One year ago a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck Japan leaving nearly 20,000 dead or missing. ICAP responded with a donation to World Vision UK to help traumatised children who lost family and friends, as well as their homes. Many children were, and still are, suffering psychologically from the terrible things they had seen and experienced. These vulnerable children need protection and reassurance as well as practical care.
With ICAP’s donation, World Vision has set up Child Friendly Spaces (which the children prefer to call ‘Everyone Gathering Together’) where they are looked after and helped, as well as having a safe place to learn and play.
The Child Friendly Spaces (CFS) currently provide ongoing child care at seven centres for more than 326 school children together with safe places for 126 children to spend time in during their school holidays. Each centre has been provided with the necessary equipment and staff have been given specialist training regarding post disaster psychological care for children. Initially, these spaces were the only place for children to gather and participate in informal, educational and fun activities; allowing them a chance to be a child again. Today they are equally valued and provide a service that enriches the lives of children and parents alike.
ICAP's generous donation has been used, and will be used to help children recover from the trauma brought on by the earthquake and tsunami. It's a long road ahead for so many of these children and their families, and thanks to ICAP, World Vision is able to partner with them at each step along the way.Mark Bulpitt, Head of Emergencies, World Vision.
Parents and care-givers have also benefited from the Child Friendly Spaces, knowing that their children were in a supportive and safe environment, allowing adults to look for work and restart their families’ lives.
The following comments from parents show that each CFS has made a huge difference to their lives following the disaster
‘There is no place to play for children in and around our temporary house. I really appreciate the fact that World Vision has provided this safe and wonderful environment for my children.’
‘With this CFS, I can go to work without worrying about my child.’ ‘My child really enjoys playing in here. After returning from her CFS, she sleeps really well.’
‘My children have gained a lot from their CFS; it provides a wonderful learning environment in addition to school. I really appreciate World Vision’s assistance.
Child Friendly Space sessions have taken a participatory approach. In the example below, children have written down what they were longing to do in the evacuation centre. Their answers, which were each accompanied by an individual piece of origami, include ‘I want to play the piano nonstop’, ‘I want to play with everyone outside’, ‘I’d like to play baseball’, ‘I want to attend my graduation ceremony’.
World Vision has been in Japan for some years and their local staffs have been working on tsunami relief since the beginning, initially distributing emergency aid and then investigating the best ways of helping in the medium term. In addition to the Child Friendly Spaces, ICAP’s donation is also funding other activities that help children recover, such as facilitating getting them back to school by providing educational materials and other necessities. The charity is working through the Japanese Government but of course has been contending with the most difficult circumstances, with extensive damage to infrastructure and limited access to affected areas. To have set up the Child Friendly Spaces and other support mechanisms in such a short space of time is therefore remarkable.