Sunday, January 26, 2014

LEGO Foundation donates US$3 million to build a future for refugee children


Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

LONDON, United Kingdom, January 24 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency on Friday welcomed a US$3 million donation from the LEGO Foundation that will help improve access to quality primary school education for more than 200,000 refugee children under the Educate a Child initiative.

The donation will fund UNHCR education programmes in Chad, Ethiopia, Iran, Kenya, Malaysia, Pakistan, Rwanda, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Uganda and Yemen. These 12 countries have some of the largest refugee populations in the world and a primary school age population of more than 1.25 million children, with as many as 50 per cent out of school.

"The support of the LEGO Foundation, which shares a commitment to childhood learning and development, is a tremendous asset for UNHCR's education programme. The generous donation of funding, product and expertise will help us in our work to give refugee children access to the best possible education in some of the most challenging situations," said Amanda Seller, who heads UNHCR's private sector fund-raising section.

The LEGO Foundation will also tap into other areas of its business to support UNHCR by providing training for staff that draws on aspects of its education research programme, and aims to foster rich and motivating learning environments for children.

UNHCR will apply these learnings for refugee children in some of the most challenging humanitarian settings. The Foundation will also donate LEGO products to refugee children to enhance their play and learning. Over the years, LEGO has donated thousands of play boxes to UNHCR for forcibly displaced children across Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

Michael Renvillard, director of programmes and partnerships at the LEGO Foundation, said he regarded children as role models. "They are natural learners - curious, creative and imaginative. We know that play has a transformational role in learning across our lifespan and that it should be embraced, nurtured and stimulated. Supporting the Educate A Child programme through UNHCR, we hope to contribute to an improved quality of education"

Ensuring access to quality education for refugee children, keeping them in school and improving their learning achievement is a priority for UNHCR. Research shows that 40 per cent of all refugee children, more than 1 million, are not able to access school of any kind. Displacement means that these children can miss out on months or years of schooling and are denied opportunities to gain essential skills for their cognitive, social and emotional development.