“Children need the freedom and time to play. Play is not a luxury. Play is a necessity” (Kay Redfield Jamison).
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 are partnering with Jusoor NGO to build a playground in their West Bekaa center in Jeb Janine. Jusoor runs three educational centers in Lebanon, of which the Jeb Janine School represents the main center that tackles the education gap identified in this area for Syrian refugee children. Around 700 students attend the school five days a week, divided in two shifts.
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.
FURSA playground in Jeb Janine, Lebanon
‘Fursa’ means opportunity in Arabic, as well as it refers in spoken Arabic to the recess time. The opportunity to relax, play and learn by doing.
Jeb Janine center is a two story concrete building hosting 26 classrooms with an open outdoor space. This structure has been repurposed to serve as a school for these children, the outdoor space lying in front of it provides space to run and enjoy an outdoors breeze. With this project, the outdoor area will be animated with active spaces, relaxing/private spaces as well as educational spaces.
The choice of the spaces comes from desktop and site research that includes several participatory exercises conducted with the children in various schools serving Syrian refugee children in West and Central Bekaa. In December 2015 CatalyticAction’s team conducted specific participatory exercises with the children of the Jeb Janine School in order to initiate a conversation with them around the playground project, for which their involvement throughout the project phases is the most important for the success and sustainability of it.
The Jeb Janine center is envisioned to remain a School after the Syrian crisis is over. The choice of the materiality of the playground design is affected by several factors including: life span, location and use. An island within the Bekaa agriculture fields, the new outdoor space will add a playful dynamic to the landscape.
The project was implemented from the 9th of May 2016 until the 5th of June 2016.
Jusoor is an NGO of Syrian expatriates supporting the country’s development and helping Syrian youth realize their potential through programs in the fields of education, career development, and global community engagement.
THE CHALHOUB GROUP
The Chalhoub Group aims to empower the youth living in the Arab World, and more specifically GCC nationals, by supporting academic institutes in the Middle East and Europe.