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Youth program started by Ukrainian mom for Ukrainian children

Nataliia Kuchka started Happy Youth after the challenges her daughter faced moving from Ukraine to Guelph
Nataliia Kuchka and her daughter Inessa.

Nataliia Kuchka arrived in Canada from Stryi, Ukraine with her nine-year-old daughter Inessa in June 2022 and it hasn’t been easy for the both of them with her husband at war back home. 

Kuchka began working with Immigrant Services Guelph-Wellington as a settlement counsellor. She recognized the needs of newcomers to Guelph who were coming from war torn Ukraine.

With her own experience with her daughter she noticed the transition was challenging.

“I think sometime in September we have this challenge that even going to school, even having some friends at school, she felt alone,” said Kuchka.

What helped her daughter was arts and crafts. 

The same challenges her daughter was having were echoed by other Ukrainian families with children Kuchka spoke with. 

Kuchka has started a program called Happy Youth for Ukrainian children three years old and above.

The first session is on Sunday, March 19 at Holy Protection Mother Of God Ukrainian Catholic Church Parish Hall at 1:30 p.m. Parents can register their children online. The first session is for children eight-years-old and older, where they will be painting eggs for Easter. 

The purpose of Happy Youth is for newcomers from Ukraine to have a safe space, get to meet other children their age who are going through the same experience and help them to adjust to a new country.

There are 25 Ukrainian families interested in the first session and the number is growing, said Kuchka.

In the future Kuchka hopes to include an English language lesson in the program in addition to arts and crafts.

She is in talks with CMHA Waterloo Wellington to find a trauma-informed specialist who works with children to help during the program. Once she finds a specialist she wants to offer free sessions for children in Happy Youth to express their feelings.

For now, volunteers teaching the arts sessions will show the children what they need to do for the specific arts activity. 

“Because I understand we cannot manage the moment for children, for example start drawing missiles. And it’s quite challenging at this point. There should be some specialist that identifies it and maybe can work carefully with that,” said Kuchka.

To get the program running Kuchka is seeking supplies from the community such as art supplies, board games, and sports equipment. Donations can be gifted through a form online.


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Santana Bellantoni

About the Author: Santana Bellantoni

Santana Bellantoni was born and raised in Canada’s capital, Ottawa. As a general assignment reporter for Guelph Today she is looking to discover the communities, citizens and quirks that make Guelph a vibrant city.
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