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.

Witnessing Decimated Sendai

Iwoolverton Ian Woolverton, Save the Children Media Manager

Sendai, Japan

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


The clock in the vehicle says it's 5:44am, as we pass through a police road block approximately 25 miles from Sendai, the city of more than one million people affected by the tsunami and earthquake.

Even though the roads were empty, it took ten hours to drive this far north from Toyko.

We're in a two vehicle convoy stuffed to the gills with basic essentials such as water, food and toilet paper as well as one van brimming with enough gear to set up a child friendly space.

As the sun starts its slow rise, I make out mountainous silhouettes on either side of the road. The outside temperature is close to freezing and there is thick grey fog. Apart from the cold it is a beautiful place.

I wonder though what unsettling sites await us in the coastal areas of Sendai?

Fact is this is my first experience of a disaster in a developed country, and I can't quiet get to grips with the fact that there is mass devastation ahead.

I'm even more perplexed as we pull into the city. Apart from a large group of Japanese engineers in dark blue uniforms and white hard hats congregated in one ultra-modern office block, there are no clues that a major earthquake occurred here last week.

It's not until you leave the city limits and head north-east that the extent of the tsunami damage, triggered by the earthquake, becomes clear.

Entire fields are full of debris including corrugated iron, furniture, toys, up-turned cars as well as a bewildering array of bits and pieces. It's possible too that human bodies are buried somewhere beneath the rubble.

SENDAI_012_85101Save the Children team leader Stephen McDonald surveys the aftermath of the the earthquake triggered tsunami which devastated Sendai, Japan.
(Photo by Jensen Walker/ Getty Images for Save the Children)
 

The scenes of devastation here remind me of what I witnessed all over Aceh Province following the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia.

It's horrible to think that children might have been killed in the tsunami, or that some of them might have become separated from their families during the earthquake and disaster.

Over the coming weeks and months in Japan, Save the Children will provide psycho-social support to children in the form of child friendly spaces.

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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.