Reflection of Operation Safe Camp- Zamboanga

Roel S. de los Reyes

Aurora teaches "Follow and Believe"

Operation Safe is based upon the psychological principles of crisis intervention specially facilitating an individual’s restoration to adaptive functioning or referring that individual to a higher level of care. This statement has been translated to us during the Operation Safe Training conducted by Jonathan and Rie Wilson of Operation Safe CRASH-Japan. Personally, I am very eager to learn and “digest” all those that the lecturers have given/handed to us. But I am more at ease with the story telling as this is a major part of the technique for children so that the children could identify with the characters in the story and feel safer relating to their stories, fears and concerns through the imaginary characters.

As I volunteered to be part of the team in going to Zamboanga, one major problem I encountered is how am I going to translate the story of Pete’s Adventure in such a way that the children could understand and relate their own stories to the characters and feel more safer in relation to what they have experienced and encountered particularly that they have been affected during the September, 2013 war or armed conflict that happened in their very own place!

OpSAFE Adventure Station

Translating Pete’s Adventure in Filipino language has been very difficult since terminologies must accurately fit with the kind of words or messages  the story conveys. Nights after nights, I exerted efforts so that Zamboanga children could really understand and make use of the characters as a springboard of psychological restoration to adaptive functioning.  Resiliency among Filipino children are inherent  and they have their own ways of adapting though it takes time and need certain technique/strategy to assist and surface the psychological trauma they have experienced. Every night I kept reading the Filipino translation I  made and I kept on identifying certain appropriate terms to fit the exact terms or words.  At the last day of the week that I kept on reading and re reading and changing and re-changing the words, I just prayed!


In Mampang Elementary School where we are going to conduct the Operation Safe Camp, I feel overwhelmed as there are so many children! There are some mothers with their children and keep on asking if her child be included even if her child is not included in the pre-registration.  At first, we told them that the target age bracket is 7 to 12 years old. At that moment, the mother narrated that her son must be included in the Operation Safe Camp as he also has witnessed the havoc that the war brought.  She pleaded that her son have been traumatized as her son manifested behavior  that have been not normal like bedwetting, body shaking every time he sees a  man who look like a military personnel or wearing military uniforms, unshaven man, etc. and becomes aloof. My heart goes to this little boy!   Dr. Jojie Ilagan and I heard the story from the mother and I feel so burdened that at the time the team calls for an immediate team response/action for those unlisted children as they are not included in the age bracket we have targeted.  And have come up with a decision to include  these children and we know during that first day that we have exceeded our target number of 150 children to 180 children!

The little ones needed care too

But as we walked towards the Pete’s Adventure assigned room to prepare our materials, I requested one of my team mate, Teacher Mho to pray for me and for the team.

Pete’s Adventure station is my assignment.  Together with my assistant station leader and some volunteers, we prepared the room and the materials. After which, I briefed the volunteers and prayed together. And requested them to accompany the assigned crew and group of children after the Opening Station session where the children are now enjoying the new song, the themes and characters of the story.

As the assigned Story-teller of Pete’s Adventure, I have utilized theater antics/strategies, body movements, participatory actions, and sound effects to actualize the scenario of Pete’s Adventure.  I tried to let the children visualize the actual scenes from day 1 to day 5, from Pete the penguin, Wally the walrus, to Aurora the orca, to Sally the seal, and finally to Corey the polar bear.

Children love stories.

Each day, Pete’s Adventure station has been transformed (at least) to the scenes where the story happened. Each day, the children expected new character story. Each day a new theme has been learned. Each day have been  full of children eager to listen and participate in the actualization of the stories. I know they enjoyed the stories as all of them listened attentively and every time I mentioned the Themes, they shouted Fear Not.  And in Filipino, Hwag matakot. Personally, I liked the Object lessons as this reinforced the theme’s messages and I liked the Day 4 Object lesson the most! Because when we are connected to Jesus you will be strong and be brave!

After the first day, I feel so over fatigue and just wanted to sleep and skip my lunch.

On the second day, before the Opening station, some boys called me “Kuya Pete! Kuya Pete!” I approached them and told them (again as this happened during the last day) that my name is Kuya Roel not Kuya Pete!  I smiled and asked “do you like Pete’s stories”? And they all answered yes.

Pete teaches "You are not Alone"

On the third day, as I finished Aurora’s Song, I asked the children if they like it. And the children answered back by saying ye. (Although I know I could not sing that much! Probably the children have been able to understand the message of the song… believe in the light and follow it… and there will be life, love, peace, and hope. And so we have to believe. . . In God!) My assistant station leader has made justice to the song of Aurora!  After the children left, I overheard groups of children chanting “Fear Not! Hwag matakot” in loud voices while going back to the Final station.  And I smiled.

Fourth and Fifth day are Sally’s and Corey’s stories… I observed that the children are expecting new “actions and movements” while narrating the stories. So I changed the timbre of my voice and produced   a different “voice” as according to the expected characters.  As I moved while narrating the stories, I looked into their eyes and seen the eagerness to listen and learn more of the characters of the stories.

Ah, I know that by the last day and final story, all of the children have listened and participated in the stories,  have been able to absorb the messages of the different themes. As they have enjoyed the new songs, and fellowship,  they have been able to identify the camaraderie they feel while attending the camp and able to adjust and function as a normal child.

The last day has been very memorable!  As the children enjoyed the songs with actions, you can see their smiles and laughter! You can feel the energy  as they requested more!


And I know… deep in their hearts … we have done SOMETHING for them… Thanks be to God!


Singing together




The first OperationSAFE child trauma camp in East Samar will be held in Quinapondan from February 2nd to the 7th for 200 1st and 2nd grade students. East Samar is the area in centre right of the country marked in red in the map. This map shows the % of the population that lived below the poverty line BEFORE the disaster. The region is not as heavily populated as some of the other areas hit by Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) but it bore the brunt of the surge and the winds and has received much less help.
I. Background on Crisis situation

Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda) swept through the central Philippines on 8 November killing over 6,000 and displacing 4 million people. The storm flattened homes and damaged schools, health centres and other infrastructure. Some experts estimate the storm was among the strongest ever to make landfall. About 100,000 people remain in evacuation centres six weeks after the storm. According to Philippine government and the UN the storm has affected 14.1 million people, leaving 4.1 million people displaced and over 1 million houses damaged. 6,069 have been reported dead and another 1,779 are missing as of December 16th.

II. OperationSAFE Child Trauma Camps

OperationSAFE is a child trauma intervention held to raise the resiliency of children who have been through mass trauma situations. It has been used successfully in China, Haiti, Tibet, Japan and the Philippines. The 5-day camp is run by trained volunteers in a Vacation Bible School format in cooperation with local churches. Each camp can serve 150 children between the ages of 5-12 and helps the majority of children to recover from post-traumatic stress and screens more severe cases for further care. OperationSAFE camps have been requested in 58 elementary and 78 pre-schools in East Samar.

III. Short-Term Mission Involvement

We are looking for churches to “adopt” one OperationSAFE camp. The responsibility of the church would be to raise money to sponsor children to attend the camp ($33 per child covers curriculum, supplies, staffing, travel and housing), send a short term team for a period of 10 days to assist the camp and local church host, and to provide prayer and on-going encouragement as the community recovers.



After the 2011 Tsunami in Japan, Mary Lee of Stream of Praise wrote a new theme song for OperationSAFE based on the story of Pete’s Adventure. This song has encouraged children who went through the tsunami disaster here in Japan and the aftermath of the nuclear disaster at Fukushima.


Since disasters happen often in many Asian countries around the “Ring of Fire”, Stream of Praise has created a short animation that explains how children can help other children through fears and struggles.




In late December, OperationSAFE held a child trauma resiliency camp in Zamboanga, Mindanao in the Philippines. This was the first of its kind in the nation and the staff found parents begging that their children be allowed to participate because of the trauma that they had experienced.


From September 9th to the 30th of 2013, armed conflict between MNLF rebels and the troops of the Philippine government resulted in the evacuation of civilians as homes were being burned.  At the end of October, the number of dead was placed at 140, wounded 268, and the number affected at 20,810 families or 105,705 individuals  currently in need both outside and inside evacuation centers.  The number of homes totally damaged by the series of fires is 10,160 homes.

The Grandstand” Evacuation Center in Zamboanga

Our local partners, the Philippine Children’s Ministry Network sent an assessment team the last week of November and since Typhoon Haiyan struck Visayas, the situation in the evacuation camps has deteriorated with government resources being pulled elsewhere.


The main concern for us is the care and protection of children and helping them recover from trauma.  We are holding an OperationSAFE child trauma camp in Zamboanga from December 26th to the 31st at Manpang Elementary School which functions as one of the evacuation centers.  This will become a model and training for local church workers to continue psychosocial care for the children in the months ahead.