Child-friendly space in Shengjin, a safe environment for Afghani children

Building resilience to help children handle past and future trauma

UNICEF Albania
17 June 2022
A little girl in a doll house
Afghan children & teacher playing
A little boy giving thumbs up
A mother helping her child getting dressed
A mother helping her child getting dressed
A mother helping her child getting dressed

It is morning, and Bebe, 4 years old, had breakfast with her brother Mohamed and her sister Wajeba, 9 years old, at their temporary residence. Karima, their mother, is preparing them to go to the child-friendly space. “Let me tell you, this is the best moment of the day. It provides me as a parent with the opportunity to engage in other activities and doing some work for our families” - says Karima happily.

Two little girls in a play table
Two little girls holding a play table
A little boy under a play table

The child-friendly space, implemented by UNICEF thanks to financial support from USAID, is one of the colorful spots in Shëngjin – Lezhë. It is one of the places provided by the Albanian government to help and protect afghan children. The objective is to support the children’s resilience and return to normality, bringing a sense of order and routine back into their lives. “It’s a heavenly place where children have the freedom to choose and decide which activities to participate in”, says Fiorina, one of the national coordinators of NISMA. These spaces provide children and parents alike with a much-needed escape from stress and any trauma caused by the ongoing emergencies.

A teacher and a little girl in front of the kindergarten
Three little kids painting
Two groups of children painting and their teachers

We met with Fiorina and Keida at the center. They are the encouraging and supportive staff who work around the clock to ensure the quality establishment and operation of the child-friendly spaces. So far, UNICEF has supported two child-friendly spaces and reached 160 children aged 2-4 years old. Local experts, including psychologists, nurses, teachers, and mediators from the local community, have been engaged to support children and families.

Painting from Afghan teen, a girls with closed mouth
Paintings from the afghan children
Painting from Afghan teen, a girl seated in a window

Supporting teenagers and young adults has its challenges. Sadness, frustration, and anxiety disappear gradually, though it will take time. While it is obvious that they miss their homes and friends, using art therapy to relieve stress is a well-known technique that helps. Thanks to local coordinators, youth clubs are organized every day. Drawing seems to be the most preferred activity. Twice a week, they watch movies. They choose their own movies, and sometimes there is a discussion around the movie themes.

Astronomy Class

Mursal teaches astronomy. The children choose their preferred planet and learn more about it. They have fun playing with planets.

Teenagers in the Painting exposition

Not only  children have their own space, but youth clubs are also set up to keep them busy. Therapy through art - this well-known technique - is a relief for them. Every afternoon, they join the center and express themselves through painting. Recently, they organized an exhibition of their drawings.

Children playing foosball

As we moved from one corner to another, we stopped to watch the boys playing football. It was raining outside, so Mohamed played with his friends in the child-friendly space. His dream is to become a football player. He and his friends were happily playing at the center.

A psychologist playing foosball with kids

The boys find sports a fun way to learn values that will last them a lifetime. It not only promotes friendship and fair play but also teaches them discipline and respect to ensure that they develop into caring individuals.

Keida, Psychologist
A mother holding he baby
Whiteboard explaining Anemia
Mothers with their young children gathered in a circle

UNICEF, through the child-friendly spaces, has incorporated a ‘Mother&Baby corner’, a dedicated space for young children aged up to 6 years old. Once a week, focus group discussions about parenting skills and positive parenting are organized. One of the topics they were discussing was anemia.

Children painting with watercolors
A little boy showing his painting

Children enjoy making colorful drawings in a child-friendly space. Playing with their friends brings a sense of joy and laughter to their lives.

Keida, Local Coordinator

Child-friendly spaces are running smoothly thanks to a great partnership with the International Rescue Committee, Save the Children, Nisma ARSIS, Terre des Hommes, and the generous support from USAID.

 

***

"Securing child rights in times of irregularity" is funded by USAID and implemented by UNICEF, in partnership with the Albanian Government.