A playground for Syrian refugees at Camp Arbat provides a safe place for children to play
Hannah Hamrick is working as the child protection program manager with our team in northern Iraq.
Last fall, the Samaritan’s Purse team installed three large pieces of playground equipment in Arbat Camp.
A crowd of children gathered to watch as we installed everything and spread loads of dirt to cover the rocky surface. They lined the sides of the playground, sitting and watching, some waiting for the entire day. Their excitement grew with each passing hour.
Every now and then when the anticipation would overwhelm one particular youngster, he would dart across the makeshift barrier for one gleeful trip down the slide before the workers shooed him away in order to complete the project.
Finally, the playground was complete. When school let out in the afternoon, little blue uniforms of various shapes and sizes could be seen racing down the hill from the building.
They stormed the playground, squealing with delight, each vying for their turn on the swings and the slides. One of the little girls stopped playing long enough to run over to me, shake my hand, and say thank you, a big grin spread across her face, before running back to join her friends.
The playground was met with such enthusiasm that we immediately installed additional play sets the following week.
When winter came to the camp, it brought a bitter and relentless cold. A sea of thick, brown mud covered the valley, and white tents in orderly rows dotted the landscape. The single burst of color was the Samaritan’s Purse playground.
Snow covered the mountain peaks that towered in the distance. I once would have thought they were a beautiful sight. Now, they seem an ever-present, looming reminder of the harsh realities the refugees are facing here in the camp. They have seen horrors, felt fear that we cannot imagine. They have left their homes with literally only what their families could carry.
And while a playground is by no means the answer to the many challenges these vulnerable refugees are facing, it does give hope. It provides a secure place for these children to laugh, to play—quite simply, it provides them with a place to be kids.
It will be a long journey back to childhood for many of them, and it’s our hope that this journey begins on this very playground.