Context: Internal displacement in a conflict-affected area
Objective: To improve the safety and psychosocial well-being of vulnerable children in Syria through equipping local partners with the resources and training necessary to provide safe spaces for the protection and care of children affected by the conflict
The child friendly space (CFS) focuses primarily on activities for children ages 3 to 14, and operates from Thursday to Sunday with four groups of 60 to 80 children at a time. The CFS currently serves 220 children in total, with structured activities geared towards different age groups (ages 3 to 6, 7 to 9, 10 to 12, and 13 to 14) which are designed to promote child development, psychosocial well-being and coping skills. Activities include games, arts and crafts, music, drama, sports, free play, emergency education and child protection awareness.
While the CFS is not equipped to provide individualised counselling to children, activities are shaped to improve children’s psychosocial well-being and ability to cope positively in their circumstances. Caregivers are well trained in understanding and responding to the psychosocial needs of children, as well as in identifying children in need of referral for more specialised support.
The CFS is resourced with a play kit including recreational and educational items (such as sports equipment, art materials, books and toys), early childhood development materials and music resources.
The CFS coordinators and caregivers were recruited from existing children’s ministry teams at local churches and within the local Syrian community, and are responsible for organising and running the CFS, with remote support and annual training provided by LSESD.
Why this project?
The CFS builds on the partners’ existing work with children and engages members of the community, thereby also strengthening the ties between the church and its surrounding community as they respond together to the needs of children. The local partner recognised the need for additional focused support for displaced children, who, while mostly able to attend local schools, were not receiving psychosocial support and did not have safe places to play. Displaced children face many protection risks and the CFS seeks to provide information for children and parents on these risks, as well as minimising them by enabling children to spend time in a safe place.
Children attending the CFS describe the changes in their life since joining the programme – many mentioned the fact that they had made new friends or were learning new things.
Children’s psychosocial well-being has improved since attending the CFS; monitoring surveys showed that the number of children with severe emotional difficulties has more than halved, and 90 per cent of children have close to average overall psychosocial well-being, compared to 64 per cent at the start of the project.
Parents especially appreciate the focused activities around relevant issues – for example, a child protection activity on ‘The Boundaries of the Body’ designed to help children identify and defend themselves against physical and sexual abuse.
“I’m happy my child comes here. It’s the only outdoor activity he has now. Before the war, we used to go out to many places, now we don’t leave the town anymore.”
The CFS team are hoping to introduce regular meetings for parents, given that they are under huge pressure, and recognise that the prevalence of physical violence against children could also be an indicator of the critical need for psychosocial support for adults and caregivers as well as for the children themselves.