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  • Writer's pictureDearbhla

Child-Friendly Spaces: A Haven Amidst The Chaos

Despite the media silence, the refugee crisis is far from over. The closure of the EU borders in March 2016 left tens of thousands of people stranded in camps across mainland Greece, in unsafe and inhumane conditions. There are currently 54,700 refugees stuck in Greece alone, more than 800 of whom are living at Ritsona Refugee Camp, located an hour from Athens.

Over the past few weeks, I have been working at the Child-Friendly Space for Lighthouse Relief at Ritsona Refugee Camp in Greece, the only one of its kind at the camp. Lighthouse Relief's safe spaces are an overwhelmingly positive part of young people’s lives. For many of the children who have only known war, this is their first experience in a play group, and it can mean the difference between anxiety and security, despair and well-being. The child-friendly space provides a haven for children aged 3-12 of all backgrounds to play with their peers, in a welcoming and happy environment.

Children make up 37% of the migrants arriving into Greece. Lighthouse Relief Staff and volunteers at the child-friendly and youth engagement spaces work on the psychosocial needs of children and young people, who are often overlooked when it comes to humanitarian care. The children are able to learn, play and gain a sense of normality in an otherwise chaotic context.

From my short time here, I have seen what a difference this makes in the lives of these children, many of whom have faced unimaginable trauma. Engaging in energetic games, skipping is a big favourite, means that children learn the value of team work and sharing. Teaching children new songs and enabling them to engage freely in arts and crafts work - which more often than not involves covering their hands in glitter glue - enables them to escape from the day-to-day drudgery of camp life.

Glitter glue artwork at its finest!

The youth engagement space for 16-25-year-olds facilitates young people to learn new languages such as Greek, French and German, partake in boxing classes or play football and tennis. The space also offers guitar lessons, has held a recording workshop, which is now available on sound cloud, and holds essential skills-building workshops like CV training.

Young volunteers who live at the camp have additionally been trained by Lighthouse Relief staff to deliver community and social programmes, which recognises and utilises their skills.

“It lifts our spirits. They're helping to boost our self-esteem and confidence. This is better than locking yourself in the caravan not wanting to go outside. Waiting on papers to come through, you start thinking negative thoughts. So, it's better to come here, so that the negative energy will turn to positive energy”. - Mahmoud
Football with Lighthouse Relief

As Ramadan is the holy month of giving, a time to reflect upon and show compassion for those who are less fortunate, I am asking you all to PLEASE dig deep and donate!

  • Just $25 can facilitate a special skills-building workshop for 16-25-year-olds

  • $70 provides an emergency relief kit to those coming into Lesvos, including water, snacks, emergency blankets and toiletries

  • $25 can buy new arts and crafts materials such as glue and crepe paper for the child-friendly space.


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