Training for trauma

Mission staff in Ukraine receive specialized training to help those suffering from the trauma of war

I see many clear signs of trauma in the families and children I’m working with...

“Recently, an ordinary airplane in our town caused huge fear among the local children: some of them were trying to hide in basements. I was extremely saddened to see this because before the war, the children would have gladly run out to look at the plane.”

Sergiy Soroka works in western Ukraine as a family coordinator for Mission Without Borders (MWB), supporting families living in poverty – and he is seeing firsthand the impact of war on children’s and families’ wellbeing.

Before Russia’s large-scale invasion, his work involved helping families in various ways to make positive changes and become more financially stable. Since 2022, the demands of his job have multiplied – with grief, fear, trauma, loss and deeper levels of poverty hitting families hard.

Sergiy said, “I see many clear signs of trauma in the families and children I’m working with. For example, every loud sound, such as distant thunder or even a book falling down, is now associated with the sound of a missile and often causes shock.

“The sounds of air raids cause fear and panic. People have become depressed, and many more people now have sleep disorders. Many find it difficult to overcome frustration and as a result, they’re under constant stress.”

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MWB began working in Ukraine over 60 years ago, with local staff supporting families and children. When war broke out all over Ukraine in February 2022, MWB’s staff were directly affected – and ready and willing to respond to the crisis by helping those in need all around them. Huge numbers of displaced people came to western Ukraine, fleeing parts of the country under direct attack. Families and elderly people endured all kinds of loss and trauma – and for many, poverty deepened as a result of the invasion.

Pavlo Melnyk is another family coordinator working for MWB. “Since the beginning of the war, there have been a lot of rocket attacks, and both adults and children have become fearful and worried,” he said. “In some of the sponsored families I support, the children, unfortunately, have started to stutter; some struggle to fall asleep at night and are crying more. There are families that couldn’t cope with that and fled abroad. Of course, those families whose family members are in the army and on the front line are living under constant pressure, and their everyday lives have changed a lot. That is very clear to see, and I notice it right away when I meet with them.”

Lyudmyla Soroka, another family coordinator, said, “The families I work with have become much more stressed and irritable, and that is very noticeable. Some are afraid of everything; some, on the other hand, ignore the danger.
“Another factor is that some people have big financial difficulties because of the war and, sadly, have become even poorer. They cannot provide for their families’ basic needs, and it makes them desperate and dispirited.

“Many people are exhausted and depressed because of hearing bad news every day. People are on edge: they are filled with negative emotions and even a little minor thing can make them cry or become very angry.
“It’s very challenging to talk to those who have lost their loved ones. Very often, they are closed off and seem to live in their own world.”

MWB Staff are trained to work with families suffering from trauma

MWB Staff learn how to work with families suffering from trauma caused by war

MWB works with families in many ways to help them

MWB works with families in several ways, including providing agricultural training to help support their needs.

MWB works with families in many ways to help them

Donated clothes are another way MWB helps provide families who have lost so much because of the war.


Learning to listen and ask the right questions is a good start

Sometimes simply listening with empathy is the best approach.

Staff participate in trauma training
Staff learn about the skills need to help those dealing with trauma cause by the war in Ukraine

MWB is aware of the increased pressure on coordinators in Ukraine – and the incredible need for psychological and emotional support for the many people suffering from trauma. As a result, when the Bible Society offered to do some training sessions on how best to support and counsel people through traumatic experiences, MWB staff eagerly accepted.

At the training sessions, MWB staff were taught how to view trauma and suffering through a Biblical lens, and given helpful questions to ask, as well as insight into the various stages people go through as they experience grief.

Volodomyr Brychuk, MWB Ukraine’s programme manager, said, “The need is really great. I’ve seen this in my church where I’m a member, and in the Mission office where internally displaced people come. Our staff who work with enrolled families see a lot of anxiety, traumatic people come. Our staff who work with enrolled families see a lot of anxiety, traumatic experiences, a sense of an unsettled future, lots of worry. experiences, a sense of an unsettled future, lots of worry.

“The training session sessions started out by stating that all Ukrainians have some degree of trauma, to a greater or lesser level. However, not everyone is able to admit this."

“The first step is to talk to the person, help them to acknowledge their struggles. They need to open up and talk about what’s causing the pain, what specifically brought this anxiety.

“We were split into four groups, and each group was given a different Bible passage to look at – for example, Romans 8:35 3939, which talks about how nothing can separate us from the love of God.
“The training session suggested four questions that are good to ask: ‘tell me what happened happened’, ‘how did you feel feel?’, ‘what was the most difficult part of your experience?’, and ‘what would you do to help yourself in this situation?’"

“We need to talk to people about how they view God. One of the first questions people ask is, ‘If God is good, why are we suffering and why is there so much Many non Christians have different views of God from what’s actually in the Bible so we direct them using Bible passages and our own experiences, to help them see who God is in personal life and in Scripture.

We also talked about how when a person has grief, they go through three phases: denial and anger, and during that time it’s important that we simply listen and pray; hopelessness when we can start to testify about our faith in God and use Biblical passages; and lastly, a new start, when they are ready to look with a fresh view on life.”

Volodomyr described how the coordinators’ emotional and spiritual support of families was already having a big impact. “We find that it’s important to devote time to a person, listen to them very carefully, and share your personal story about how God comforted you and got you through a difficult time,” he said. “You can share a Bible verse, and in some cases, you get people to write down those promises and put them up somewhere where they’ll see them often.
At the end of their time together, when a coordinator prays with the family coordinator prays with the family and children and uses their names, that’s a big encouragement."

Families are helped through agricultural training

Families receive monthly aid support and visits from mission coordinators.


Staff receive training on how to deal with traumatized families

MWB Staff receive training on how to work with families traumatized by the war in Ukraine.


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