TeamUp's efforts to meet the needs of Venezuela's child refugees

Nov. 11, 2019

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Venezuela has been in the grip of an economic crisis for the past four years - a crisis that has seen some four million people leave its borders in search of a better life. Only Syria has seen more of its citizens leave to live as refugees in neighbouring states - and Venezuela’s crisis shows no sign of ending soon.

Urgent needs

The situation at Venezuela’s border with Colombia is particularly acute - and that’s where TeamUp is working to meet the urgent needs of children on the move. The past two months have seen TeamUp started sessions in 16 Child Friendly Spaces and two temporary learning centres in the border departments of La Guajira and Arauca.

Venezuelan refugee children are the ones who have suffered most as a result of the nation’s economic crisis. These children have walked huge distances in search of safety in Colombia - only to end up in makeshift settlements where their basic needs for food, medicines and shelter are barely met.

Active on the border

The refugee camp “Centro de Atención Integral Maicao” on the border with Venezuela is providing humanitarian support and protection to refugees, migrants and Colombian returnees from Venezuela. The camp has a capacity of a maximum of 350 persons, these persons can stay up to one month and they have access to various facilities as food, accommodation and both medical as psychological assistance. For the children aged 6-17 we offer TeamUp twice a week.

TeamUp provides children and youth with structured activities to rebuild their peace of mind. The programme encompasses sports, games and movement activities facilitated by trained staff. Each activity has a specific goal related to themes such as dealing with anger, stress and interacting with peers. The activities together help to provide children with emotional support and a much-needed sense of stability for children on the move and living in uncertain situations.

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Photo: Julio Barrera

Working on the frontline

Birgit van Delft, Coordinator TeamUp International, has seen for herself how the programme can bring about real change in the lives of these child refugees. ‘During the TeamUp session where I was present about 30 enthusiastic children cheerfully followed the various dance moves and games that we facilitate. For a moment they are distracted from the uncertain situation they find themselves in with their parents. After the tiring trip from Venezuela and the uncertainty that will come after they have to leave again after 30 days of care and have to continue their 'walking' journey, they have to rest for a while.

During the TeamUp session parents are singing and laughing enthusiastically in the same space, they come along every session they tell me. They clearly enjoy the happiness of their children. One of the fathers has a big smile, his daughter of around 11 has a disability, she is supported in 'clapping her hands', she looks a bit shy but has visible pleasure. He seems enthusiastic that his daughter can also participate together with the other children.’

About TeamUp

TeamUp provides refugee children between the ages of six and 18 worldwide with a programme of structured movement-based activities - designed to strengthen both their inner strength and peace of mind.

The international roll-out of TeamUp first began in Uganda - and this year has seen the programme expand to meet the urgent needs of children in Colombia, Sri Lanka and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (oPt). TeamUp is also set to step up its efforts in Europe to support refugee children in Sweden, Greece and Italy.