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Children on the Move

Sport and play-based psychosocial support for refugee and returnee children

Children aged 5 to 12 improve their psychosocial wellbeing to recover from war-related trauma and rebuild their lives in camps or back home. Through the Swiss Academy for Development's sport and play-based approach, children acquire skills to deal with daily challenges, actively shape their lives, restore confidence, self-esteem and social cohesion to successfully participate in their communities.

HundrED 2023


HundrED has selected this innovation to

HundrED Global Collection 2023

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Target group
October 2022
When I am confused with a problem I share it with a friend who then helps me. I did not do this before. It brings people together. Through sport and play people open up, discuss and make friends.

About the innovation

Why did you create this innovation?

Many children have witnessed or endured horrendous acts of violence during the war in South Sudan or during their flight to Uganda. These traumatic events have serious consequences on their mental health and socioemotional balance. The sport and play activities, counselling and awareness-raising are effective in reducing the effects of trauma and stress and recreate healthy social interactions.

What does your innovation look like in practice?

A curriculum is developed addressing topics of concern for the target group and fostering relevant life skills and values through sport and play. Coaches are trained to conduct the regular sport and play activities fostering social cohesion, restoring confidence and self-esteem among children and allowing them to better cope with daily challenges and emotions. Counselors conduct awareness raising sessions on trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder and coping strategies. Individual, group or family therapy sessions are offered. Mobile clinics are set up to treat serious mental disorders.
SA4D has implemented its sport and play approach for over 15 years in various contexts. For this project, data showed that the activities have successfully reduced negative psychosocial effects of trauma on displaced children and improved their overall life satisfaction and health. A safe environment is created where children can openly express their feelings, rebuild trust, friendships and social ties.

How has it been spreading?

From 2017 to 2021, the project was implemented in refugee camps in Uganda. 22 coaches and counsellors were trained to use the "Children on the Move" curriculum. Over 2,800 children benefited from trauma-informed sport and play-based activities, psychosocial awareness raising, counselling and clinic visits. The project evaluation shows children strengthened their self-efficacy and coping skills and rebuilt social support networks. They were also better able to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 crisis.
From 2021 until 2024, the project will be scaled-up to include children who returned to South Sudan or stayed there during the war. The curriculum will be adapted and teachers trained to lead the sport and play activities, psychosocial awareness and counselling in primary school contexts.

If I want to try it, what should I do?

SA4D makes project results publicly available and promotes the exchange of knowledge and mutual learning. The resources developed are available to download on our website. They can be consulted by everyone and can be adapted to a variety of contexts. SA4D is always open to sharing experiences and creating new partnerships. Our team remains available to anyone who reaches out to us.

Impact & scalability

HundrED Academy Reviews
This is not only creating impact on current human beings but their future generations as they are learning to up-skill, unite, stay happy, get stimulated & motivated to lead a decent lifestyle. An innovation which gives a child a 2nd chance.
The organisation has reached out to many children across refugee camps in Uganda and also have plans to reach children in Sudan. Also, their model and learnings are readily available for others to learn from. They have well documented their work!
- Academy member
Academy review results
High Impact
Low Scalability
High Impact
High Scalability
Low Impact
Low Scalability
Low Impact
High Scalability
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Rose's story
Rose is 11 years old. Her story: I am third born to my parents. My parents divorced, and I grew up with my grandmother from the age of sixteen months on. My mother went to Juba in 2007 and married another man. I don’t know where my father is. The activities I carry out in the camp are mostly helping my grandmother in domestic chores like sweeping, fetching water, firewood, washing utensils and others. Life in the camp is not friendly. Back home my grandmother used to dig and get enough food from the garden but in the camp, there is no land for cultivation and we only rely on relief aid which are only beans. I feel bad eating beans all the time and seeing my grandmother struggling to get green vegetables for us to balance the diet in the family. In school the situation is worse: badly equipped classrooms which are completely congested and teachers who do not teach regularly. We only wait for the end-of-term exams which take long to produce results. I will not know the level of my performance. Since four months I’m participating in the sport and play-based activities. I like football, life skills games and creative dancing, singing and leading a game. I joined the activities hearing friends talking positively about the activities they attend every Sunday for two hours and I got motivated. I now learnt lots of things that help me like hygiene, decision-making, protecting myself from bad friends. I have made new friends and I help my grandmother. I’m praying that I can study and help my grandmother even more in future.
Psychosocial counsellors on their work
Can you give examples of counselling support for children?Taking the example of a child of 9 years, that suffered from post violence, and her mother died of mental illness, at 3 years. When her mother died no one could care for her, she was brought to police, so they looked for a women representative with three years old, up to now she is still with that woman. When I was once with that family, one of the nights, the child dreamed that she got approached by the mother, to go with mother. The caretaker did not believe the dream, said that she should not dream that, and got angry at the child. I talked with the family and said that is well possible that a child has such dreams, to process all what it has experienced, I gave my best to protect this child. When talking with the family, I got to know that the father or family members still are close to the border of South Sudan, so the little one wanted to go to father. The child was mistreated, she had to sleep at the floor, whereas the other children were on beds, this is really hard. I am still doing the follow up on these child. Also children face these mental problems due to such circumstances. Especially the ones that are not with their real parents. Example from a child of 11 years: the father was mentally sick and the mother died of HIV/AIDS, so the child lived with her aunty. But when I went to this aunty no one was there, the child broke down in tears, due to the lots of burden this child had in its life, when everyone else was absent, it had to clean and cook. It couldn’t reach her sisters, are at another place, can’t afford to find them, so also children feel psychosocial instabilities, same problems, so we have to make sure that they can coping positively, as we continue following.How has COVID-19 generally affected your clients' lives? There are many challenges, it’s a very tough time, with lots of restrictions, increase of psychosocial problems within the community, but life has to go on somehow. It has been a difficult time but however, we have been trying to help. Most difficult is, that families are getting separated, lockdown has made things to stand still, businesses are no longer there, so people get mentally abused, alcohol is a challenge, also activities are not as before, the younger go into early marriages, all these things are happening, this is the negative part of COVID-19 here.

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