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Building community for refugee youth, one LEGO at a time

Refugee youth build Washington, DC out of LEGOs with the help of the local community

Photo: Aaron Churchill

On Saturday, September 14, 2017 the International Rescue Committee in Silver Spring and Play-Well TEKnologies invited refugee youth, their families and the local community to come together for a day revolving around connection, community, and most importantly, play. Building the towns, villages, and cities of their native country out of LEGO bricks, refugee youth were given the opportunity to share a little about their life before coming to the United States. Later during the day, members of the local community were invited to work together with refugee families to build Washington, DC out of LEGO bricks.

“Opportunities like the LEGO Build add to reinforcing the idea of community while allowing organic relationships and connections to be made,” says Aaron Churchill, youth caseworker at the IRC in Silver Spring. “Events like this are especially crucial for successful resettlement and integration of refugees because it gives a sense of belonging and community.”

Refugee youth from Eritrea and Ethiopia build their hometowns out of LEGOs Photo: Aaron Churchill

There are many challenges that refugee youth face when adjusting to life here in the U.S. “Refugee youth arrive in the United States with unique stories, challenges, and dreams. With diverse backgrounds and experiences, some students have had interruptions in their formal education, while others may have spent time in informal educational settings or youth programs in refugee camps,” says Aaron Churchill. Often, making friends is difficult for refugee youth because of the language barrier. The LEGO Build event provided youth the chance to share about where they come from, and get to know other kids in a fun environment. 

Despite the obstacles that come with working with refugee youth, Aaron Churchill would have it no other way. “I think the best thing about working with refugee youth is the innocence of youth no matter where they are from,” he says. “Youth take risks and are resilient no matter what they have been through, and my clients and their parents inspire me daily with their persistence and determination to have a better life.”