Child-Friendly Space opens in Japan

Editor's note: In the aftermath of tragedy and disaster, World Vision uses Child-Friendly Spaces (CFS) to care for children by providing them with a safe place to learn, play and emotionally recover from the trauma they've faced. (For more on how we use CFS, read Freedom of imagination) The following was shared with us by Nanako Otsuki, communications officer with World Vision Japan.

Zenin syugo, meaning "everyone gathering together", is the name children in Tome City have come up with for their new playing ground, a World Vision CFS. The name fits perfectly for its purpose, providing children with a venue to come together and share their experiences as they begin the road to recovery.

All the children come from Minami Sanriku, a town that was almost completely destroyed by the tsunami. Right now, they're living in an evacuation center. They don't know when classes will start again; most of their schools were destroyed. Most of them have lost their homes, and many have loved ones who have been confirmed dead. They seek a sense of normalcy after having their lives turned upside down.

"What I want to do"

Staff at the Child-Friendly Space encourage the children to write and draw their desires. (Itoh Kei/WV/2011)

In the first gathering here, World Vision’s Child Protection Specialist, Makiba Yamano, and other World Vision Japan staff sought to hear the voices of the children. The children wrote down what they wanted to do at the CFS on a piece of paper and made their favorite figure with origami paper.

“I want to play a piano!!” (Minaho, age 12)

“I want to play soccer with eight people.” (Rin, age 8 )

“I want to play cards with other friends.” (RIe, age 12)

“I want to play baseball with everyone.” (Takahiro, age 11)

"What makes me worried"

Takuma (age 11), Takahiro (age 11), and Syoki (age 12) write "what makes them worried." (Itoh Kei/WV/2011)

The children also wrote down “what makes them worried” and shared their experiences with one another.

“I wonder if I can go to the same junior high school with my old friends.” (Shiori, age 12)

“I wonder how I can live and rebuild my family’s house. I am worried that a tsunami like this one might come again.” (Hikaru, age 9)

“I am concerned about my family members who are still missing, such as my grandparents and my aunt. I am also worried whether I can go to school with the same friends.” (Narumi, age 11)

“I am worried about my aunt who is missing.” (Syo, age 9)

The road to recovery and healing

World Vision considers emotional support to be just as critical as physical assistance for vulnerable children who have experienced disasters. Even simple activities that involve interacting with other children, processing their feelings, and experiencing structure can be an effective path to healing.

“I usually play with two or three of my friends who are in the same room at the evacuation center. So it was fun to discuss with everyone and play with everyone.” (Narumi, age 11 )

“I felt relieved when I wrote my concern. It was good because I didn’t have a chance to write down my concerns like today.” (Misato, age 11)

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