Since the outbreak of crisis in Syria, Lebanon has become home to over 1.2 million Syrian refugees: a 25% increase to Lebanon’s previous population which has stretched the county’s resources and services to breaking point. These refugees are living in informal tented settlements as the country has not yet provided formal refugee camps. Whilst basic shelter, emergency medication, food, water and sanitation has been provided by the UN, different governments and international NGOs, there is still a lack of the basic resources that this population need.
Of this new population, over 600,000 are children. Marc Sommers, an expert in childhood development within war and post-war settings from the University of Boston, argues that children are often invisible in emergency situations. Although they are receiving some support, there are many who are living in fear and uncertainty. The psychological trauma of this war is poorly understood, but UNICEF suggest that another year without education and other forms of support could see Syrian children (both those displaced or otherwise) become a part of a lost generation.
Ibtasem is an innovative project to provide Syrian refugee children with a playground. The initiative is led by CatalyticAction; a team of young professionals who are committed to proactive action against the challenges marginalised groups face. They have partnered with the American University of Beirut’s Centre of Civic Engagement and Community Service and the KAYANY Foundation who have already built four schools in Lebanon to allow Syrian refugee children to continue with their education. Building on these schools success, the playground will provide a place of fun, education, relaxation and freedom; a space where these children can heal.
The playground has been designed with the input of the children themselves, who completed participatory exercises that allowed them to express their own ideas and aspirations. The playground is modular and designed to be easily assembled, disassembled and reassembled; it can be adapted simply to fit in other schools, camp settlements or even in urban environments. The components are all easily transportable so they can be moved back to Syria when stability returns.
CatalyticAction is currently crowdfunding to continue with the implementation of the Ibtasem project. You can learn more about their initiative here.
They will also be hosting a design-build workshop during the construction period of the project, which will allow for international participants from various professional backgrounds to work alongside local NGOs, students and with the participation of the residents of these settlements.
If you are interested in finding out more information about this opportunity, visit their site here.