Little Star projects have been conducted since 1996, providing psychosocial assistance for children traumatised by war in Chechnya. The present project was formed in May 2006 by this Charity and our partner in the North Caucasus, employing twelve counsellors, who are mostly qualified practical psychologists, some of whom have worked for Little Star since 1996. They work with groups of children and youth in consultation with the 12 schools in Chechnya where Little Star centres are based, and carry out psychological rehabilitation through music, art, drama, games and individual consultations.
Addressing psychological trauma resulting from the violence of the last decade in the North Caucasus is essential for societies to recover from the traumatic effects of the conflicts, to be healthy and better able to look towards a more hopeful and peaceful future. The work of Little Star and other such programmes is a vital part of peacebuilding. By aiming for overall improvement in the physical, intellectual, creative and emotional spheres of the children and teenagers’ lives, their own personal development and educational capacity improves, as will their ability to relax and simply enjoy themselves. Such positive outcomes also constructively influence their peers and families and contribute to a general recovery of their society in terms of psychosocial health.
This year marks 10 years of Little Star projects working in Chechnya and Ingushetia to assist tramuatized young people. The staff of Little Star organized a festival in Grozny 25th January 2008 to celebrate the work of the project. Children who attend Little Star performed music, dance and theatre, together with other talented children from the republic, including those who participated in the “Young Stars” talent project shown on Chechen television. The theatre company “DramTeatr” from Grozny performed a children’s fairy tale at the festival, which was attended by over 150 childrena nd around 50 adults, including teachers from the schools where Little Star centres are based, and former Little Star counsellors.
Little Star psychologists and counsellors travelled to the Crimea for a one-week retreat in early October 2007. They were joined there by Peacebuilding UK’s honorary President Louis Greig, chair of trustees Chris Layton, trustee Lucy Hannah and chief executive officer Chris Hunter. One day was spent sharing the experiences of working at the Little Star project, some of those present having worked there since late 1996, and how life in Chechnya and the programme had changed over the years. We explored the priorities of Little Star in today’s Chechnya, where psychological stress and trauma is still widespread and psychosocial asistance urgently required.
Lucy Hannah conducted a 5-day workshop based upon the book ‘Power of Goodness: Stories of Nonviolence and Reconciliation’, published by Friends’ International Library in the US. Lucy and the team explored ways of using these inspiring stories with children, many based on real-life situations of people in Chechnya, Russia and other parts of the world. The Little Star team revised the questions in the book in preparation for a second edition, and began work on a teachers’ handbook, which will be distributed among teachers in Chechnya’s schools during training seminars, on how to use the book creatively with children in the class room. In this way, these inspiring stories of reconciliation and nonviolence will touch the lives of thousands of children in Chechnya. Peacebuilding UK and Friends International Library (www.fil.quaker.org) are raising funds for the book’s 2nd edition and the peace education project described above. Below are the personal stories of the Little Star counsellors, describing their experiences of war in Chechnya and how they came to work for the Little Star project.
Peacebuilding UK supports the ‘Daimohk’ Chechen children’s dance ensemble (please see separate page), which is also in many ways a psychosocial project, offering the young dancers and their society a positive and creative focus. The young people involved in Little Star and Daimohk, instilled with a stronger sense of hope, confidence and self-awareness are less prone to resorting to alcohol and substance abuse, which is a serious problem among young people in Chechnya and other areas of the North Caucasus today.