Katja Kolcio Receives Special UN Grant for Somatic Methods Project

Katja Kolcio (Ph.D. Somatics, Director of Wesleyan University’s Allbritton Center, Associate Professor of Dance, Environmental Studies, Education Studies, and Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies), is a principal investigator in a project funded by the United Nations Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme (UN RPP) with an initial grant of $64,745 beginning in October 2020. The aim is to evaluate the impact of somatic methods on psycho-social wellness in the context of the armed conflict in Donbas, Ukraine. Somatic methods, which are the basis of this project, are movement-based methods that hone body-mind connection in the interest of promoting self-awareness and wellness. The project is a collaboration between Kolcio and the Development Foundation (DF), an NGO dedicated to psycho-social relief, formed in Ukraine during the Maidan Revolution. In the course of six months, this project will directly engage over 1,500 participants in Donbas through a combination of virtual on-line, and safe in-person programming.

The project is unique in three respects. First, the somatic program being implemented is context-specific. It was developed by Kolcio in collaboration with her Ukrainian partners over the course of five years of working directly in Ukraine. Second, the somatic approach is holistic, meaning individual and social (family and community) health are conceived as integrally connected and concurrently addressed. Finally, the work will be evaluated for its impact as relating to both the individual and social sphere. This approach, which connects individual wellness to the broader social world, is intended to draw attention to the role that collective and intergenerational trauma can have on individual health, and in turn, on civic welfare and engagement. The project team will work with Wesleyan University’s Quantitative Analysis Center (QAC), with the advisement of director Jennifer Rose, and will enlist the help of research assistants from the QAC and Dance Department. This grant will make it possible to disseminate and systematically evaluate the effects of somatic methods over time in a context of political unrest, violent conflict, and a global pandemic.

This project is a culmination of work that Kolcio and NGO Development Foundation founders Marta Pyvovarenko (the project co-principal investigator) and Vitality Kharechko (advocacy officer) have developed over the past five years working with relief-workers, internally displaced persons, veterans and soldiers across Ukraine. Programs in somatic methods have been implemented in cities including Kyiv, Lviv, Zaporizhya, Lutsk, and Dnipro, and in collaboration with Zaporizhzhia National University, Lesya Ukrainka Eastern European National University, G.S. Kostiuk Institute of Psychology of the National Academy of Pedagogical Sciences of Ukraine, and the National Guard of Ukraine. Kolcio’s programs in partnership with the DF have previously received support from humanitarian organizations in Ukraine and abroad including N-DSA-N (Italy), Tragedy Assistance Program For Survivors (USA), Wounded Warriors Project, Blind Veterans (USA), Ukrainian-American Relief Committee (USA), the Development Foundation for Health Cluster and Protection Cluster (Ukraine), and World Health Organization Office Ukraine. In March 2020, Kolcio and Pyvovarenko presented their findings to the US Congressional Ukrainian Caucus and Senate Ukraine Caucus in the Capital Building in Washington DC. Their current project is endorsed by the recently formed Ministry of Veteran Affairs in Ukraine.

As a dance artist and somatic educator, Katja Kolcio, (Ph.D. Somatics, Ohio State University) has studied the relationship between movement and social change for 25 years through her teaching, choreography and art-activism. The Ukrainian Maidan Revolution of Dignity in 2013–14, which drew millions of people across political, ethnic and religious lines, inspired her deep dive into this research in Ukraine.

This publication was prepared by the NGO Development Foundation within the framework of the United Nations Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme, with financial support from the Government of the Netherlands. The views, observations, conclusions or recommendations contained in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Program and the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

The United Nations Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme (UN RPP) is being implemented by four United Nations agencies: the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Thirteen international partners support the Programme: the European Union (EU), the European Investment Bank (EIB), the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, and the governments of Canada, Denmark, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland & the UK.

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Welcome to Wesleyan University’s Arts and Humanities news! Covering a variety of disciplines, there’s something for everyone. Find what interests you!