World Vision creates friendly space exclusive for Taal affected children

“This is the first time we did this,” Jade, 12, said after she did a hand painting during World Vision’s Child-friendly Space, where children, who witnessed the harrowing scenario of mass evacuation after Taal volcano erupted, gathered.

Child-Friendly Space (CFS) is psycho-social support used during humanitarian work to give children a sense of normalcy despite their tragic situation.  Children inside a CFS do things together like sing, dance, draw and share things about themselves. A session last for 10 days and lasted for an hour to two hours. CFS caters to children from 3 to 17 years old.

Flor Algo, World Vision child protection specialist, said that sometimes a disaster’s impact to children manifest during CFS sessions. “Some may look ok but when you ask them about their experience, they will start to show signs of fear.”

In one CFS session where children were asked to write or draw what makes them sad and happy, a three-year-old girl suddenly cried as she recounted that fateful day when her family, along with hundreds of their neighbors, frantically fled while ashes were falling and the ground was shaking.

A registered social worker herself, Algo said that disaster such as the sudden eruption of Taal Volcano may have a deeper impact on children. “People may see children ok or happy but deep inside, these children may be harboring fear and will only manifest when triggered. This is why psychosocial intervention for children is important so we would know how they are coping with their situation. Although some children, despite what happened, are really ok. These are the resilient ones.”

A child who have signs of emotional distress due to what happened will be referred to the social welfare agency.

CFS also gives children happy memory as they return to their communities. “An evacuation center, though a safe place to stay, is still an evacuation center. Things may be compromised such as one’s privacy. When they go back to their communities, children may remember only being in evacuation center, of receiving relief goods but with CFS, they will remember how enjoyable it is to draw and paint,” Algo said.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) recently lowered the alert level from 4 to 3 after Taal Volcano showed “decreased tendency towards hazardous eruption”.

Following the Phivolcs announcement, the Batangas provincial government also lifted lockdowns on 12 cities and municipalities, or portions within the volcano’s danger zone.

Taal volcanic eruption has affected more than 88,000 families and more than Php3 billion worth of damage to agriculture, latest data from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported.