Ollie spreads Superpowers to Ukrainian refugees

Ollie Team in Poland supporting Ukrainian Refugees

Xanthe Steen, a single mother from North London and an Ollie trainee, fundraised over the first weeks of the Ukrainian war with her 11-year-old daughter specifically to raise enough money to fly Ollie and his Superpowers therapeutic team out to Poland to support refugees and volunteers.

On the first day of the war Xanthe and her 11-year-old daughter Acacia shot into cupcake - baking overdrive and sold their produce in the London traffic and outside local school gates “I am an eighth Ukrainian“ said Acacia “it is hard to see the news and not do something- My friends and I thought everyone loves a good cupcake and a good cause.“

Within a week they had raised £1400 through cupcake sales - enough to fly Ali Knowles and her team from Ollie and his Superpowers to Krakow.

Ali Knowles spearheads Ollie and his Super Powers which until last week primarily focussed on training coaches to work therapeutically with children in UK. But last week they spread their wings and incorporated a much wider issue – the 3.8 million Ukrainian refugees spilling into Poland

“The only way our Ollie techniques could work is if we trained the psychotherapists or counsellors who work directly with the refugees. Also, all the volunteers need support too“ admits Ali.

“Having worked in other conflict areas and with many NGOs over the years I have always noticed how volunteers can often fall by the wayside and get neglected in terms of their own mental health” commented Xanthe, a trainee with Ollie and ex primary school teacher.

She was not wrong. Last week Polish mental health practitioners and international volunteers signed up to the Ollie two-day course where all were taught Ollie techniques to help with trauma and boost resilience.

“At first we didn’t know quite what to expect “confides Rachel one of the team” it was a challenge for us to meet with so much trauma in one place. But now after this trip we know exactly what to offer to match the needs of those working with refugees.”

Belinda Wells who has fostered countless children over the last 15 years and is an Ollie coach in Warwickshire said "it was a very humbling experience but also very rewarding - the volunteers lapped up our techniques - we taught Ollie anchoring and spinning which are basic skills anyone might need in these situations." 

The group visited Wolno Nam (Challenging Hope) refugee centre set up years ago by an enlightened and truly committed Agata Kluczewska. Initially it was a centre to respond to the influx of refugees from Czchenia and Belarus into Poland.  Now the centre houses over 120 Ukrainian families in an old University derelict building.

Agat and her team of volunteers are so hard working – putting in toilets and showers and kitchens! I was impressed with the commitment of all those working at the centre. In the course of 11 weeks they have built incredible refuge.  But there are some really challenging issues of families desperate to go home and people walking around the corridors haunted by what they have witnessed back home!“ confides Ali.

Agnieszka Kubiak is Volunteer Coordinator at Wolno Nam “At the start of this crisis we had loads of volunteers flooding into our centre to help but they burnt out quickly as they didn’t know how to pace themselves. If they had more knowledge and some techniqus to protect themselves, I am sure they would stay longer. If they had known some Ollie techniques, I am sure they would still be with us.”

Ali and her team returned to UK this week determined to get back out there again as soon as possible. This time they know exactly what to expect “We would love them to come back on a regular basis" says 35 year old Svetlana, a Ukrainian refugee herself who volunteers at refuge centres and did the Ollie course last week “it has helped me to refocus and calm myself down and be able to face each day with hope.”


Ollie and his Super Powers gofundme page is in the process of being set up.  If you would like details of how you can donate to enable Ali and her team to go continue to support the volunteers at Wolno Nam please email info@ollieandhissuperpowers.com