An estimated 50 million Children are On the Move in the world today. Infants and young children, under the age of four, account for 16% of the total number of refugees. Millions more children are directly or indirectly impacted by forced migration.

Birth through six is a critical period for child’s wellbeing, development and learning. This is jeopardized by the experiences children go through in their countries, during their journey to safety and in the countries of destination or countries where families are stranded. Urgent response is needed in order to avoid putting these children’s lifelong development and achievement at risk.

Since parents play a crucial role in young children’s lives and their wellbeing affects their children, there is an urgent need to support and serve parents who have been forced to relocate. Trapped by their circumstances, many migrant and refugee parents are disempowered and unable to make even simple decisions for themselves, or for their families. Lack of basic information and uncertainty about their future is further exacerbated by physical and mental exhaustion, stress and distress brought on by prior experiences.

 

What do we aim to achieve?
ISSA initiative, Children on the move, recognizes the particular vulnerability of infants and toddlers in these circumstances and aims to ensure they receive the best possible start in life. Our work under Children on the move also aims to strengthen the capacities of parents, who often lack support to deal with their stress and fulfill their parenting roles under difficult conditions.

 

How do we achieve this?
ISSA is utilizing its cutting-edge knowledge and experience on quality early childhood services, equity for marginalized groups and fostering social cohesion in order to mobilize and strengthen local capacities in hosting countries to provide the best possible start in life for the youngest of those on the move and their families. ISSA has worked on several projects serving young migrant and refugee children.

 

A Flying Start – promoting wellbeing and development of young children, especially the most vulnerable, in Europe and Central Asia
A Flying Start provided during 2016-2017 technical support to the One Response UNICEF Office in Berlin. ISSA together with partners and UNICEF ECARO, contributed to the development of a training package and Toolbox for managers, child protection coordinators and trainers of staff working in refugee reception centers.

ISSA developed training packages on child friendly space services, early learning and play groups, mother/father–baby groups and afterschool supportwith the special focus on embracing diversity. ISSA also played an important role in the so-called "Training of Trainers" sessions. These training sessions aided 100 refugee centers across Germany.
ISSA provided assistance to One Response UNICEF Office in Berlin in mapping and collecting resources for an online library and platform, which encourages information sharing and aids in language learning.

Lastly, A Flying Start gave the staff at reception centers, many who do not have a background in Early Childhood Development, tools to help young children succeed. In cooperation with Kinder Kunste Zentrum and UNICEF, ISSA developed Creativity Activity Cards to support and encourage creativity, play and parental involvement.

 

Building Bridges - Bridging the Gap. Supporting wellbeing, learning, development and integration of young refugee and migrant children in Greece.
In 2017, together with our member EADAP, we developed a report on the context in which young children in refugee camps were living and the actors who participated in their lives. The report included suggestions for the Early Childhood Development interventions which will benefit young refugee and migrant children through a follow-up project, Building Bridges - Bridging the Gap. This mapping project was carried out in 2017 with the support of the Open Society Foundation’s Early Childhood Program.

Building Bridges – Bridging the Gap project enables work in refugee camps as well as in the city of Athens, and plans to develop a model of intervention which will support a smoother integration of young refugees, migrants and their families. ISSA and project partners aim to create a model that can be replicated in other locations in Greece.

Project partners work in camps to support children’s learning and development by equipping kindergartens on the site and increasing the capacities of the teaching staff. These kindergartens will provide children with daily activities that will better prepare them to transition into the mainstream (pre)school education system.

In Athens, ISSA works with its partners to enrich the capacities of nurseries to attract refugee and migrant parents and families to enroll their children in nursery services, and to strengthen social cohesion in the neighborhoods/communities where they are located.

The project started in 2017 and continues through 2018, and is supported by Open Society Foundation’s Early Childhood Program. It is carried out in partnership with Society for the Development and the Greek Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs, City of Athens, University of Patras, EADAP and Refugee Trauma Initiative.