A step forward to rejuvenation

László Lehel, president-director of Hungarian Interchurch Aid (HIA) inaugurated the container kindergarten built in Zahaltsi, a settlement north of Kyiv, which has suffered a great deal due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The project was realised within the framework of the government programme Hungary Helps and with the coordination of HIA. The temporary institution is welcoming back sixty children, which will have an immediate and positive effect on the lives of the people of Zahaltsi and the settlement’s region. The opening of the kindergarten is therefore of great importance: it contributes to the rejuvenation of the village in the vicinity of Bucha and Borodyanka.

This week, the head of HIA was on a field visit to Berehove, Lviv and Kyiv oblast. The most significant of the many sites was Zahaltsi, where hundreds of children went to school until the war, thus it played a central role in the lives of the people of the area. Many locals were employed by the educational institutions, which provided the basis of stable family life in the Zahaltsi region.

From its experience in aid work in dozens of countries, HIA knows very well that even if a settlement becomes safe from violence, the lack of services can have catastrophic consequences. Restoring order and security in the communities that have suffered from fighting does not guarantee the resumption of critical public services such as education. Time spent in the classroom and kindergarten plays an essential role in children’s personality development and social skills. The lack of educational services also places a heavy burden on parents, since their children cannot be left alone at home. For parents, this can be an obstacle to finding employment and making future plans, and it can ultimately lead to leaving one’s hometown to find better prospects.

Who would have thought that a kindergarten can make such a difference?

The war takes a heavy toll on the Ukrainian treasury. The authorities try to cut spending where it is justifiable. As no children have been attending school in Zahaltsi since the war broke out, according to the relevant regulations, the staff of the educational institutions receive only a small part of their state provided salaries. Their reduced income can barely cover their monthly expenses.

Bringing the nursery back to life with the laughter of children filling the building thus helps Zahaltsi and its region economically. A functioning kindergarten provides work and beneficial activity essential for maintaining mental health for the parents of the school district’s sixty preschool children and the nursery staff who work for them. Moreover, successfully implementing the nursery project has also created work for the local contractors and workers who have played a crucial role in the construction work.

“The most important thing right now is to get the children back to the kindergarten as quickly as possible,” said László Lehel at the opening of the kindergarten. The head of HIA also noted that the resumption of attendance education in Zahaltsi was not a one-off response to a humanitarian issue. He added that HIA is committed to local engagement in its response, which, among other things, aims to create jobs in local communities and achieve sustainable, long-term results from its activities.

The container kindergarten in Zahaltsi was made possible by Continest’s technical implementation and the support of the government programme Hungary Helps. The next step is the complete renovation of the school building in Zahaltsi.

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