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Developing bridges of communication and an inclusive community with Ukrainian families and educators

Hosted by , contributed by Kyriaki_Vakkou on 14 September 2023
Stakeholders involved:
Technology providers
Educational providers
Policy makers
Local authorities
Main challenge:

There was an influx of Ukrainian families to the small village in West of Ireland following the war in Ukraine. Families were traumatised, with no language skills in English or Gaelic Irish, no schooling for several and suffering greatly being homeless. The challenge faced was how to get these children into school and start creating a stable environment with their families and community overall.

Action and initiatives:

Firstly, Ukrainian teachers were appointed to assist in the school as bridges of leadership and communication. Secondly, the technology acquired from LfE was utilized to setup work stations to communicate via Apps, QR Codes, etc. Thirdly, all stakeholders from government to local businesses, schools, teachers, policy makers and especially the school team worked in a transformative leadership manner to provide everything that was required to make life stable and peaceful in the school and beyond. Specifically, the principal and teachers led this whole campaign which is ongoing today in a transformative manner that is just incredible! ‘Transformative leadership manner’ refers to the way in which the team, for example, revisited the school curriculum and together re-designed the topics and subjects into smaller segments that could easily be translated into Ukrainian and delivered to the students and the parents throughout the day and at home time, without overpowering their studies and educational, emotional and personal challenges.

Here are some examples of transformative leadership:

  1. Storytelling for Healing: The teachers encouraged students to share their experiences through storytelling. This was done through writing, drawing, and oral presentations. The goal was to create a safe space where students could express their emotions and find solace in the support of their peers.
  2. Cultural Exchange Programme: The school organised a cultural exchange programme with Spanish students, where students learned about each other's backgrounds and traditions. This programme which took place over 12 months, helped foster understanding and empathy among students, building a sense of community and reducing potential conflicts.
  3. Peace Education and Conflict Resolution: The teachers introduced lessons on peace education and conflict resolution to equip students with skills to handle disagreements and challenges peacefully. This included teaching negotiation, active listening, and problem-solving techniques.
  4. Community Service Projects: The school community engaged students in community service projects that enabled them to contribute positively to their surroundings. This also involved cleaning up the local environment, supporting disadvantaged groups, and participating in social initiatives to foster a sense of agency and belonging.
  5. Art Therapy Workshops: The teachers integrated art therapy workshops into the curriculum to help students express their emotions creatively. Art is a powerful tool for healing and personal growth, especially for those who have experienced trauma.
  6. Mentorship and Peer Support: The school implemented a mentorship programme where older students supported younger ones, fostering a sense of responsibility and creating a supportive network within the school community.
  7. Mindfulness and Meditation Practices: The teachers incorporated mindfulness and meditation practices to help students manage stress and improve their emotional well-being. These practices were an effective aid in self-regulation and focus.
  8. Trauma-Informed Teaching Strategies: The teachers were also trained on trauma-informed teaching strategies to create a safe and understanding learning environment for the Ukrainian students. This included recognising signs of trauma and responding with empathy.
  9. Cross-Curricular Peace Projects: The teachers developed cross-curricular projects that explored the themes of peace, reconciliation, and conflict resolution. For instance, students created presentations, artwork, and essays that reflected their understanding of these concepts across various subjects.
  10. Celebration of Resilience: The teachers organised events that celebrated students' resilience and achievements, highlighting their strength and determination in overcoming challenges. These celebrations were a source of inspiration and motivation for the entire school community.

Remember that the curriculum should be adapted to suit the specific needs and cultural context of the war-torn students in the foreign country. Flexibility, sensitivity, and an open-minded approach are essential for transformative leadership in such a setting.

Main change/improvement/impact:

Main change is that the Ukrainian children now attend school every day and the technology available is allowing and enabling meaningful communication. The integration has been successful on so many levels and the teachers are leading the best practice in Mayo that is being copied throughout the rest of rural Ireland in schools and communities.

More information:

School’s website: 

SayHi App: Very effective in so many languages and instant conversational translations:

Several YouTube Videos for teachers, students and communities:

An article written during Covid that is relevant to trauma informed technology practices:

Newcomer Student tool Kit for schools:

Learning During Crisis: OECD EU:

Already implemented by the following schools
Kinaffe National School

This practice was implemented by our school!

Visit School: