By Nataliia Boyko
My name is Nataliia Boyko. I am a Permaculture teacher and Montessori teacher from Ukraine.
Because of the war I moved to the Netherlands and since March 2022 I’ve been working in Amsterdam in primary schools with Ukrainian refugee children.
After a short while working with young Ukrainian refugees, I realized that these kids, deeply affected by trauma, needed a different kind of teaching approach to conventional teaching techniques.
And this is where Permaculture, thanks to its holistic toolkit, gave me many tools to find new ways of teaching.
The kids and I started a series of practical sessions: at the school plant nursery the children were able to learn about nature through sowing seeds and growing plants reusing old plastic bottles as pots for the plants.Their creativity was further engaged through the decoration of the plastic bottles. The plants were then taken ‘home’, in many cases to their hotel rooms.
These activities had a very good mental health outcome: children who had been displaced from their home and could no longer see their relatives found some refuge/relief in caring for the plants. Another workshop was about preserving and drying herbs.
The simple act of caring for something became their point of stability, something
that they were able to control. It allowed them to do something nice for their family: give a flower to mom or tea made from dried herbs that kids grew themselves.
The response from the children’s parents was positive too. Parents observed that these activities made a difference for their children. This in turn helped their parents as they too were involved in joint activities with the children helping them look after the plants.
Because my aim is to design ways for displaced people to rebuild their lives in new places and integrate them in new communities, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to attend the Permaculture Teacher Training with a special focus on Refugees and Migrants that was held last November in Spain.
At the course I had the chance to meet people from Kurdistan, Syria, Lebanon, Hong Kong, Gambia, Cameroon, Haiti, Israel, United States, the Ukraine and other European countries with different experiences in working with migrants all over the world. There is now a much greater opportunity to support displaced people by training refugees to train each other.
The invasion of my country and the hundreds of thousands of refugees seeking asylum in the European Union has focused attention on the issue of mass migration. This course has given me the opportunity to gain new teaching methods that I will keep on using with kids and their parents and with future Permaculture Design Courses that I am looking to organise.