A Safe Healing and Learning Space (SHLS) is a secure, caring and predictable place where children and adolescents living in conflict and crisis settings can learn, develop and be protected. The SHLS Toolkit provides child protection and education practitioners with all of the content needed to initiate an SHLS program.

What is a Safe Healing and Learning Space?

A Safe Healing and Learning Space (SHLS) is a secure, caring and predictableplace where children and adolescents living in conflict and crisis settings canlearn, develop and be protected. Research shows that regular access to caringand predictable learning spaces, combined with a safe and supportive homeenvironment, can have a profound and lasting impact on children’s learningand well-being. To be effective, the activities and lessons that take place in anSHLS must include an explicit focus on social and emotional learning, alongwith more traditional academic skills, and must be delivered by a Facilitatorwho is supportive, responsive and has foundational knowledge in the contentbeing taught.

What are the outcomes of an SHLS?

During conflict and crisis, children are exposed to multiple and severeadversities, such as violence, abuse, displacement and an absence of supportin the home and community. Frequent or prolonged exposure to such adversitieswithout protective adult relationships can result in a form of stress known astoxic stress.  Unaddressed, toxic stress can have a damaging effect on children’sbrain development and, over time, can have cumulative effects on their overallhealth and well-being.  But evidence shows that ensuring children have a safe,predictable environment with supportive adult relationships is a powerful wayto mitigate or reverse the effects of toxic stress.

An SHLS program seeks to achieve multiple outcomes for children, includingimprovements in social and emotional skills and reading and math outcomes;and reductions in emotional distress and violence in the home. Achieving theseoutcomes requires strengthening the knowledge and skills of SHLS staffand parents to create a home and learning environment conducive to children’shealthy development and well-being.

What makes the SHLS Toolkit unique?

The SHLS Toolkit is a timely and important contribution to the global resourcebase available to child protection and education practitioners:

  1. The Toolkit provides all of the content needed to initiate an SHLSin an emergency setting. The content is holistic, including tools forsocial-emotional learning, reading and math, and parenting support.1
  2. The tools are evidence-based and practitioner-tested, developed bythe IRC’s in-house technical experts, field tested with displaced communitiesand frontline staff in Nigeria, Chad and Iraq, and refined through feedbackfrom academic and peer reviewers.2
  3. Materials are open source, user-friendly and designed for managersand facilitators in the form of structured yet adaptable training and learningcontent, ready for immediate download and use at SHLS.rescue.org.

What is inside the SHLS Toolkit?

The SHLS Toolkit provides frontline humanitarian staff with practicalimplementation guidance, adaptable sample tools, comprehensive trainingmaterials, and scripted instructional content. Resources are provided fora 9-month program, and applicable in both rural and urban areas, basedon locally-defined needs and priorities. 

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