Originally created as one of six ‘emergency’ camps, to accommodate displaced Palestinians following the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Baqa’a camp is now the largest refugee camp in Jordan, home to 250,000 refugees.
It is here that Right to Play run a monthly ‘fun day’, gathering children on a rooftop near the centre of the camp, to provide them with a few hours of fun and learning. Right to Play were immensely welcoming throughout the week; we were looking forward to combining their approach with our own. One individuals ingenious attempt to disguise his driving a van on the wrong side of the road as a Palestinian wedding tradition left us almost an hour late; a ritual we were now accustomed to as we slowly navigated the camps maze.
With Sara and Lee leading the coaching session, Ed and I decided to explore the camp and meet its inhabitants, soon finding ourselves having a traditional shave by a group of kind and inquisitive Salon workers. They were desperate to know why we had come to the camp and, of course, for the mandatory selfies.
Our return to the rooftop was at the start of the fun day itself. Being greeted by a 140 decibel rendition of ‘Who let the dogs out?’ with 200 young children screaming is a moment none involved will forget. The Right to Play staff soon had the children laughing, smiling, and running around, as we divided the group into teams, focusing on four different play based learning activities. We were all collectively amazed had how the children picked up each activity, all completely new to them, as competitive edges continued to come to the fore.
As each game progressed, teachers and passers by came up to the rooftop to chant and cheer, both for their children or otherwise. The only ball to disappear over the fence was soon returned; an apt reflection of the camps sense of community and identity. As crowds watching from neighbouring rooftops disappeared into their homes for the afternoon, it dawned on us this would be our last session for the week. Hugging and high giving our partners and volunteers, we vowed to return to the camp, soon returning to the Right to Play offices to discuss our next steps, and future vision for a programme that we hope can continue to bring happiness to all those involved.