The Star of Hope team, together with theatre director and professor Ana Hegyi, had an idea to adapt the children’s story “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein into a movement performance in which the Ukrainian children would make up the collective character – the Tree, hoping that a theatre performance could bring Ukrainian children to the stage and offer them the joy of movement and improvisation games, the friendship of fellow cast members and the thrill of applause.

The story of the Giving Tree starts with the friendship between a child and a tree on whose branches he climbs. The tree is the sanctuary, the distraction and the welcoming ear. Every time the child approaches, the tree lowers its branches and quivers with joy. As the child grows older, his visits to see his friend become less and less frequent. Then he becomes an adult and says it is more important to make money, that he has no time to play. When the child gets old and accidentally passes by the old friend who has become a stump, he tells him he has no strength for playing games. The tree invites him to sit and have rest. “We were very keen on sending the message of friendship, regardless of language, regardless of place. To show how adults sometimes forget what attachment and support mean and how the friendship between a child and a tree can remind us of it,” explains Dana.

As we grew closer to the mothers, we offer support to in Iași, we suggested they bring their children to rehearsals. Sometimes they would come in, sometimes it was too hot, the children were emotionally charged and unavailable. We would start the rehearsals, everything would be going well, then we’d find out that some of the children in the cast had returned to Ukraine with their mothers.

There were many times when we’d be nervous and think we wouldn’t pull through,” says Dana Ceia of the Star of Hope Foundation Romania.

 “Ana’s courage never faltered,” says Dana. “She believed with all her being we could do it and gave us confidence that we would work things out to make the show happen, no matter the hardships. We also brought Romanian children in the cast, so that we would have some contingencies covered, and to take this idea of togetherness even further.

Because the language barrier makes learning the lines a challenge, the team found a multimedia solution to have the script recorded in advance in both Romanian and Ukrainian and then play it back during the performance, releasing the pressure on the young actors and giving them the freedom to enjoy the movement and immersion in the story on stage.

One of the Ukrainian mothers that Star of Hope supports in Iași also got involved in the scenography and designing the children’s costumes as she is passionate about painting and tailoring.

All the children get the idea of the story. The parents understood it too and cried. People forget about solidarity, they forget that they could be kind, share joy, support each other. This show reminds us all of what such unconditional openness, like we were able to show, can mean, just like the giving tree in the story. And it’s important not to forget it,” says Dana.

By late October the children under Ana Hegyi’s coordination will have the show premier. To the Star of Hope Foundation their moment in the spot light will mean a glimpse of hope and a celebration following the demanding months they spent offering support to the Ukrainians fleeing the war. Beyond the heart-wrenching stories they hear every day, the power and joy of seeing children play is often a healing experience.

The Star of Hope Foundation has been active in Romania for over 30 years and focuses mainly on providing therapy services for children with disabilities and educational services in day centers for vulnerable children.

Since the beginning of the war, Star of Hope Romania has provided humanitarian assistance at the border, and today offers support to families and children in several centers in Suceava, Iași and Dorohoi.

Star of Hope Foundation is one of the organizations that are part of Care for Ukraine Project, funded by CARE through SERA Romania Foundation, CARE France and FONPC.

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