Over 50 million children have been uprooted from their homes and families due to global conflicts and natural disasters. More than half are unaccompanied minors who spend an average of 11-17 years displaced and living in a refugee camp/informal settlement with limited to no access to an education. Without providing them any access to services, these children are susceptible to human trafficking, exploitation, child marriage, recruitment by terrorist organizations, or are simply left to perpetuate the cycle of violence and poverty.
Our holistic approach to education in emergencies provides displaced youth with social emotional learning and psychosocial support. With a heavy focus on early childhood development, we start with children as young as one to build their resilience and emotional intelligence in the most formative years. Our trauma sensitive methodology counters the effects of chronic stress. By establishing a practice of kids yoga and mindfulness, we channel inner strength and help children foster a sense of inner peace. Children learn how to balance & regulate their emotions, show and feel empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relations, develop concentration, learn lessons on conflict resolution, and use breathing techniques to calm down when upset. Through activities such as dance, arts and crafts, fitness, mindfulness games, and relaxation exercises, we also nurture children’s interpersonal and behavioral skills; increasing their self-confidence, self-worth, self-awareness, and communication.
As a daughter to immigrant parents, I was raised in a multicultural, multi-religious environment where I was taught to respect every person equally – regardless of race, religion, culture, gender, or socio-economic background. This ability to appreciate our shared humanity led me to start a career in peacebuilding and diplomacy, which was rooted in conflict resolution, capacity building, and strategic collaboration. Nevertheless, I witnessed first hand how so many issues were so far grown and impossible to resolve because of the role intergenerational trauma played. This knowledge of the intricacies of peace, and the understanding of trauma and memory, gave me a unique perspective towards preventing conflict vs. addressing issues that had already escalated.
Introducing concepts of kindness, empathy, compassion, and tolerance to youth at a very early onset are critical to achieving sustainable peace. They not only mitigate and prevent the cycle of violence from recurring, but they assist in reframing the lives of displaced youth. Let us provide these children with agency, hope, and the seeds of kindness and opportunity that will ultimately enhance their lives and communities.
A seed grant from TPP was instrumental in allowing us to kickstart our pilot program, and allowed us to lay the foundation for a model that can easily be replicated in various countries. While we had raised money through crowdfunding, fundraisers, and donations, we were still short on funds to start our first project. The Pollination Project grant completed the sum we needed, and the faith you invested in us boosted our confidence to deliver a sound service to the most vulnerable.
Furthermore, this grant allowed us to better serve the communities in which we work by creating a dreamlike safe space for children to learn, play, and grow. These children have been through tremendous trauma, and giving them the opportunity to rebuild their lives with tools such as mindfulness, yoga, reading, creative writing, music, and art therapy, enhances their lives, but also enriches the lives of those that surround them. The funds allowed us to purchase everything imaginable from books, school supplies, rubber balls, playdoh, paints, colors, notepads, easels, arts and crafts galore, meditation cushions, and anything else that would make a conducive safe space for learning.
This grant will allow us to continue planting seeds of social emotional learning and psychosocial support to help refugee children and disenfranchised youth of the host community. Our goal is to help them overcome the effects of chronic stress endured by displacement, and introduce a love of learning to help them reach their full potential. After two successful programs in Greece and Lebanon, we have received overwhelming demand to replicate our model and empower women to teach our curricula at safe spaces in many countries.
This impact grant will allow us to expand our operations and serve approximately 80-100 displaced children in Istanbul and Gaziantep, Turkey; helping them integrate with the children of the host community and break down divisive barriers of intolerance. Through our teacher training and classes, we will bring skills, hope, and promise to an entire new area of little ones that direly need our help.