Let them play
By Rosan Aliya Agbon
Kids for Peace is a youth-run, youth member NGO, started with children who wanted to advocate for peace in conflict affected areas of Mindanao. Since they have grown, they developed a capacity in psycho-social support to other children and young people affected by conflict and natural disasters.
Recently they applied for the San Marino-Alexander Bodini foundation children's awards which honors child-led organizations that have successfully and meaningfully contributed to creating a world fit for children. They were successful in being one of the awardees for 2012. They are now using part of the funds to run a psycho-social camp for the children affected by Tropical Storm Sendong in Cagayan de Oro City, Mindanao.
This is the how it is every time we drive away after our psychosocial sessions in Balulang Elementary School in Cagayan de Oro in Northern Mindanao, Philippines. We started there as strangers but now, it has become our second home and the chidren have become much like our sisters and brothers.
We, at the Kids for Peace Foundation Inc. (KIDS), were worried at first because we were aware of the seriousness of the damage caused by Tropical Storm Washi (local name: Sendong). Thousands of lives lost or missing within 24 hours of the impact was not an easy information to digest. During our assessment on December 26, 2011, we became one of many firsthand witnesses to aftermath of the disaster. It was beyond belief. Houses destroyed to ground zero, evacuation centers packed with the survivors, water supply ran out and suicides started to become an option.
We saw children and they stared back at us. We saw some lining up for food, some playing. We asked some of them at the Kauswagan Elementary School and Tibasak to draw about anything they wanted to. We waited for them to finish their game and then they grapped the crayons and sheets of paper. It was important for us to know how they were feeling at that time as our way of thinking through how can help them with psychosocial support.
We knew what we were in for. We were not from the place and some of us were not conversant in their language. It also meant we had to temporarily uproot ourselves. But there was no doubt about it, we will help. It was the right thing to do. Our hearts will speak for us and we knew the children will understand this language.
Fast forward January, we were in the midst of the children-survivors who had gone back to school. We did games, storytelling, theater, claywork, breathing exercises, drawings and other creative forms. Behind these light and fun sessions were serious discussions among us on how we will design our psychosocial support for these children. They’ve had more than their enough share of fear and pain so this work was serious work for us. We always kept in mind that children are children, and they are in their element when you let them play.
In every project, my belief in the powers of children increases. What happened in Balulang Elementary School is another treasure that I will definitely keep forever. I always tell people to never underestimate the innate power of children - they just might surprise you. They find beauty and fun in the darkest of situations. Let them be. Let them play. They have been our sinag.