• A mix of local Jordanian and Syrian refugee children collaborate with Lego. (Yasmin Noone)Source: Yasmin Noone
Refugee kids in the south of Jordan are using Lego to develop, learn and imagine a brighter future.
By
Michaela Morgan

Source:
The Foreign Correspondent Study Tour
29 Nov 2016 - 2:43 PM  UPDATED 29 Nov 2016 - 2:57 PM

In a room decorated with pictures of Winnie the Pooh and Dora the Explorer, a group of children are gathered around piles of Lego. The clattering sound of the plastic bricks can be heard from the hallway as they busily construct tiny trucks and buildings.

Here at the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) in Karak, the children are a mix of Syrian refugees and local Jordanians, replicating a scene that could be happening almost anywhere in the world.

The DRC has been active in Jordan since 2013 and provides emergency assistance, protection services and livelihood support to displaced communities.

"We, as refugees, do not have any other place where they can go to play. This centre has allowed them such an opportunity."

Malak Al Saka, from Syria, is here with her son and says the centre is a vital service in the area.

“We, as refugees, do not have any other place where they can go to play. This centre has allowed them such an opportunity, even if it’s something basic for them to pass the time,” Al Saka tells SBS through a translator.

The Lego play sessions at the centre are one form of psycho-social support that the DRC provides. According to research published by the Australian Psychological Society, using toys such as Lego can help children develop emotionally and cognitively and can be useful as a way of engaging those who have suffered trauma.

“Many of the children have psychological issues as a result of what has happened in Syria,” Noor Santeeha, an outreach worker at the DRC, says in Arabic.

Al Saka nods in agreement and gestures towards her child.

“My son is autistic. With the activities that are being offered at the community centre, he is slowly learning to adapt to other children. He is playing better and behaving better, before he was very aggressive. He has really gained a lot from these activities.”

“When I asked a little boy, who was from Syria, ‘why do you like to play with Lego?’, his answer was, ‘I like to create and build my future with Lego’.”

Amal Maayah works for the DRC in Amman and says that the Lego sessions are a way for Syrian refugee children to process their experiences.   

“It’s a shock for them, everything that happened. They don’t understand it and then suddenly they’re in another country, not with all their family members – it’s hard,” she says. 

Maayah tells SBS that through using the building blocks, they’re thinking creatively and looking to the future.

“When I asked a little boy, who was from Syria, ‘why do you like to play with Lego?’, his answer was, ‘I like to create and build my future with Lego’.”

“When I watched what he was doing, he was building a house and then building a plane. It gives them a way to think about how they want their life to be, how they can create something out of small boxes. It’s very nice.”

"He is playing better and behaving better, before he was very aggressive. He has really gained a lot from these activities.” 

Maayah tells SBS that during the past year, 12,000 individuals have participated in activities in one of the four DRC community centres in Jordan.  

“It takes a very long time for them to adapt and socialise, but we try our best to provide these kids with everything they need.”

In the Lego room, Al Saka’s hope is that more centres open in Karak that provide educational and developmental opportunities for children.

“We want them to learn and we want them to feel better, psychologically,” she says.

 

The author travelled to Jordan as part of The Foreign Correspondent Study Tour. Read more stories form this series:

A herbivore’s guide to Jordan
From crisp falafel to colourful salads and stuffed breads, there are delicious options for vegetarians among Jordan's traditional foods.
How Zumba is helping Syrian refugee women to heal
Female Syrian refugees in Jordan are taking up Zumba to help them recover from the trauma of war.
The Middle East’s first self-defence gym for women
She Fighter is empowering its students through martial arts, with a mission to end domestic violence in Jordan, and a letter of approval from Barack Obama.
The Arab cooking school keeping a grandmother’s recipes alive
Three sisters have been carrying on the tradition of their grandmother’s Jordanian recipes.
Meet the people restoring Madaba’s magnificent mosaics
Jordan has a rich mosaic making tradition, dating from the Roman and Byzantine periods. There are thousands of sites, posing huge conservation challenges for a small institute charged with the job of training people to protect them.
Desert cultures connect through art
A small gallery in Amman offers locals and tourists a glimpse into contemporary Australian and Jordanian art.
Breaking down cultural barriers through skateboarding
Jordan’s first skate park is building human connections between Jordanian youth and young refugees.

The Foreign Correspondent Study Tour is a joint UTS and Swinburne University project, supported by the Commonwealth through the Council for Australian-Arab Relations, which is part of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.