Today I join activists from the Zico House Social Centre who are on a mission to cheer up the refugee children in this district. The centre had previously been home to a meeting space as well as offices for various progressive groups. The activists have well and truly risen to the challenge that they have been faced with, as hundreds of thousands of refugees had flooded in from the south of the city and the country. They have organised into committees to deal with different aspects of the daunting refugee situation. I am with the group that has formed to help the children of the refugees have some quality of life while they remain in overcrowded centres with little or nothing to do.
The basic idea is to get the children active and engaged through a number of games and workshops that have been planned in advance. At a school, which is now home to over 100 families mainly from South Lebanon, the activists gather the youngest children together to begin a series of games. At first their parents look on nervously, unsure exactly what these bohemian hippy-types are doing with their kids. This is a world away from the simple, rural and often deeply religious existence that they have left behind in the south. However, before long the kids are laughing and letting off steam, so the parents relax and let them get on with in.
Many of the kids have been traumatised by their experiences and have to be gently coaxed into taking part in the activities. Others have huge amounts of pent up aggression from their experiences and feel alienated by their change of surroundings. The kids are hard work to say the least, fights are a regular occurrence and many of them have issues triggered by recent events that most could not even begin to understand. After a few hours of carefully managed play, the activists accomplish their mission and the children are tired, smiling and more engaged with their situation and each other. They have certainly been hard work but the workshop will pay dividends both for them and others in the camp.
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