Since the second day of the invasion by Russia in Ukraine, LYNC has ushered hundreds of women, teens and children from Ukrainian conflict zones, past the border checkpoints and into the safety of Germany.1 Through a strong network of partners, LYNC is now housing and feeding over 2000 Ukrainian women, teens and children in Bautzen County, Germany. These refugees are arriving with the psychological and emotional scars of war, with heightened anxiety and symptoms of PTSD. Early intervention is crucial to their everyday quality of life as they navigate the challenges of uncertainty, grief, and family decisions. Long-term, early trauma intervention is also shown to decrease symptomatology resulting in resiliency both personally and within family units, according to a 2003 study by McNally, Bryant and Ehlers. The need for trauma-informed support is critical and immediate, yet specific challenges are present.
“This pilot project, ‘Rebuilding Ukraine Now: Trauma Healing for Ukrainian Refugees,’ was birthed from the complex needs that were being reported by our in-country team,” said Abigail Rodriguez, Project Lead and Consultant at LYNC. “Whereas housing and food can be swiftly addressed, the mental health component of loving our neighbor requires a long-term view and creative approaches to alleviate the suffering not always visible to the human eye. The first week, as the refugees were streaming in, we foresaw the need for inner healing and the challenge of finding bilingual trauma-informed therapists in a rural area. We prayed and the answer came through the partnership of individuals who know the healing power of creativity for the mind and the soul.”
With over 5M refugees crossing the Ukrainian border in Western Europe, according to the latest UN estimates, there is a capacity strain on all mental health services. Training to support the psychological and emotional needs unique to those who witness war and become refugees takes years; this crisis unfolded in weeks. With language and capacity constraints, creativity is required to address refugee mental health needs quickly and to the highest standard available in the current environment.
“Our vision for this pilot project is to begin the rebuilding of Ukraine now, beginning with the women refugees who fled, yet are fighting for their families and their country day by day,” said Rodriguez. “By investing in these women now, bringing them tools for both expression and healing into their wholeness once again, we are directly supporting the builders of tomorrow. For those who plan to return to Ukraine after the war, they will be the rebuilders of families, communities and the nation. It’s an honor to stand and support them during this time.”
LYNC’s long history in serving at the demarcation line in Ukraine since the first Russian invasion as well as leading multi-year funded projects in Central Asia enabled our multi-lingual, multi-cultural team to move quickly, drawing on our long-time Ukrainian team now in Germany, engaging the local church in Bautzen and reaching out to the local University of Fine Arts of Dresden’s Art Therapy Postgraduate Program.
Launching May 7th, and continuing each Saturday in May, LYNC and the Ukrainian Aid Center in Bautzen will host Ukrainian women and teens for group art support led by two trained art therapists and four supporting art therapy students. During the structured sessions and University of Fine Arts of Dresden therapist-led sessions, participants will have access to curated materials including paper, pastels, charcoals, paints and more. It will be a time of exploration, safety, expression and enjoyment to explore their daily lives or what they have witnessed during the war. A warm, homemade meal, childcare and translation will also be provided. LYNC can accommodate 144 total participants for the pilot and capacity has already been exceeded in registrations for the first week.