This Christmas Day thousands of unaccompanied children in Uganda’s refugee settlements will wake up to NOTHING. No gifts. No parents. No country to call home. No hope for the future. Their Christmas Day will be like any other day… playing the role of parent for their siblings… trying to protect themselves from the threat of trafficking, sexual exploitation and abuse… trying to block out the trauma of their early life experiences as they fled from their homes.

40,000 unaccompanied refugee children

Despite being one of the least developed countries in the world, Uganda is the country hosting the largest number of refugees in Africa and the third largest in the world. Due to ongoing conflict, poverty and food insecurity affecting Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, by this Christmas, Uganda will be providing refuge to over 1,300,000 refugees, of which 60% are children. Roughly equivalent to the size of the population of Dover, 40,000 of these children are unaccompanied child refugees (with nearly 10% under the age of 5). These are children fleeing from war and violence – without the protection, comfort and love of their parents.

Play has a lasting impact

Like you, we would love to give a gift for each refugee child to open on Christmas Day. It’s so easy to imagine the joy on their faces… To know that in that moment, someone, somewhere in the world cares about them. It’s tempting for sure, but we know that we can offer something that has a longer lasting impact that will shape children’s futures for years to come. Play is the way children process their experiences. Play is the way children learn and develop. Play is the way children heal from traumatic experiences. Play is the way children can regain a sense of their childhood and escape from the harsh realities of their day to day life.

We are the leading provider of playgrounds and play-based programmes in East Africa. Everything we do is based on our passionate belief that play is a fun, cost-effective and impactful way to help vulnerable children to learn, heal and develop. We build playgrounds. We run mobile playgroups. We train people and communities to use play in different areas such as education, hygiene and trauma.

To date our work has supported 250,000 child refugees in Uganda and with more refugees fleeing to the settlements every day, we know our work has only just touched the surface. And that’s without taking into account the millions of child refugees in other major settlements in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania!

But like many small, international development charities, we have been hit very hard by COVID-19. Due to travel restrictions, we have been unable to run our annual volunteer programme to Uganda and our fundraising income has collapsed by 60%. The economic effects of the pandemic are not only affecting our ability to deliver life-enriching play programmes but the very survival of our organisation. It is estimated that up to 50% of small international development charities could close by Easter. We cannot allow ourselves to be one of these statistics. Our work is too valuable to the children and communities we serve. The gift of play is perhaps one of the most impactful gifts you could give to a child beyond services that support their basic day to day survival.

Your donation will make a difference

We know life is truly tough for everyone right now and that we’re all thinking more carefully about how much to give and who to donate to. I can assure you that we are a safe and trusted pair of hands for your donation. We have been working in East Africa for over a decade and work in partnership with major organisations like DFID, UNICEF, Save the Children and World Vision. And, just as importantly, 92p of every £1 we receive is spent on our programmes and reaching some of the world’s most vulnerable children. Your donation truly makes a MASSIVE difference!

So, this Christmas, we would love for you to support our little organisation so that we can continue to offer our wonderful services to some of the world’s most amazing children. Play, just like Christmas, is truly magical.

With all our love and thanks,
Play Action International