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“Support for women, paradise for kids” - Warsaw PCPM Education and Creativity Center (CEK) for moms with children from Ukraine gives work, support and summer play camps for kids

The PCPM’s Warsaw Education and Creativity Center (CEK) ran together with mBank for Ukrainian moms with kids is not only the playing room, but a place where they can receive support form a psychologist, speech and language therapist and a place where some of the refugees found jobs. Thanks to CARE financial aid, during vacation period PCPM also organizes summer play camps for kids at CEK.

The Center offers a lot of activities in the playing room both for children, teens, and adults. There is Zumba, gymnastics, or rhythmics for little kids. The center also provides classes on art-therapy.

KATIA THE PHOTOGRAPHER

A newly employed woman – Katia- with a 6-year-old daughter Marusia came to Poland on March 15 after fleeing war-torn Ukraine. Firstly, her daughter went to a Polish pre-school, but she didn’t find herself there well. 'When she was coming back, she said nobody willed to talk to her, that is why she doesn’t want to go there anymore. I started taking her to work to CEK where she started to have psychologist sessions and it helped her a lot’ – said Katia from Kyiv. As she continues therapy, thanks to the visits with the specialist, the girl started to play with other kids, and she already has two friends.

She found out about CEK thanks to a friend who mentioned that she had one last place for Polish lessons. Katya, in 3 months, having never learned Polish before, learned to communicate freely in the language thanks to on-site classes. In the interview, the photographer stressed the importance of access to specialists at CEK. 'A lot of children who came here from Ukraine struggle with different problems, with speaking, with understanding. It’s hard to find specialists for them. Here that help is in place. There is a speech therapist, a defectologist, a child psychologist. I think this is a big help, and it’s great’ – she concluded. 'My daughter previously in Ukraine never attended such classes, but now here she needed it. The little one goes to a speech therapist, and I can see that it helps, she expresses herself more freely. For me personally, the most important thing is that I have a job. I can’t even imagine what it would be like without one. The important thing for me is that I can take my daughter here with me and I don’t have to leave her anywhere else’ – she added. As the interviewee points out, there is a very good psychologist working at CEK. 'She helped me and my daughter. First the war, then the arrival of Poland, to another big city. It was way too much for the little one, huge stress. It’s good that here we have the opportunity to talk to a specialist’ – she said. The psychologist employed at the CEK is also a refugee from Ukraine. She helps both children and adults. An additional advantage of the specialists working at CEK is that they are Ukrainian, working in Ukrainian language.

Other moms like Katya, who are also beneficiaries and workers of this center, have same opinion about this place. 'I have a 9-year-old daughter and a 4-year-old son here. We’re in Warsaw since March 25, a month in CEK. He really likes the specialists here. He goes to a speech therapist, defectologist and psychologist. I also receive help from this woman (the psychologist – edit)’ – said Yana from Dnipro oblast in south-east Ukraine. Alisa, her daughter, goes to CEK for summer play camps, which are organized by PCPM in cooperation with an American organization CARE.

NATALYA THE PROFESSIONAL

Specialists are also mentioned by Natalia, who worked in Ukraine as a defectologist – a specialist in therapeutic pedagogy aimed at helping children with disabilities adapt in the social and educational spheres. In CEK she found employment in her profession. She arrived in Poland on March 7 from the Zhytomyr region in northern Ukraine with her four sons aged 3, 10, 13 and 16. The interviewee emphasizes how the friendly environment is good for children traumatised by war. 'My youngest son didn’t speak much at first, but now he does more often. I can see that this place gives my children a lot of joy’ – she stated.

ANYA & TYMUR

The Warsaw PCPM support point is also used by Anna and 9-year-old Tymur from Odessa. 'It’s like a paradise, everything is here’ – Anna’s son stated. 'I like the painting and origami folding classes the most’ – he said. So far Tymur has benefited from remote education from Ukraine; before the war he attended the 3rd grade of elementary school. As in the opinion of other mothers at CEK, the biggest help on the spot are specialists, especially a psychologist and speech therapist. 'Actually, my son doesn’t need to go to pronunciation classes, but I see that many children find it helpful’ – she noted. Anna adds that in Warsaw, she and Timur often go for walks. The boy likes the Palace of Culture the most – 'It’s my favorite symbol of Warsaw!’ – he eagerly said.

TWO INICIATIVES AT THE TIME

Kinga Gromala of PCPM is a coordinator and originator of the initiatives at the Center for Education and Creativity. As she points out, over the summer, two initiatives are running simultaneously at the CEK’s point on Królewska Street. One is the US CARE-funded 'Summer in Poland with PCPM’ and the other is the mBank-supported day care center described earlier. 'We opened in the last week of March. In the first ten days, 169 children came to CEK. Now we host about 60-80 children a day every day. This shows how popular and needed this place is in the capital’ – she said. 'It helps overcome traumas. We hire the specialists ourselves. Five caregivers in the common room, two speech therapists and two psychologists, almost all of them full-time. Previously, we also had a career counseling specialist. In addition, the day care center employs one cleaning lady’ – she described. All the women working at the center are refugees from Ukraine.

EASY TO FIND

A major advantage of the Center for Education and Creativity is its location – the outlet is located in the very center of the capital, near the intersection of both Warsaw metro lines. 'The premises provided to us by mBank are on the first floor, which makes it easier for mothers with small children in strollers to access the Center’ – CEK coordinator Kinga noted.

As part of the second project organized by CEK, 'Summer in Poland with PCPM’, two more people from Ukraine found a job. In addition, one more employee from Poland was hired. The CARE funded program has been in operation at CEK since the end of the school year. Every day from 10h to 18h children are provided with professional care, lunches and, above all, fun. As Kinga describes, new adventures and games await the pupils there every day. Monday is a day of traditions and interesting facts from different countries of the world. 'There was already a Polish, Ukrainian, Japanese and American day. We organize these activities to develop children’s interests in various regions of the world’ – she explained describing the attractions.

NEW ADVENTURES EVERYDAY

'For the Japanese day, the children learned the tea-making ritual, learned to write their names in Japanese, and made origami. On the Ukrainian day, the children made Ukrainian dolls callled motanki. On the Polish day, on the other hand, tissue paper classes, children made various decorations from this material. In addition, they learned about five major Polish cities. On the American day, the kids prepared hot dogs’ – Kinga recalled. On Tuesdays, the children learn about Warsaw. There are tours of the capital and learning Polish through play. Next Wednesday – field day. We spend the whole day outside, for example in the Saxon Garden. We organize outdoor tournaments, competitions in order to develop physical fitness and mental resilience” – she explained. Thursday is the day of getting to know Poland. Trips are organized by bus, which is sponsored by mBank. So far, as part of such trips, the children have already been to the Copernicus Science Center (CNK), the Illusion Farm, the Radom Village Museum, the Julinek amusement park and visited alpacas. A trip to Kazimierz is also planned. 'Friday, on the other hand, is a day of creativity dedicated to developing children’s creativity and skills’ – Kinga says. 'Art therapy, games, quizzes are organized, and so on until the end of the vacation. I believe that CEK on Królewska is a much-needed place on the map of Warsaw and I hope that thanks to the cooperation with mBank, it will continue to function as it does today’ – she added.