The Schoolbox Project provides mobile, trauma-informed education and support to children and families in refugee camps.
The Schoolbox Project - shipping container schoolhouses providing trauma-informed education for children in refugee camps - can be dispatched to where they are needed within a few days of being ordered, fully stocked with supplies. They can be relocated with one day notice. The values, policies and volunteer handbook of the project travels with each “box,” as do instructions on how to quickly get the program up and running. All volunteers, no matter how short or long term, receive training on working with children who have been through trauma. Boxes are staffed with volunteers and funded remotely.
The Schoolbox Project volunteers are trained to work with children who have been through a trauma, and no child is ever excluded or punished for difficult behavior or disabilities. They are instead given 1:1 support at school and at home (tent, sidewalk squat, wherever is "home") to promote inclusion and healing. We also identify and protect vulnerable children and unaccompanied minors that may otherwise slip through the cracks. We operate out of converted shipping containers so all our love and work is packed neatly into a box and delivered to where it is needed most.
What are the key outcomes and impact of your solution?
1) Help break the cycle of trauma for refugee children
When trauma causes emotional or psychological damage to children, they may adopt a set of behaviors or patterns of thinking that put them on a path for further trauma. Either directly through their own repeated actions (e.g., they are quicker to resort to violence) or as a result of consequences for their actions that do not fit within societal rules and norms (e.g., punitive measures after violation of rules/laws), children may become re-traumatized and their problems are only compounded. (McInerney & McKlindon, 2014) Schoolbox trauma-informed support understands the “cycle of trauma”, and employs evidence-based approaches to break the cycle which volunteers are trained in.
2) Provide education and care for children who have experienced trauma
Specific strategies can be used to support the learning needs of students who have experienced trauma, including discovering and building on the student’s individual interests and competencies; maintaining predictable routines and expectations; maintaining expectations for the student that are consistent with those of his/her peers; and providing positive behavioral supports; Language-based teaching approaches can help students process information and alleviate their fears. Students who have experienced trauma often pay more attention to nonverbal cues than verbal communication, so using multiple forms of communicating information and helping students identify and verbally express their feelings are important strategies to support learning. (McInerney & McKlindon, 2014)
What actions do you propose to realize your stated goals?
Each Schoolbox is composed of programming and infrastructure that is nimble, portable and “turn-key”, with each Schoolbox being able to serve a range of variable needs and target populations.
It serves as:
** An art and play program- rotating crafts and art projects for children who have little opportunity for creativity and emotional expression during an extended time of trauma. Quieting, reflective and nature-inspired activities are emphasized to provide balance to the steady diet of "sensory junk food" regularly available to children in refugee camps. When possible and appropriate children and families are involved in the development of programs. Family-oriented activities that generate safe community interaction are also encouraged.
** A schoolhouse- the space allows for organization and structure of instruction based on division of age and languages spoken. Regular, daily and weekly volunteer teachers provide language and other lessons, always through a lens of gentle, trauma informed care, "Becoming trauma-informed requires a paradigm shift at the staff and organizational level to re-focus on understanding what happened to a child, rather than focusing on the conduct alone. Trauma-informed approaches represent a holistic approach to shaping organizational culture, practices, and policies to be sensitive to the experiences and needs of traumatized individuals." (McInerney & McKlindon, 2014)
** A mother+baby safe space- designated hours before and after school for mothers with babies is an opportunity to provide a sense of community as well as to provide culturally sensitive care to women/mothers.
** A solar powered charging and wifi zone- one of the greatest needs after food, water and shelter at these camps is for communication and access to information.
Who will take these actions?
Key actors involved in the project are: Belle Sweeney (Executive Director); Jacqui Jorgeson (Associate Director); Kanwal Asad (Site Director/Family Support Specialist); Monica Julian (Child Protection Officer); Kirsty Turner (Volunteer Coordinator); Ryan Booth (Energy Officer); Sheldon Rosenberg III (Logistics Coordinator).
On the ground, the Schoolbox Project is run by a network of worldwide volunteers, all who commit to promoting and abiding by the five key principles of trauma-informed care within the refugee community: Safety, Trust, Collaboration, Choice, and Empowerment. Each Schoolbox has a minimum of five total volunteers present in or around the Schoolbox’s immediate vicinity during open hours.
Volunteers are encouraged and helped to educate themselves about the general context of the refugee crisis and the cultural backgrounds of the children the Schoolbox serves. Volunteers are encouraged to give children 1:1 support - to learn each child's strengths and unique abilities - and to pay extra attention to children’s cues (verbal and nonverbal) to best meet their needs.
Volunteers are trained to report any suspicious activity that might place unaccompanied minors or others at risk of trafficking or abuse. No photos or videos can be taken of the children and young people attending the Schoolbox to ensure it is a safe space to learn.
Requirements for all volunteers:
- 4 weeks preferred, two weeks accepted
- Meeting of the following educational/experiential criteria:
Credentialed teachers, art therapists, occupational therapists, psychologists, musicians, social work professionals, 1:1 educational aids , translators, sports coaches and basic volunteers with experience with children
- Ability to pass a background check
- Commitment to SBP mission and values, including our no photo policy
- Must speak English
Priority given to:
*those with trauma informed care knowledge and experience, though online and in person training and support will be provided to you.
*those with refugee camp experience
*those with nature based education experience (permaculture, forest kindergartens, etc)
*those with Arabic or other relevant language skills
Currently two Schoolboxes are in operation in Elliniko Camp in Athens and LM Village near Andravida. Camps and “hot spots” can be unpredictable, however, and can be shut down or cleared out suddenly. This requires programming and infrastructure that is nimble, portable and “turn-key”. There are currently over 40 more locations in Greece alone where a Schoolbox could greatly help the conditions of refugee children.
What do you expect are the costs associated with piloting and implementing the solution, and what is your business model?
Each Schoolbox costs 5000 euros for purchase, transport, supplies and training, and costs 700 euros monthly for running costs.
It is currently run on donations as a US tax-exempt nonprofit organization falling under category 501(c)(3), and donations can be taken online.
Currently there are three Schoolboxes ready to be transported to camps throughout Greece. With more donations and support, new Schoolboxes can be delivered very quickly wherever they are needed.
The creation of education profiles (All My Talents Valued! Adrian Vogler) - this will allow volunteers working with particular children 1:1 to inform new volunteers of particular strengths and skills of each child.
Effects of complex trauma in childhood (The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, 2016)
How can we improve learning outcomes for refugee and displaced young people under 24?