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Bucharest, 21 October 2022 – Librarians from counties bordering Ukraine have received specialised training to develop their skills in dealing with refugees in their communities, be they adults or children. The event took place on 21 October and started with a press conference to discuss the new role public libraries are having to assume in the context of the border war and the support they need to face these unprecedented challenges. Under the guidance of physicians specialized in treating trauma – Dr. Claudia Năsăudean, primary physician in Pediatric Psychiatry and Dr. Vladimir Nică, primary physician in Psychiatry, librarians learned how to better manage the interaction with refugees, in order to then be able to implement activities in their communities that better respond to their needs. The project is also running simultaneously in the Republic of Moldova, through a partnership with the Librarians Association of the Republic of Moldova.

Since the beginning of the refugee crisis, public libraries have been among the main points of interaction with families fleeing war, not only for the informational framework they provide, but also to host children and create an atmosphere of normality for them by developing activities dedicated to them. From the interviews Progress Foundation had with librarians, the need to develop their skills was identified in order to be able to provide adequate support to refugees. While initially librarians had to overcome a language barrier, a new challenge subsequently emerged: the lack of skills needed to adapt psychologically to interacting with refugees. 

Thus, Progress Foundation developed two workshops with trauma specialists for those on the frontline of refugee relief on the topic of intervening in war-related trauma in children and adults. The role of the workshops is to provide those who are directly involved in integrating refugees into their communities with some basic tools to help them interact with those fleeing war. The doctors also brought up some rules and limits that they, as non-specialists in psychiatry, should keep in mind so that their attempt to help does not actually deepen the trauma.

“It’s amazing the complexity of the role a librarian actually has in their community. Now those on the border with Ukraine have to adapt and quickly develop a new skill set. I confess that when we set out to support them, we thought it would be just that. However, our interaction with them showed us that there is another great need that our project is covering: that of teaching them how to manage their own feelings, because this interaction is very emotionally demanding and we found that many of them were already in burnout. We plan to extend the approach in the future to other categories of people working directly with refugees and to multiply this pilot project also in non-profit organisations, for activists who have been with refugees all this time and who are starting to experience physical and emotional burnout.” – Camelia Crișan, CEO Progress Foundation

About Progress Foundation

Progress Foundation is a non-governmental organization, founded in 1996 in Bistrita, which contributes to the development of community institutions, vulnerable individuals and groups and helps people become stronger through education, technology, research and innovation. The organisation supports people to evolve, realise their potential and achieve well-being in sustainable and resilient communities. Through its partnerships, Progress Foundation focuses on facilitating lifelong learning, transferring innovation, building IT and STEM skills, and developing new methodologies for participatory design and social inclusion. In achieving its goals and reaching every social group, the organization uses public libraries and community spaces in villages and towns as focal points for learning and centers for social innovation. www.progressfoundation.ro.

The project “Emotional accommodation for Ukrainian refugees – a public library service” is implemented by Progress Foundation in partnership with the Librarians Association of the Republic of Moldova within the framework of the Sub-granting programme “Building CSO Capacity for Regional Cooperation within the Black Sea Region”, implemented by the Federation of Non-Governmental Organizations FOND and funded by the European Union, from January 2022 to December 2022.

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