ADRA is educating hundreds of displaced children in a camp in Iraq's semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan as it works with the United Nations to care for some of the 3 million Iraqis who have fled violence elsewhere in the country.
Volunteer teachers, using UNICEF materials and guiding principles set by regional authorities, are providing informal education to small children at the UN-operated Baharka Internally Displaced Persons Camp on the outskirts of Erbil in northern Iraq.
During the hot summer months, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency is the only nongovernmental organization that offers the classes to the children, ages 4 and 5, at the camp, said Leyn Gantare, director for the local branch of ADRA.
The agency also provides a nutritious meal daily to each student and organizes recreational activities such as sporting events, drawing competitions, music, and games for 400 children.
“These kinds of activities allow children to express themselves and stay socially connected with other children,” Gantare said this week.
The recreational activities especially target girls and children with disabilities, Gantare said.
The Baharka camp with some 3,650 residents representing 730 families opened in July 2014. ADRA has worked there with its partner UNICEF for the past six months.
Baharka is among a number of camps in the Kurdistan region, where an estimated 1.5 million Iraqis have sought refuge from Islamic militants. The region also hosts another 250,000 Syrians who have fled violence in their homeland.
In addition to working with children, ADRA is offering small grants that enable families in the Baharka camp to start their own small businesses.
“ADRA community mobilizers and social counselors are following up regularly with the business owners as well as providing training in cash and business management,” ADRA said in the statement.
The agency also offers Kurdish-language lessons to help adults and children integrate with the local community.
Other programs that ADRA provides in the region include awareness campaigns about children’s education, good community relations and cooperation, including disabled people in everyday activities, and the dangers of child marriage.