Strengthening refugee child protection: Isibindi Care and Courage Model

Academics & researchers

Strengthening refugee child protection: Isibindi Care and Courage Model

NAACW assisted in the recruitment, training and employment of refugees in the field of child and youth care, providing employment and the chance for a better and safer education in refugee settlements.

Contact details

Submitted by: Zeni Thumbadoo, Deputy Director, NACCW

Email: [email protected]


Introduction to the project


Southern Africa – Zambia and Namibia


2016 – Zambia

2018 – Namibia

NACCW’s formal support to these projects have come to an end but they continue to function with support from partners and host country governments.


The Isibindi Care and Courage Model (also known as Isibindi Without Borders) is a community-based child and youth care (CYC) child protection model designed to respond to the needs of refugee children, adolescents and youth living in camps and urban settings.

The model is designed to ensure participation and inclusion of refugees and host communities from the inception phase and throughout the planning and implementation stages. UNHCR is often criticised for only doing short-term skills development of child protection workers in refugee settings. The proposed model provides a mechanism for UNHCR to equip refugees with a formally recognised qualification and an entry point into a recognised profession: child and youth care. This qualification could lead to future employment opportunities in the host country where allowed/available.

The Isibindi Courage and Care model, including Safe Parks, have proven to be easily replicable to different refugee settings and contexts. The Safe Park model has been successfully implemented as a stand-alone programme in other countries including Kenya, Lebanon and Syria. 

Project aims

  • Develop the capacity of recruited refugee Child and Youth Care Workers (CYCWs), through providing customised CYC training covering core competencies for working with children, youth and Safe Parks.
  • Establish community based child protection structures in each refugee camp, with CYCWs providing services to children in multiple settings including Safe Parks, individual homes, communal child care arrangements and transit centres.

Resources used

  • Technical support from NACCW to select refugees as CYCWs, provide training in the basic child and youth care qualification, and supervise the implementation of services. 
  • Financial support from UNHCR for the external technical support and monthly stipends for the refugee CYCWs.

Main activities of the Good Practice

  • Recruitment and deployment/employment of CYCWs from the refugee camps (30 per camp): Candidates, after an intense screening and selection process, are shortlisted according to a specific set of criteria including: having a strong community involvement, having refugee status, the length of time they had spent in the camp. 

  • Customised basic child and youth care qualification (BQCC): covers core competencies for working with children and youth as well as on Safe Parks is provided by NACCW. This entry-level qualification provides an entry point for further training and development in the CYC profession (up to higher education studies).

  • Formation of an Isibindi Team: CYCWs who successfully completed the training and obtained certification formed a team — thereby establishing a community-based child protection mechanism in each camp. Services provided by CYCWs include conducting home visits with children and youth to provide comprehensive and holistic assistance based on the specific needs of the child and his or her family/household, including accessing essential services where needed.

  • Services provided through Safe Parks: These were established in each camp using local (refugee) labour. Safe Parks are safe and supervised child-friendly places where children can play and receive educational assistance from CYCWs, as well as specialised programmes targeting children at heightened risk and children with specific needs. Safe Parks provide a space for children, adolescent and youth to participate in and thrive in the communities where they live. Safe Parks also establish a mechanism for identification of at-risk children and youth.


  • Government of Zambia
  • Government of Namibia
  • Zambia Association of Child Care Workers (ZACCW)
  • The Society for Family Health in Namibia
  • Refugee Coordinating Communities and refugees in the two camps

How challenges were overcome

  • Lack of a shared understanding by all members of the multi-stakeholder team on the CYC approach and adapting it to a refugee setting: Ongoing consultations with members of the multi-stakeholder team to clarify the CYC approach. In the future, all members of the multi-stakeholder team should be involved in the basic CYC qualification training.
  • Integrating the generic CYC assessment approach with the BIA and BID assessment procedures and forms: Alignment and integration of the generic CYC assessment approach with the BIA/BID. This work is on-going. 
  • While some positive and promising practices have been observed, the CYCWs are still very new to the practice of child and youth care work and some gaps were evident, highlighting the importance of on-going mentorship from experienced care practitioners.

Results of the Good Practice

  • The Isibindi Care and Courage model supports and enhances the implementation of UNHCR policies and frameworks for the protection of children. The replication of the model in different settings is however funding dependent.
  • Safe Parks can be understood as a type of Child Friendly Space (term used by UNICEF and UNHCR in emergency/humanitarian contexts) and there is a need to explore blending these two programmes using CYC workers. In Lebanon, standard operating procedures (SOPs) have been developed for Safe Parks and have been adopted by UNICEF Lebanon.
  • A training specialisation in CYC work in refugee settings needs to be developed, as child protection in emergencies requires a different approach in some aspects to contexts where the focus is on development. It would allow for better education for the children and better self-reliance for the refugee workers.