The world is witnessing a humanitarian crisis unprecedented in human history
Worldwide displacement is at the highest level ever recorded, with wars, conflict and persecution causing more people to flee their homes now than at any other time since records began. The UNHCR reports there are more than 21.3 million refugees and 65.3 million forcibly displaced people around the world, many of whom are living with limited access to basic rights such as healthcare and education. Over half of the world’s refugees are children.
Refugee children have often experienced traumatic and stressful events and all of them have left behind their homes, family, friends, and everything that was loved, familiar, and comforting to them. Each child is an individual. Each child has a different background, a different personality and a different ability to cope with these stresses. For some the damage will last a lifetime. The effects of trauma, chronic stress, and lack of appropriate stimulating experiences in the formative years can create gaps in a child’s development, causing lifelong negative impacts.
Many displaced children end up living in refugee camps or temporary accommodation for months or even years, making up a substantial part of their early years. For some children, life on the move is all that they know and will make up their earliest memories. The hardships they face do not always end once they have arrived in their host country and those who are displaced long-term can find themselves marginalised on the edge of society.
National emergency response capacities have been overwhelmed by the crisis, with almost nine out of every ten refugees seeking refuge in regions and countries considered economically less developed. Where governments and aid organisations were unable to respond quickly enough to the increased demand for humanitarian aid, independent volunteers stepped in to fill the gaps. From this, many grassroots organisations have sprung up with the benefits of being able to mobilise quickly and with little if any running costs.
Refugee Children’s Centres grew from the need to protect these children from the traumas they have experience and to ensure they are not merely another statistic in a ‘lost generation’.
Guided by the principles of Child Friendly Spaces and following the practice of Trauma Informed Care, our main goal is to protect and promote children’s right to play as set out in Article 31 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. We offer children a safe space to play, away from the stresses of everyday life, and deliver a program of activities which is stimulating and fun, with the main focus on psychosocial support, language acquisition and early childhood education.
Play enables the development of vital physiological, social and emotional skills. It allows children to build self-confidence and to develop secure and trusting relationships with others; it is a means of freedom of self-expression, healing and happiness.
A sense of wonder and challenge and a desire to explore and discover is the foundation for the desire to learn. Many children who have experienced trauma are not yet ready to access education. Play as a form of therapy helps remove the barriers to learning.