SOK Foundation shares mind-body skills with educators, caregivers

In this guest blog, CMBM training alumna Iga Pietrusińska, board member of the SOK Foundation, shares how the Warsaw-based nonprofit is equipping educators with practical tools they can use in their lives, in their classrooms, and in their work serving Ukrainian school children affected by the trauma of war.

By: Iga Pietrusińska

Meeting Jim Gordon in Poland right after Russia’s invasion in Ukraine was a turning point in my life. His talk was incredibly inspiring, and I felt a deep connection to the message he shared. In that moment, I knew I had to take action and make a difference.

CMBM Founder and CEO, James S. Gordon, MD, catches up with Iga Pietrusińska, Board Member, SOK Foundation, during his October 2022 trip to Poland and Ukraine.

Filled with determination, I approached Jim and asked if I could participate in the Professional Training Program in Mind-Body Medicine in April, followed by the Advanced Training Program in May. To my surprise and joy, he agreed, and CMBM granted the SOK Foundation a scholarship, recognizing the importance of the work we aimed to do.

Armed with newfound knowledge and skills, I began practicing breathing techniques with children from Ukrainian orphanages. Witnessing their emotional transformation and the positive impact of mind-body medicine on their well-being fueled my passion even further.

During SOK Foundation’s workshops for children, kids ages 3-12 explore sports, art therapy, culinary and sensory workshops, and mind-body skills.

But I wanted to extend the reach of this approach. I decided to incorporate the mind-body medicine component into a training program for teachers who were willing to become Polish as a second language lectors. Teachers play a crucial role in the lives of Ukrainian refugee children, being their first point of contact, and I believed that equipping them with basic skills for emotional support was vital.

We, at the SOK Foundation, organized ten trainings in Polish as a second language, integrating emotional regulation techniques, mindfulness, dynamic meditation, and autogenic training. The response was overwhelming, and over 2,000 teachers participated, eager to enhance their ability to provide a nurturing environment for the children in their care.

As our work expanded, we introduced in October 2022 the “Quiet Mind” program for teachers, a five-week journey covering essential topics such as stress management, burnout prevention, adaptive leadership, trauma and PTSD-informed classroom strategies, cross-cultural communication, and fostering kindness and inclusion. Through guided visualizations, movement exercises, and stress relief techniques, we aimed to empower teachers to create a safe and supportive space for their students.

SOK Foundation’s Mental Health and Psychosocial Support program includes training in mind-body skills that educators can use to support their well-being and that of their students.

The impact of our efforts did not go unnoticed. UNICEF recognized the significance of our work, and as of March 2023, we became the implementing partner for the Learning Passport, a global e-learning platform offering self-development courses for teachers. We are proud to announce that three courses, created by our team of experts at the SOK Foundation, will be available on the platform by the end of June 2023.

Reflecting on this incredible journey, I am humbled by the opportunities that have unfolded since that unexpected meeting with Jim Gordon. Our paths intersected at a critical moment, and from that point forward, the course of my life has been forever changed. The work we do today, the lives we touch, and the impact we create—none of it would have been possible without that chance encounter in Warsaw, Poland.

About Iga Pietrusińska

Since 2019, Iga has been a board member at an NGO – SOK Foundation, were she’s responsible for projects in the field of psychosocial support. She’s a co-author of training courses for foster care educators and teachers. Since 2022, and the outbreak of the war in Ukraine more than 1,500 people have completed courses created by the SOK Foundation. Iga is responsible for the implementation in Poland of the Learning Passport teacher training platform created for UNICEF by Microsoft.

Iga is also a nutritionist and psychodietician. She facilitates meeting groups and individual short developmental processes for people who want to build a good relationship with their bodies and food. She works with the intuitive eating method, embedded in the spirit of Health At Every Size.