Sure Restarts in Berehove

In the past months for many the world seemed to turn upside down. With the outbreak of war in Ukraine and the resulting humanitarian crisis the life of millions of Ukrainians is troubled by uncertainty. This is especially true for the mothers of the Sure Start Children’s Home (BKH, or Biztos Kezdet Gyerekház in Hungarian) in Berehove, located in the westernmost part of Ukraine. The Children’s Home is part of a programme co-funded by the European Union with the aim of improving the health situation of families with newborns and young children (0-3 years old) in the city and surrounding villages. Shortly after news broke Ukraine was attacked, the programme’s Ukrainian components were put on hold, only the Hungarian parts of the project were continued.  The needs eventually outgrew the uncertainty, and in October, the Sure Start Children’s Home finally reopened its doors to the mothers and their young children under the professional leadership of Szilvia Pércsi.

For months, all the toys and equipment of the institution in the sleepy border town of Berehove were used by the internally displaced people sheltered in a local high school. Here, Szilvia organised developmental and play session for the displaced children – but then the pupils returned to their classrooms. From the beginning of October, however, the sessions in the Sure Start Children’s Home were back in full swing, with both staff and toys returning to their original locations. There are changes nonetheless, with only 7 mothers out of the group of 15 back in February staying in their hometown. Three new mothers have joined them, bringing the total number of children affected by the developmental activities up to 13 – and there are more applicants ready to join. According to Szilvia, they were all waiting for the opportunity to visit the institution’s sessions and spend time together. She is also in contact with internally displaced mothers, who might want to join the programme later.

Between February and October – although no sessions were held – Szilvia kept in touch with the mothers of her group. Every week, she would call or contact them online. Understandably, with all this uncertainty around them they needed the ‘sure start’ provided by Szilvia and her colleagues. According to Szilvia, the worsening social situation in the country also affects the circumstances and conditions of social work in Beregszász. The constant air raids and the absence of the fathers fighting on the frontline have created a lot of tension, which is a strain on everyone. Crippling inflation rates means that mothers – most of whom are already in a difficult social situation – cannot afford all the equipment and goods needed to properly raise their children. Restarting the programme was essential for these women and their children, as the Sure Start Children’s Home provides integrated care through child development specialists, social workers and a doctor.

Beginning where they left off, childcare consultations in the villages of the Berehove district have also resumed. These – just like the Sure Start Children’s Home – are organised and coordinated by HIA’s longstanding partner in the region, ADVANCE Transcarpathian Advocacy and Development Centre. Led by Dr. Eleonóra Bodnár, our colleagues organised counselling events in Velyka Bijgan, Badalovo and Yanoshi, and were enthusiastically received by local mothers. The educational presentations by Dr. Bodnár emphasised the importance of gynaecological examinations, on which participants had many questions. The presentations and the following open dialogue resulted in many of the mothers applying for gynaecological check-ups. The enthusiasm and interest shown by the participants in both the Sure Start Children’s Home and the consultations demonstrate the real need and demand for the restart of the programme

The European Union’s Sure Start Children’s Homes – Cross-border cooperation programme (HUSKROUA/1901/8.2/0061) aims to improve the health situation of families with new-borns and young children (0-3 years old) in the city and district of Berehove. The project is realised in the cooperation of ADVANCE Transcarpathian Advocacy and Development Centre and Hungarian Interchurch Aid. The programme – providing counselling to disadvantaged families in the region and expanding the services of the Sure Start Children’s Home programme successfully operating in Hungary – is co-funded by the European Union.

Locations of implementation: Berehove, Veliki and Beregovo district/Berehove Raion in Ukraine, Szendrő, Olaszliszka and Boldogkőújfalu in Hungary
EU financial contribution: 334.284,19 EUR
Intended completion date of the project: 31 December 2023
Programme website: https://huskroua-cbc.eu/
Project identification number: HUSKROUA/1901/8.2/0061

The project is co-funded by the European Union.

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