Superhero Camp Builds Resilience, Community For Ukrainians Impacted by War

Into the third year of war in Ukraine, the situation is desperate. Homes are destroyed; missiles have damaged infrastructure, affecting heating sources and causing energy shortcuts. Even in April, the temperature can hit 3 degrees at night.

People who are impacted are overwhelmed, they become irritated and angry even though they don’t interact with anyone who is to blame, they tell us.

Ella Illia Buzunov, who lives near Kharkiv, works for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Comittee (JDC), a Federation partner providing aid in the region. Through daily bombings and crises, he remains upbeat and 100% committed to help his community. On a recent visit with a 90-year-old senior who is afraid of being left behind, he assured her that, as JDC’s representative on the ground, he will not leave until the last resident does. And if that does not happen, he will remain.

Children in this region are two years behind academically, learning on Zoom from home as best they can, despite losing power sporadically and feeling isolated from friends and loved ones. Seniors who once participated in daily social programs with entertainment and congregant meals now stay in their homes and call friends when their phones work, which is infrequently.

Ultimately, no one feels safe anywhere in the country.

The exception? JDC’s Superhero Camps. 

Families with children in the hardest hit areas are selected and brought to these free camps, where their children can run freely, play games and make new friends. Mom Angela said this was the first time in 2 years when she saw her son smile. Parents can relax for a few weeks without having to worry about their children’s safety. They can socialize with others in the same situation and feel understood. 

Why are they called Superhero Camps?

Superheroes emerged from the World Wars to inspire mankind and remind us that there is still good in the world despite horrors faced daily and feelings of despair. Superhero Camp focuses on ‘finding your inner hero’ and tapping into personal strength to get you through times of sadness.

Superhero Camp helps community members realize that they are indeed the superheroes of today.

“I am amazed and touched by how Superhero Camp manages to not only relieve our everyday anxiety and stress but also empowers us and helps us believe in ourselves,” said Anzelika S., 48, an internally displaced person (IDP) from Kharkiv now living in the Kyiv area. “It gives us the strength to recharge our inner batteries to the fullest and has given us hope for a future we had once thought was lost!"

Passover is coming and JDC staff members and volunteers will visit 5,000 clients – the old and young alike, to deliver matzah and other foods, bring good wishes and remind them that they’re not alone. The Active Jewish Teens (AJT), who have undergone leadership training, will bring Passover to homebound seniors and celebrate together to remind them that they’re not alone nor forgotten, and that they matter.

Passover represents Freedom for the Jewish people. From tyranny, from despair. May this year bring light and peace to our Jewish family everywhere.

Illia says, “The future is real. And it is bright.”

Against the backdrop of the many challenges currently faced by the Ukrainian Jewish community, JDC’s Superhero Camp in Ukraine encourages people of all ages to harness their inner strength. For eight days, 95 participants from various parts of the country gathered to engage in workshops and activities aimed at recognizing their unique superpowers and achieving their personal and community-oriented goals. Additionally, the camp served as a platform to celebrate Jewish traditions, with participants taking part in sessions dedicated to learning more about Jewish culture and rituals.



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