How Play Teaches Tolerance, Acceptance & More

By Olivia Davis, Christian Horn &
Carmen Sposato

There are more than 15 million refugees worldwide and 41 per cent of them are children, 18 years and younger. They have been forced to leave their families, friends and homes. In the process of relocating and re-building their lives, they face the added challenge of integrating with unfamiliar customs, cultures and people. 

It's why Right To Play has integrated our play-based programs into the refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Ethiopia and Uganda. Our games and activities create a safe space for the children living in the camps to play and help break down the barriers of difference. Through play, we're teaching these children how to accept and understand one another, to build tolerance and to celebrate their diversities in gender, race and religion. Play brings children together, regardless of where they've come from. 

HERE, EIGHT of these CHILDREN speak out about the lessons they've learned through play 


"We are more familiar with the differences in people's characters."

Ghassan is a Syrian refugee living in Amman, Jordan in the Baqaa Camp. He is a student at the Slah El-Deer School and part of the Right To Play program there. 

Through play, Ghassan has learned about teamwork and acceptance. Now, he feels better able to understand and embrace the differences which once seemed so challenging to him. 

In Jordan, Right to Play is currently working in seven refugee camps, teaching children to accept differences, resolve conflict and promote teamwork through play. 

"Some people, just from the way they behave with others, force you to act in a respectful way. In your heart, you know that they are good people, so you would be happy to do something nice for them."

Like Ghassan, Majd is also a student at the Slah El-Deer School in the Baqaa Refugee Camp. He says, play encouraged him to act respectfully.  

"Sometimes, I've encountered bad situations but I would try to react in a good way, regardless of what other people were doing," says Majd. "Tolerance is really important in this kind of situation."

In Lebanon...

"We are all friends."

Yaman in the Football for Development Program

Yaman is a 10-year-old Palestinian Syrian student enrolled in the Football for Development Program in the Bus Camp in Tyr, South Lebanon. The program brings 2,500 host city and refugee children together, teaching them cooperation and inclusion through the power of play. 

Yaman says our games and activities have shown him how to accept others and make friends. "When I came to Lebanon we all met," says Yaman. "We got close as friends. We got closer and closer and became better friends."

In Lebanon, 80% of the children in the 10 refugee camps where we work, develop strong
conflict-resolution skills. 

"I have the same strength as the boys and I aim to win."

Douaa & Yaman in the Football for Development Program.

Douaa is a student in the Bus Camp in Tyr, South Lebanon and like Yaman, she is enrolled in the Football for Development Program. 

Douaa believes playing football shows boys and girls that they are equals. "I love to practice and I love this game," says Douaa. "I prefer the teams to be mixed with boys and girls. This way if girls lose the guys will not criticize and vice versa."

In Ethiopia...

"Before, I was a child who was always angry but when I started playing I was happy and my behaviour has changed for the better."

Ayanle was displaced from his hometown Geelboorow, Somalia to the Heloweyn Camp in Ethiopia. He is 14 years old and in the 6th Grade in the A.R.R.A UNICEF Site School in Dollo Ado, Ethiopia. 

"When I'm playing football and another child tackles me, I can tolerate it," says Ayanle. "When a teammate takes a free kick and gets a penalty, I can tolerate this. I learned a lot about tolerance when I joined Right To Play Programs."

By participating in our programs in Dollo Ado, Ayanle has learned to resolve conflict through tolerance and understanding.  

"My behaviour has changed from how it used to be," says Ayanle. "Before, if a child said something bad towards me or if they insulted me, I used to fight with them. Now, if the child is younger than me I don't fight with him. If the child is older than me, I inform the coach or teacher. Before, I was a child who was always angry but when I started playing I was happy and my behaviour has changed for the better."

Right To Play has programs in
five refugee camps in Ethiopia.

"We children don't fight each other, instead we show tolerance to each other."

Nurto was displaced from her hometown Qasahdere Town, Somalia to the Heloweyn Camp in Ethiopia. She is also in the 6th Grade and is Ayanle's classmate. 

"Before I joined Right To Play, I did not know how to play with other children and I used to keep myself away from children who are playing," she says. "Little by little the games and playing changed my behaviour from being alone to making me become part of the team."

Nurto says that teamwork showed her how to treat others respectfully and peacefully. "When we play, the teacher or coach will sometimes penalize us if we have bad conduct," says Nurto. "For example, some children will shout for no reason, so these children will be asked to sit out of the play space for five minutes to watch how we play. So for me, I make sure I'm tolerant so that I can always play. We don't fight each other, we show tolerance to each other."

In Uganda...

"I love my friends exactly the way they are."

Ajiboo is a 9-year-old student attending St. Paul's Church of Uganda Primary School in Kampala, Uganda. He says play has taught him teamwork.

"I've learned to be supportive and to work together," says Ajiboo. "We often share books. I'm friendly and supportive of others. I also give this advice to others."

84% of the children in our programs in Ethiopia, Jordan, Lebanon, Mozambique, Pakistan, Palestinian Territories, Tanzania, and Uganda demonstrated positive life skills, which included
collaboration and inclusion. 

"I've learned that it is important to be friendly to one another."

12-year-old Sembatya is also a student at St. Pauls Church of Uganda Primary School. Instead of shying away from someone from a different background, gender or race, Sembatya has learned to welcome them with open arms.

"I've learned to be friendly. I want to play with them and support them," says Sembatya. "I've got new friends and I've learned that it's important to be friendly to one another."

To learn more about Right To Play's commitment to children's education and children's rights to be themselves, click here