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The IRC and the LEGO Foundation


Research has shown that play gives refugee children a chance to overcome trauma, learn and thrive. Through a new initiative called PlayMatters, the International Rescue Committee and the LEGO Foundation are working together to show that it is possible to reach every refugee child in East Africa with play-based learning.

We are starting in Uganda and Ethiopia, home to nearly one million refugee children who have been displaced from their homes. We will work with local governments, teachers and caregivers to help reimagine the education system. 

After all, we know that play matters—and the earliest years count the most. Learning through play helps kids develop social and emotional skills and build resilience. It strengthens the brain connections essential for future development. And most importantly, it gives children the opportunity to imagine a future of their own design.

Around the world, more than 62 million children remain out of school in countries affected by war and displacement. Through first-of-their-kind programs for families and schools, we hope to reach our goal of making learning through play a centerpiece of childhood for kids everywhere.

Test your knowledge

About how long are most refugees displaced from their homes?
  • 1 year
  • 5 years
  • 10 years
  • 20 years

The average length of displacement is 10 or more years. That means a child can grow into adulthood without ever being able to return to their home country. As conflicts last longer and people are displaced for decades, the needs of refugees have changed. Education has become increasingly important.

A generation at risk

The IRC and the LEGO Foundation are working together to solve one of the greatest humanitarian crises of our time. Here's a look at the problem, by the numbers:

> 62M

children are missing school in countries affected by war and displacement.

During conflict and crisis, education protects children and sets them up for a better future.

Learn how the IRC helps.
> 3M

refugees are living in limbo in East African countries struggling to host them.

Some of these refugees have been displaced for as long as three decades. It's a hidden crisis.

How Uganda is embracing refugees
< 3%

of all humanitarian funding has gone toward education in recent years.

With nearly half of refugees being children, bigger and bolder solutions are needed.

See the IRC's education goals.

Our partners

The LEGO Foundation is investing $100 million to help deliver play-based learning to 800,000 refugee children in East Africa, aged 3-12. The IRC will be leading the charge, heading up a consortium with Plan International, War ChildInnovations for Poverty Action, and the Behavioral Insights Team

The promise of education

A lifeline for refugee children

We know that nearly half of all refugees are children, but humanitarian funding still thinks of education as just an add-on. We need big solutions with bold ideas that put education at the forefront of humanitarian response. With the LEGO Foundation’s investment in play-based learning and the IRC’s expertise in reaching the most vulnerable, this partnership has the potential to reshape education for a generation of refugee children.

David Miliband, President and CEO, International Rescue Committee