World Relief Indonesia has been implementing a psychosocial support project to serve asylum seekers/refugees in a detention center in Bali. In 2013, there were at least 120 asylum seekers from various countries such as Afghanistan, Iran, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Turkey being detained there. The definition ofasylum seeker applies to all people fleeing persecution in their country, adults and children. Children are one of the most vulnerable groups of asylum seekers. They are subject to multiple, serious stressors. These include dealing with the behavioral and psychological distress in adults, dislocation from protective social groups and structures, witnessing violence and self-harm, and separation from important relational attachments. These stressors have incredible negative impacts such as: depression, stress-related medical conditions, and delayed growth and development. They can also manifest themselves in violence.
Three days of training by Jonathan and Rie Wilson on October 2013 has improved the capacity of World Relief Indonesia’s Refugee Team in providing psychosocial support for the asylum seeker children. We were equipped to run the five-day camp in the detention center where we have been serving these children by providing opportunities for education, self-expression, and play.
The parents of these twenty-three children commented that they had never seen their children so happy ever since they were detained.
Due to the regulations, facility and the various cultural backgrounds in the detention center, World Relief had to make a few adaptations to the original format. But the team of seven staff and volunteers managed to run the camp without any significant difficulty on the third week of December 2013. The impact, thankfully, was encouraging and heartwarming. The parents of these twenty-three children commented that they had never seen their children so happy ever since they were detained. The team also witnessed the children’s positive behavioral changes after the camp ended.
The following story was written by one of the staff who took part in the OpSAFE camp:
Omar* is such an adorable 5 year old boy from Iran. His chubby face is cutely framed with his light blue framed eyeglasses that he has been wearing for a couple of years. Although he is big for his age, he is the gentlest and the most polite boy in the detention center. Omar and his family–father, mother, a twin sister with cerebral palsy, uncle and aunty, have been in the detention center for over 3 months now, and they will still be detained until further notice. They are trying to get refugee status so that they could be resettled in Australia.
When I first met Omar, he was so shy that he did not even mention his name. He was hiding himself behind his father. I could tell that he was curious about me and other World Relief staff, as he kept on peeping at us and trying to hold his smile when I smiled at him. From then on, every time I approached him, if his parents were not around, he would retreat to his room. Omar and I never had a moment of talking or playing together like the other kids in the detention center until December 2013.
After getting trained to run 5 days activity of “Child Trauma Healing Intervention” on October 2013, the staff team and I were excited to implement what we had learnt. We were really encouraged in providing emotional care to children in the detention center who are traumatized by the violence in their home country, the rough journey and transition, as well as the limiting and, often time, harsh environment in the detention center. I was in charge of a group leader in which Omar was a part of.
During the first two days, Omar would not want to join the group if his father was not there with him. He would run out of the class or the activity to his room looking for his father when he lost sight of him. Although I encouraged him to stay with his friends in the classroom, he would politely say that he needed to look for his father. That was the sign that he did not yet have the trust in his friends and me as crew leader, and that was something that I was ready to handle because it was mentioned on the training. Getting the children’s trust is something we would like to achieve in order to be able to provide them emotional care.
On the third day of the activity, I was surprised to see that Omar would come out of his room without his father when I called him out. He also grabbed my hand when we walk together to the classroom, for the very first time. When his father had to attend an interview with UNHCR, he stayed calmly in the class throughout the day. I was so surprised as much as I was so grateful about it.
What we taught during the five days activity: You are not Alone! Everyone is Important! Follow and Believe! Be Strong and Courageous! and You are Loved! seemed to impress the children’s heart. We prayed together, played and ate together and the kids have grown their trust for us. We are thankful to be able to improve our capacity to love and help the children in the detention center.
*For security reasons, the name of the child has been changed.
IN APRIL AND MAY WE ARE GOING TO HELP 1000 CHILDREN RECOVER FROM TRAUMA IN THE PHILIPPINES!
Recovering from disaster is hard enough for adults, can you imagine what it can feel like for a child? Research shows that untreated childhood trauma leads to a higher risk of social, neuropsychiatric and other medical problems. Yet most of the children affected by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) have no access to psychological care. Without care, a whole generation is in danger or being lost to depression, PTSD, teenage pregnancy, adolescent drug abuse, school failure, victimization, anti-social behaviour and other long-term effects of trauma.
BUT WE ARE GOING TO DO SOMETHING TO HELP!
Over the next two months we are going to hold OperationSAFE camps in six towns in the typhoon affected region of Samar. Each camp will serve around 150-180 children who went through Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). Through the camp they will receive primary emotional first-aid and screening for more severe problems. These will be just the beginning as afterwards smaller camps will be held in barangays (villages) around each town.
April 1-5 Balangkayan
April 21-25 Hernani
April 28- May 2nd Lawa’an
May 6-10 Balangiga
May 20-24 Giporlos
May 27-31 Quinapondan
WHAT WE NEED NOW IS FOR YOU TO BE INVOLVED!
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.
I began to feel the shivers inside me as I started to picture in my mind how I will be able to deliver “Pete’s Adventure” with his friends, using Pilipino language to relate to 200 children and crew leaders who are mostly using the Visayan (Waray) dialect. In the two weeks prior to our departure, I was really struggling inside me on whether to accept the task and was praying that somebody else will be assigned to be in charge. I then prayed for wisdom and the courage and creativity as I started to review the modules, storyboards, and translation of Pete’s story in Tagalog, one story, one theme, one day at a time.
The storyline and translations seemed to be simple enough to be readily understood but what kept me apprehensive during the pre-departure period was the fact that I will be facing grades 1 and 2 children who had suffered trauma during typhoon Yolanda and the “fear” of the unexpected when we start camp in Quinapondan, Eastern Samar. We then continued to pray and seek God’s wisdom for organizing ourselves, packaging of our baggages, things we need to bring as emergency aids (given that there are still no electricity, with possible tents as our resting areas, transport concerns, excess baggages, and completion of the Op SAFE materials that we need to bring with us). We continued to pray for a secured place to stay and that the generator that was bought by PCMN will be the source of our power supply. Three days prior to departure, we were informed that we will be residing in the newly rented PCMN Mission house and that electrical supply become operational once again in the municipality! Halleluliah, and Praise be to Our Lord Jesus Christ for His faithfulness in answering our prayers….
February 4 Tuesday (Day 1 Camp)
My prayer….“Dear Lord, please help me to remember the storyline of Pete, translate the words correctly, coordinate the movement of cards and get the attention of the children and let them appreciate Pete’s adventure.” I then remembered and reflected on the theme of the day ….”You are not alone….FEAR NOT”. Then the jitters inside left me as I personally noticed that I was actually enjoying the time with the children when I told the story of Pete. God has really brought out of me the penguin walk, the penguin grimace, the penguin’s sad face, and a lot more of other movements that captured the attention of the kids. I was so relieved and happy to see them smiling, participating, and interacting with me throughout the session. It was being noted that there was one child who was affected by Pete’s story of separation from his parents. The teacher reported that she became so sad and teary eyed as she remembered the loss of her father during a recent flashflood while he was fishing for food in the river. She was then monitored as she moved through the different stations and was referred to Ms Wendy. I also noted the crew leaders and the assistant station leader (teacher-in charge) was also listening attentively….Thank you Jesus for day 1.
February 5 Wednesday (Day 2 Camp)
As we started Day 2 of the camp, we noted the excitement from the children’s faces as they walked the streets towards the school premises. It was even more challenging for me for I have to learn how to present 4 of Pete’s friends in the scenario. I had to project the voice of a big walrus, 3 other penguins, and then to a baby seal needs a little bit of creativity to capture the interest of the children. The day’s theme was “Everybody is important….FEAR NOT.” I remember how the children were able to recall the name of Pete’s friends that day and describing their character. For me, it was an indicator of their attention span and interest and how they are doing in terms of their participation in the station’s activity. “Thank you dear Father God for sustaining me through the 5 batches of children for the day.”
February 6 Thursday (Day 3 Camp)
As I was reviewing and preparing for day 3 character (Aurora) to be introduced as another friend of Pete, I faced the most difficult part when Aurora (who was a big old whale) will have to sing some lines as she swims towards Pete and his friends. My initial reaction was….oh no, now I have to sing!! Haayyy……this one is difficult as we tried to find a song that would fit Aurora’s line (in Tagalog). I prayed hard before I slept that night for God to provide me with the right notes and tune for the lines. I woke up early and reviewed the module on Aurora’s story and started to hum some notes. Lo and behold, God’s wisdom and faithfulness has allowed and provided me with the “song of Aurora” which I introduced to the children and the crew. “Sundin ang iyong puso (follow your heart)…sundin ang iyong puso (follow your heart)….sundin at maniwala ka (follow and believe), ” the song reflected the theme of the day which was “Follow and believe….FEAR NOT.” It was easy for the children to learn the song and they were even singing it as they were moving to the other stations. This was another signal that they are having fun and learning at the same time. God’s love was already felt inside their hearts as they were singing Aurora’s song. Praise God our Lord Jesus Christ for the love and music in our hearts!
February 7 Friday (Day 4 Camp)
Day 4 was another challenge for the OpSAFE team as we were being informed that it will be the last day of the camp. For me, my thoughts were, how can I finish the 2 remaining adventure stories and other activities in 3 hours. I prayed hard for God’s guidance to keep me focused so that I will not lose on time. I was able to finish the first batch on time but during the second batch, I was being called for an emergency with one teacher who was not feeling well. I immediately notified Dr Wendy that I need to leave the station to attend to the sick teacher. I was later on informed by Dr Wendy that my assistant station leader Ms Norma (teacher assigned in the room) took over the story telling session in Waray. I was so glad and happy to receive the news as Dr Wendy was describing to me how the teacher was relating the stories to the children the same way that I had been moving around and depicting the various characters in the storyboard. We were all happy at how Ms Norma handled the session that we both agreed to do it together on the last batch. We also noted that rain started to fall and so it was decided that the raincoats will already be distributed to the children. During the last batch of children, the rain was falling hard and the wind became stronger which actually distracted (once again) the attention of the children. I saw all them turn their heads all at the same time staring at the windows and very quiet. I then told them that we will pray together (me in Tagalog and Ms Norma translating it in Waray). As we ended the prayer, the children felt better and waited for the next activity. As the children wore their individual raincoats, they were so happy and excited. We were informed by Ms Norma that this was the first time ever that these children each receive a raincoat that they can use. The children were smiling and singing as they started to exit. The joy and gladness can be observed in their smiles and how they expressed themselves to most of us especially their crew leaders.
“Nais ko pong ipahayag ang kabutihan ng Pangainoong Hesus sa akin sa mga nangyaring himala at masasayang oras na ipinagkaloob ng ating Panginoon Hesus upang maabot, magamot, at mabigyan katuwaan ang mga bata at mga iba pang kapatiran na dumanas ng hirap hindi lamang sa pisikal kundi pati sa emosyonal na aspeto ng kanilang mga buhay matapos ang pagsalanta ng bagyong Yolanda. Ang Kanyang katapatan at mga kaloob na kakayahan ay tunay kong pinasasalamatan dahil kung sa aking sariling lakas at dunong ay hindi ko kayang gampanan ang itinakdang Niyang gampanin para sa akin na makapagkwento sa grade 1 and 2 students ng paaralan. Alam ko na mula pa sa umpisa ay kinakabahan na ako sa dahilan na ang bahaging ito [Adventure Station] ay hindi madali at hindi biro lalu na sa pagpapadaloy ng kwento ni Pete. Salamat sa ipinagkaloob ng Panginoon Hesus sa pamamagitan ng Banal na Espiritu na patuloy na gumagabay sa bawat isa sa amin at nagbigay ng lakas ng loob, karunungan, at kakayahan upang maganap ang maayos at nakatutuwang pakikipag-usap at pagkuwento sa mga bata. Patuloy kong pinanghahawakan ang Kanyang mga pangako sa Jeremiah 29:11 at sa Filipos 4:4-9. Maibalik nawa ang papuri at luwalhati sa Kanyang dakilang Pangalan.”