Updates and Resources Regarding Situation in Ukraine

Updates and Resources Regarding Situation in Ukraine

Dear AFS Volunteers,

As we continue to monitor the situation in Ukraine, we’d like to share with you some additional updates and helpful information which we hope will equip you, your host families, and students with some additional guidance.

Firstly, the following communication was sent last night (Monday, February 28) to all host families and liaisons of our hosted Ukrainian participants.

Dear Host Families and Liaisons of Ukrainian FLEX Students,  

Thank you for your continued support of our Ukrainian FLEX participants during this tremendously stressful time. We greatly appreciate the genuine compassion and concern you have exhibited in our recent communications and know that these students are receiving the very best care in your homes.  

The FLEX program continues to closely monitor the evolving situation in Ukraine. Our colleagues at American Councils in Kyiv held a virtual meeting with the students on Sunday, February 20 and February 27, 2022, to check in with them in light of current events, and shared the below suggestions on how to best support these students following these conversations:  

  • American Councils has suggested that students try to limit their news intake, stressing that it is normal to be upset, worried, and sad, but it is important to give their minds breaks, get enough sleep, and eat regular meals. American Councils also warned against fake news and stressed the importance of using trusted, verified sources. We have heard from some of our students that there are scams offering free phone calls to Ukraine – these calls are not free and such sources should not be trusted.
  • Our colleague reported that many students are feeling overwhelmed by questions regarding the situation in Ukraine. They instructed students to let those around them know if they are feeling too overwhelmed to talk about it, and, if they are able, to turn the conversation into something wonderful about Ukraine, like their favorite meal, place to visit/spend time, etc.
  • As many students are feeling overwhelmed by questions on this topic, we want to stress that support in the form of just “being there” may be what is most helpful at this time. While it’s important to ensure that your student feels comfortable expressing any concerns with their local support system, it is also important that they have space to go about their daily routines if that is what feels most comfortable to them right now. Additionally, it may be helpful to limit objective discussions on the situation, focusing instead on what your student is feeling, and allowing for increased/more flexible contact with home.

As we all continue to monitor how the situation in Ukraine evolves, we wanted to also provide some additional guidance which compliments the above communication.

Here, you will find a link to an online article published by the University of Minnesota Extension which reviews key strategies and methodologies for how to speak with youth as it pertains to violence and related trauma: https://extension.umn.edu/building-youth-resilience/talking-youth-about-violence

Included in the article are links to other resources that may be helpful in facilitating dialogue in the wake of a traumatic violent event(s). We strongly encourage you to review the article and its contents.

To provide a snapshot of the content covered, these are several recommended approaches to consider when engaging youth on the topic of violence:

  1. Make time to talk.
  2. Validate their feelings.
  3. Keep your explanations developmentally appropriate.
  4. Review safety procedures.
  5. Observe children’s emotional state.
  6. Limit television and social media viewing of these events.
  7. promote physical health.

We recognize that much of what is currently being seen via various forms of media (social media, news outlets, texts) can be extremely overwhelming and confusing for our younger audiences to know how to process and make sense of. We also recognize some participants and host families may have questions about how this situation impacts them or their program. We’d suggest you create spaces to offer them support and to talk through any concerns they may have.

We encourage all volunteers to consider sharing this information and guidance with your students and host families while also doing a wellness check.

We hope this information and additional resources are helpful to you in offering additional support during this time.

AFS USA remains committed to our mission to promote peace through intercultural exchange experiences. These exchanges would not be possible without the invaluable and impactful work that you do.

Much Appreciation,