The Children of Typhoon Haiyan: Tales of Resiliency, Heroes and Recovery – Part 3

Anonymous_blog

 David Brickey Bloomer, Asia Regional Child Protection Advisor

Philippines

January 10, 2014

Part 3: The Child Friendly Space as a one-stop resource centre for prevention of child labour and exploitation

The child friendly space is so designed not only as a safe space for children to play and get support, but as a “one stop centre” for children and their families, parents and caregivers addressing a host of protection issues. People were coming into some communities and offering work for those less than 18 years of age in towns and communities outside of those affected by the typhoon. Although this might seem like a good option for some families that had completely lost their livelihoods, we used the child friendly space as a resource centre to raise awareness about risky migration, and the perils of child labour and exploitation that many children and adolescents unwittingly fall prey to.  

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A group of children gather in Tacloban after Typhoon Haiyan made landfall
Photo Credit: David Bloomer/Save the Children

Additionally, as it was difficult for everyone to access the child friendly spaces immediately, another important initiative was to train as many community volunteers in protecting children and psychosocial first aid as possible. This would allow children from their respective villages to receive support as we sort out the logistics of getting the child friendly spaces to them. 

Tacloban City itself was already known as an area with existing issues of child sexual exploitation. We were concerned in these early weeks that the impact of Typhoon Yolanda might exacerbate this situation and one of my first contacts in those early days was with the Women and Children’s Protection Desk of the Filipino National Police, who were female officers with special skills and training in addressing sexual and gender-based exploitation and abuse. 

A few reports had surfaced that underage girls were being offered as prostitutes, and anti-trafficking and prevention messaging on sexual and gender based violence were issues discussed with much urgency in the protection and gender based violence (GBV) clusters. To combat this problem, UNHCR and local partners had established surveillance systems at the airport and seaports of Tacloban and Ormoc.  For our own part, we highlighted the necessity of establishing safe spaces for adolescent girls and women as part of our community-based approach to protection and that communities needed to be particularly vigilant in monitoring and reporting any potential situation of trafficking or other forms of violence against girls. An additional element to the strategy was to effectively engage men and boys in prevention of sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls. 

Although there were immediate concerns that needed to be met, we were already beginning to think long term. From a protection perspective, this meant being more than service provider but strengthening the overall systems in the Philippines.  Early on in the response, I participated in some very basic capacity building sessions with Department of Social Welfare personnel from over 30 municipalities and linking them to affected communities. This also meant that as an organisation we did not fall prey to the “tarmac effect” or programming only in communities that were close to main urban areas. 

Towards the end of my time in Leyte, I travelled to Ormoc where we had a small team present. While the damage was not as bad, we discovered that some areas were perhaps even more impoverished and incredibly vulnerable. In some areas, out of school rates among adolescents was already high and many were working in seasonal agriculture. With much of the agricultural livelihood destroyed, adolescents were vulnerable to undertaking risky migration in search of work—the social tolerance and acceptance of this was palatable in the region. So, too, many young mothers migrate to Manila or Cebu in search of work—primarily as domestic help—leaving their children behind which can set up a situation of inappropriate care.  These were also issues of concern in eastern Leyte, and cognizant of this—and the fact that there is a small window of opportunity to address this—it was of paramount importance that awareness and other prevention work begin immediately. 

This child protection work cannot stand alone. A child who feels protected is one that is well both emotionally and physically. This means access to psychosocial first aid, education, food, water and shelter. As such, I wanted to ensure that in communities with child friendly spaces, schools would still be prioritised, and conversely that school curriculums provided psychosocial first aid and spread protection messages. Child friendly spaces should also have safe drinking water and toilet facilities, and children attending our sessions should not come in hungry.

All in all, it was an exhausting experience, both mentally and physically. But at the end of the day, we met our target of reaching over 100,000 beneficiaries in those early weeks, providing them with basic protection, temporary shelter, food and non-food items such as household and hygiene, education, water, sanitation, food security and livelihood rebuilding. 

I think there were many of us with our own moving stories of blood, sweat and tears, but as I left Leyte—surely a number of kilos lighter and having not stopped working for 30 days—I reminded myself of this resiliency and those poignant moments of at least being a part of helping to restore a bit of dignity and well-being to the lives of children.  

Unforgettable Evening after the Colorado Flood




Anonymous

Karen Colville, Education Specialist

Save the Children USA

September 27, 2013

 

There were many success stories that occurred this week during the Colorado Flood response, but I didn’t think anything could top the Family Fun Night event that we threw at the Greeley Recreation Center for the shelter victims. In less than 12 hours, Save the Children teamed up with the American Red Cross and coordinated a spectacular event for the families staying at the shelter. I am truly still in shock at the amount of excitement and momentum that we generated so quickly. Everyone was on board and focused on making this night one unforgettable evening.

 

The flurry of events that occurred rapidly in a just one day was a true testimony at what can be accomplished when we partner with other organizations for a common goal. Once receiving the “go ahead,” we were able to line up a team of 15 AmeriCorps volunteers to deploy and help out, enlist the Salvation Army to feed the families, create and print posters and flyers to distribute, and receive numerous donations from local organizations who believed in our cause. Bags of face paint, game prizes, bouncy castles – (yes there were two donated for the night) cotton candy and popcorn machines, and a friendship bracelets company were the featured headliners for the big night. What compelled us to want to create and throw a huge carnival type event in under 24 hours?

 

That’s easy to answer…it was because of the families we had worked with all week. We simply wanted to give them a night to laugh, to play, to rejuvenate their spirit… and to forget. To forget that they were sleeping in a large gym amongst strangers on cots and pillows that didn’t smell like home. To forget that for so many of them, they had no home to return too, nor anyone they knew locally to stay with. To forget, if only for a few hours, that this shelter, their temporary home, might soon close. Yes, an evening to forget – but also an evening to remember, celebrate and give thanks for family, friends and life.

 

The gym itself was a whirlwind of activity! We kicked it off by having all the families enter the gym and sit on the bleachers, and then in Olympic style fashion, ran their children, homemade torch and all, into the gym and complete a lap around a track. The energy and excitement was felt and shared (by all) as the families competed in a friendly relay race, played and jumped in bouncy houses, and then took turns playing a variety of carnival games we had created. The evening concluded with one of our staff volunteers playing the guitar and everyone, and I do mean everyone singing favorite children’s songs. It was truly a magical and beautiful evening. The family fun night that we made happen in less than 24 hours was pretty unbelievable and I honestly didn’t think anything could top it.

 

But believe it or not, the most memorable moment for me night wasn’t the relay race, where parents cheered on their kids and ran along with them, nor was it the bouncy castles that both children and adults enjoyed. Not watching the volunteer arts club from a local university who attended the event to create Paracord survival bracelets with the children or seeing all their smiling faces as they ran around covered with face paint and glitter. It wasn’t the amazing AmeriCorps volunteers happily spinning the cotton candy onto the sticks or singing and dancing as I lead everyone in the ‘Tooty- Ta’ song. The evening indeed was truly magical and filled with many beautiful and memorable moments. But for me, the one I will never forget occurred long after the Family Fun Night had ended. It was the moment when we gave flood victim, Tonie, a pack –n-play for her son, Josiah.

 

We met Tonie when we opened a Child-Friendly Space at the shelter. She had been staying there for 8 days along with her 4 year old daughter, 18 month son and was 6 months pregnant with her fourth child. She literally has lost everything and to make matters worse, just days before the flood, her husband was deported, leaving her to care for the children alone. I cannot even begin to imagine the heartache, loss and despair she must be feeling. Yet if you met Tonie, you would never know how hard things must be for her right now.

 

During the entire time I worked at the shelter, I never once saw her without a smile on her face and hope in her eyes. She exuded joy, and love everywhere she went and continued to be a bright light for all in the shelter, even amidst the devastation. Her excitement and enthusiasm was contagious and her love for friends, family and life could be felt from both her and her beautiful children. Her babies brought such joy into our staff life’s…we will never forget them. Josiah and Janie…vibrant, hilariously funny, a love for song and dance, they were always full of love and joy…just like their mother.

 

When we learned that she had been strapping her baby in a stroller to sleep at night and because he would sleep walk and she feared losing him, we acted quickly. There are few words to express what it meant to see the expression on her face. With tears running down her cheeks, much like the tears that are flowing from my own eyes as I type this…she expressed her gratitude for Josiah now having a safe place to sleep As she thanked us over and over again, I couldn’t help but think that it should be me thanking her. For teaching me that even in the most difficult of times to still believe in the goodness of others. That there can still be laughter, and that a smile goes along way. I am honored to have met her and her children, and can honestly say that Tonie’s story’ is the one moment I will never forget.

Responding to the Oklahoma Tornadoes







Tracy - headshot - June 2010 - croppedTracy Geoghegan, Save the Children Staff

Moore, Oklahoma

May 23, 2013


I’ve been here
since the day after the monster tornado devastated many parts of this city. Hundreds
of families are homeless and thousands are in need. I’ve been visiting the
shelters talking with parents and children who have lost everything.

“I feel like I just
came out of a daze and realized I’m homeless,” a mom named Kristi told me.
The tornado collapsed the roof to Kristi’s apartment building, and then it
poured the next day. Her family has lost everything. “So many things go
through your mind. You reach for a toothbrush and you don’t have it. You reach
for a comb and you don’t have it. You think, how am I going to pay the bills?
How am I going to get mail? There’s nothing left.”
Oklahoma_Tornado_Justin_Clemons_Getty_Images
Oklahoma Tornado Photo Credit: Justin Clemons/Getty Images for Save the Children

Kristi’s 3-year-old
daughter Peyten misses her stuffed rabbit. “I wish I could go home,” she
said.

“She doesn’t have
anything to play with,” says her mom.

Peyten’s 13-year-old brother
Jhaunel likes to play video games and go outside and play basketball. He can’t do
those things now because he lost his games and he doesn’t have a ball.

People here
are amazingly strong and positive despite all they’ve been through. I’ve seen
countless families whose homes were destroyed and who are facing futures full
of uncertainty. They say they’re just grateful to be alive. They don’t cry.
They rarely complain. But one thing I hear repeatedly from parents is that
their kids don’t have enough to do – they need activities to keep them busy and
active.

The Save the
Children team here has responded to every major disaster since Hurricane Katrina.
Most recently we have been helping families affected by Hurricane Sandy and the
horrific massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Our experts
know that what children need most after their lives have been upended is a
return to normalcy.

Today we’ll
set up our first “child-friendly space” in a shelter here. This will be an
oasis of calm and fun activities for the children. It’ll also give overstressed
parents a break so they can start putting their lives back together. Our staff
will use play activities to help the children heal their emotional wounds. When
children have been through a traumatic experience, we know it’s very important to
give them a way to express what’s inside them. It may be fear. It may be anger.
Every child is different, but they all need to play and laugh again in a safe
environment. This will be an important first step for the children of Moore,
and we are eager to provide this for every child in Moore who needs help on the
road to recovery.

Please support our work to help children and the community impacted by the tornado. Click here to donate online or text TWISTER to 20222 to donate $10 to help the response effort. Standard rates apply.

 

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Sandy Hook Elementary School Tragedy: Coming Together to Protect Children

Save the Children has worked to ensure the safety and well-being of children around the world for nearly 100 years. We work with children all over the world who have been dramatically affected by war, crisis and violence. We believe that every child has the right to a safe and vibrant childhood. We applaud President Obama’s efforts to curb gun violence in the United States, and we join him and others in advocating for tighter laws, particularly around the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips.

 

We recognize that this is a complex issue requiring a comprehensive approach. We are working with the Administration and Congress to increase access to mental health services and begin a national conversation about the glorification of violence in our culture. It is urgent we come together as a nation to prevent more tragedies like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.

Read Article

Balloon Dogs Aid Children’s Recovery

Amy richmond

Amy Richmond, Child Protection Specialist, Save the Children

Tokyo, Japan

Monday, April 11, 2011


I arrived in Japan more than a week ago to work with our Child Protection Team in the northeast of Japan. The team is working tirelessly to reach children who have lost everything in the tsunami. 

Our main concern is the physical safety of children and their well-being after experiencing such an event – with tens of thousands of children living in evacuation centers after the tsunami with no place to play our top priority is to give them a space to just be children. 

One of our immediate response interventions was setting up Child Friendly Spaces within the evacuation centers – offering children a safe place to play in order to continue to learn and develop after the disaster.

I visited one of our Child Friendly Spaces right outside Ishinomaki this week where the children were making balloon animals.

Two young girls had twisted their balloons into little dogs and shared these with me with such delight as they giggled out the word ‘dog,’ in English.  When I responded with a smile and nod signaling they had the word correct, we laughed as they repeated the word in song while their dogs did a little dance. 

It was a happier moment than the day before, when a young boy in our Child Friendly Space had drawn a picture of his pet, one of our Child Friendly Space volunteers asked him who he was drawing and he replied it was his dog but he didn’t know where he was. It was a reminder of the huge loss children had faced – but now we see children are beginning to reflect and deal with what they have gone through. 

It will be a long recovery. 

We hope to continuously engage children within the Child Friendly Spaces with activities held by trained volunteers that allow children to express themselves freely to help with this process.

Child Friendly Space activities also offer a routine and structure to the daily lives of children living in evacuation centers which helps create some sense of normalcy while their environment is constantly changing. 

This builds on the natural resilience of children at the same time helping them identify positive coping strategies through interacting with other children. 

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Learn more about our recovery response to the earthquake in Japan.

Help Us Respond to the Japan Earthquake Recovery. Please Donate Now.

 

Child Friendly Spaces – A Primer

Dhheadshot Dave Hartman, Save the Children, Internet Marketing and Communications Specialist

Westport, CT

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


If you've been following our social media updates or watching news coverage of the disasters in Japan you may have heard that we've set up "Child Friendly Spaces."

While the term is somewhat self-explanatory we thought it'd be nice to give you a quick crash course so you can understand precisely what kind of work we are doing in Japan, and in other disaster or conflict-affected areas for that matter.

CFS_003_85313 Yasu, age 10, playing in a Child Friendly Space inside an evacuation center in Sendai, Japan.
Photo by Jensen Walker/Getty Images for Save the Children

 While the spaces have slight variations depending on the country there are a few basic tenets that remain the same.

The spaces are always a clearly designated area in a shelter. In some cases this will be a classroom in a school or specific tent while in others it will simply be a roped-off section of a room. 

The areas are monitored by specially trained Save the Children staff and local volunteers who lead activities for the children. Activities are culturally relevant and something the children are familiar with, in Japan children have been making origami crafts while in other countries children may play tug-of-war or sing songs and dance. 

RO.KGZ.2010.09.206_82243Children form a train at a Save the Children Child Friendly Space in Osh, Kyrgyzstan.
Photo Credit: Rodrigo Ordonez

Our staff is trained to identify children who may be particularly vulnerable by the incident. The staff and volunteers try to ensure that children with disabilities, those who come from different ethnic or gender groups are involved in the activities and that everything is age and gender appropriate. Local volunteers are also continually trained throughout the time that we run CFS so that they are better able to help organize more interactive activities and help prepare children to return to school, once they reopen.

RO.KGZ.2010.09.183_80971A boy participates in a sack race at the Save the Children Child Friendly Space in Osh, Kyrgyzstan.
Photo Credit: Rodrigo Ordonez

As Mike Penrose, Save the Children Australia's Director of Emergency Response, explains Child Friendly Spaces have benefits for both parents and children.

"They enable parents to have time to register for emergency assistance and start to re-establish their lives while simultaneously providing children with a sense of normality and community when their lives are disrupted by disasters."

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Learn more about our recovery response to the earthquake in Japan.

Help Us Respond to the Japan Earthquake Recovery. Please Donate Now.

‘The Spirit of the People’ Still Strong in Post-Earthquake Haiti

Lee Nelson-Save the Children  


Lee Nelson, Save the Children country director



Port-au-Prince, Haiti

January 26, 2010

A little girl named Eliassaint, age 10, used to live in Plaine, Croix des Bouquets, a northern suburb of Port-au-Prince known for its rich history and culture. But the earthquake took both her home and her parents from her. She now resides in camp Cepem, Delmas 33, in Port-au-Prince.

The camp currently holds 400 families, as well as 38 children who have lost their parents. Eliassaint (pictured at right with another child in the camp) was rescued by her uncle.

Eliassaint: Save the Children“I was behind my house studying when the earthquake happened. My mother and father were inside and they died, so did my three cousins,” she said. 

“I do not have any brothers or sisters. My uncle looked after me and then he and my aunt brought me to this camp.”

Eliassaint’s story is all too common for many Haitian children. It is estimated that approximately 500,000 children now are unaccompanied, orphaned or left with one parent, as a direct result of the earthquake. 

The situation in Haiti, prior to the quakes, was already a precarious one for children. About 80 percent of the population lived on less than $2 per day, and one in four children was malnourished. 

There were huge problems with child trafficking and child education. However, this most recent blow is endangering the future of an entire generation of Haitian children. 

In the midst of this unprecedented calamity, two things have sustained the staff and given us hope for Haiti’s future. 

First, the spirit of the people has been remarkable. On the streets, where tens of thousands still sleep at night, and in hundreds of makeshift camps that have sprung up in clearings amid the rubble, there is still a sense of community where neighbors and strangers work together for survival.

Second, the scale and extent of the support received from Save the Children’s members around the world has been incredible. We are truly working together as a global organization with an amazingly dedicated team that have been willing to immediately act in aiding children in very vulnerable positions.

The heartfelt messages  of support, the highly qualified staff who report every day and the extraordinary amount of financial and media support has given me the sense of belonging to a family.

Child Friendly Space: Save the Children On the ground, Save the Children programs are rapidly scaling up, and every day we reach more and more children and their families. Already we have helped about 10,000 children, like Eliassaint, who now can play in safe spaces. None of this would have been possible without members’ critical assistance.

This is only the first step in a long road to recovery for Haiti. Save the Children has been working here for more than 32 years, and it is vital that humanitarian groups see this as a long-term effort.

In this initial relief stage, Save the Children will create even more Child Friendly Spaces to help children to recover from their trauma and provide their parents with time and resources for economic recovery.

Getting children back to school as quickly as possible will help return some semblance of normalcy to their shattered lives.

Many other challenges also remain, and the organization cannot do this alone. Disaster events can sharpen the focus on the true problems of a struggling country and provide unique opportunities to address fundamental problems in new and creative ways.

So this dispatch brings a message of thanks and a request for your continued support, guidance and vision to enable Save the Children to join in a common effort to help Haiti “build back better”.

Learn more about our emergency response to the earthquake in Haiti.

Help Us Respond to the Haiti Earthquake Emergency. Please Donate Now.

YOU CAN DONATE $10 TO THE HAITI EARTHQUAKE RELIEF FUND BY TEXTING “SAVE” to 20222 (US Only). Standard message rates  apply.

Save the Children Sets Up Child Friendly Spaces for Children like Angelo

Save the Children_002 

Filippo Ungaro, Save the Children, communications manager  


Makeshift Camp, Port-au-Prince, Haiti

January 19, 2010

Angelo, age 8, lost his home and all of belongings in the January 12 earthquake in Port-au-Prince. Today, he and his seven brothers and sisters are living with their mother in a crowded temporary encampment on the grounds of a church.  

Save the Children

The family survived with only the clothes on their backs. What little food they have they receive from friends. 

Angelo and his sister were just outside their house when the earthquake hit. 

“I was looking for my mum and I was really scared,” he says.  “Now we don’t even have a tent to sleep in. I don’t have anything, not even clothes.” 

Angelo, who would like to be a football player when he grows up, says he misses his home, his classmates and his school.

“I would like to go back home but I know that it’s impossible now. I’m not going to school anymore. It’s a shame because I like school,” he says. 

A third-grader, Angelo’s favorite class is grammar. Instead of being in class since the disaster, he says he spends his time playing with friends “even if I don’t have many here.” 

Save the Children is establishing a Child Friendly Space on the grounds of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Ruelle St. Cyr, Carrefour Ti-Four, so that children in the encampment where Angelo is staying have a supervised place to play.

Save the Children_001

Angelo’s mother, Maria Josette, said their house had been paid for but now they will have to start over.  

“The situation is not good for us,” she says. “I have nothing left.”

Photo credits: Antonio Bolfo/Getty Images

Help Us Respond to the Haiti Earthquake Emergency. Please Donate Now.

YOU CAN DONATE $10 TO THE HAITI EARTHQUAKE RELIEF FUND BY TEXTING “SAVE” to 20222 (US Only).