• Latest News - October 1, 2015

    Syrian refugee crisis: How play is making a difference for the children

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    The Syrian refugee crisis stands to leave a haunting legacy.

    According to the UN, of the 4 million people who have fled the war in Syria since fighting began in 2011, more than half are under the age of 18. As numbers rise, this refugee crisis is rapidly becoming a crisis of identity, childhood and education.


    Torn from their homes and the comfort of their daily routines, many child refugees have experienced levels of violence, loss and instability that not only rob them of the chance to 'be a kid', but seriously threaten their mental, emotional and social development. 

    Syrian refugees play in JordanThrough play, we can help children recapture their childhoods and learn the skills they need to recover from trauma and overcome the new challenges they face as refugees.

     Our work with Syrian children is focused on transforming new and unfamiliar surroundings into safe and protected spaces where they can regain a sense of normalcy and re-build their trust in the world around them. We work closely with local partners to train teachers and community volunteers in play-based learning methods, so they—as Right To Play Coaches—can lead children in activities that help them to understand their experiences, adopt positive new behaviours, and develop a renewed sense of hope for the future.

    In these complicated times, play also helps address crisis in the simplest of ways: it brings children together as equals, as teammates and as friends. Play allows children to express themselves, learn from each others' experiences and simply have fun together, as children should.

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    "I have never in my life encountered children with such joy in their hearts despite their circumstances," she says. "I can't even put into words this feeling, but I know it's breathtaking."

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    Since the fighting broke out in Syria in 2011, some 1.2 million Syrians have registered as refugees in Lebanon—roughly one-quarter of that country's total population. This influx of people and needs has placed an enormous strain on resources and community cohesion.

    We have been working in Lebanon since 2006. Initially focused on children living in Palestinian refugee camps and the surrounding areas, over the past 10 years we have developed our expertise in supporting child refugees in the region. A long-standing partner, we have also built a legacy of trust with local authorities, organizations and stakeholders that means we do not only work with a community, we become a member of it.

    That is why we have been able to effectively expand and adapt our programming to reach some of the populations most affected by the current refugee crisis—and we are doing just that.

    Since 2013, we've been working to deliver programs that help address the impact of this crisis on children and local host communities. 

    Today, we have reached more than 27,400 Syrian children and youth living in Lebanon through weekly play programs and trained more than 920 local teachers and volunteer community members as Right To Play Coaches.    

    Where war has left many refugee children timid and suspicious of strangers, our Coaches become the trusted role models who support children through their recovery. Their dedication to providing quality learning opportunities is at the core of every success story.

    Yasmine leads youth in activitiesCoaches like 24-year-old mother of two, Yasmine. A Syrian refugee herself, when Yasmine arrived to Beirut's Burj El Barajneh Refugee Camp, she began searching for a way she could give herself purpose and give back to the community. That's when she found Right To Play.

     As a trained Right To Play Coach, Yasmine often runs Basketball for Development programs and says for the kids, it's about much more than a little time on the court.

    "I have never in my life encountered children with such joy in their hearts despite their circumstances," she says. "I can't even put into words this feeling, but I know it's breathtaking."

    Play is a powerful tool for building resilient people and peaceful communities. It encourages inclusion, teaches conflict-resolution and creates an opportunity for learning. It helps children develop essential life skills needed for a brighter future. 

    ​Where conflict and trauma have robbed these young people of their childhoods, we are there to help them learn the confidence, trust and resiliency to not only survive, but thrive in the face of hardship.

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    Right To Play is dedicated to helping children affected by the Syrian refugee crisis. Every dollar you donate enables Right To Play to ensure children can recover from crisis through the power of play.

    All eligible donations made until December 31st will be matched by the Government of Canada.

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