Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Life in the shelters....

After the earthquake of January 12, SOS Children's Villages constructed shelters on the village grounds to accommodate the children who had been put up in the village in already existing SOS families (see previous report). The shelters have been completed, and the children have now moved in.

Many children of the SOS Children's Village in Santo moved to the shelters a bit reluctantly about 2 months ago. Moving out of the big family house where they were just getting used to their SOS brothers and sisters seemed like a difficult new hurdle to take. To make the transition easier, their aunts from the family house moved with them as well as their biological brothers and sisters. Most of the children staying in the shelter will be reunified within time; some still have a parent left who is living in a tent camp without any means to support the child, let alone send it to school. Some might still have a grandparent, uncle or aunt who is willing to take care of them….if we can find them.

I visited the shelters frequently and could see how quickly the children adapted to their new lives. The aunts now became mothers and each having the responsibility over 5 children instead of around 25 together with the other aunts and mother in the family houses. The children feel at ease and know that they are well looked after. The shelter really has become their house; electricity run the lights and the ventilator. The ventilator is far from being a luxury; it gets hot inside during the daytime. Artificial flowers and drawings from the children make it look like a home.

The children are behaving as children do…. playing football outside on the field, hide-and-seek behind the houses, helping their SOS mothers with domestic chores. Quite a few children have discovered a very interesting game…they build houses on the platforms of the shelter with anything they can find: pieces of wood, a little cloth and some hardboard function as a bed. Even the details like a bedside cupboard decorated with bottle tops have found their way into the model house. Looking inside their shelter you can see the resemblance with their new mothers’ bed. It helps them to rebuild their lives….starting from scratch constructing little houses. Apparently, they feel at home.

Even when they come to the so-called psychosocial tent to draw, little colorful houses with flowers are a favorite. However, some children still draw the people outside the houses; they are gradually making their way back to an emotional recovery. For most of the children the holiday just started, normally the summer holiday starts in June but since the children missed out on school so much after the earthquake it was decided to try and catch up as much as possible by shortening the holiday. Today the children from the shelter came to the psychosocial tent to draw and play again. Normally the amount of children coming is around 20-25, but school closed early today and the children kept on coming…. I had to turn quite a few down because 50 at the same time are more than I can handle.

Together with the family assistants we are making a plan for the psychosocial activities during the holidays. Some children will go and stay for a little bit with their relatives. It is important for their emotional development to stay connected with their roots as much as possible. For the other children who do not have any known relatives, dance, drama, sport and other activities will be organized. Quite a task for more than 400 children….