Placemaking scenarios for children in refugee camps: Cultivating identity, home, and belonging through play

Noor Alwan
Master's Thesis | Spring 2016

The Syrian conflict resulted in the displacement of around 9 million Syrians. 50% of the displaced population are children. The children of Syria are being referred to as the “lost generation”. Refugee children are exposed to extreme hardships such as loss of home, loss and death of family members, the disruptance of their education, loss of their sense of familiarity and prospects for the future, and this leaves them at a fragile state. This thesis explores ways in which the quality of lives of refugee children in camps can be enhanced by looking into concepts of identity, trauma, home and belonging, and what they entail. Through studying two case studies—Zaatari camp in Jordan and the protracted Dheisheh camp in West Bank—initiatives that promoted placemaking were extrapolated and common themes and lessons learned were explored. Consequently, play as a placemaking tool for children was derived as a concept that could enhance the experience of refugee children in camps and combat reoccurring issues such as boredom, safety, isolation, and a lack of stimulating environments. Subsequently, different scenarios for play were designed that used repurposed materials easily accessible to camp members. The play scenarios correspond to the different forms of play and their developmental qualities. A manual was designed to compile the proposed scenarios with a set of instructions, materials needed, and the possible configuration of the type of play. The manual is intended to be an informative package that would expectantly inspire the use of local and easily accessible materials to create more scenarios for play.

Thesis Committee: Korydon Smith & Sue Weidemann