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The European Refugee Crisis went from very high numbers of daily arrivals in quick transit through Serbia to significantly reduced arrivals but longer stays in reception centres after the EU-Turkey deal took place. The migration route through Serbia and the Balkans remained operational with new arrivals recorded daily. More than 40% of those arriving were children, with vulnerable unaccompanied and separated children representing an average of 25% of children in transit. In this context, psychosocial support (PSS) has emerged as an important pillar for the refugees and migrants in rapid transit and for those staying longer in Serbia. Believing that childhood and learning should not be postponed until the destination country is reached, Save the Children invested in PSS programme improvement to be able to provide meaningful structured activities with children on the move. Many innovative PSS activities were developed despite existing challenges due to language barriers, short stays of children, and an inability to have proper time schedules, as sometimes the facilitators could not be sure how long children had for activities. An additional challenge was the children's exposure to traumatic events affecting their wellbeing and ability to learn. We worked with a local partner organization to develop a child-rights based and participatory methodology for running a PSS programme with children on the move. The resulting Programme on the Move is a methodology of providing support to children on the move by developing and using the innovative toolkit Boxes of Wonder. The boxes are designed as physical boxes (plastic and wooden boxes filled with materials and templates for activities) but also as concepts to work on, re-design and adjust to the needs of children, facilitators and to the physical space where the activities are being held. The boxes create a meeting space between children and field workers, offer materials, ideas, and contents, and encourage dialogue, joint exploration, and participation in activities.
During the development and testing of the approach we found that many of the activities offer a combination of PSS and learning, which have the potential to overcome the serious gap in access to educational opportunities for children on the move. One of the key advocacy points emerging from our intervention was that learning should not be "postponed" until the child reaches their permanent place of residence. The Programme showed that increased emotional stability gained through psychosocial support interventions supported the learning process and we explored and developed ways to use the content of the boxes to create structured educational activities. We managed to show that learning should not be limited to schools and classrooms, but it is a process that happens everywhere. The typical schooling model might need to be adjusted to the transit context to be sensitive to changes in beneficiaries and contexts but access to PSS and non-formal educational opportunities leads to positive changes in a child's behaviour, including an increased motivation to learn, better confidence, improved self-awareness, and understanding of their rights and opportunities. The toolkit Boxes of Wonder offers a set of materials, ideas and activities that can facilitate block-by-block implementation and adjustment of activities in a situation when it is impossible to predict how many children will participate or how long they will stay. Eleven boxes were initially created offering activities that can be built upon each other as building blocks or can be used independently. The methodology invites the adjustment of existing boxes and the development of additional boxes based on specificities of the location where the programme is implemented, and on the specific characteristics of the beneficiary children. The boxes developed and used for programming include sets of activities such as for example the Mapping of the Journey, used for creating maps of children's journey; which promotes recognition and appreciation of children's strength and resilience, their dealing with traumatic experiences, recognizing the potential risks, introducing strategies to mitigate the risks, while teaching literacy and geography. Another example is the Citizen of the World box, which explores life and culture in different countries, including countries of origin, transit and destination while teaching geography, history, culture, music, and languages, and allowing children to be teachers to build their self-esteem.
Programme on the Move proved to have positive impact on children, parents, and field workers. The development and implementation of a quality programme for children on the move requires "thinking outside the box", flexibility and constant adjustments to changing contexts. It is important to have a multi-sectoral approach and, where appropriate, blend education into other activities, such as PSS programming.