Freedom of imagination

At a Child-Friendly Space in Haiti, children draw and paint pictures themed 'My hope for Haiti' on the anniversary of the 2010 earthquake. (Meg Sattler/WV/2011)

One of the many measures being planned by World Vision to care for the needs of children after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan are Child-Friendly Spaces — safe, supervised learning and playing places where kids can be kids in a post-traumatic environment. They receive psycho-social "first aid" through counseling and structured activities like playtime, music, and art.

This past winter, World Vision Magazine focused on how art is used in Child-Friendly Spaces to free children to imagine a brighter future. I can't think of a greater emotional and spiritual need after a traumatic experience than the freedom of imagination to dream of a brighter tomorrow.

The following post originally appeared on the World Vision Magazine Blog by editor-in-chief Jane Sutton-Redner.

If we’d had unlimited space in the winter magazine, we would have focused on how art helps children in emergencies such as natural disasters or conflict. Art is a prominent feature in World Vision’s Child-Friendly Spaces, which are set up in displacement camps as a safe zone for children to play and recover from their distress.

An Indonesian child's drawing shows Mount Merapi erupting. (Bartolomeus Marsudiharjo/WV)

In Indonesia, Mount Merapi’s eruption last October is understandably on the minds of the kids in an evacuation center. Drawing it helps them makes sense of what’s happening to them.

In Haiti, creative activities in Child-Friendly Spaces fill in what otherwise would be long, empty days for children still living in tent encampments, over a year after the devastating earthquake. Kids have crafted artwork out of banana leaves, embroidery, and macramé. (See main photo.)

Many recent disasters are documented in our photo library with photos of children hunched over paper, clutching crayons and colored pens, as well as images of the resulting drawings — touching childish renditions of the tsunamis or floods they have endured. I thank God that they survived, but as a mother, it pains me to think of what they witnessed and what they face in their immediate future.

Still, God built our children to be resilient, and that comes through in the art of young people tested by crisis. I am cheered by this video of Lebanese children performing a song they wrote themselves about peace. (Thanks to my colleague, Patricia Mouamar, for sending it.)


In Japan, World Vision plans to establish one or more Child-Friendly Spaces for children in the areas hit hardest by the earthquake and tsunami. More updates to come.

Read the latest Japan quake and tsunami updates.

Read more posts about how World Vision uses art and music to help children.


    Do you have a need for a volunteer who is gifted in art to work in one of your safe places? How does one become part of this? Will there be a need this summer?

    Good question, Carrie. Typically, World Vision hires locally in whatever country we are in. But that doesn't mean there aren't World Vision work opportunities overseas. Unfortunately, we do not accommodate internships or volunteers overseas, but you can see all our job opportunities available at Best.

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