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Jul 17, 2017

Preparing Children for Hurricane Experience

UNICEF and government are putting children at the center of hurricane and emergency preparedness and risk management. In a “train the trainers” workshop, representatives from local government, human services, ministry of education and other agencies are learning how to provide support through educational methods to children who are exposed to pain and loss during times of disaster and other emergencies. Andrea Polanco stopped in at today’s workshop to talk with the organizer and facilitator. Here’s that story.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

When we hear of hurricanes in Belize, often times we are most concerned about personal or physical safety and property security. So we don’t usually think about the psychological trauma they cause especially to children, a population that is most vulnerable. And that is why UNICEF and Ministry of Labour, Local Government and Rural Development are working towards assisting children from ages five to twelve in cases of hurricanes and other emergencies.


Denise Robateau

Denise Robateau, Early Childhood Development Officer, UNICEF

“To look at what can be some of the aspects to support children, to support families in psychosocial support. Within our core commitments for children in humanitarian action, that framework is designed to support the government for emergency preparedness and response with a particular focus on children. And so when we look at child protection, we are looking at the well-being of a child within the family, within the community and you know that in times of disasters, it comes with its own stresses…a whole lot of different things are happening.   After a disaster, the twenty four hours’ time frame is critical. And so the trainees, right now, are understanding the methodology as to what they need to do to support children in shelters, to go into the communities and to support children wherever they may be, whether it is under a tree; but it is to create a child friendly space for the well-being of that child and the community.”


It is being done through a workshop called the Return to Happiness Program – which seeks to support the psychosocial wellbeing of children impacted by disasters. The trainees who are people who work with closely with children, either through protection, school or community level, are expected to go back and train others in their organizations and communities. But how will this program work?


Urania Joseph, Facilitator, Return to Happiness Training Workshop

“It uses play activities. So, we take the children through a series of guided play activities to allow them to express themselves; to allow them to express their experiences and to give them space and that opportunity, so that they can relate and communicate to us as adults and facilitators so that we can better assist them further. So, basically, assist the children with what they are familiar with – drawings, poems, sounds and puppets. So, it may be a case where this child home was destroyed so it may be building material, so we will all be speaking to each other and at the end there will be less duplication and a greater impact.”


Urania Joseph

Andrea Polanco

“And we’re going to see less kids showing signs of trauma?”


Urania Joseph

“Yes. And if they do they know where to go for help. Because at the end of the training we are hoping to develop a directory of trainees.”


While the program’s focus is on disasters; it can also be used to assist children impacted by crime and other forms of duress.


Denise Robateau

“The Return to Happiness is a program that will support our system in many different areas. We experience trauma on a daily basis. Children experience violence, they experience trauma, they experience abuse.  And so, this is not only a training to support emergency response but also to support the daily well-being of a child.”


Urania Joseph

“Children experiencing violence at the home, the community level and it is also used for children who are about to take examination to relax, to remove some stress and that they become more applicable for whatever examinations that they are going to go through.”


Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

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