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Safe Spaces for Children in Refugee Camps
April 21, 2015
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This story was adapted from a recent report prepared by Mercy Corps staff

In 2014, Vibrant Village Foundation granted $103,961 to Mercy Corps for the construction of child-friendly spaces at the Azraq Refugee Camp in Jordan. Since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011, more than 600,000 refugees have entered into Jordan seeking safety. The Syrian families who have been displaced have had their lives and social structures substantially disrupted. They have often witnessed violence and disturbing events, and many are now far from their relatives and friends. Stress, fear and anxiety among children and parents can contribute to domestic violence, abuse and neglect, especially for women and children. 

In this context, it was crucial to establish child-friendly spaces in refugee camps to provide opportunities for kids to play, learn and receive social support in a safe and protective environment. 

Zayed

In February, Mercy Corps completed the construction of four playgrounds in the child friendly spaces, with funding from Vibrant Village Foundation. These playgrounds provide safe places for up to 150 children each day, where they are protected from harm and can reinstate some sense of normalcy. 

The spaces also provide opportunity for children to play and socialize with other children and develop life skills. All spaces are open six days a week and staffed by Mercy Corps trained Syrian volunteers. These incredibly valuable team members provide a number of direct activities for the children including structured psychosocial activities such as arts and crafts projects and storytelling. Syrian volunteers also support community outreach within the camps, working directly with Mercy Corps Community Child Protection Committees. These committees are responsible for spreading awareness on child protection and available facilities and services.

Zayed (photographed left) is a twenty-two year old volunteer with the program. From his perspective, these child-friendly spaces are helping the children from “being lost”. As he explains, “After installing the play complex, the number of children is higher than before – it has become a part of motivation for them.” 

In the original program plan, the playgrounds were to have a sand ground cover. However, the sand requires continual maintenance and can blow away in the high summer winds. Mercy Corps is exploring artificial grass turf as a longer-lasting option. In addition to being more durable, the artificial turf adds much needed color to the barren, sandy landscape of the camp. The green on its own has a soothing and calming feeling, a bit of artificial nature in an otherwise desolate setting.              

Photos: Courtesy of Mercy Corps

                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

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