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31.5.2024 |

Education Above All’s emergency education response supports the wellbeing of Ukrainian refugees

When Russia’s attacks on Ukraine broke out in 2022, Education Above All’s Innovation Development (EAA’s ID) directorate acted quickly, bringing together organisations on the ground to provide emotional relief and strengthen the resilience of Ukrainians through academic and integration materials, bedtime stories, and television series.

Education is consistently cited as a top priority for parents and children in crises, but is often the first service lost and last restored during emergencies. EAA’s ID recognised the importance of an emergency education response. “Education cannot be an afterthought in a crisis, especially when it is a vehicle for resilience and restoring stability. However, it requires us to act quickly yet effectively, balance research with action, and find the right partners for collaborative impact early on,” explains Aishwarya Shetty, Education Specialist at EAA’s ID and Project Lead.


Students working on "Learning Together" packages

EAA’s ID brought together Positive Education Institute (PEI), as a Polish partner on the ground, and Think Equal, as an expert in multimedia social emotional learning (SEL), to provide emergency education for Ukrainian refugees. 

"Education cannot be an afterthought in a crisis, especially when it is a vehicle for resilience and restoring stability."

EAA’s ID worked with PEI on creating materials to support Ukrainian students’ integration, social emotional development, and bridge knowledge gaps. These materials were used in 5 adaptation centres in Warsaw, 100 Polish schools, and disseminated online at

Overview of Ukraine Emergency Education Response Packages Project

EAA’s ID worked with Think Equal on 3 TV Series for specific age groups (3-8, 8-14, and 14 and above) to strengthen resilience in individuals and communities to cope with crises. These TV series were aired on national television and are available to be streamed freely online at

Screenshot 2024-05-27 at 16.13.05.pngOverview of SEL for Ukraine TV Series

To learn more about the emergency education response, read our Showcase Report on Education Above All’s collaborative project in Ukraine. 

When the war started, Polish schools received a large influx of Ukrainian students. These students had to face linguistic and integration challenges as well as the emotional burden of traumatising events they had faced. “Most of them were not really interested in learning. They were interested in talking about how they were feeling and what was happening to them. They didn’t really have the capacity to learn at this stage,” shared Aleksandra Wzorek, Co-Founder of PEI. 


Student projects - connecting Ukraine and Poland

Recognising this need, PEI and EAA’s ID worked together to set up adaptation centres at Polish schools and create “Living Together” and “Learning Together” materials that were used in Polish schools and at the adaptation centres to strengthen connections between Ukrainian and Polish students. Psychologists and translators were also hired to help the students feel comfortable and understood. 

These adaptation centres made a huge difference for the students because there, they could be heard and understood. Within two weeks, the attitudes of students were significantly different. They changed from feeling like strangers at the school to being happy to go to school. “It was inspiring to see them changing and wanting to get to know other children and adapt in school. It was a relief that they could go to school and they felt good. I felt amazing when I knew the children felt comfortable and felt like they were in the right place,” shared Milena, a psychologist working at the centre. 

"It was inspiring to see them changing and wanting to get to know other children and adapt in school."

The TV series created in collaboration with Think Equal and EAA’s ID was also a unique approach to provide SEL support at a large scale to the millions of Ukrainians who didn’t have access to mental health support. By broadcasting these TV series on national TV (to a viewership of over 918,000 and counting) and making them freely accessible online, the series helped and continue to help many Ukrainians to cope with the emotional burden of displacement and war-related trauma. 

The TV series not only helped viewers, but also had a meaningful impact on those involved in the filming. For example, in the Rebuilding Ukraine TV series, Ukrainians suffering from PTSD and grief volunteered to share their experiences with a psychotherapist and have their sessions filmed for broadcasting. 

At first thought, this idea seems unimaginable. Who would volunteer to broadcast their trauma to the rest of the country? 

Screenshot 2024-05-27 at 16.28.38.png

Episode 3 of Rebuilding Ukraine TV Series

But when Think Equal reached out to the Ukrainian community looking for people to be part of the series, it wasn’t difficult to find interested people. They gathered about 20 who understood that by allowing their experiences to be seen by more people, they were helping to normalise all victims’ responses to these traumatising events.

In episode 3, Yura, a young Ukrainian soldier, speaks to a psychotherapist about PTSD. Yura is struggling with survivor’s guilt. Yura’s life was saved when his two friends pulled his wounded body from the battlefield. Yura survived, but his friends didn’t. 

He wanted others experiencing the same things to see that it is normal to have such reactions, and learn how they can regulate and recover. 

Yura has trouble articulating his experiences and cries during the session with the psychotherapist. The psychotherapist encourages him to listen to his body and allow himself to feel his emotions and release them. They work through coping mechanisms to regulate the body. 

After filming, the production team asked Yura if he wanted to cut out the parts where he was crying to preserve his privacy. But Yura told them to keep them in. He wanted others experiencing the same things to see that it is normal to have such reactions, and learn how they can regulate and recover. 

In HundrED’s Showcase: Emergency Education Response report, you’ll find more touching stories of how impactful EAA ID’s work was for Ukrainians. The report also includes lessons for building effective and agile partnerships in emergency situations, and a call to build more resilient systems in preparation for future crises. Read the Showcase report.

Jamie Lee