“Everyone is very happy. The child-friendly spaces brought so much joy to many children in the camps,” teaching staff team leader Reber Chali said with a broad smile. All around him, children’s laughter and shouts filled the air. During an outdoor activity, everyone was active and playful.
World Vision has recently opened two child-friendly spaces (CFS) to accommodate 600 children in Bersive 1 and 2 camps in Duhok, northern Iraq. Chali added that 800 came for registration but some of them were referred to other CFS’s in the camps run by other partner NGOs. This is to avoid congestion in the rooms to make learning and playing more convenient for the children. Every room accommodates a maximum of 25 children on two shifts per day.
Managed on the ground by a local NGO Public Aid Organization (PAO), each shift includes non-formal education, English, Arabic and Science; and activities such as sports, drawing, music and public plays that will help gradually bring back normalcy in the children’s lives.
“We have noticed how restless, selfish and angry most of the children were before. They went through difficult times and it showed on how they related to each other and people around them. But after weeks spending time here, we saw how their attitude improved considerably,” Chali further added.
The two CFS’s are composed of 800 sqm space equipped with the teachers’ office, shaded area for activities, a kitchen and toilets. It also has a small garden, guard house and emergency smoke detector were included for the children’s safety.
A total of 29 staff including teachers, guards and cleaners – all of them internally displaced themselves – supervise and maintain the spaces. Chali said, “When they grow up I am sure they will treasure their time here and help them become better persons. Many of them are hopeful to return to their homes one day.” Most of the displaced in the two camps fled from Sinjar.
Eleven-year old Deyar, whose family came from Sinjar, said he is filled with happiness participating in the learning and playing activities. With a huge smile in his face, he said, “I want to be a doctor someday.” Deyar added his dream is to be able to go back to their town.
Mazen Amin, project coordinator for PAO shared positive feedback on the project. A refugee from Syria and a father of two children, he said he is proud to be part of the project because he knows how important it is for children to forget the miserable experience they are going through. Amin said the children were at first hesitant but now all of them are excited to participate.
“Many of them have nothing to do in their cramped tents and caravans. At summer, it is too hot around the camps. With the air conditioned rooms, the CFS’s provide a respite for the whole day and also gives time for their parents to work and do house chores while their children are here,” Amin said.
Funded by Germany Relief Coalition Aktion Deutschland Hilft (ADH), World Vision’s “Let Us Learn” Project, an emergency education and protection initiative for the displaced children in the camp and non-camps in Duhok Governorate, in partnership with PAO, aims to assist in the learning continuity, psychosocial well-being and increased resilience of children in both settings.
Reports estimated 47,300 internally-displaced persons (IDPs) are children under 5-years and 274,000 are under 18 years in Iraq Kurdistan alone; with education needs of these children are the most under-addressed.