Starting in August 2022, Social Science Works conducted a project with children in Rangsdorf who live with their parents in the two refugee homes located in the community. These are often children who have not attended a daycare center and therefore already start their school careers with learning disadvantages. Among other things, efforts have been made to familiarize the children with society outside the centers, with functioning in groups and school classes, and with the other children (and their parents) in the centers. Zak Reimer and Kim Blokland initially met the children 16 times for two to three hours. As the number of children far exceeded expectations, they were regularly assisted by Isabel Romijnders and Samah Al Mohammad. The project was made possible by the German Children’s Fund (project F2022 46068).

In January 2023, it was decided to continue the project. The organizers wanted to build on the positive dynamics and strong relationships established with the children during the first half of the project. The group’s program was designed in such a way that there was a balance between targeted activities, free play and excursions. The German Children’s Fund again provided financial support for this continuation (project F2023 51806).

With the help of the project, the children were provided with a supervised environment where they could interact with their peers and develop social skills.  Compared to the first run of the program, it was found that the children were more engaged with each other during free play. For example, they took turns pushing each other on the swings or throwing the ball to each other instead of taking it for themselves. The organizers observed this free play to ensure safety and intervened only minimally as soon as disputes or the like arose. When conflict situations arose, the children were helped to resolve them on their own. This gave the children the opportunity to practice important social skills for conflict resolution. On warmer days, the group continued to visit public playgrounds in the area surrounding the shelter. However, since the weather was not always inviting due to seasonal factors, the municipality of Rangsdorf generously provided the group with a spacious exercise room in a nearby daycare center. This proved to be a valuable resource, enabling the children to engage in physical activity even in bad weather.

We also made several excursions in this project run. The municipality of Rangsdorf engaged a volunteer to take us to the respective excursion destinations with the help of a minibus. For example, we made an excursion to the Rangsdorf forest together with the environmental education center of the Landschaftspflegeverein Mittelbrandenburg e.V.. This was similar to the one we had already undertaken in the first round of the project. The group focused on learning all kinds of things about spring flowers and wild animals. Another trip took us to the local fire department (see photos). Here the children got to meet real firefighters and learned all kinds of things about their work. The children were allowed to inspect the fire department’s equipment, sit in the fire truck, ask questions, and hold some of the equipment such as road signs, fire hoses, and helmets. At the end of the project, we drove together to Rangsdorf Lake and had a big picnic.

According to the subjective assessments of the two group organizers, the project had a positive impact on the participating children. The frequency of certain behaviors, such as throwing objects around and hitting, pinching, pushing and yelling at each other, decreased significantly. As a result, there was also less need for “time-outs” as described in the previous report. Furthermore, the children showed an improved ability to express their needs, for example, when they were thirsty, needed to go to the bathroom, or had their feelings hurt by another participant. All these developments led to more harmonious meetings and better conditions for successful outings.

Parents of participating children shared with the organizers some of their feelings about the project. For example, one mother said that her son looked forward to every group meeting and counted down the days until then: “Even when I forgot, he remembered. Another parent reported with a smile that after learning that there would be a picnic at the next group meeting, her daughter looked forward to it all week, “She just kept saying, ‘Picnic, picnic, picnic!'” In addition, many parents expressed gratitude for the extra time for themselves that the program briefly provided. These observations illustrate the benefits of the program, not only for the children themselves, but also for their families. The program provided a valuable support system that improved the emotional resilience as well as the well-being of the children and their families alike.

In summary, therefore, the project provided a valuable support system that improved the emotional resilience as well as the well-being of the children and their families alike. Furthermore, it provided them with a safe, as well as supportive environment for developing important social and emotional skills.

Kim Blokland & Zak Reimer

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