When scrap materials meet innovative minds

People touring the interactive playground.
August 23, 2022

For thousands of children born and raised in Refugee Camps, the barren land is the only backyard they have ever known, and the situation is even more difficult for children with disabilities (CWDs).

According to the UNHCR statistics, in Azraq Camp, an average of 25 children are born every week, all of whom have never left the camp and have no idea what life is like outside the fence.

Children's limited life experiences in Village 5 have an impact on their understanding of the world, making the educational process even more challenging. In an interview with Middle East Eye, Walaa Abu Sheira, a field officer with Mercy Corps, said, “When we assess children and they see a picture of stairs or a tree, they don't know what that is.”

In order to support all  children’s development, including those with disabilities, capitalize on curiosity children exhibit which is essential to enable learning, and broaden their perspective on the world, Mercy Corps Jordan, with funding from UNICEF, created a new interactive accessible playground inside one of the camp's schools. This is only part of Mercy Corps' ongoing efforts to support children with disabilities and ensure their inclusion in all activities.

A young person climbing a wall of tires.

Ahmad is an eight-year-old boy with cerebral palsy who uses a wheelchair. Asked by BBC Arabic about his thoughts on the playground, Ahmad said, “I‘ve never been to a playground before, and this is my first experience ever. I was overjoyed when I saw it because now I can play with other kids.”

A young person shakes the hand of a frog sculpture.
During his first visit to a playground in his life, Ahmad plays with children and interacts with a learning game shaped like a frog.

What makes this playground unique is that it is the first of its kind in Jordan, built entirely from upcycled materials at a cost close to zero, and serves all children including children with disabilities. Each game was designed to assist the child in improving his/her physical, intellectual, and academic abilities. The Fishing game, for instance, helps to improve gross motor skills, eye-hand coordination, fine motor skills, palm’s muscle strength, vestibular sensation and balance. Moreover, it helps children improve their concentration, figure ground skills, spatial relation skills, color discrimination, counting, and numeracy.

A young person playing a fishing game.
As she plays, a young girl is improving her mental and physical skills through the Fishing game.
Instructions for playing the fishing game.

Furthermore, all of the playground's games and stations were created at a Mercy Corps adaptation workshop in Azraq Camp. Inside this workshop, which is run by Syrian volunteers under the supervision of Mercy Corps technical staff, advanced problem-solving skills are combined with creative use of scrap materials and leadership skills to offer tools, equipment, and smart solutions for all children.

Since 2008, Mercy Corps Inclusive Education program has worked to ensure access to equitable learning opportunities and works with parents and community members to raise the awareness of disability and the right of children with disabilities to education. Our holistic approach provides Jordanian and Syrian children with disabilities with personalized support, trains and builds the capacity of teachers to identify children with disabilities and provide them with the needed support.

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