Play can impact children’s future!

The future impact of supporting children living in refugee camps to play will be so huge. My feeling of excitement toward the children’s futures remains after the trip. We visited refugee camps (temporary shelters) on the border area between Thailand and Myanmar. Some people living there told me how tough it is to live over 10 years with no proof of nationality and no stable income. Others explained that their basic needs, such as water and education, are not fully met due to difficult economic conditions.

Children crafting paper maracas. Photo by Caroline Westhoff.

Despite this situation, I found children playing full of energy. Humanity & Inclusion (HI) runs the programme Growing Together, funded by the IKEA Foundation. They hold play activities and create safe spaces to play.

Through joining HI’s activities, I was impressed by the children’s potential; amazing imaginations, great problem-solving skills and power of visualising imaginations. For example, when we made crowns with paper flowers, we all started by making the same one. Once they finished it, some kids started creating different designs on their own. I was also surprised that they got used to communicating to me, even though we didn’t use the same language. The fact that they easily learned non-verbal communication convinced me of their strong problem-solving skills.

After the craft session, there was an atmosphere of great accomplishment. I found so much passion and skill among them. They are creative, they can overcome obstacles and finally they can make their imagination happen.

With children and their beautiful paper crowns! Photo by Duangthip Khongkhetkhram (Phum) Humanity & Inclusion.

After coming back to Japan and reflecting on this experience, I noticed that the process of play among these children is the same as some important elements in our own lives. We start from imagining what we want to achieve, then overcome many barriers and, in the end, our imagination comes true. This brings us the sense of accomplishment and we start imagining something new again. I think most of us grew up in this way. It goes without saying that children joining HI’s activities already know essential things which they learned by playing. I can’t stop thinking about how they will grow up!

Children crafting animals from paper cups. Photo by Satoko Shinjo.
    Satoko Shinjo