Education and psychosocial support to the most vulnerable children

Faris-headshot Faris Kasim, Pakistan Senior Communications Coordinator, Save the Children

Islamabad, Pakistan

Friday, January 28, 2011


Six months since the floods struck Pakistan, Save the Children’s relief work has reached the most remote and distant corners of the affected areas. From the cold, mountainous hamlets of northern Swat to the devastated plains of Dadu in Sindh, our teams are working diligently to assist people across the length and breadth of the world’s sixth most populous country. More than 2.6 million men, women and children have benefitted since August 2010 from our work. Last week, I had the opportunity to travel to one of the worst affected places in Pakistan, district Rajanpur in south Punjab.

Rajanpur is a narrow, 20 kilometers wide strip of land sandwiched between the Indus River on the East and the Sulaiman Mountain range on the West. Monsoon floods occur almost every year in Rajanpur, but in 2010 the scale and impact was much more severe. The local people were not prepared at all. In August last year, floods struck the district from both sides – banks of the Indus bursting on the east and hill torrents from the west – inundating 33 out of the 44 union councils in the district.

Overnight, a vast majority of the population in Rajanpur found themselves engulfed on all sides by an unending expanse of water, five to ten feet high. Currently, Save the Children is the only organization providing wide scale humanitarian assistance in Rajanpur. In an area called Bosangang, Save the Children’s mobile health teams have walked for several kilometers in knee deep floodwaters to provide people with basic healthcare services. I was visiting temporary schools built in places where public schools were completely destroyed.

As the ‘Psychological Assessment’ of flood affected children, conducted by Save the Children reveals, I realized how many students were facing several child protection issues, especially behavioral and psychological problems. Of all the children I met during the visit, I distinctly remember 9-year-old Jamshed at the government boys’ primary school in village Shahnawaz. Like other children in the school, he was busy writing Urdu from the blackboard but unlike others he seemed oblivious when one student began reciting a poem in front of the class. I walked towards him and asked him his name. I received no response. I foolishly asked louder and learned the reason for his indifference from the teacher.

J at school
Jamshed
, along with two older siblings, is deaf. His father is a poor farmer who cannot afford special education for his children. Jamshed has been attending the primary school for two years and even without any hearing abilities, has learned how to write alphabets, grasp the meaning of basic words and make simple sentences.

The floods had submerged his village in six feet of water and displaced the people two kilometers away to a higher and safer ground. Jamshed stayed on this small patch of dry land with his family for over forty days, cut off from the rest of the world. With nowhere else to go, his family depended on helicopters and boats to provide food and drinking water. After the floodwater receded, Jamshed’s home suffered minor damages however the classrooms of his school were destroyed, furniture ruined and the teachers unable to reach the school due to destruction of the roads.

Jamshed’s cousin was incidentally near the school and helped me communicate with him using sign language. I was surprised to learn that Jamshed is a natural artist; he had made a television, cell-phone, bull cart and books from clay while his notebook was full of beautiful rural landscapes. He wishes to study till 12th grade and become an artist when he grows up. However, his cousin mentioned that since the floods Jamshed has become more shy and expressionless. He hesitates going to the nearby town of Kotla for errands with his father and is terrified whenever he hears about rain. Save the Children’s Child Protection team has also set up a Child Friendly Space in the vicinity of the school in village Shahnawaz. Specific psychosocial support is being provided to flood affected children at the CFS and identified child protection cases are also referred to service providers in the district.

Jamshed was very pleased to show me the handmade models of electronic items he had made. Like any other 9-year-old, he smiled at every question I asked, interpreted by his cousin and replied fervently with calculated hand gestures. J holding art

I thought about all the hard work Save the Children has done in Rajanpur since the floods: dispensing huge amounts of aid, distributing tons of relief goods and putting in thousands of man hours. We work in areas that have been neglected for decades. Education is rare and seldom do families escape the harsh cycle of poverty and deprivation. Our effort to educate one such poor child to gain even primary level education makes it all worthwhile. Like Jamshed’s cousin said, ‘If education is promoted here, there is still hope for children like Jamshed.’

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Learn more about our emergency response to the flooding in Pakistan 

 Help Us Respond to the Pakistan Flood Emergency. Please Donate Now.

Recycling for Change in Haiti’s Camps

RSZDCROPMichele062007_Adv #54 Michele Beauvoir Chandler, Save the Children Haiti, deputy director of human resources 

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

September 7, 2010


Youth living in camps in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, held an art expo last Friday, September 3.  This was no ordinary art show – these children were demonstrating how they can take what others view as waste and not only turn it into art, but also turn it into a livelihood.

IMG_4200 Maxon Aubourg, 15, demonstrated the skills he learned through creating a handbag out of recycled candy wrappers from the Archachon 34 camp.  “This can help us in the future because we can show how waste can be used,” says Maxon.

After thorough cleaning, children participating in Save the Children’s Water, Sanitiation and Hygiene Promotion programs take waste materials like plastic bags and candy wrappers and weave them into handbags, picture frames and bracelets. Additionally, they create garbage cans out of plastic bottles that are placed throughout the camp to promote more hygienic living conditions.

IMG_4199 Nicolas Louis, 17,  presents the garbage cans he created for the Ste. Therese camp

At the expo on Friday, children and youth displayed their items for sale, engaged in workshops about their rights and learned how to treat water so that it is safe to drink.

IMG_4214 Youth from three Port-au-Prince camps participate in activities including songs that teach them about their rights

Items were available for sale at the Save the Children Port-au-Prince office, with the proceeds going towards the programs so the youth could continue to create their art and learn innovative ways of waste management.


IMG_4190 The variety of items on sale included handbags, placemats, visors, sandals and picture frames

“One of the most incredible results of this program has been the way it has impacted entire camp communities,” says Maude Marie Sanon, a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Coordinator with Save the Children in Haiti.  “Save the Children no longer provides garbage cans – the camps are creating them for themselves out of recycled materials.”

IMG_4196

Maude proudly displays the items made by children living in three of Port-au-Prince’s camps

Using Art Education and Therapy to Help Preschoolers in Mozambique Fight the Effects of HIV/AIDS

Veronica Photo Veronica

Guemulene Village, Gaza District, Mozambique

June 15, 2010

In
the rural areas of Mozambique where Save the Children works, almost all
children have been affected by the AIDS crisis, losing family members
and teachers to the disease.   

Save the Children, through funding from the Charles Engelhard Foundation and the 2007 Idol Gives Back
TV fundraising event, began piloting an innovative program using visual
arts to help give children a voice to their emotions about difficult
events in their every day lives in rural Mozambican preschools or
“escolinhas” in 2008.

As part of the “Healing and Education through Art” or HEART program, preschool teachers participated
in three training sessions. Monica, a
preschool teacher, shares her thoughts about how the training has helped improve her work with children:

“Children need to feel free to express whatever happens to them – good or bad.  But I cannot force them to express their feelings or thoughts.  Still, I am surprised at how much young children remember what they see and hear, but do not have the language to express themselves. 

We created a space at our preschools with art activities for children. Through art, children can finally express themselves and things they remember seeing and hearing.

Let me tell you about a little girl in our preschool named Gracindabel. When she first arrived at school, she would not speak or participate in activities with other classmates. She would often urinate in the classroom. During art activities, she would break her pencil or start drawing violently on her paper.  

My training had taught me to recognize the signs of a child who needs special attention. I was patient with Gracindabel, and over time, during the art activities, I noticed that she started to talk more with her classmates, participate in group work, and stopped going to the bathroom in the classroom. 

One day, she made a doll out of clay with one arm. She then went on to tell me a detailed imaginary story about a girl whose arm was bitten off by the crocodile that lives in the river behind her home. This was such a remarkable change from a child who started out afraid to speak or participate in class!

Before the teacher trainings, when I saw a child like Gracindabel who didn’t want to participate, talk or play, I would just let that child be and not do anything. Now, I have learned ways to find out what’s wrong with the child, helping that child to try to resolve her problems. I like my job so much now and have a lot of fun with the children.”

Using Art Education and Therapy to Help Preschoolers in Mozambique Fight the Effects of HIV/AIDS: Part Two


Monica photo (2) Monica

Chizavanae Village, Gaza District, Mozambique

June 15, 2010

In
the rural areas of Mozambique where Save the Children works, almost all
children have been affected by the AIDS crisis, losing family members
and teachers to the disease.   

Save the Children, through funding from the Charles Engelhard Foundation and the 2007 Idol Gives Back
TV fundraising event, began piloting an innovative program using visual
arts to help give children a voice to their emotions about difficult
events in their every day lives in rural Mozambican preschools or
“escolinhas” in 2008.

As part of the “Healing and Education through Art” or HEART program, preschool teachers participated
in three training sessions. Monica, a
preschool teacher, shares her thoughts about how the training has helped improve her work with children:

“Through the training, I learned how to listen to what children say,
and how to ask questions about what they draw or paint. I learn a lot
from doing this.

For instance, one day this past March during art class, one of my
students, Jameson, decided to draw what he had done the previous
weekend.  He began to draw a cross and flowers, which led to a
discussion among his classmates.  I heard him tell the other children
that his mother had died that weekend and his drawing showed where he
had spent his Saturday.  While talking, Jameson added sand on his
drawing to make the shape of a grave.  And, then, one of his classmates
picked a flower to place on top of the grave as a memorial. 

My training also taught me that it is okay to allow children like
Jameson to express sad things in their life and it’s not always bad to
draw about sad things.”