

“I’ve learnt more in this workshop than I did 3 years at University”
Anonymous Participant

The final day focused on current and future issues relating to the war in Ukraine. The day started with a panel discussion which provided an opportunity to discuss interventions by subject matter experts, including on national referral services, on unaccompanied and separated children and the role of technology in facilitating child sexual exploitation and abuse in the context of the Ukrainian war. The panel consisted of the following experts: 


Bringing together learnings and discussions from the previous days, Julia Muraszkiewitz and Toby Fenton from Trilateral Research facilitated an important closing session for participants to work together to brainstorm solutions for challenges they are currently facing, and anticipate facing in the next year. Participants discussed difficulties keeping up with the demand and having to balance a growing number of tasks, ensuring sufficient human resources and funding to be able to cope. In addition, a common concern shared by all, were the longer-term impacts of the war on children and young people’s mental health. Services anticipate an increase in suicide, self-harm and depression-related contacts in the months and years to come as children come to terms with their experiences. Among the solutions discussed were further staff trainings, increased awareness raising and avoiding the duplication of services.  

As the longer-term impact of the war is felt, the importance of cooperation and working together is crucial. Opportunities like this training session, to meet, to inspire, to share ideas, commonalities and brainstorm together, are key to enabling these organisations to continue their vital work, ensuring children and young people get the support they so need and deserve.  

We are grateful to speakers for their time, passion and impactful presentations and for the participants who all so wholeheartedly contributed, sharing valuable knowledge, experience and honest insights. 
Picture of Angharad Wells

Angharad Wells

Project Coordinator