in Europe

Syrian refugee in Romania becomes a trained animator of socio-educational activities for children


While Balkan countries and Western Europe are facing a high number of asylum-seekers, Romania’s opened doors weren’t walked by many in this regard. With only 2138 asylum requests in 2018, Romania’s population is rarely getting in contact with refugees, making it easy for the public speech to have xenophobic tendencies. Terre des hommes uses sports and games to bring the refugee and host communities together, and strengthen the intercultural dialogue and social connection.

Khadija* is a Syrian woman with refugee status residing in Romania for three years. Together with her family, she lives in a small village far away from the city of Constanta with very few neighbors, making it hard for her to interact with other people. By engaging in our “Move Together” project, Khadija could meet and spend time with Romanians, talk about her culture and got determined to start learning the language, in order to create a community of friends around her and her children.

Using sports and games for social inclusion

Last year, Khadija and 31 other women from host and refugee communities benefited from our training in “Movement, Games and Sports” non-formal methodology. Being used in our work since 2005, this methodology proved successful in strengthening the personal and social skills of children, and developing cooperation among them.

Once the group of women gained the necessary knowledge and skills to become psycho-social trainers, they organized several events for children. The sports events were focused on fair play, non-discrimination, and inclusion, bringing together 200 children from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Palestine, Afghanistan, and Romania, who became friends and continue to keep in contact. "I hope to further organize this kind of events for children in my community, if I have the financial means, because I can see how it helped me and the children," says Khadija.

Overcoming the barriers to integration

When Khadija moved to Romania with her family, she was sure that their staying will be temporarily until the conflict in Syria will end. Thinking that she will go back soon, she didn’t invest in her integration. But the war didn’t end yet, and now she realizes how beneficial are these activities for her and her children to integrate and to discover the local customs and traditions. "The project was very useful for me, because I could socialize and meet new people. It is wonderful that I spent time with Romanians, now I am determined to start learning Romanian language," she continues.

The "Move Together" project created a space where women and children from various cultures could interact, break stereotypes, reduce discrimination and raise the level of tolerance and trust. Besides Bucharest and Timisoara, refugees living in Romania have few opportunities to attend integrational activities such as language courses, non-formal education classes and activities for children. With less hope to go back to their home country, the need for socializing and discovering the local culture is starting to grow among refugee communities and so does the need to invest in the integration process.

You can read more participants' stories in the "Among friends" brochure (available only in Romanian).

*Her name was changed to protect her privacy.