After food and shelter, the creative act is the next best way to ease oneself. These days, this is not limited to the paper and pen. Technology allows for fun, creative expression that can be both uplifting and educational.
Support mental health through sparking optimism, curiosity for life and creativity in humans living through hardships such as in refugee camps.
In a humanitarian context, more focus is often put on expansive M&E rather than creating impact. Cyrcus focuses on the present time impact and will not prove sustainability. Our measurement is the quantity of smiles.
Emergency setting and location of intervention
Primary type of emergency setting to operate in is in a prolonged displacement.
This intervention is best suited form a prolonged displacement. It is then that children and youth need access to more than basic survival item, need to continue education and their life. Especially girls and women can suffer more as they are often more confined to the house or camp than their male counterparts. It is aimed at uplifting people once the rough routines settle in again.
Different emergencies can also be considered, depending on the people’s needs and living situations.
Potential locations of implementation: Primarily, we see a good fit with running these intervention with people living in the countries around Syria. Creative, low-resource and flexible approaches can massively benefit children/youth in camps as well as communities. The project can be set up stationary or rotating, moving e.g. from camp to camp. Due to its highly adaptive nature, Cyrcus can engage in any country. Digital content and educational approaches can be adapted to suit local preferences.
Participants and beneficiaries
Children and Youth comprise half of 60 M refugees worldwide, many unaccompanied. Cognitive stimuli are important for finding perspectives. Cyrcus offers recreational/educational activities to overcome boredom of camp life and prevent risk taking. The tool provides interactive games, creative programmes and participatory learning opportunities, e.g. science simulations. In camp or community settings, most location can serve to host 2-3 spaces for 10-20 participants at the same time while ensuring facilitation and guidance. Duration of use can be adjusted.
Projection areas can create “women and girls save spaces”, providing tailored content (e.g. interactive fashion) and gender-relevant information (e.g. health), as well as a save space for children to explore while mothers can engage with each other, which is often limited in e.g. camp areas.
Cyrcus brings people of all cultures and ages together to build community and foster social cohesion.
End-user challenges on a day-to-day basis
While for many Refugees, IDPs and members of host communities the struggle for everyday survival – livelihoods and income generating possibilities is dominating – we also see the lack of learning social and recreational opportunities as an important aspect for the psycho-social well-being. Especially children and youth are impacted by broken social networks, trauma, inter-ethnic conflict as well as a lack of personal development and creative stimuli. Cognitive problems such as perceived loss of control, boredom, and hopelessness are widely reported. Resulting social and behavioral problems include withdrawal, aggression and interpersonal difficulties, alcohol and other substance abuse. As protracted crises extend over multiple years, affected people and communities often lose perspective and joy in life and an entire generation is at risk to become a lost generation which will have profound long‐term consequences.
Systemic challenge affecting end-users
Development challenge affecting all interventions, especially when partnering with larger organizations/donors: Bureaucratic processes leading to delays in intervention. Requirements for visible impact for donors, leading to limited qualitative impact, since value is mostly in the details (e.g. build 2 schools, instead of build one school which equipment, cover maintenance and ensure teacher salaries). Dwindling development funds: Despite funds re-distribution towards emergencies, overall funds are decreasing which often leads to focus on immediate response, often prioritizing covering larger numbers of beneficiaries over lifting less out of severe crises. Protracted crises lose media and policy attention over time, and IDPs/refugees are often stuck, with basic support/shelter but lack additional input and support to actually move themselves into enhances living situations.
Underlying development concepts
This activity addresses the second base of the intervention pyramid of Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) in humanitarian emergencies . Projects areas benefitting best from integrating this tool working in areas:
- Psycho-social care (recreation/stress relief)
- Social Cohesion
- Community strengthening
- Child/Youth and women empowerment
- Participation in education
Inspirational proven concepts
This activity has been inspired by and builds on successful concepts and approaches from various sectors including:
- Arts and light therapy: Traditional arts like theater and painting have been successfully used to address psycho-social issues and to bring people together. Limitations are the typical longer term work involvement through therapists with a selected, small group of participants.
- Participatory performances: Engaging pro‐actively with participants significantly increases their commitment, memory, learning and emotional engagement and strengthens intended outcomes. Performance artists are a limited human resource and there are logistics and security concerns. Some types of participatory approaches have been already successfully used, typically for community‐driven project development.
- Wander circus: Bringing wonder and joy to people for a limited time while showing visitors’ unknown things like zoo animals, “magic” acts, fun entertainment, etc. Limitations are setting up
a circus in crises contexts logistically and financially viable as well as securely.
- Immersive Design: Combining simultaneously with virtual and dimensional environments has led to recent design revolutions. Use cases have not expanded into the development context so far.
Through adapting and combining aspects, this activity overcomes existing limitations for a transitional assistance context.