Helping the most vulnerable

Dnipro is an industrial city with around one million inhabitants in eastern Ukraine. Families with children, the sick and the elderly have sought refuge here from the ravages of war elsewhere in the country.


“Disabled, sick and old people are often left alone in war-torn cities. We get them out and help them back to life,” says Olga Volkova. She is the leader of “An Ocean of Kindness,” one of the organisations NCA supports in Ukraine.

After seeing the miserable and undignified conditions that many disabled and elderly people were forced to live in, the organisation decided to create a centre with temporary accommodation for people fleeing the war.

“We took over an old and abandoned building from the council that was previously a maternity hospital. We refurbished it and since March 2023 we have given care and attention to more than 2,000 disabled, sick, and elderly people who were left to fend for themselves,” says Volkova.

“In the worst cases, we find severely disabled people completely emaciated,” she says.

“They are often highly traumatized, aggressive, and act out. With good care and support from our doctors, nurses, and psychologists, we can help get them back to a better place in life,” says Volkova.

Nadia is 83 years old. She is one of the 2,000 that have received care and support at the centre.

“There were bombs and rockets around the clock, it was absolutely terrible. I can only thank God that these kind people got me out and got me here. Here I get such good care and delicious food every single day. I feel so lucky,” she says as she makes the sign of the cross on her chest.

At the centre, Dasha (5) and her family receive shelter, food, psychological support and the opportunity to take part in a wide range of activities.

Like family

Her new friend Zinaida is also at the centre. She is the same age as Nadia and lived alone for many months after her husband died.

“With the exception of some neighbours who helped me with food, I had no one to help me. I didn't know what to do, and thought I was going to die like this,” says Zinaida.

When we ask her how she is doing at the centre, she smiles.

“Everyone is so kind to me. Like I was a family member. I couldn't wish for anywhere else to be. I hope I can stay here until the end of my life,” says Zinaida.

Children of the war

Just a few kilometers from the centre for the disabled, sick, and elderly in Dnipro is a centre for families with children fleeing the war.

Here NCA has ensured access to clean water, toilets, and hygiene services. In addition, those who come here receive shelter, food, psychological help, and the offer to take part in a wide range of activities.

“When the children come here, they are nervous and stressed, and many struggle with nightmares at night and trauma during the day. With playful activities, warmth, and psychological support, we try to bring “the child” back in war-affected children,” says psychologist Oleksandra Popasna.

In a small classroom at the centre we meet a handful of children who are concentrating on colourful drawings.

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Linda Nordby, NCA`s Head of Humanitarian Division pictured together with the leader for the centre, Nina and Riborg Knudsen, NCA`s Senior Humanitarian Coordinator.

“Many of the children are affected by what they have experienced. They are quiet, withdrawn, and afraid when they come here. They sleep and eat poorly. With well-educated and experienced staff, we can give help them start creating new thought patterns with the help of activities and by meeting other children in the same situation,” she says.

“When the children were drawing animals yesterday, suddenly everyone sat and cried loudly. Many of them have had to leave their pets behind when they fled, and now they imagine them being killed by the bombs. It hurts to see such reactions in children, but that's when we have to try to get them to think differently with comfort, closeness and support,” says Popasna.

Dasha is one of the children at the centre. She is five years old.

“They are very kind here,” she says, putting the finishing touches on a drawing of peace doves flying over a map of Ukraine.

My favourite thing is my new friends. And colouring,” says Dasha.

Stepping up the support

In January 2024, NCA opened an office in Kiev together with our sister organization DanChurchAid. Together with our partner HEKS/EPER, we will aim to help 330,000 of the country's most vulnerable people. The work will have a major focus on mental health and help for victims of gender-based violence.

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Text is written by Arne Grieg Riisnæs.

All photos taken by Håvard Bjelland/Norwegian Church Aid.