14 April 2015

Educators and creative artists come together with UNICEF’s support to address children’s emotional wellbeing after Cyclone Pam!

Two of the workshop participants Alex and Angelina in the field doing photo shoots with the children
of Vila East primary school. © UNICEF PACIFIC/2015/Hing

Port Vila, Vanuatu - More than 50 professionals from diverse backgrounds in health, education and child protection are now well placed to help meet the psychosocial needs of children distressed by Cyclone Pam and its aftermath.

A recent weeklong orientation supported by UNICEF and the Government of Vanuatu through its Education, Justice and Health ministries, drew on international research and experience around the world to help childcare professionals and creative artists understand the impact of stress and trauma on young children and learn some of the best practices in nurturing self-confidence and overall healthy development.

The professionals and creative artists also learnt how to produce international standard, holistic and inclusive print communication and learning materials. As part of this, they developed 10 illustrated children’s story books and 12 posters.

Two participants share their orientation experiences:

Madlen third from right taking part in group work activities during the workshop.

Madlen, the mother of two young girls, hails from Clubhipipique community, a 10-minute drive outside Port Vila. When she was 22, Malden suffered from a spinal infection, which paralysed her limbs.

Madlen was the only girl in her large family and shoulders many responsibilities, not only to her two children but also to her five brothers. “During the cyclone, I couldn't walk so my brothers had to carry me to higher ground to my brother’s house up on the hill. I felt so helpless. I could only comfort my family through prayer. We prayed and sang songs together. This helped calm my mum down a lot.”

“This workshop couldn't have come at a better time, a time when we needed our voice heard. This was my first time to be in such a workshop. Before this workshop I used to run a kindy for the young children in my community. This orientation has given me renewed strength and I'm confident that through the friends I have made and new knowledge gained in this workshop I will be able to reopen my kindy and help the children in my community,” says Madlen.

“I have been through a lot but I can honestly say I am a strong woman and will do as much as I can to help my community by applying what I have learnt about early childhood education and psychosocial support from this workshop.”

Alex Ham from Ambrym island in Vanuatu. © UNICEF PACIFIC/2015/Sokhin

Sixteen-year-old Alex Ham from Ambrym island in Vanuatu is the youngest participant and thrilled to be part of a group producing for the first time, books and posters in Bislama that address specific psychosocial needs for children and families.

Alex is short in stature, standing about a meter high but that hasn't stopped the aspiring youngster from playing a lead role as the main actor in Vanuatu’s Rainbow Disability Theater Group.

“I am really happy to be in this group because it is giving me new ideas that I can use in our plays. There are many good messages that I am learning about that we can use to educate people and children when we do our plays in communities,” Alex explains through his carer, Rachael.

The Rainbow Disability Theater Group performs plays to create awareness about issues facing people with disabilities.

At the closing of the orientation, John Nivoa, Director of Policy and Planning commended the group for the communication products they developed:

“I wish I was a little kid again after looking at all these productions. I wish I had these when I was a little kid. You have the potential. If we work together as a community it will definitely go a long way for the children. You have an important role to build up our community. Continue to hold hand and work together because our children’s lives depend on it”

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