Jordan: Let’s Play for Change campaign helps kids simply be kids

On 28 July 2012 I stepped down from a bus carrying Syrian refugees from border checkpoints to discover that we had arrived at a conspicuous white tent in the middle of an empty desert. When I first arrived at Za’atari refugee camp, I remember seeing no more than 50 people huddled under that tent, disoriented, afraid and unsure of what the future would bring.

Although they all faced similar hardships, each had a unique story to tell.  That day I met a tailor, his wife and three daughters. They had arrived carrying only the few belongings they could pack in the midst of a bombing raid. I met a young man dressed in stylish cosmopolitan clothes, who had come all the way from Damascus, fleeing from the government security forces that threatened him after he posted anti-government sentiments on Facebook. And I will never forget the woman who arrived weeping and inconsolable, clutching a framed photograph of her child.

Five years later, Za’atari camp is home to 80,000 Syrian refugees and has become the fourth largest city in Jordan. Over 660,000 registered refugees have crossed the border, all having lost their homes, belongings, livelihoods, communities and, very often, members of their family in the violence. Although many settled in Za’atari the majority—nearly 80%—settled outside the camp, in urban areas across Jordan.

Since that day I have worked on projects aiming to provide Syrian refugee children with emergency education and psychosocial support to promote their healthy development and resilience. During my time working with children, I have heard them tell stories of violence, death and terror; things that would unhinge any adult, much less a child. But I have also seen stories of hope. The mother who refuses to let her children give up on their education. The teacher who gathers the neighbourhood children in her caravan for math and Arabic lessons. The doctor who gives free treatment to his compatriots.

During my five years working in Jordan, the most rewarding project for me has been War Child’s Time to Be a Child project, thanks to the support of the IKEA Foundation and the Let’s Play for Change campaign. The project’s comprehensive approach allows us to target children, parents and communities in a unified programme. It aims to provide children with safe communities that promote their healthy development and resilience, focusing on early childhood care and development, psychosocial support, recreational activities and youth engagement. It also helps foster safe communities for children by providing parenting skills and psychosocial support for caregivers, as well as community-based child protection.

In October 2017, an IKEA Poland IWitness team will arrive in Jordan to see for themselves how the Time to Be a Child project has impacted the lives of thousands of Syrian and vulnerable Jordanian families across the Kingdom. My hope is that they will not only hear the stories of devastation and sadness but will come away with a sense of hope and encouragement that this project is giving children the opportunity to learn, develop, play…and simply be kids.




    Priscilla Yoon