“Play energizes and enlivens is. It eases our burdens. It renews our natural sense of optimism and opens us up to new possibilities.” –Stuart Brown

Vial is home to around 500 children, making up 29% of the refugee camp’s population. The importance of facilitating pure, unadulterated play for them is not to be underestimated. The protective cover of childhood was likely burst at a young age for these kids, many of whom are likely survivors of trauma. Living in Vial means an unpredictable and inconsistent access to school, food, friends, family and very importantly, fun. In response to this, CESRT run Vial Games every weekday. The program injects an endless stream of energy and enthusiasm into the mornings of the children and their parents alike. It provides a moment of escapism in an otherwise sobering day.

Core to the mission of Vial Games is the provision of a dependable safe space. In it, the children are encouraged to develop friendships, practice teamwork and expend their capacity to trust and communicate openly. It can also be a vital time for the children’s mothers’ to take a rare moment for themselves.

Play has a positive effect on a child’s brain and is vital to their physical, cognitive and social development. With this in mind, Vial Games is structured into three sections: singing, group activities and free play. This structure enables the children to gain a sense of familiarity with the program, using routine to bridge
the inevitable language gap. Kicking off the session, singing helps integrate newcomers into the group. It acts as a really inclusive way to ease into the morning. Within the camp, communities are often segregated by nationality. Group activities allow us to reverse some of the social hostilities that might exist between different groups in Vial, providing a platform for the children to practice relationship building. Finally, free play often incorporates arts and crafts, which is absolutely key to the children’s growth in creativity and critical thinking.