Recovering

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Saturday, February 8, 2014


THE children mimicked the sound of a storm. “Swishhh...swishhh...”

They sat on a tiled floor, the ceiling above them missing some parts.

It was exactly three months since super typhoon Yolanda.

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The children, who cried in fear and hid in the toilet for three hours on Nov.8, smiled and laughed and giggled as they obeyed the storyteller’s instruction to mimic the sound of the winds whipping the boat where Jonah, a character in the Bible, is soundly sleeping.

They listened in awe as Jonah is thrown off the boat by fellow passengers and swallowed by a whale.

“We want to relieve them of stress,” said Anthea Aivi Borbon, a senior staff volunteer of the Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC), which organized the activity yesterday morning. “We want to lift their hopes.”

Some of the 25 children at the Women’s Center, which is run by the Tacloban City Government, lost their homes to the typhoon.

Fourteen-year-old Christie (not her real name) lost her mother and four younger siblings. They were swept away along with their house when massive waves engulfed Barangay San Jose.

In spite of her grief, Christie recited excitedly during the session and did a dance number along with the other girls.

Christie, a victim of sexual abuse, has been in the center for almost six months.

Six volunteers from Korea joined members of the CCC in Tacloban during their play therapy for child survivors in the center, which provides shelter for abused women and children.

They entertained the children with fun activities like singing, dancing, face-painting and balloon-making.

Liezel Amar, one of the four house parents in the center, said the children were terrified during the typhoon.

The winds blew off the center’s roof, forcing them to go to the ground floor and huddle in the toilet.

The winds smashed the windows and ripped open the door, letting in rainwater.

“Nagtitinuok hira (They were crying),” Amar said. When the storm passed, eight girls escaped from the center to check on their families. Only five returned.

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Funds estimates that five million children were affected by Yolanda, one of the strongest typhoons recorded in world history.

The super typhoon, which caused massive storm surges along coastlines, killed more than 6,000, mostly in Leyte. Hundreds remain missing and millions were displaced.

Amar said several donors have helped the center, giving food and counseling for the children. (In the middle of yesterday’s activity, two foreigners walked into the center and gave the smaller children shoes.)

But she fears the children may still be suffering from trauma, saying they hardly slept on the night tropical storm Basyang hit the city last week. The storm blew off the tarpaulins that temporarily served as the building’s roof.

More than 60 Korean volunteers from the Global Aid Network, the relief arm of the CCC, arrived in batches in Tacloban to conduct medical missions and to play therapy sessions to children.

It was the second time the group conducted a play therapy session in the center. They visited the facility last Jan. 26.

Last Jan. 29, the group also went to Barangay Paglaum, the farthest village in Tacloban, for a medical mission and to provide play therapy sessions.

They organized outreach activities in Barangay Palanog, at the Astrodome and in the town of Pastrana as well.

In the Women’s Center, the volunteers gave the children shirts and chocolates. Then the young survivors sang and danced some more.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 09, 2014.

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