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Rising Up Against Displacement

There are between 28 and 34 million refugee and displaced children worldwide. They live in some of the most dangerous and difficult situations on earth. Many have left their family and friends behind, uncertain of their fate, to flee from war, natural disasters, famines or epidemics. They often end up in refugee camps, informal settlements or temporary shelters where basic necessities like adequate schools, clean drinking water, and safe, stable housing, are scarce.

Social and familial cohesion break apart during displacement, dismantling the support networks that help children learn and develop. The effects of these ruptures on children’s mental health are devastating – refugee children are much more likely to show symptoms of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress than their peers.

Abuse and exploitation are also constant risks for refugee children, especially girls. Forced to drop out of school, many are subjected to arranged marriages or child labour as families struggle to provide for their children.

The emergence of COVID-19 as a global threat has led to lockdowns, quarantines and social restrictions that have intensified the stress children, their families, and their remaining support networks are under, and further limit their ability to access a quality education. Lessons learned from other crises have shown that the longer children and youth are out of school, the more likely it is they will never return.

Said is a refugee himself, but he uses the power of play to help other refugees get along.

Protecting, Educating, and Empowering Refugee and Displaced Children

Right To Play works with refugees, asylum-seekers and displaced children in 72 camps, shelters and informal settlements in Ethiopia, Jordan, Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories, Thailand, and Uganda.

We help more than 200,000 refugee and displaced children and youth each year to rise above the limitations of displacement, poverty and hopelessness. We do it by bringing together children, parents, caregivers and teachers to create positive environments that support children’s futures.

Qasida fled the Syrian Civil war with her family. Right To Play helped her heal from her grief.

How Education Protects and Empowers Refugee Children

Refugee children are 10x as likely to not attend primary school as other children. The rate of refugee and displaced youth completing secondary school is even lower – under 25 per cent.

We help refugee children and displaced learners who are in school to stay there and do better academically. We aid those who have dropped out to catch up to and integrate with other students their age. We used play-based methods adapted from the world’s top school systems to strengthen their social, emotional and cognitive skills so that they can stand up to the challenges of their new lives.

A quality education is crucial for refugee children. Education helps children fend off early marriage and economic exploitation. It empowers them to advocate for their rights. It steers them away from radicalization by promoting tolerance and nonviolent conflict resolution that can help break cycles of violence. It promotes social cohesion and stronger bonds with peers and family members that lead to improved mental health.

Our play-based educational approach is particularly valuable for teachers working in school systems strained by refugee crises. Our training helps them manage larger than usual classes, to keep the peace between children from refugee and host communities and to teach lessons when resources are scarce. Teachers using these methods are able to provide refugee children with the good quality education they deserve, that will have the maximal impact on their future prospects.

Ciya is a Kurdish refugee in Lebanon. He learned to express himself in Music For Development.

Uganda: Giving Very Young Refugee Children the Right Start to Life

In northern Uganda we are expanding our programs to accommodate the needs of very young children in early childhood education (ECE). Uganda integrates refugees into local communities rather than confining them to camps, but schools – especially daycares and kindergartens – struggle to accommodate all of the eligible children. We help educators to use play-based methods to handle larger classes, to ensure that very young refugee children are not left behind their peers academically or socially.

Learn how Right To Play supports very young refugees in Uganda

Ethiopia: Improving the Safety of Displaced Children

We work in western Ethiopia with refugees who have fled conflicts in Sudan and South Sudan. We train teachers to handle the gender and conflict-related issues that shape children’s educational outcomes. We also work to help refugee children integrate into host communities, drawing on existing support networks and resources, and promoting stronger social bonds within refugee families and with their hosts. Our work has been particularly effective at helping refugee children who have fled war feel safe in their new homes.

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Adapting to the Current Crisis

The circumstances of refugee children continue to change, and we continue to adapt our programs to meet their needs.

We are seeking to expand the ages of children who can benefit from our play-based programs to build resilience even earlier in the lives of refugee children.

We are developing programs that can be administered remotely, so that even the most isolated children can continue to learn, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic forces lockdowns, quarantines and social isolation.

And we are expanding the kinds of knowledge children can learn through play, strengthening their core literacy and numeracy, but also their emotional management, creativity and artistic skills, and their physical and mental well-being.

Sign up for updates on how we’re supporting children during and after the COVID-19 crisis.