Humanitarian aid gives relief to Ukrainian civilians enduring the horrors of war

The Disasters Emergency Committee's (DEC) Ukraine humanitarian appeal has raised £400 million since it was launched in response to Russia's invasion nearly a year ago.

ITV News' John Ray has a special report on how the generosity of British people is providing vital support to Ukrainians who've suffered so much as a result of the war.

It is easily the most cheerful place I have visited in a grim year of reporting the war in Ukraine.

Outside it is freezing cold; inside it’s as warm as toast.

Outside, there is the horror of destruction. Inside; a feeling of security.

The sound of laughter envelopes the ITV News team as we enter.

Misha is building a huge, brightly coloured tower from plastic blocks. A mile or so away, we’ve just seen the ruins of real apartment blocks destroyed by the Russian assault on Kharkiv.

"I’m not scared by the bombs," Misha tells us. "Not scared at all."

Misha is in good spirits, despite only seeing his dad for two days each month.

His mother tells us a slightly different story. Her son used to hide under the table at the sound of the frequent air-raid alarms. Once, their home was hit. Misha’s grandmother wrapped her protective arms around the terrified boy.

"This is a time when they have to grow up so quickly," says Anna. "They have to understand those things that a kid should not have to understand."

At this centre, funded by British public donations to the DEC and funnelled through DePaul Ukraine, there is specialised psychological help for both parents and children. Crucial when education has moved online.

"Kids have no other place in Kharkiv," says Maryna Bessonova, the manager.

Children have 'no other place to go' in Kharkiv.

"Some children don’t remember how to speak to each other. They come here and look at each other and don’t know what to do. They need time to re learn this."

There is so much attention on the military aid directed by western governments; much less on the value of humanitarian help.

But this children’s centre is in its way, just as important as any tank or artillery system. Close by the DEC and DePaul also fund a scheme that provides hot food to hundreds of people every day.

Saleh Saeed, DEC chief executive, says it is "incredible" to see the work of volunteers in Ukraine

When we visit, the sirens have been sounding all morning. Many of the people here have no electricity. They spend much of their day in shelters.

"To give food is somehow to guarantee that this day is good," says Father Jan Martincek, who leads the volunteer team. "It creates some kind of security."

"People are living in chaos," Olga Shevchenko, of DePaul Ukraine, says.

'A lot of people have hope in our western partners,' Olga Shevchenko told ITV News Correspondent John Ray

"I think they do have hope, hope that we will win, hope in our western partners and the help they have been receiving." Anna has seen Misha change for the better. In a city where schools and nurseries are closed, here he can make new friends, play in a secure environment and, perhaps, forget about the war.

Though no one can get away from it completely. Misha’s father is fighting in a town where the war is most intense right now.

"He is very anxious and afraid about losing his father," says Anna. "He is constantly asking me; ‘Will they not kill him? Will he not die? And if he is hurt will the doctor be able to cure him?"

Some questions have no easy answer. But there is one the children here are happy to answer.

I ask: "What will you do when this war is over?" Vlada, who is six, leaps to her feet. "When we can hear no rockets and there is no more bad news? Then we will celebrate like this."

She does a little jig of joy. "Hello summer! The war is over!"

  • You can donate to the DEC's Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal here.

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