Muna holding her Doll's House - Za'atari refugee camp

Nesma AlNsour/Oxfam

“If you have a dream don’t give it up, it is nice to have a dream and work towards achieving it. We as kids need to draw our dreams with our hands so we can achieve them one day,” says Miriam*.

Make a room in a shoebox, like Miriam*

As we spend more time indoors, our community and the space we exist in has become increasingly important. For those in communities away from their own, including refugees, lockdown is especially isolating.

This Refugee Week, we’re inviting children and adults of all ages to take part in The Giant Dolls’ House project, by making a room in a box that represents their experience of lockdown, and sending a photo of their creation across,  along with a short explanation of what they’ve made.

These individual rooms will come together to create one big Giant Dolls’ House – made by people in our global community. The project will mark World Refugee Day, on 20 June and show that though much of the world is in lockdown, we are ‘alone together’.


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We all want to live in a place of safety. A place we can call home. But, before this lockdown began, more than 70 million refugees and internally displaced people around the world had been forced to leave their homes, communities and sometimes families, and start over somewhere new.

The coronavirus pandemic is having a devastating impact everywhere, but it is the poorest and most vulnerable people, like refugees and internally displaced people, that are likely to be hardest hit. Refugees living in camps often aren’t able to leave. They also have little to protect themselves; many are sharing one tap between up to 250 people with less than 3.5 square metres of living space per person – smaller than the average UK bathroom.

A Vision of Home

In collaboration with the Giant Dolls’ House Project, Oxfam has run workshops in Za’atari camp – home to nearly 80,000 Syrian refugees. In these workshops, participants used a shoebox to create a room for a dolls’ house. The room represents a vision of home, memories, hopes and dreams for the future; alongside challenges and sufferings. Each room made has a story behind it: the volleyball field in Za’atari camp, the wedding dress shop, or the remembered house in Syria.

“I built this dolls’ house to remind me of my home in Syria as I don’t want to forget about it. I miss home. I used to think I would just be here for two months and then go back. The most important thing for a home is to feel safe for myself and my children. I didn’t feel safe in Syria.” says Ahlam, a Syrian woman who fled from southern Syria to Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp six years ago.

“I miss home. I used to think I would just be here for two months and then go back. The most important thing for a home is to feel safe for myself and my children. I didn’t feel safe in Syria.”

Muna and Samar making a doll's house - Za'atari refugee camp

Image; Nesma AlNsour/Oxfam

Muna making a doll's house - Za'atari refugee camp

Image; Nesma AlNsour/Oxfam

“I can’t remember much about my life back in Syria. I do recall some memories of being with my family in our house, which is now destroyed,” says Mariam, who is 12. Mariam came to Za’tari refugee camp with her family when she was just six years old.

Muna and Samar's Dolls' House - Za'atari refugee camp

Image: Nesma AlNsour/Oxfam

Ahmad’s room has a different feel… “I am creating a volleyball yard that has six players from each team, a referee with the volleyball, a green yard and a net. I don’t want to create or talk about anything sad; let us be happy and create pleasant things,” he says.

Ahmad's volleyball dolls house - Za'atari refugee camp

Image: Nesma AINsour/Oxfam

Many women in the camp lost their husbands in the war in Syria and became sole providers for their families and young children.

Aisha, 27, is one of them. “Through this dolls’ house I want to show women around the world that we can be strong, no matter what happens. We need to be strong and fight. I’m fighting for my children to be great in the future, so they don’t have to go through what I have. I’m so pleased that my children are doing really well in school and have come first in their class.”

Nesrine, 32, also sees participation in the Giant Doll’s House project as a way of connecting with her home country… “I made a dollhouse that includes my memories back in Syria, and me leaving behind all these lovely memories. I miss Syria a lot. Now, I am here in Za’atari camp but my mind is in Syria. I keep thinking of it and my parents and my family who are there now. I wrote inside the dollhouse: ‘My family, my mother, my home Syria, we will come back.”

Take part in The Giant Dolls House Project

Everyone can take part in this great initiative. All that is required is a box (it doesn’t have to be a shoebox! which your child can decorate in a way that reflects their current experiences, emotions and surroundings and encourages them to explore the idea of home and connectivity.

Everyone is invited to send in photographs of their finished boxes, along with a short story or explanation about it: what you made and why, or a thought to go with your box.

These images and stories will be used to create one big global community Giant Dolls’ House to celebrate World Refugee Day on 20th June. See the Virtual Giant Dolls’ House instruction sheet to find out more.

More creative activity ideas

Until it’s time for everyone to go back to school, we will be sharing fun and educational activities which children, aged 7-14, can do at home.
For more inspiration, check out the weekly resources on our home learning hub.

We need your help

Imagine social distancing in a crowded refugee camp. It’s almost impossible, but you can help. Please watch Public Health Officer Rahman’s urgent message from Cox’s Bazaar refugee camp in Bangladesh and, if you can, please donate to help Oxfam respond to coronavirus where the need is greatest.

Oxfam's coronavirus emergency response appeal

*names changed to protect identities

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