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At a glance: Costa Rica

A ‘Return to Joy’ helps Costa Rican children overcome earthquake's effects

© UNICEF Costa Rica/2009
Edwin Loiza Herrera and Johanna Isabel Chacón, and their four children, got to a shelter right after the earthquake that struck Costa Rica on 8 January. The family is recovering with help from a UNICEF-supported programme.

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica, 21 January 2009 – UNICEF partnered with Procter & Gamble and the Youth Red Cross to ensure the basic hygiene needs of children living in shelters after the 6.2 magnitude earthquake that shook Costa Rica on 8 January.

P&G donated toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, shampoo, diapers and other products to help meet the needs of approximately 1,000 children in shelters. The donation was given to UNICEF, which gave the materials to the children through ‘Return to Joy’, a programme jointly implemented with the Youth Red Cross and the University of Costa Rica.

The Youth Red Cross distributed the materials in shelters. Members of the Youth Red Cross are between 16 and 20 years of age; this allowed them to better identify with the quake-affected children.

‘Return to Joy’

Return to Joy seeks to help children regain their emotional stability through games and other activities such as storytelling and puppet shows. Psychologists also visit with children in shelters to help them talk about their experiences and overcome their fears.

“At first I was scared because I couldn’t reach the rest of my family. It seemed like a dream,” said Jury, 17. “We finally met up here in the shelter. The aftershocks still scare me, but less now. We really appreciate all of the help that we have received, especially when they come and play with the children.”

Each Return to Joy volunteer receives special training and is accompanied by psychologists from both the private sector and the University of Costa Rica.

The programme also helps adolescents and young people become active in contributing to the recovery of the community.

“It is important to work with children in emergency situations, and to ensure that their basic needs are met and their emotional stability is restored. Children are the most affected by these types of situations,” explained UNICEF Representative in Costa Rica Seija Toro.

Reducing disaster's impact

Other donated items from P&G included batteries, soap, cleaning products and deodorant.

“We are proud to be part of these efforts to reduce the impact of this disaster," said the Manager of External Relations for P&G in Costa Rica, Alejandra Cobb. "By donating these products, Procter & Gamble seeks to improve the lives of children, contributing to the process of rebuilding their community.”

Commented Youth Red Cross Director Wilmer Saborio: “For us, it is a very gratifying experience being able to help children that have been exposed to these circumstances.”



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