On Sunday nights in recent weeks, Ukrainians living in the country or elsewhere as refugees have taken to the internet to listen to professional presentations on emotional health and well-being.
One of the participants from Ukraine told the organizers: “For me, the symposium is God’s answer to my prayers.” Thank you for your support during a very difficult period of my life. I have once again received proof that God is very near.
At the request of Church leaders in Ukraine and coordinated by the Central European Family Services Bureau, the 90-minute sessions cover the following topics:
- Emotional self-care in times of crisis
- How to keep calm during an emergency
- Travel luxury
- What is counseling and how can it help?
- Dealing with grief and loss
- Understanding and dealing with vicarious trauma
- How to serve people in emotional distress
- How to help children and young people face challenges
After Sunday’s session, January 8, Rocío Gutierrez, director of Church Family Services for the Central European region, wrote to Church News: “We are always concerned that because of the blackout, people who live in Ukraine will not participate, but they are always there, even in the dark.” .
The project leaders are Elder Koji Okumura and Sister Ko Okumura, who handle communications, logistics, and coordination. The presenters are mental health professionals who work as family services counselors in Portugal, the UK and France.
Gutiérrez said the Central European Translation Department quickly translated resources for the sessions and provided a “fantastic team of interpreters” to share messages in Ukrainian every Sunday.
“We have two [intérpretes] Every week because it is emotionally difficult for them to interpret such painful stories because of their personal connection to the situation in Ukraine.
In the first week, Gutierrez witnessed an example of God’s love for each individual. A leader in Switzerland told the Office of Family Services about two deaf members from Ukraine who needed emotional support and would want to participate in the session if there was some way to receive sign language interpretation.
“What seemed impossible happened – God performed a miracle so that we could find a Ukrainian sign language interpreter for these members within 24 hours,” Gutierrez said.
This interpreter participates every Sunday in a small church in Ukraine with a power generator to ensure she has enough electricity to power the camera while interpreting into Ukrainian Sign Language.
The first session involved 100 contacts, with more than one participant per contact, who were meeting in their homes or meeting centers in Ukraine. The presenters introduced the topic, showed a video and gave the participants the opportunity to share stories.
“Many individuals shared their experiences,” Gutierrez said. “They felt validated and stayed connected until the very end.”
Gutierrez said people in Ukraine, as well as refugees who have left the country, have different needs. For example, in the second week, people in Ukraine participated in a session on keeping calm during an emergency, while refugees participated in a session on well-being during displacement.
“The comments from people outside Ukraine highlighted how guilty they felt for being left (survivor guilt), and how difficult life is now that they are in new countries,” she said. “Participants shared strengths, coping skills, and challenges with each other, feeling validated and learning new ways to deal with them.”
Comments from people in Ukraine highlighted how difficult it can be to live with fear and uncertainty about the future, and not being able to plan your life.
The sharing part of the session almost turned into a testimony meeting. “They felt more comfortable sharing their experiences, challenges and strengths,” Gutierrez said. “The spirit was felt in both sessions.”
In recent weeks, the organizers have learned that many Ukrainian members in Kyiv are experiencing power outages, some attending webinars from their mobile phones, in complete darkness. Some artists were also left without electricity. Seminars are now being recorded for those who cannot attend live, in order to respect the privacy of participants who share their experiences.
As the sessions continued, the participants requested more hands-on exercises such as breathing, relaxation, focus, and emotional stability. Gutierrez said the feedback has been very positive.
Sessions will continue on January 15th and 22nd via Zoom.
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