When the war in Ukraine started, many LEYF staff were really upset about the children. In fact, one conversation which stuck in my mind was: “June, they could be at nursery today and in a shelter tomorrow. I kept thinking about our children in the same situation”
This was a conversation I have heard many times before. When the civil war in Syria began we supported a member of staff’s work in a Greek charity providing pre-school education for refugee children living in the camp. Before that, we funded staff to visit Northern Uganda with the charity, WarChild to see what we could do to develop a “nursery” model to protect the youngest children living in the midst of a civil war.
This year we are supporting two charities:
Firstly, Love Welcomes – a creative social enterprise launched in response to the refugee crisis in Greece that helps refugee women begin to stitch their lives back together by upcycling material into beautiful, handmade home products that they sell all over the world.
Secondly, Nostos Homes which builds modular, lightweight homes which can easily be transported for people displaced due to violent conflict or natural disasters.
António Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations argued that children are the key to a secure and sustainable future, and their education matters for us all. He reminded us of our collective responsibility to ensure education for the most vulnerable children and youth in the world – refugees, internally displaced children, stateless children and children whose right to education has been compromised by war and insecurity. When a child becomes a refugee there is no education opportunities for them because historically, being a refugee was a short-term problem so the emphasis was on obtaining shelter and accommodation, emergency medical care and food. But now people are staying as refugees for much longer now and many children spend their entire childhood years in refugee camps.
We agree with his sentiments and believe that lots of colleagues in the Early Years would agree too. Some of us may be familiar with the 54 Articles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child but let me point to Article 22 which focuses on refugee children
If a child is seeking refuge or has refugee status, governments must provide them with appropriate protection and assistance to help them enjoy all the rights in the Convention. Governments must help refugee children who are separated from their parents to be reunited with them.
So, what can we do?
1.Build a more positive inclusive and empathetic culture and see the world through the eyes of a refugee child.
2.Understand how you can lead with a social purpose and turn your plans into action. Can you support and give a refugee child access to your service? Can you offer a young refugee an apprenticeship?
3.Partner with an organisation that can help you better understand how you can support refugee children.
We have two books which might help you consider some of these actions;
To find out more about World Refugee Day visit the UNHCR Website.