The colourful world of the child friendly space

While mothers participate in preventive activities, aimed at boosting their confidence and improving their knowledge and life skills related to the prevention of gender-based violence, their children stay in the colourful Child Friendly Space.

Jelena Terzic
A creative workshop at the Child Friendly Space.
UNICEF Serbia/2018/Vas

07 September 2018

Near the Asylum Centre in Krnjaca is the Community Centre of the local non-governmental organization ADRA.

Thanks to UNICEF’s support, its conditions for simultaneous work with refugee and migrant children and mothers have been improved.

While mothers participate in preventive activities, aimed at boosting their confidence and improving their knowledge and life skills related to the prevention of gender-based violence, their children stay in the colourful Child Friendly Space.

They are separated just by a plush curtain, which is often parted to the side in the beginning. Children’s little heads peek into the space for moms, just to make sure they are nearby. And some moms also peek behind the curtain, to make sure their children are taken care of and content.

The space is divided into two parts. The smaller part is home to the Mother and Baby Corner, where mothers can have their privacy to breastfeed their babies, change their nappies, or leave them to sleep under the wakeful eyes of the employees.

The other part is used for organizing activities for children over the age of 2, which are aimed at stimulating their development through play, sport and creative and educational workshops. Children also have a large yard available with fields for team sports.

Free transportation to and from the Asylum Centre, organized by ADRA, is an additional convenience for mothers and children. They can participate in activities in the morning, go back to the Centre for lunch, and return in the afternoon.

At the Child Friendly Space, Farhad teaches one-year-old Hafez his first football steps.
UNICEF Serbia/2018/Vas
At the Child Friendly Space (from right to left), Farhad, 12, teaches one-year-old Hafez his first football steps.

Twelve-year-old Farhad from Afghanistan is a talented artist. His numerous drawings paint the picture of the world he lives in, but also the world from his imagination, which is colourful and cheerful.

However, when you ask him what his favourite activity in ADRA’s centre is, he will say, “Football and just football.”

“When we played the match, it was 4:0 and I scored the fifth goal!” Farhad is proud.

Like most children, Farhad likes to win. He celebrates when he scores a goal for his team, but also when he beats his younger brother in table tennis. Together with his two brothers and mother, he has been going to ADRA’s Community Centre almost daily.

When he wakes up in the morning, he can barely wait for the van to pick them up and take them to the cheerful Child Friendly Space, where they listen to music, draw, stack blocks, solve jigsaw puzzles, make collages and decorations from paper, and study English and Serbian.

Farhad has fun with his friends, and also highly regards his Serbian language teacher.

“Elvira taught me Serbian. She is very good at it. She really knows how to teach.” Farhad starts the sentence in Serbian and finishes it in English, with equal ease.

Sonia from Afghanistan smiling at the camera in front of the Centre
UNICEF Serbia/2018/Vas
Sonia, 9, from Afghanistan has four siblings, and at the Child Friendly Space she has four best friends.

Farhad’s teacher, Elvira Lalic Radovanov, emphasizes that the knowledge the children pass on to her is equally important as her teaching them.

“We talk in Serbian, English and Farsi, so they are learning Serbian and we are learning Farsi. We do all sorts of things at creative workshops. From beadwork, decoupage technique, stacking blocks, to learning the names of colours in Serbian and in other languages,” she says.

When asked what his mother is doing while he is having fun with his peers, Farhad says she is also having fun, with her friends. Both groups will spend several hours learning and participating in activities.

Nine-year-old Sonia from Afghanistan is among about 50 children who go to the Community Centre with their mothers almost daily.

While she walks with her brothers and sisters, smiling and cheerful, her mother heads towards the Women’s Centre.

Although she enjoys playing with the other children, it is important for Sonia to know that her mother is nearby.

In between watching cartoons, Sonia says that she has four siblings.

“One of my sisters is 10, I am 9, one sister is 8, and one small sister is just 4 months old. My brother is 4 … no, he’s 5.”

She also says that she has four best friends at the Child Friendly Space.

Ava plays with blocks
UNICEF Serbia/2018/Vas
Ava (3) is making a castle out of the blocks.

​​​​​While Sonia boasts of her wealth, several castles and towers are springing up on the other side of the Child Friendly Space.

A brother and sister – three-year-old Ava and five-year-old Ajaz – are making them out of blocks.

Their youngest brother, Hafez, is jumping on the trampoline, since he got bored of running around with the ball.

The walls of the Child Friendly Space are decorated with children’s artwork.

“All the things you see here are products of various workshops,” says Mia Kisic, coordinator of the project implemented by ADRA with UNICEF’s support.

She explains that the quality of the work with mothers in the “safe space for women,” as they call it, has significantly improved since UNICEF helped with hiring a person who designs and implements programmes for children.

UNICEF Serbia, with support from the Spanish National Committee for UNICEF, has established a Child Friendly Space within ADRA’s Community Centre, so that mothers can be carefree while they attend programmes in the Women’s Centre.