The “Empowering the Next Generation” project supports the integration of Ukrainian children and their families in Italy

AVSI and UNICEF in partnership in a project for the integration and support of Ukrainian children displaced in Italy during the war

In the chaos caused by the war in Ukraine, many families have found themselves seeking refuge across national borders. Italy has taken in a significant number of girls, boys and teenagers fleeing the conflict.

"Empowering the Next Generation", the testimony of Polina and Tetiana

Among them, Polina, a child who experienced war from her earliest years, found herself catapulted into an unknown Italy, where the language and customs are radically different from what she was used to. Her story is an example of the concrete support of the "Empowering the Next Generation" programme, a collaboration between UNICEF and AVSI, which aims to provide newly arrived children and adolescents in Italy with the necessary tools to overcome obstacles and fully integrate into society.

The first obstacle Polina faced was the language barrier. Thanks to her host family and the assistance of EMMAUS, Polina had access to Italian lessons that opened the door to communication and learning.

Learning Italian has not only enabled Polina to integrate better at school, but has also fostered her emotional well-being, allowing her to freely express her emotions and feel part of a community.

Tetiana, Polina's mother

Indeed, it is not only the practical aspect that is addressed by this project. The focus is also on the psychosocial well-being of the children, through creative and recreational activities that allow them to express their emotions and process their experiences.

As with Polina, her parents were also hindered by their lack of knowledge of Italian. "Having a network around us was important. EMMAUS for example gave us a lot of support in our job search."

Olena and Sofiia story

Olena and her daughter Sofia arrived in Italy without knowing anyone and without speaking the language. "At the beginning, we found support in the Association of Ukrainians in Bologna. Through this support network, we had access to social services and the language support we needed to integrate into our new home,' says Olena as Sofia plays during one of AVSI and UNICEF's emotion workshops.

Active participation in social and cultural life helped us to adapt. Sofiia, in particular, found a reference point in theatre, where she had the opportunity to express herself and interact with her peers through acting. This form of artistic expression helped her to improve her Italian, but also boosted her self-confidence and her ability to communicate with others.

Olena, Sofiia's mother

The empowerment project is not limited to the individual sphere. Olena emphasises the importance of feeling supported by the community and passing on this sense of solidarity to one's children. She relates how Sofiia's active participation in helping a blind classmate shows how empathy is one of the core values promoted within this project.

"Empowering the Next Generation" through access to education, language support, and creative activities involves 606 Ukrainian and 350 vulnerable children as well as promoting continuous training for educators in 6 Italian regions.