Organized by: Wardah Farah
Children’s Playground: Fostering Peace between Syrian Refugees and Jordanian Youth
Since the start of the Syrian uprising in 2011, the conflict in Syria has developed into a full-fledged civil war, creating a severe humanitarian crisis. Today, about 2.6 million Syrians live as refugees in neighboring countries. Of these neighboring countries, Jordan faces the greatest strains from the Syrian refugee population, as the country struggles to provide for its already situated Palestinian and Iraqi refugee populations. The Syrian refugees have become a test for Jordan’s resources and native population, as apparent in the changing dynamics of the Jordanian border city of Mafraq. The influx of refugees to Mafraq has intensified the previously existing problems of the poor, developing city, such as high housing costs, increased competition in the employment market, crowded local schools and more. While the Jordanians hold Syrian refugees responsible for the city’s deteriorating conditions, Syrian refugees accuse Jordanians of mistreatment, such as of turning away Syrian kids from local schools and harassment. Tensions have escalated to the extent that both Syrian and Jordanian parents now discourage their children from playing together. As most aid organizations allocate their resources to the local Syrian refugee camp, Zaatari, Mafraq continues to exist as a divided city.
Project “Children’s Playground”:
The Children’s Playground will bring together the children of Syrian refugees and Jordanians in Mafraq as a way of easing the tensions between the two communities. Many Syrian refugee children suffer from depression or posttraumatic stress disorder because of their separation from relatives and homes and from the scenes of violence and death they have witnessed. With these memories, it is hard for Syrian refugee children to relate and interact with Jordanian children. Likewise, Jordanian children have difficulty relating to Syrian children who, because of the larger tensions in the city, are seen as the "other." In addition, Syrian children facing several identity struggles as they are now spending several years of their childhood in Jordan. Our Children’s Playground project will engage Syrian and Jordanian children in peaceful mechanisms of dialogue, art, and education so that they can build understanding between each other which can foster peace outside of the playground and outside in their homes and streets of Mafraq.
Components of our project: Dialogue, Art and Education:
The platform of a Children's Playground allows the children to share their experiences and release their inner frustration and thoughts through peaceful and creative artistic expression, such as writing, photography, and painting. We will focus on a group of about 25-30 children from the community. The Children’s Playground will provide students with resources to further their own creative and artistic interests. By creating different focus groups among these children, we will provide them with the intimate space they need to feel comfortable enough to share their narratives with each other and through creative expression. Through the educational component of our project, we will offer English classes for the children so that they can begin acquiring a critical language for their future educational pursuits.
Sustainability of our project:
The creative work the children choose to produce will be compiled and showcased through different outlets such as social media (a project blog,Twitter, Facebook, etc.), a children’s book, and a moving art exhibition, which we will present in various locations in Jordan and the United States to spread awareness of the children’s stories and concerns around the world. The proceeds we collect from these endeavors will be used to sustain the children’s creative expressions beyond the Children’s Playground this summer, as the funds collected will be donated to programs that allow children to continue pursuing peaceful dialogue and expression.
Feasibility and our backgrounds:
We, Wardah Bari and Farah Amjad, are students at Princeton University. Through our time at Princeton and beyond, we have the experience and background in service work, Jordan, Arabic, dialogue, after school programs, peace and conflict studies, journalism and more, to execute the aims of the Children’s Playground. We have also arranged a partnership with a local Jordanian aid organization – Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development (ARDD- Legal Aid), which will help us organize and execute the project. Our program’s curriculum is being developed under the guidance of experienced aid workers and organizations that have created educational programs for refugee populations in different conflict zones. Through an effective cultivation of the children’s creative interests and potentials, we will ensure that their ability to express themselves peacefully is sustained beyond our summer with them.
How you can help?:
Although the project is being sponsored by the Davis Projects for Peace grant, we need further funds to sustain the project. The sustainability costs of the project include: publicity tools, such as cameras, supplies and resources for the children’s program and for community building and program development, and marketing for the children’s book. You can help by providing any amount of donation or by sponsoring towards one of the three critical needs of our project.
Sponsor a critical need of our project:
1. Publicity – To capture and then share the stories and experiences of the children in our project, we will need to invest in a good Digital SLR camera and some digital cameras for the children to document their lives on their own.
2. Supplies – For the art and community projects the children will organize, we will need to purchase a variety of art supplies to execute the projects.
3. Marketing – The children’s art and narrative book that we will help in publishing will require a marketing campaign to promote the book in the U.S. and beyond. Funds will be needed for advertisement of the book.
Photos: Courtesy of ARDD-Legal Aid: http://ardd-jo.org/
Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or ideas!
Wardah Bari - firstname.lastname@example.org
Farah Amjad - email@example.com