01 Feb Right To Play
“We have gained knowledge on mindful play and how to handle stressed children and methods of calming them. We found the training to be interactive and meaningful and feel we can better deal with children struggling with depression or
aggression.” – caregiver in Kyaka II Refugee Camp, after LTP training in January
Eashwar, our Chief Opportunities Officer, and I started the year in the most meaningful way – with 119 teachers, caregivers, and trainers in Kyaka II Refugee Settlement, Uganda. Learn To Play partnered with Children on the Edge Africa, who are pioneers in child protection and early learning across crisis and emergency areas globally, to bring some of our early childhood training to their brilliant team in Uganda.
Home to over 125,000 refugees; Kyaka II settlement is both beautiful and broken. Between mountains and forests, this refugee camp is in one of the most stunning landscapes I’ve ever seen but when you hear that 65% of arrivals in Kyaka II are children, many of whom have witnessed horrific violence and lost family members to war and being forced to flee, your perspective shifts dramatically.
Children on the Edge estimate that 15 – 20,000 3–6-year-olds are cut off from early years services and vulnerable to serious child protection risks, with nowhere safe to go during the day so they establish cluster learning playgroups and ECD centres that now serve close to 10,000 of these children on a regular basis.
After spending a week with these educators and caregivers, training them on child protection, social and emotional learning, mindful play, creativity for children and parental engagement, I can definitely say we learnt as much from them as we were able to share. We learnt so much about strength and resilience from the people we worked with, and so much about scale and quality programming from Children on the Edge.
One of my absolute highlights was the reinforcement that play can happen anywhere! And we saw this when we visited one of the amazing outdoor playgroup locations, nestled in pine trees, flourishing with fresh mountain air; a space that has been nurtured, cultivated and safeguarded by parents and community leaders -dedicated to children in the camp. It was further evidence when a community comes together with one goal, children can truly thrive, not just survive.
The other greatest lesson I’ve learnt in the last 12 months is the power of optimism.By listening to parents and caregivers share their hopes and dreams in Kakuma Refugee Camp and Kyaka II Refugee Settlement, they showed me when we consciously choose to be hopeful, we are less stressed, more creative, and more likely to achieve our goals.
On the other hand, I experienced a poverty of hope in Zimbabwe. When we asked parents in farming communities what their dreams are for their children, they had none. I have never felt more heartsore than in that moment. They do not have the courage to dream or the ability to envision a brighter future for their children.
This discomfort provokes us to act, and to act differently. Everyone should have the freedom to dream and it’s this determined belief to give every child the right to play and every parent the courage to hope, that propels us forward as we cross borders further into Africa. This year, our word is AFRICAN because it’s the year LTP really
makes strides into extending our impact into new countries and contexts where we feel children and families need us most: Zimbabwe and Kenya.
Watch this space for more on both of these ambitious projects of ours.