““Play allows us to develop alternatives to violence and despair; it helps us learn perseverance and gain optimism”” (Stuart Brown).
The Syrian crisis is the world’s largest refugee crisis for almost a century under UNHCR mandate. One in four persons in Lebanon is displaced from Syria, with around 56% of all Syrian refugees are under 18 years old making it largely a crisis of children and youth (UNHCR 2015). Most Syrian refugees live in housing without sufficient space for play and in areas where they do not have a safe space for play in their surrounding.
According to Caritas Lebanon the Syrian crisis has highly impacted children’s mental wellbeing. Educational spaces, such as schools, playgrounds etc. have a fundamental role for these children to create social networks, improve their behaviour and partially heal any psychological trauma they might have experienced. A playground has the power to answer some of the main needs of children to better cope with the situation. A playground has the power to be a space for education; a space for stress release and where children can develop their creativity and imagination; a space much needed in a context where child development is challenged by the effects of a war and displacement crisis.
We partnered with Social Support Society NGO to build a playground in the Al-Makassed school of Ghazze, Lebanon. In the 1950s, the municipality of Ghazze offered the land and the school building to Al-Makassed organisation. Since then the school has been providing education for Lebanese children. After the Syrian conflict started in 2011, the area has been receiving a significant number of Syrian refugees. The NGO Social Support Society has been managing the school in the past years, and have decided to accept Syrian students to the school in order to provide education also for the refugee community. The school currently provides education for over 700 children.
CatalyticAction project “Ibtasem” raised awareness of the much-needed space for refugee children. We are advocating for a design that questions the definition of a playground in an emergency response. The innovative process lies within not simply providing playing facilities (swing, slide, etc.) but rather in exploring opportunities that enable these children to design the playground themselves. This makes each playground specific for its context, time and people.
BASMA playground in Ghazze, Lebanon
The design choices were informed both from the participatory phase conducted with the children in April 2017 and from desktop and site research. The participatory design activities carried out with the children, aimed at initiating a conversation around the playground project, for which their involvement throughout the project phases is the most important for the success and sustainability of it.
The playground is envisioned to be a permanent recreational and educational space for the school and the town of Ghazze. The choice of the materiality of the playground design is affected by CatalyticAction's objectives, such as: supporting local businesses by prioritising the use of local materials and labour (learn more about CA objectives: www.catalyticaction.org/objectives).
The playground was built on what was previously just an empty land mostly filled with wild vegetation and garbage. The area of intervention measures around 1000 m2 and it has one main access from the road and one from the school building.
The project was implemented from the 25th of July 2017 until the 4th of September 2017.
Established in 2006, Social Support Society seeks to help make a positive difference in the lives of refugees living in Lebanon.
One Refugee Child raises funds to improve the day-to day lives of refugee children through projects that focus on health, development and education.