Being a disabled child in a refugee camp is tough. But play, a fundamental right for all children, enables children with disabilities to learn, be included in their community and improve their self-esteem. That’s why the IKEA Foundation is supporting Growing Together, a new project by Handicap International that gives displaced children in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Thailand the right to be a child.
Handicap International is one of IKEA’s six partners for the new Let’s Play for Change campaign, launching on 20th November to mark the UN Universal Children’s Day. For every children’s book and toy sold in IKEA stores between 20th November and 24th December, the IKEA Foundation will make a donation of €1 to support children’s right to play.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that every child should have the right to play. But according to a research from the Ikea Foundation, children with mental and physical disabilities are often more likely to be excluded from playing and learning activities.
“Play is super important for all children,” says Cheryl Shin-Hua Yeam, Handicap International’s technical coordinator for Growing Together. “Play makes children happy and healthy. It allows them to learn, improves their self-esteem and helps them to develop important life skills such as empathy, communication and resilience to stress.”
Yet, sadly, vulnerable and disabled children rarely have the opportunity to play. “Recently, I visited Mae La in Thailand, one of the refugee camps where Growing Together will run” explains Cheryl. “It was clear that being a child in a refugee camp doesn’t come easy. Children in Mae La have fled war and violence in Myanmar and have to deal with difficult backgrounds. Some of them were born in the camps and the only reality they know is the one in the camps, where the living conditions are difficult. They face poverty, poor health conditions such as malnutrition and malaria, violence, extreme weather conditions... And on top of all that, they lack the opportunity to play.”
“We don’t have a place to play” confirms 10-year-old So Eike who lives in Mae La. “There’s only one football field in a camp for 40,000 people. Most of the time, we play around our house, on a narrow, often muddy path, filled with holes and loose rocks. That’s far from ideal. And we have no toys” he sighs.
Funded by the IKEA Foundation, Handicap International’s Growing Together project will create inclusive playgrounds where vulnerable refugee children can feel safe to play and learn. Child friendly spaces give refugee children the opportunity to share traumatising experiences with a professional as well as with each other. Children feel safe. They can relax, smile, play, and just be a child again - essential elements for their mental and physical health. Play is also an important element in physical rehabilitation care, for it stimulates children to do their exercises and helps them improve coordination and muscles’ strength.
“Our safe spaces will be accessible and inclusive so that all children can come and learn together, such as children with and without physical disabilities, children with learning difficulties, mental health problems and children who are chronically ill.” says Cheryl.
- Pictures and video footage available upon request
- Cheryl Shin-Hua Yeam is available for interviews
Marlene Sigonney, Handicap International UK
Tel: +44 (0)870 774 3737
More information about the project
Growing Together will run for 4 years and aims to empower 13,000 vulnerable boys and girls and their families in refugees camps in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Thailand.
About Handicap International
Co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Handicap International is a charity working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster. We work tirelessly alongside disabled and vulnerable people to help meet their basic needs, improve their living conditions and promote respect for their dignity and fundamental rights.
The IKEA Foundation
The Growing Together project is funded by the IKEA Foundation (the philanthropic arm of the INGKA Foundation, owner of the IKEA Group) and supported by IKEA’s new good cause campaign: Let’s Play for Change. www.ikeafoundation.org