At a glance: Philippines

Young campers find healing after Typhoon Pepeng in the Philippines

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Philippines/2010/Palasi
The children of Sto Nino village are welcomed at the resiliency camp by Farida (right) from the Sunflower Children's Centre in La Trinidad, the Philippines.

By Silje Vik Pedersen

LA TRINIDAD, Philippines, 23 February 2010 – Harry, 10, and 84 other children from Sto Nino Elementary and Pre-school recently took part in a two-day resiliency camp at Benguet State University here. The camp was organized by the Sunflower Children's Centre, a long-time UNICEF partner.

Sto Nino, the children's home village, was devastated by landslides following Typhoon Pepeng last October. Nearly all children and adolescents who have experienced such a catastrophe will have flashbacks or nightmares, and many will withdraw from – or find it difficult to concentrate on – their normal activities. The resiliency camp was designed to help the children deal with their distress and encourage them to have fun.

"I'm so excited. I'm so excited. I'm so excited," said Harry, while waiting in his dormitory room for the first day of activities to start. Father Geraldo Costa, the founder of the Sunflower Children's Centre, had to remind him that it was still only 3 a.m. and that he had to wait for another three hours before he could get up.

When morning finally arrived, two colourful tents had been set up on a large field where Harry and the other children could play and explore.

Time for play

"The magic box will be with you all through the camp. It is a resiliency box and you can decorate it just the way you want," explained CJ, a camp volunteer, to his group of fourth graders. "After each activity, you will write a message to yourself to put in the box, and at the end of the camp you can take the box home with you so you can read the messages anytime you like."

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Philippines/2010/Palasi
At the end of the resliency camp, the children from Sto Nino village write messages of hope for the future and attached them to helium balloons.

The children eagerly decorated their boxes with glitter and coloured paper. The children were also encouraged to draw their faces on paper plates.

"Children need to know it is alright for them to feel good about themselves and their features," CJ explained. "We ask them which positive words or traits they see in themselves and why they think those traits are important."

There was also time set aside for play. The children were free to run around and chase each other, and laughter soon filled the air.

"The mood is very different from when we last met these children," said Father Costa. "Now they are laughing and their drawings are full of sunshine and beautiful colours. Last time we met them, they were drawing rain and dark clouds... It is fantastic to see how this has changed."

Together, they are strong

In another activity, the children passed around a string of yarn. Each child held onto a piece of it while speaking about a person to whom he or she can turn for help.

"My cousin Joella helps me the most," said Gina, 11, when CJ passed her the yarn. "She is always there when I need help with my assignments." Theodore, 11, explained that he would ask for help from Jasper: "He is an old man who lives in our village, and if something happens, he can inform the authorities."

In the end, the yarn had spun a web between them. "It is so beautiful," said one of the campers. "It is like a star." The children understood the message: By working together and supporting each other, they would be strong enough to weather any storm.


 

 

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