(Pictured: Children in Pagai, South Sudan play games, colour, skip rope and football in a Child Friendly Space.)
Giving children the space to play can be the most powerful thing of all
Every day humanitarian needs around the world are growing. Half a billion children are living in crisis in desperate need of support (UNICEF). When emergencies occur, children are the most vulnerable to injury, exploitation and abuse. This is why World Vision acts fast when an emergency occurs to prioritize the care and protection of children.
Our core child protection response is to set up a ‘Child Friendly Space’. Each space looks a little different depending on the culture and the emergency that has happened. The location is often chosen with the community, including the children, to identify the safest place which could range from a school, community centre, tent or open space in a camp or community.
Our goal always remains the same: To support and protect children in emergencies.
Alex Snary, Head of International Programmes explains “We are there to help kids start to bounce back from what they have experienced.”
While each space looks different, each includes six responses in the emergency:
We have fun
Children in emergency situations have been through experiences like no other. By offering a place filled with games, sports, drama, and cultural activities it helps them switch off from their worries and concerns.
These activities bring light and colour into their lives to remind them there is hope in this world and for their future.
“I’m very happy here” says Kajal about the Child Friendly Space set up Bhojpur, India. “We sing songs, read stories and the best part is I get to be with my friends again. All these activities help to keep my mind off the floods.”
We provide safety
Emergencies can cause destruction and devastation in a child’s community. Instead of safe places, children are faced with many places they can be hurt such as collapsed buildings, flooded rivers and washed out roads. Emergencies also increase a child’s vulnerability to being exploited and abused.
World Vision Child Friendly Spaces ensure children are safe - that there is at least one place they do not have to fear for their lives. The relief children feel in these situation can be huge, as for some safety has seemed far away for such a long time.
The 2015 earthquake in Nepal was the worst to strike in 80 years flattening entire villages killing nearly 9,000. 12-year old Suyita experienced the horror; “When the ground started shaking, I quickly grabbed my baby sister Pratiksha and ran away from the house. I was so scared. I saw many houses falling down into pieces. I’m glad to be here at the Child Friendly Space. I feel safe playing with my sister and friends,”.
Jouri (wearing white) and her classmates go through an exercise where they imagine what they would be if they had a chance to "hatch" into a brand new world, part of healing therapy for the children in Bekaa, Lebanon.
Children gather at the Zelican Camp outside Mosul, Iraq to play games based on cooperation and teamwork.
In South Sudan, children experience what it is like to work together and be friends despite differences.
Emergencies cause children to experience things they never should. Processing these experience is a key step to moving forward.
Our spaces are run by skilled Child Protection Officers, trained in providing child-based psychological and social support. Through our fun activities, and particularly role-plays and art, World Vision create a space for children to express their feelings of fear and loss. Little by little, children grow in confidence and become more comfortable in expressing themselves through play. This process helps them realise that they are not alone and that they’re having a normal reaction to an abnormal situation.
Five-year-old Rimas from Syria has never used a computer before. She said, “When I’m in school, I feel happy. My favourite activity is learning the colours in English and Arabic, but I also like matching small animals with big animals.”
Syrian refugee children aged 3 to 6 learn English, math, Arabic, and science taught with a lot of songs and activities. Activities here often offer the first experience of directed group activities for many of the children.
Lubna, a World Vision hygiene promoter, teaches children in Azraq, Jordan hygiene techniques.
An emergency frequently causes children to be unable to attend school due to displacement, collapsed buildings or a lack of general safety.
To mitigate the lost education Child Friendly spaces provide informal education with a key focus on literacy and numeracy skills. It also gives us the opportunity to teach about life skills, health, hygiene and child rights. For slow onset emergencies, like the South Sudan and Syria crisis, this is the only education they have received in years.
We create community
A key part of our Child Friendly Spaces is coming together as a new community. It helps foster positive relationships and encourage team work and acceptance. It allows us to share information and learn what the community needs. We also help reunite children separated from families and distribute items such as lunches, water, books and basic survival items.
These spaces become so important to the community that once the emergency response is finished these spaces are turned into community centres to continue its services.
In Twic, South Sudan many unaccompanied children were reunited with their parents at our Child-Friendly Space. Benjamin, of the South Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission says, “World Vision did tracing. They linked up the kids with their parents. World Vision taught people their rights—for men, women and children. They opened the eyes of these people to another world.”
One of the key challenges in emergency settings is parents trying to continue to earn income. Our spaces offer parents a safe place for their children so they are able to attend to daily activities, whether that be working, tending the garden, searching for work, or receiving aid. It also becomes a place for parents to meet and support each other.
A Child Friendly Officer, sits beside one of the children who fled Mosul, Iraq with her family. Together they take the time to get to know each, feel safe and start the process of recovery.