The Way Home in Odessa, Ukraine, has been working with very vulnerable groups, including street children, since 1996. The organization has significantly increased the number of children who do not run away from home but instead stay and receive help in the regional hospital’s Medical and Social Aid Centre, and has helped large numbers of children to leave the streets and return to school. An ever-growing number of former street children are reunited with their families and are not only finishing school but are even pursuing higher education.
The Center of Early Development – funded by World Childhood Foundation – provides ~140 pre-school children and 80 school-age children from very marginalized families with much-needed support. The neighbourhood where the centre is located suffers from high rates of unemployment, poverty, alcoholism, drug abuse and crime. Many children from at-risk families show lower developmental levels and from day one in school they are struggling. As a result, they lose interest, begin skipping school and spend more time on the street. The project is a way for The Way Home, having worked with street children, to work preemptively in order to try to prevent these children from turning to the streets, and often to prostitution.
The Early Education Center offers developmental games, short excursions, meals, playing sports, watching films, homework support, computer classes, individual and group lessons, speech therapy, psychological counselling and work with parents.
A very important aspect for the pre-school children is the opportunity to draw, paint, sing, dance and make clay models and paper sculptures. The inclusion of arts and music is crucial not only for the children’s fine motor skills and language development, but it is also used for therapeutic purposes. The children are given an opportunity to express themselves through arts and music, and the resident psychologists use various forms of art when working with the children both individually and in groups.
Last, but not least, the arts and music section is fundamental in providing these children joy and allowing them to play and participate in the arts, in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child (article 31), the convention which World Childhood Foundation is founded on.