We’re building a new UNICEF.org.
As we swap out old for new, pages will be in transition. Thanks for your patience – please keep coming back to see the improvements.


Recovering from Ivan: Puppets, stories and songs help children cope

© UNICEF Grenada/ 2004
'Return to Happiness' helps bring normalcy back to children's lives

ST. DAVID’S PARISH, Grenada, 17 September 2004 – When Hurricane Ivan struck the island nation of Grenada, it left thousands of children homeless and in need of help. UNICEF and other UN agencies are helping…and their efforts involve more than getting relief supplies to those who need them.

On Monday, a unique psychosocial programme called ‘Return to Happiness’ (RTH) will begin in Grenada. RTH focuses on children who are presently living in shelters or who experienced serious distress from the hurricane. The RTH programme takes children through the process of psychological recovery following catastrophic events.

“We are ready to do what it takes to make sure that these children are protected and their rights to health and security are respected,” said UNICEF Representative for Barbados and Eastern Caribbean Jean Gough.

Puppets, stories and songs

Two UNICEF staff arrived in Grenada shortly after Ivan hit, in order to set up the RTH programme. The programme is for children from 6 to 14 years of age; the workshops continue for four weeks. At least 600 children will participate in the first round. Overall, UNICEF hopes to reach 10,000 children with this effort.

RTH uses puppets, a family of rag dolls, stories and songs to help children overcome their pain.

UNICEF Regional Advisor for emergencies in Latin America and the Caribbean Nidya Quiroz leading the RTH programme in Grenada. She says that children “have had terrible dreams and  nightmares” and  can’t sleep. Their fears surge up again when something reminds them of the howling winds.

“We want children to let out their emotions so they can understand them.” - UNICEF regional advisor Nidya Quiroz, on the ‘Return to Happiness’ programme

Some children have also showed signs of an inability to concentrate, or of memory problems.

Cyril Borris, who is 22 years old and lives in Grenada, has volunteered to work in the RTH programme. He wants to help traumatized children become whole again. “You may not see it on their faces but they are like trees without leaves,” said Borris.


© UNICEF/Donovan/2004
As part of the Return to Happiness effort, children write down their dreams or hopes for the future and place it on the 'Wall of Dreams' for others to see and read.
Letting emotions out

‘Return to Happiness’ was developed by UNICEF to help children externalize their emotions through educational games.  This in turn helps them cope with pain and loss. “We want children to let out their emotions so they can understand them,” Ms. Quiroz said. For example, the use of puppets can allow the children to express their feelings more easily and openly than if they were speaking for themselves.

Participating children share their experiences with their companions and with the facilitators. Most of the facilitators are local volunteers who receive special training; they are often older teenagers or young adults.

Another technique in the RTH programme is the ‘Dream Wall’, where children write down their thoughts on paper and put them on a wall for others to see and read. One child wrote the following: “I want to make Grenada what it was.” Another wrote they wanted “to bring back the smile on people’s faces.”
The ‘Return to Happiness’ concept was first developed in Mozambique during the 1992 civil war. Adaptable for various situations, it has been used in Ecuador with children of soldiers, in Colombia after the 1998 earthquake and in Nicaragua following Hurricane Mitch.



Related links

Supplies sent to Grenada after Hurricane Ivan

UN relief efforts in Grenada

UNICEF in Grenada

New enhanced search