Give children one place to feel safe and grow together

After four hours from China to Bangkok, Thailand, and 1.5 hours from Bangkok to the border city between Myanmar and Thailand, we started our IWitness trip. Before the trip, I just knew a little about our destination, why there are people who moved to the temporary shelter and left their hometown. I did not know how they are living or how their children are growing up.

IWitness team with Handicap International co-ordinators.

The evening after we arrived at the airport, the staff from Handicap International (HI) picked us up and took us to their office. HI Thailand’s country manager introduced the background of the project, and also gave us information about the refugee camps. Now there are nine refugee camps along the country border. Around 100,000 people are living in these camps, and 45% of them are children. There are several objectives of the project Growing Together, funded by the IKEA Foundation. For me, the most impressive is to develop safety while having fun. After visiting two camps, my feeling is stronger than when I just listened the introduction.

A little boy and his mum during parents’ club. Photo by Danica Huang.

In the first refugee camp, there are around 11,000 people living in there, while there were 18,000 people during peak time. We spent two days here. The HI staff welcomed us warmly with music and smiling. Each day around 30 children waited for us to play together. During our visit day, it was a local holiday; these children don’t have to go to school. Yes, it’s right, there are also schools within the camps. These schools are supported by non-government organisations. The children are very happy and open minded towards us, there are no difficulties about the communication, except the language.

Kids during storytelling exercise. Photo by Danica Huang.

The second refugee camp is bigger than the first one, around 40,000 people. And on both days, more than 40 children were together with us. We brought Chinese games to them, such as a dance called “My little apple”, “Throw handkerchief” and “Chair competition”, etc. All of them were very popular with the children; it seemed like they could play for hours.

Handkerchief game with the kids. Photo by Danica Huang.

In these camps, HI supports not only in raising socially and emotionally healthy kids, but also creates opportunities for children with disabilities and other vulnerable children. The staff, who are refugees from the camps, have been trained by HI. It has also created good places to play and conducts rehabilitation sessions for people who have been injured or who have disabilities in the camps (giving prosthesis, orthosis, rehabilitation care).

IWitness China teaches the kids the “My little apple” dance. Photo by Danica Huang.

I think it is more important to help the children become one whole person than other technology skills training, because you do not know what will happen tomorrow. If the child has a well-rounded personality, he or she can face challenges during growing up.

HI has done a lot about this point. They design different games played by the children, while the children learn how to communicate, express themselves and to be more optimistic, positive and brave! The whole week journey was very interesting and I am grateful for the opportunity. It has opened my eyes to a world out there much bigger than my own.

    Lynn Liu