TeamUp across the years

TeamUp provides refugee children with structured activities to support their social-emotional development. We implemented our first project in 2015, together with Save the Children and UNICEF Netherlands. Today, the TeamUp method is being used worldwide.

2015: TeamUp is set up

In 2015, an increasing number refugee children started arriving in the Netherlands. In response, we joined forces with Save the Children and UNICEF Netherlands to create TeamUp - a programme to support the social-emotional development of refugee children in asylum reception centres.

Gevluchte jongen - War Child TeamUp

Most refugee children have been exposed to war and violence. Unfortunately, their hardship doesn't stop once they've crossed the border.

Photo: Tomislav Georgiev

Traumatic experiences

Refugee children endure a lot hardship. Most have been exposed to war and violence in their countries of origin and have had to deal with extremely stressful situations. This doesn’t end when they cross the border. On arrival in the Netherlands, they continue to worry about their parents and friends back home and are often forced to move. Many still have vivid nightmares of the violence at home and experience deep feelings of sadness, anger and anxiety.

Meisje met haar knuffel in een azc in Sneek, Nederland

In the Netherlands, refugee children continue to worry about their parents and friends back home and are often forced to relocate.

Photo: Julie Hrudova

Expressing emotions

The TeamUp programme teaches 6 to 18 year olds how to cope with their feelings. This is done through structured sports, games and movement activities provided by trained volunteer facilitators. Every activity has a specific goal related to a theme such as dealing with anger, stress and interacting with peers.

The activities ultimately provide children with emotional support, a much-needed sense of stability and tools to use in their daily lives. Even if they don’t share a common language, all the children can participate as the activities themselves are central to the project.

Lindsay from Iran is participating in War Child's programme TeamUp for refugee children

We use structured sports, games and movement activities to teach children from 6 to 18 years how to deal with their feelings.

Photo: Michael Jessurun

2016: Joining forces with COA

In 2016, the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) – responsible for receiving asylum seekers and supporting them in preparing for a future in the Netherlands or elsewhere - signed a national cooperation agreement with TeamUp. This allowed TeamUp to better organise and coordinate activities for refugee children. It was first implemented in eight asylum centres and was soon spread to 24 locations across the Netherlands.

Jongetjes tijdens Teamp op school - War Child

Joining forces with COA allowed TeamUp to better organise activities for refugee children

Photo: Debra Barraud

Further growth

In the same year, TeamUp received a staggering additional donation of €2.5 million from the Dutch National Postcode Lottery (NPL). This quickly helped grow the programme and reach even more children.

War Child TeamUp voor refugee children - volunteers

TeamUp was initially implemented in eight asylum centres, but it soon extends to 24 locations throughout the Netherlands.

Photo: Michael Jessurun

Voluntary facilitators

The weekly TeamUp activities are held at a fixed time and with a permanent team of voluntary activity supervisors. This gives children much-needed structure and stability. It makes them more resilient in dealing with their sources of stress such as bullying, anger and fear, and helps reduce the likelihood of developing long-term psychosocial problems. Our voluntary facilitators keep a close eye on the children during the sessions, and consistently check for any signs of abnormal behaviour. If these appear, the children are referred for specialist support. |All the volunteers and trainers are fully supervised by TeamUp staff.

“I recommend it to everyone. You get so much in return. I get paid in smiles from the children, when they're having fun, can relax and feel like a child again. That is priceless."
Lise, TeamUp volunteer in Sneek
War Child TeamUp voor gevluchte kinderen in Nederland

The weekly TeamUp activities take place at a fixed time and with a permanent team of voluntary activity supervisors.

Photo: Julie Hrudova

2017: TeamUp at school

All children in the Netherlands, including refugees, are required to go to school. When many schools opened their classrooms to refugee children in 2017, many of the teacher felt unprepared to handle the new challenges that their students were bringing with them. Teachers wanted to be better equipped to support them, learn about their backgrounds and know how to identify children that needed additional support. To help them - and the refugee children themselves – ‘TeamUp at School’ was launched in 2017, at first as a pilot in seven schools with our partners, CED Group.

Miss Rosan, a teacher in Paterswolde remembers the day the first bus of refugee children arrived. "I was waiting outside with the other teachers to welcome them," she says. She doesn't know all the refugee children’s stories, "but I know and can feel that they’ve been through a lot. It’s very difficult for them to talk about their experiences. The TeamUp activities help them open up more.’

“Refugee children often have a backpack full of misery. I try to help them deal with their feelings and emotions. Here, they can practice in a safe environment"
Susan, Middle School teacher and TeamUp activity supervisor
TeamUp sessie op school - kinderen met facilitators - War Child

In 2017, TeamUp launches TeamUp at School as a pilot in seven schools to help teachers become better equipped in supporting refugee children

Photo: Debra Barraud‎

2018: TeamUp around the globe

Over 80 million people worldwide are fleeing their homes - half of them children. In 2018, TeamUp started a programme in Uganda to support refugees from South Sudan. A few months later, in 2019, it started projects in Colombia and the occupied Palestinian territories follow. At the end of 2019, it started activities in Sri Lanka.

In 2020, TeamUp is starting in Sweden and is now partnering with SOS Children's Villages International to start work in Italy and Greece.

TeamUp in Uganda

2019 - 2022: Upholding quality

When working with children, it’s not enough to simply try what works best; you have to know what works best. So we asked researchers to assess how TeamUp was being implemented and to investigate whether our methodology was being properly implemented in different contexts.

The study showed that TeamUp is supporting children by helping them channel their energy and emotions; volunteers see clear changes in children's behaviour. And the methodology helps identify those children who are in need of additional help. Children themselves indicate that the activities are helping them make new friends.

Tijdens een TeamUp sessie op school expressie uiten - War Child

Researchers have assessed TeamUp's implementation and investigated how our methodologies are being implemented in different contexts.

Photo: Debra Barraud‎

TeamUp's ambitions

The number of refugee children who are growing up with - or fleeing from - conflict has again been on the rise in recent years. TeamUp is persevering in its efforts to support them by continuing to invest in networks and relationships with organisations, individuals and institutions who are committed to providing refugee children with psychosocial support. Together, we are working to lighten the burden of refugee children’s complex and stressful lives. By 2025, TeamUp is aiming to reach one million refugee children.

Boy in Uganda joining TeamUp _War Child

Among other benefits, TeamUp supports children and helps them channel their energy and emotions.

Photo: Michael Jessurun

Meisjes tijdens TeamUp op school, samenwerken en grenzen verkennen - War Child

Trusting each other and working together are essential elements of the TeamUp activities.

Photo: Arie Kievit