Young people are taking on the challenge to solve some of the world's problems through small solutions. All around the world, youth took steps of action on Global Youth Service Day, April 11-13, 2014, including some members of the United Nations Association (UNA) outside of Stockholm, Sweden. A multinational group of youths determined to initiate a simple project that could have a large impact. "There are so many young children: 3, 4, 5, 6-years-old in the refugee camps who are bored and sad. I would like to do something for them," says Annie, a 19-year-old young woman who had recently arrived in Sweden from Syria. She shared her concern, and her fellow members agreed to help.
When conflicts break out in the world, free countries are called upon to take in refugees. Sweden is known as one of the foremost hosts to victims of war-torn areas. "Sweden is one of only a few countries worldwide that is taking significant steps to ease the refugee burden felt by Syria's neighbors," Aljazeera reported in November 2013. For the small country with barely more countrymen than the total population of Syrian refugees, the nation is challenged to live up to their promise of providing the same resources to the new inhabitants as they do for their citizens.
Most new immigrants in Sweden come from Syria, Somalia, Eritrea (formally Southern Sudan), and Albania. Many people without citizenships are also welcomed into the Scandinavian country. The UNA youth group members, coming from Palestine, Somalia and Syria empathize with the displacement experience of the recent Syrian population. Currently, former Syrian citizens greatly outnumber the other refugee population in Sweden.
Nine Million refugees have fled from Syria alone since March 2011. Half of them are children. As little victims of plight, the children miss out on natural development through play and education. These children need the same care and security as any child in the world.
While a little child's experience may seem far down on the political priority list in traumatic events, attention paid to the early years of life have a big impact on the person and collectively on society. "The basic architecture of the brain is constructed through a process that begins early in life and continues into adulthood," reports Harvard University's Center on the Developing Child. Annie and her colleagues instinctually realize that helping the young children can make a big impact on our future society.
Because learning builds upon the foundations we get early in life, offering a peace education preschool program to the little children of displaced immigrants may have a larger payback than we can imagine. A simple multicultural directed play activity provides a child with basic developmental skills and initiates a perspective as a world citizen within. "Research has shown that this culture of peace should start with young children," explains UN Ambassador Anwarul K Chowdhury, former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the United Nations and chair of the UN General Assembly drafting committee for the UN Declaration on the Culture of Peace. "Young children should be introduced to the concept of friendship, the concept of love, the concept of knowing about each other, and the concept of diversity," Chowdhury expands.
Through his diplomatic experience, Chowdhury, as a UN Culture of Peace leader, sees hope that with early childhood education we can create a world of peaceful citizens. Pedagogical experts reinforce Chowdhury's knowledge from a cognitive perspective. "All of children's learning functions are overlapping and virtually identical, they are 'border-less', so to speak. This is why the preschool stage also serves as the foundation for integrated human development," confirms Carla Woolf, cognitologist and author of Connecting the Dots: The Cognitively Correct Way to Speak with Preschoolers. During the ages from two to seven years, the child can learn key social skills such as collaborating, following directions and waiting for a turn that prepares them for success as a student in formal school. Additionally, key intellectual, physical and psychological skills are quickly absorbed at the preschool age.
Remarkably, the group of young adults had intuited the understanding of seasoned experts. The five young women, half of whom are still in their teens, will bring an early childhood education program to the young refugee children in the form of a multilingual preschool experience.
Adolescents are concerned about little children. Along with diplomats and child development experts, they recognize the importance of getting a good foundation for a future healthy society. On Global Youth Service Day and everyday, young people are proving to be humanity's wealth as they step forward with the willingness to take charge in solving world issues locally. Hope lies in the present as young minds around the world find simple solutions and collectively take action.