How a Shelter is Refurbished for a Kyiv

When the children return to their school after weeks of distance learning, they will hardly recognize the shelter where they used to hide during air raids .

“The way it’s been so far is, we’ve set it up as best we can with our own resources. And now, thanks to the support from East Europe Foundation, it will be a completely renovated shelter,” said Yevhen Ihorovych, the Gymnasium Principal.

How a new shelter is refurbished for a Kyiv gymnasium you may watch on EEF YouTube.

After a missile hit an apartment building in Vyshgorod, one of the Gymnasium students suffered a severe eye injury, whereas the school deputy principal’s property was burned to the ground. Fortunately, she herself remained unharmed because she was in school at the time. Considering such events, many parents are afraid to leave their children at home, while the school seems a much safer place, and with improved shelter all the more so. That’s why, the school Principal says, “they are keen to go back to school.”

Seeing the joy

The number of students currently enrolled in the Gymnasium is 506. Yet, the maximum capacity of the school shelter used to protect students since the outbreak of the Russian invasion was 300.  After the refurbishment was completed as part of the Safe School Project, the shelter became much larger due to the area of former storage rooms used to keep old school desks and various implements. 

As part of the refurbishment works, a ventilation system and a secure power grid were installed in the school shelter. In addition to it, the shelter was equipped with a WIFI network, new restrooms and areas for recreational activities. Freshly painted white walls were sparked up by brightly colored stripes.

Yevhen Ihorovych explains why: “It is important for us to make it pleasant for the children to be here. They are not in a hospital with white walls. Yes, it is a shelter, but we want them to see the joy of life there as well.”

Another addition to the shelter sparkling children’s joy is a new movie theater that came as a big surprise. It consists of a five-meter screen and speakers. During the alarms, the children can watch educational cartoons, movies or exercise. The Principal says that their school will probably be the first to have its own movie theater in the basement.

The Safe School Project also provides for psychological support and awareness raising. Even before the shelter renovation, the East Europe Foundation team conducted games and workshops on landmine safety here. In addition, thanks to grant funds, the Gymnasium purchased a lot of games for students to play in the shelter. 

Although all children are learning only remotely now, they really want to go back to school, especially the elementary school students. “For them, this is about socializing, meeting friends. They are really into it. Therefore, they are eager to return and to be able to run in the school corridors again,” says the Principal.

No less eager to see the shelter renovation finish were the school teachers. They come to school to deliver online lessons, however, in war conditions, with frequent power and Internet outages, it may be difficult for them. Yet, they are committed to delivering quality education.

The Principal is convinced that this problem will disappear as soon as the children are back at school: “Even without power, we can deliver in-person sessions for students, as long as we have books and teachers.” Besides, there’s a question of safety to consider, which is especially important for parents under the circumstances.

The Safe School Program was initiated by East Europe Foundation to support the educational system in Ukraine by equipping basic shelters with essential equipment to provide comfortable conditions for children, school workers and other community members.

The Program is implemented by East Europe Foundation in cooperation with the State Emergency Service, the Ministries of Education and Science and Internal Affairs. We also express our gratitude to our partners for their support: Eurasia Foundation and Terre des Hommes, as well as companies EPAM Ukraine, Baker Tilly International and METRO Ukraine. The Program involves 28 educational establishments throughout Ukraine, three of which will become model schools for their peers and authorities.