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


Posted in 2014 Zamboanga Conflict, Disaster Reports, Operation SAFE.