Over this past year, we welcomed new members to the Tribe and now it’s time to introduce them to you.
Are they from the industry? No. Do they have any background in our field? Also no. Are they more creative than you? Probably. They are artists in the purest form because their creativity is not bound by conventions or rules.
They’re 300 children from Ukraine who had to flee their country and their homes.
When the war started, we didn’t want to simply make a statement that would get lost in the void that social media can be. We wanted to do something meaningful. So we started reaching out to Tribe members and people from our community to understand how we could help in a way that would make a difference. We also asked the Portuguese Government for ways to help, and they sent us a lot of projects that required assistance, but the Kindergarten stood out the most for us.
When we heard that Nastya Ponomar, a journalist from Dnipro, was looking for a place for her non-profit kindergarten, we jumped at the chance to offer her the top floor of our office building in the center of Lisbon. Before the war, Nastya co-founded a kindergarten in her hometown which unfortunately had to be closed down due to the invasion, and now she wanted to establish one in Portugal.
We talked to Nastya about her experience and the importance of creating a safe place to inspire and educate the future generations.
From Dnipro to Lisbon: Meet Nastya Ponomar
"In March 2022, I arrived in Lisbon with my daughter, where we were welcomed by my friend Oksana Romanuk, who has been residing here for the past five years. Oksana introduced me to THU, and they generously offered us this beautiful space to establish Baby Shark Non-Profit Kindergarten. We commenced our operations on March 28, and I am honored to be one of the founders, as well as an administrator and teacher, at this institution for children from Ukraine in Lisbon.
Our journey is a remarkable tale of serendipity and the power of social networks. It's a testament to the "law of seven handshakes," where someone knows someone who can help. One of our founders, Oksana, posted a request on Instagram, and by a stroke of luck, THU generously offered us their help and hospitality. We are still in awe of this wonderful and spacious venue, located right in the heart of Lisbon, which became a sanctuary for approximately 300 children from Ukraine during this challenging time. Here, they found peace and support, made friends, and got adjusted to a new environment."
How everything started…
"I have vivid memories of the first day when we met and hugged, as we received the keys to our new space and walked through empty rooms, imagining all the possibilities. We drew up plans and set to work, fueled by our determination to make it a home for the youngest war victims.
It's still hard for me to fathom the enormity of the hearts of the people from THU who generously volunteered to be our neighbors. Kindergartens are known to be quite noisy, and with 60 kids, it really gets overwhelming! Also, we have unfortunately drowned THU twice.🙈 Yet, the THU team was extremely patient and friendly as they supported us throughout the repairs and inconvenience we caused to them."
Creating a safe space for Ukrainian Refugee Children
"Amidst the crisis of the Ukraine invasion, thousands of women were forced to flee to Europe while their husbands remained inside the country due to their legal obligation to serve in the army. These women faced significant challenges in sustaining their families as the financial support provided by the Portuguese government was insufficient for survival. In response to this situation, we founded the Baby Shark Non Profit Kindergarten, with the aim of providing a safe and nurturing environment for children while their mothers worked to support their families. Through our efforts, we hope to alleviate some of the burdens faced by these women and children during this difficult time.
We also established this space with the intention of providing children with a place to play, where they feel understood, and where they can express themselves freely by either being in silence or speaking out loud. We do a lot of art classes so children can draw out all their pain. All in all, our center serves as a place where they can feel a sense of home, grieve together, and receive the support and hugs they need."
The true value of community
"Our time at Baby Shark Non-Profit Kindergarten has been filled with countless happy and memorable moments that we will cherish forever. One particular incident that stands out in my mind is when an art therapist came to conduct a class for the children using light tables, but at that very moment, the power went out. However, THU once again came to our rescue and provided us with an extension cord, allowing us to share electricity from their floor to ours and save the event. It was heartwarming to experience such kindness and support from our neighbors at THU.
Of course, it was truly rewarding to witness the positive impact our non-profit kindergarten had on children who were initially stressed, tired, and coping with PTSD. Watching them gradually find relief, laugh, and experience joy as carefree kids again was truly heartwarming. Equally gratifying was the outpouring of support we received from countless Portuguese women and mothers who readily extended their help and encouragement. The success of Baby Shark Non-Profit Kindergarten was not solely attributed to our team's efforts but was instead built through the love and kindness expressed by hundreds of Portuguese women who came together to make it possible.
All in all, we had many happy moments here that we will remember forever, many curious moments."
There are many ways you can support Ukraine, and if you’d like to help, Nastya highlights the following: