Childhood Rescue Project

Protecting the culture of childhood


Childhood Rescue Project endeavors to protect the culture of childhood through the power of play. We believe in diversity, inclusion, and hope for all human beings. We believe in the healing power of play to transform the world.


Why Play?


There is nothing trivial about play. It’s a life-sustaining activity intrinsic to all human beings. Play it’s the primary manner in which children learn to understand themselves, others, and the world around them. While playing, children not only experience pure joy, but they experience freedom, the possibility to discover, to make choices, to solve problems and is also a direct reflection of a child’s emotional and physical health.

Many overlook the value of play due to its apparent ‘purposelessness’ . But this is what sets play apart from so many other activities: Its seeming purposelessness offers innumerable lifelong gifts of well-being. Children whose lives have been disrupted are so used to focusing on their basic survival that their playfulness is diminished or lost. We at Childhood Rescue Project know firsthand that play heals body and soul and is indeed ‘necessary’ for survival. We encourage children to take the lead and regain their sense of community, autonomy, and hope. We dedicate ourselves to honoring *all* children, one child at a time.

“Playing honors life because it gives meaning to what is being lived. It is the free, spontaneous and unpredictable expression of the human. It is the exercise of your freedom and, therefore, the seriousness of the act of playing. Playing is often understood as a time wasted, as a no-do-nothing. That’s a big mistake, because playing is not entertainment. To play is a process of knowledge that is realized within a state of joy, by the characteristic of the presence of the freedom that is its own. There is no joking gesture that is random. There is always a deep meaning reflected in the play, for those who learn to look and listen to the child. The human being is born endowed with this extraordinary resource of inaugurating the life joking, and this inauguration is what makes possible that it is placed like a unique and truly human being.”

Maria Amélia Pereira


IZMIR & ATHENS – Summer/Fall 2018



– providing workshops for volunteers in Athens/Greece and Izmir/Turkey based on the CRP philosophy.


– collaborating with The Tribe Project; working with children ages 2 – 10  living on farmland outside Izmir, Turkey.


– train volunteers and teachers using the education method of Yvonne Bezerra Mello (in negotiation..)


VASILIKA CAMP – Vasilika, Greece



– work in collaboration with EKO Project


– after initial observation we introduced “silence”, sitting with eyes closed for a period of time, to begin our day in a peaceful and centered way..


– we worked with the children that were not in classes, playing and doing toy workshops.


– german language course.


– basic photography course, which culminated in an  exhibition at the end of our time there.


For more information about the photography course & exhibition, please click here

MARIANA – Minas Gerais, Brasil

In November 2015, the biggest environmental disaster in the history of Brasil  took place close to the town of Mariana in the state of Minas Gerais. A dam containing iron ore waste from a nearby mine breached and released 60 million cubic meters of toxic iron waste, flooding and destroying the towns of Bento Rodrigues and Paracatu de Baixo, then spilling into the Rio Doce and finally into the Atlantic Ocean.
The surviving residents of the 2 towns were moved to Mariana. They were placed in shelters until permanent housing would be provided for them. 
In November 2016 Childhood Rescue Project went to Mariana to visit 2 schools that were working with the two displaced communities. We quickly realized that the children were going through trauma, as they not only lost their houses, but were also isolated in their new environs. Fortunately the schools had large backyard gardens and we set up to re-introduce them to nature and utilize the gardens and outdoor plays. It was a freeing experience for all of us and you can see the outcome of those days here on our page on Instagram:


In April of 2016, we made our first trip to Greece to volunteer in an independent camp near Polykastro, on the Macedonian border, that became known as EKO Camp. The camp was named after the gas station where around 1,200 people—many of them Syrian children—had become stranded. Volunteers organized themselves at this informal site and offered support by cooking meals and providing education, kids’ activities, and community-building.


In June, EKO camp was closed by the government and its occupants had to move to a camp in Vasilika near Thessaloniki. We followed them to the new camp in August and worked for over a month in partnership with the same group of volunteers that then were known as EKO Project and who opened a space just down the road from Vasilika camp.


So much happened at EKO Project every day: A rotating schedule was created so all participants could experience everything we had to offer. Children could come daily for breakfast; English, Arabic, Spanish, and German lessons, art workshops, community development, volleyball, football and a whole day of playtime. Together, we focused on offering children the carefree experiences that should have been a natural part of their youth. We provided a safe and healthy environment for the children to play, create toys, and even learn photography. Against all odds, these kids were having a childhood.


The camp didn’t have the appropriate infrastructure to withstand the winter. The families were relocated again, this time to individual housing in hotels or apartments, mainly in Athens. In February 2017 we followed the families to Athens to continue the work we started at the EKO Project in Vasilika. There, we quickly realized that although the families were living in far better conditions than at the camp, they had completely lost their community. They were dispersed throughout the city, waiting for placement to another European country. Many of the children were confined indoors all day, with no access to education or interaction with other children, and spent their days doing very little. 
We went back in August and for over a month we were working with the children, bringing them together and allowing them to meet their friends they were used to interact with at Vasilika camp. Many of them were not able or allowed to leave their houses on their own, which made meetings nearly impossible. We played with them and also arranged to involve the parents and bring the adults together, encouraging them to find public green spaces to gather and to keep the community alive. We also helped some families with their applications by connecting them to an NGO that provided legal work. 
Shortly after we left some of the families started to move to the countries they have been accepted to and currently there are only 2 families from the original camp still in Athens waiting for the approval.
It’s time to move on!
We are in the process of teaming up with another organization based in Athens. The idea is to build a children’s space, where they would have time to play and learn in a safe and nurturing  environment. We have a long term member there who is going to take care of the project on our behalf.
In addition to that, we are heading east to work with 250 Syrian families living on farm land near Izmir, Turkey.
There are many children in that area without education support, completely lost with nothing to do. The area is beautiful, surrounded by nature, which is great for children, but the fact that they are coming from war zone and for sure had to suffer situations that left them with traumas and stress, they don’t have the natural desire to explore and play. Our goal is to help them to get back to that place inside themselves and be able to restore their childhood. 



director, founder


Born in Brasil, Lele graduated in Fine Arts at UFMG in Belo Horizonte. While in college she became part of Casa das 5 Pedrinhas, traveling all over Brasil discovering and documenting the toys and games made by children. After graduating, she worked for 3 years for the government in slums and camps with children of communities that had lost their homes due to floods. She also set up playgroups in schools in Belo Horizonte and participated in a project called “Video-Letter” – an exchange of videos of children from different neighborhoods, cities and even countries documenting them making their own toys and playing games.
For two years she coordinated a project called “Oficina Video Escola”, where children from public and private schools could come to a local public TV channel and create their own show, related to what they were studying. Her last project in Brasil was “Undolasi – A Documentary of Children’s Culture” consisting of workshops and a documentary of the culture of play in a neighborhood in Belo Horizonte. Moving to New York, Lele opened playgroups in Manhattan and Brooklyn and created Let’s Playgroup, which she still runs.
In 2016 she created Childhood Rescue Project.







Peter Gabriel is a photographer who was born in Seoul, South Korea. He grew up there as well as in his parents native country Austria. After completing academic secondary education he went on to study medicine at the University of Vienna, until moving to New York in 1984.
Self taught at first, he studied photography at ICP and Parsons in NY and began assisting photographers before branching out on his own. One of his first and most defining assignments was photographing David Bowie. He went on to photograph mainly portraiture and subsequently still life while always following his interest in large format landscapes.









A Columbia University SIPA graduate, Sophie Barthes is a French-American film director and screenwriter. Sophie grew up in the Middle East, South America and France. Sophie’s directorial feature film debut, COLD SOULS staring Paul Giamatti & Emily Watson played in competition at the Sundance Film Festival. Her second feature, MADAME BOVARY with Mia Wasikowska was released in 2015 after premiering at Telluride and Toronto film Festivals. She also recently directed a segment of HOPPER STORIES, for the retrospective on Edward Hopper at the Grand Palais in Paris. She is a recipient of the Annenberg Foundation Film Fellowship.









Lesley Oseep is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and Fordham University School of Law. Currently she is a stay at home parent to her four young children. Prior to becoming a stay at home parent, Ms. Oseep was an Asistant District Attorney in Brooklyn, New York. Her many interests include animal welfare, cooking, Crossfit, and of course, children. Ms. Oseep is a member of the New York Bar.

Childhood Rescue Project is is a 501(c)(3) organization. For general inquiries please click here.