In our work with displaced children and young people, we encourage care for the environment in four key ways:
- Providing green space
- Conducting peacebuilding activities
- Equipping youth committees to take action
- Inspiring children to use what they have in creative ways
The decades of war, trauma and violence in Iraq have meant people were focused on basic survival (food/shelter/safety). Environmental issues were not on the agenda. This means Iraq is now facing huge environmental problems. According to the UN Environmental Programme, Iraq is considered one of the most vulnerable countries in terms of climate change and environmental challenges.
For most of the year, Iraq is very dry. This is a picture of a camp that we work in, which is home to over 9,500 people. The refugee camps are very bleak environments with no green:
STEP created a green space in the camp, which is a healing environment, where children and their families can feel safe and enjoy some greenery. We involve the children in keeping it green; watering and sometimes planting flowers or trees:
An integral part of STEP’s approach to raising children and youth's awareness of environmental issues, is conducting peacebuilding activities. The 2019 Global Peace Index concludes that countries with high levels of positive peace are better able to manage climate induced shocks than those with less peace.
Our Youth Committees bring together youth from a mix of different ethnicities and backgrounds. STEP encouraged them to think about ways in which they could care for their local environment. They pointed out that many picnic and leave their rubbish behind on a mountainside next to the city, coming up with the solution of a litter pick. It was a very visible thing to do and created an opportunity for other people to ask questions and get involved. The youth enjoyed seeing the action and responsibility they could take.
We also promote recycling, using creative was to model how a material can be used to build something. In the child friendly space, children always take their shoes off for activities, so we used large old water bottles for shoe racks to store the shoes. In the past, STEP ran a greenhouse project, where parents and families, including women learned how to make wooden frames, then filled these with plastic bottles to build small greenhouses. In our office spaces, we have used old bricks and wooden shelves to make a bookcase.
By recycling materials, STEP inspires young people and children to see further than wanting their parents to buy them toys; they are finding that they can create their own. Idris is 13, he’s lived in the camp for 6 years. He was inspired to rebuild his house from Syria as he remembered it, using old materials. Idris measured it all out and even included a water pump in front of the house.