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UNHCR and the LEGO Foundation Join Forces for Refugee Children


By: Hélène Ahlberger, UNHCR Stockholm

In June 2011, the LEGO Foundation and UNHCR agreed to join forces to provide education and ensure development and well-being of children who are refugees, asylum-seekers and stateless as well as returnee and internally displaced children assisted and protected by UNHCR. The partnership is guided by a common vision that all children, wherever they are, receive the quality education, development and well-being that is their right.

Refugees and displaced children make up approximately half of forcibly displaced populations anywhere in the world. The numbers are enormous and difficult to put into any type of context. They tend to blur and dilute the individual suffering of children violently uprooted from their homes and either internally displaced within their own countries or forced to flee as refugees to surrounding states.

UNHCR has taken a number of important steps towards meeting the rights and protection needs of refugee children. But helping and caring for millions of displaced children are a massive task. Partnerships with sustainable and committed private actors can help UNHCR fulfill refugee’ needs even better.

Recognizing that education and leisure-time activities contribute to the physical, social, emotional, intellectual, psychological, ethical and cultural development of young people, UNHCR cooperates with the LEGO Foundation to provide forcibly displaced children access to the creative learning opportunities that come with LEGO products.

In 2011, more than 3,000 LEGO DUPLO Play Boxes and LEGO Play Boxes were diligently packed and shipped from Denmark to Uganda, Botswana, India, Myanmar, Algeria, Kenya and Ethiopia. In 2012, the famous little bricks will reach some of the most vulnerable children in the world, bringing a wealth of colors, fun and discovery in the lives of forcibly displaced children in Malaysia, Serbia, Burundi, Chad, Somalia, South Africa, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Tajikistan and Morocco.

Partnering with the LEGO Foundation also means that UNHCR gets access to the wealth of knowledge and learning materials developed by the LEGO education research programs. To ensure UNHCR and its implementing partners make the best possible use of the LEGO bricks in their teaching, the LEGO Foundation and UNHCR are currently exploring innovative solutions to train teachers and facilitators, adapted to the specific context of refugee settings.

The LEGO Foundation is also a great supporter of UNHCR’s general mandate to restore hope, safety and dignity to millions of refugees. In 2011, a donation to UNHCR’s emergency relief in the Horn of Africa was the first step in an ambitious engagement that will include joint initiatives to raise awareness of the enormous difficulties faced by refugees every day.

“At the LEGO Foundation, we are proud to have signed a three-year collaboration agreement with UNHCR. Together, we are working to bring colorful play, learning and creativity to vulnerable children around the world. From child refugees and asylum seekers to stateless children and returning and internally displaced children. We are impressed by the immense efficiency and professionalism that we always meet when engaging into activities with the UNHCR. We share values and vision and in our search for strong, international partnerships, the UNHCR was a perfect match for us,” says Morten Aagaard, President of the LEGO Foundation.

For more information, please contact: Hélène Ahlberger, Corporate Relations Manager, UNHCR.