Lebanon (MNN) — Refugee children miss an average of three or more years of schooling, according to Tent Schools International (TSI). And that’s not taking the pandemic into account. It’s going to take years to really understand how COVID-19 has impacted the development and education of kids living in refugee camps.
Anne Hamming with TSI says, “[Refugees] are bound largely by tight economic constraints that predated the coronavirus — which, of course, has everyone staying close to home. The countries where these refugees are located are experiencing lockdowns on a regular basis…. So it makes a tough situation even worse.
“Many of our children have only known life in a refugee camp or right in their very small community. If they’re outside of a camp, they stick close together and don’t have the freedom to move about to take a day trip themselves.”
TSI provides Christ-centered schooling for displaced children in crisis areas of the world. But that’s not all. TSI’s approach is holistic, focusing on arts, sports, and meaningful childhood experiences.
Hamming says, “Our schools have an emphasis on not just helping children to learn, but to help them heal from really difficult past experiences. We know that recreation and play are a very, very important part in normal child development, and particularly for children who have had adverse childhood experiences.”
For example, before the pandemic, TSI took students on field trips. They would go to the beach, nice playgrounds, parks, and other fun locations. When possible, parents are invited along as well.
“The most significant field trip that we’ve had to date has been for the Syrian refugees in Lebanon,” Hamming says. “These are children and even adults who have never been to the sea for a day. So our partner there will take a van load of maybe 10 people at a time of students, teachers, and sometimes parents on an excursion to go swim in the Mediterranean for a day.”
After a full beach day, the group in Lebanon will then go out to a restaurant — another new experience for most of the kids.
“They describe it as the best day of their lives! For them to be able to get out of the camps where that’s all they have known and to see…that the whole world isn’t about war and conflict, that there are beautiful things to experience, it really lights a fire in them and inspires them.”
Refugee parents are encouraged by these field trips as well. Hamming says, “These are parents who are raising families under incredibly trying circumstances.… They need to have those opportunities to just have pleasurable experiences with their children and to refresh and renew as well.”
While we wait for the end of the pandemic, please pray for refugee families to sense Christ’s hope through TSI’s ministry. Ask God to use even simple programs like field trips to draw the hearts of refugees to His love.
Hamming also asks, “Support this program! This is one piece, and it’s an important piece of our year-end campaign on the hope that when COVID[-19] is under control, we can get back outside again and enjoy things.”
Header photo courtesy of Tent Schools International.