As I arrived at the resort hotel in Western Samar, I was greeted by smiles of young people barely older than the children we were training them to serve. These youth were ecstatic to stay in the beautiful hotel, swim in the pool and sleep in real beds after living in tents for months. You see they were from Eastern Samar where Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) swept away whole villages. After serving as crew leaders during the Quinapondan child trauma camp they were getting a well deserved treat as well as training to prepare them for dozens of camps over the next few months.
I was impressed at how eager they were to absorb the material, as I taught them about critical incident stress, PTSD, child protection and how to care for their own emotional and spiritual health as well as their teammates. They knew just how important it was and listened as through their very lives depended on it. (And they just might) Since we have now completed two OperationSAFE camps in the Philippines; Zamboanga and Quinapondan, the veterans of those camps have now become the trainers passing along songs, crafts, games and Bible stories to those who will lead the children next.
After long days of training, they stayed on to translate “Pete’s Adventure” into their local Warai dialect so that the children in the next camps will be able to understand the story even better. There are six towns in Eastern Samar where the child trauma camps will be held; Quinapondan, Balangkayan, Hernani, Giporlos, Balangiga and Lawa-an. Once the initial camps arecompleted, local teams will then conduct smaller camps in the barangay (communities) surrounding these centers.
As we finished the week of training we spent time talking through with each person what they had experienced during the disaster. For many of them it was difficult both to talk about the terrible things that they saw and also to listen to the stories of others, but through it they were able to share their burden, find that they are not alone, and pray for one another.