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Press Release

The IRC and the LEGO Foundation launch playful, education audio program for refugees and displaced children in Colombia

Play Well promotes social-emotional learning, helping children identify, manage, and express their feelings.

More than one year into the COVID-19 global pandemic, education services in Colombia continue to be significantly disrupted, putting both Colombian and migrant children at risk of being set back years. According to a recent study, 98 million children in Latin America have already missed an average of 110 days of school due to COVID-19—three times more than in Western Europe.

There are approximately 1.8 million Venezuelan children and adolescents living in crisis and facing significant challenges accessing quality education. Marianne Menjivar, Director of the Venezuela Crisis Response at the International Rescue Committee (IRC), said: “The ability to participate in remote learning during the pandemic is a privilege for children that have laptops or cellphones, whose parents work from home, have time to guide them through the lessons, and can afford to pay for a reliable internet service. For those who don’t, like the millions of Venezuelan families on the move, keeping up with their studies is an unrealistic possibility. International funding and collaboration are necessary to implement programs that provide children with access to quality education.”

To address the critical need for education alternatives during and after the pandemic, the IRC, in partnership with the LEGO Foundation, launched Play Well, an education audio program. Play Well will help promote learning among young Colombian and Venezuelan children living in Colombia through play-based, social-emotional educational content created and adapted by the IRC. The episodes will be accessible in different environments, delivered via radio, interactive voice response (IVR) calls, social media, WhatsApp and SMS, covering regions where access to the internet is limited. 

The IRC partnered with Click Arte, a local Colombian creative agency, to create content tailored to the local context and develop a play-based children’s edutainment audio program. The show, called “On the Air with Harry,” delivers 20 episodes in which children, accompanied by a friendly migrant chameleon, explore diverse topics to help them identify, manage, and express their feelings and opinions. 

Play Well is a resource for continuing education during and after the pandemic. For children without access to remote or in-person education, the program provides critical support for social-emotional learning and serves to complement standard academic learning. Starting on May 15th, the show is broadcast weekly on RCN, Colombia’s largest radio station with a listener base of 3.5 million, as well as public radio supported by the Colombia Ministry of Education. In June, the materials will be distributed in Venezuela through a local partner via home visits. Additionally, the episodes can be streamed globally online on SoundCloud, Spotify and other podcast hosting platforms.

With a $2 million grant from the LEGO Foundation, Play Well builds upon the IRC’s innovative, evidence-based approach and expertise in designing and implementing educational content in contexts of humanitarian needs. By combining this expertise to create joyful, engaging distance learning materials, Play Well will apply the same model to support more children and caregivers in East Africa over the next year.

More on the IRC’s response to the Venezuela crisis

The IRC is on the ground delivering a collective response to support Venezuelan migrants holistically—and timely—where they need most: implementing programming with a mixed model of partnerships with local organizations and direct implementation in Colombia; providing support for vulnerable populations through local organizations in Venezuela; and starting to build relationships with partners at the Colombia-Ecuador border. In 2020, the IRC provided assistance for more than 87,000 Venezuelans.


About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and over 20 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.