Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Emotional and Rehabilitative Support to Earthquake-Affected Children

Got this a little while back from a friend in Pakistan, who's the CEO of an organization called SPO, or Strengthening Participatory Organisation, and have been meaning to put it up. It seems self-explanatory:

Emotional and Rehabilitative Support to Earthquake-Affected Children

Strengthening Participatory Organisation (SPO) has been actively involved in relief and rehabilitation activities in the earthquake-affected areas of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK). In addition to direct supplies of essential items-food, clothing, shelter and medicines-the organisation provided logistics support to doctors, paramedics, journalists and volunteers in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake. It also supported relief work through information dissemination and civil society networking. SPO has also conducted research and organised policy dialogues to influence rehabilitation and reconstruction processes.

Working with Children
SPO was among the first organisations to recognise that children who had survived the earthquake were in need of immediate psychological and emotional support: many of them were rescued from under rubble and had undergone serious trauma in addition to physical pain. They had lost their possessions and their own houses. They had heard, smelt and felt the earthquake and seen its effects on buildings and people.

Naturally, these impressions had a huge psychological impact. Psychologists, psychiatrists and those involved in relief work agreed that professional counseling, an opportunity to talk, play, study and to express themselves creatively could go a long way in helping these children overcome trauma and cope with the loss they had suffered.

Recognising this need and based on a rapid assessment, SPO began a programme to provide emotional and rehabilitative support to children in central Muzafarabad in November 2005. The programme, which initially covered about 100 children at a single site, has now spread to four locations targeting some 250 children up to 15 years of age. The initiative also helped SPO launch a Save the Children-US (SC-US) funded project in Batagram, NWFP involving one hundred safe play areas and temporary learning centres.

In Muzafarabad, volunteers trained by SPO conduct fortnightly sessions at each location. Children are given an opportunity to draw pictures, sing songs, recite poems and do physical activities that help replenish their emotional and physical energies and coping strength. Volunteers talk to children about themes that are relevant to their condition: coping with physical and mental stress, maintaining health and hygiene, continuing studies and so on. Doctors visit the sites periodically, advise children and their mothers and prescribe medicines. Pottery and handicraft workshops are also planned for children as therapeutic and skill development interventions.

The programme’s positive impact can be seen on children’s faces: as they laugh and smile, giggle and chatter, talk things over, take pride in drawing a beautiful picture now, making a clay house then, we know our efforts are bearing fruit. This represents a sea change from what we had observed during rapid assessment. Many children then complained of sleep and eating disorders, had difficulty expressing themselves and saw little hope for the future. Such cases are very rare today in localities where SPO is working.

Our team also keeps a close liaison with parents and local communities, helps them self organise, maintain a clean physical environment and respond positively to children’s emotional and physical needs.

The programme in Muzafarabad is being run solely through public donations and with no donor funding. We need your continued moral support. We also welcome donations in cash and kind that will help us improve and sustain our work.

Contact Details
If you wish to know more about the initiative or are interested in making a donation, please contact Adnan Abdul Sattar, voluntary coordinator with SPO at 0300-3588217 or via email, adnan5974@hotmail.com. Or Mr. Shahid Mahmood, Senior Manager Finance, SPO. Telephone: 051 2273527-2820426

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