Using Children’s Story Books In Disasters
With our children’s books, we initiate a process of active engagement through children that includes other members of the community. We are able to engage not only the children but their families, teachers, caregivers and their communities in discussions and healing. Story books can support the development of coping techniques and build resiliency in children and their communities.
It is generally accepted that children are one of the most vulnerable groups in disasters, however the pivotal role they can play in reinforcing resiliency post disaster hasn’t been sufficiently explored. Our experiences in the field have shown that adults and families with or without children will come together and unite in the protection of children in times of disasters.
With a story very similar to their daily lives, told in their own language, accompanied by visually representative art work reflecting their experiences, a process of learning and empowerment is started. These stories can assist children by eliciting their thoughts and helping them recognize distortions and make sense of their world. In this process children are supported in reinterpreting a situation of adversity and positively redefining their own experiences.
Storytelling as a form of communication, dating back to ancient times, has been passed on from one generation to the next. Today, with mass media, computers and the internet, the art of good storytelling is more important than it has ever been before. Effective stories are capable of triggering empathy and understanding which are likely to drive committed action and sustainable behavioral change.
Storytelling has been long realized as a method of articulating life experiences in a meaningful way in psychology and other related medical fields. However, storytelling in public health is an emerging concept and is as complex as public health itself. The art of storytelling as a powerful multidimensional tool for community based public health approaches, strategic advocacy and effective communication is recently being recognized.
Our story books are based on an understanding that, resilience while complex, can be fostered and developed through strategies and active engagement. Through stories told in their own languages, a powerful trigger of wanting to know more and an acknowledgment of their current situation is addressed. The book along with the caregivers’ guide focus not only on disaster response, but on the techniques that are supportive to grow and learn from unexpected traumatic events.
Training on how to use the book has been designed to be applicable to caregivers with any background from the community. These books do not require any prior mental health training or specialized professional background to be used effectively. All caregivers receive this training prior to the distribution of the books. These sessions also focus on avoiding any potential trauma that might develop in a post disaster fragile mindset of the children and community.
When Haiti Shakes
“When Haiti Shakes” was the first book created by Headwaters Relief Organization. This book was designed to help children understand what an earthquake is and teach them what to do if another one occurs. Many children didn’t know what to do when the earthquake happened in 2010. They had no knowledge that the buildings could be dangerous so instead of moving away from the buildings to a safe area, many ran back in the buildings. This resulted in the loss of many lives. The second printing of this book was completed in consultation with the Ministry of Education and translated in three languages, English, Creole and French. The Ministry has placed When Haiti Shakes, including the teacher’s guide in Haitian schools and libraries.
When Strong Winds Blow
“When Strong Winds Blow” was created by Headwaters Relief Organization volunteers with consultation from a Filipino volunteer, to help children understand their experiences after a natural disaster. The book was completed after Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) and is designed to assist children in coping with their experiences and in building resiliency.
When Strong Winds Blows helps children process their feelings, understand normal reactions to this traumatic event and empower them with techniques to cope with future unexpected events. Headwaters was able to present this book to more than 4,000 school children and teachers. A teachers/caregivers guide is available to help use the books and their techniques.
When the Great Sickness Came
Headwaters Relief Organization’s youth volunteer writers and artists created the children’s book “When the Great Sickness Came.” The book is designed to explore the emotions and family losses many children experienced related to the Ebola outbreak. A teachers/caregivers guide offers techniques to help children with understanding the virus and coping with loss. It also provides suggestions for children to maintain their physical and emotional health.
It is currently being distributed to children in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia through partnerships with other non-profits including Salesian Mission, Healey
International Relief Foundation and Brother’s Brother Foundation. This book was also done in consultation with individuals native to these countries.
“Nepal Quake” was created by a young girl and her father, with the support of emerging artists, in response to the 7.8 magnitude earthquake in 2015. The book teaches children about earthquakes and what to do when one occurs. It assists children to process their feelings and to understand normal reactions to traumatic events.
The book provides techniques to empower and assist children in building resiliency.
A teacher/caregiver guide is included, to support and provide guidance in the use of the book. “Nepal Quake” has been distributed directly by Headwaters and through Teach Nepal and other Non-Governmental Organizations.
Home Is Where The Honey Is
Headwaters’ volunteers created “Home Is Where The Honey Is,” our fifth children’s book. Through storytelling, the book addresses normal emotional responses to disaster while building coping skills and supporting the development of resiliency. Headwaters was able to use the book along with the caregiver’s guide, throughout the island of Lesbos as well as in Athens with a number of partners including the Melissa Project—a coalition of migrant women who helped write the book. Headwaters continues to provide support both in development of training, specifically related to compassion fatigue for organizations on Lesbos and on the mainland. There is an organization that is developing residential services for unaccompanied minors.
The Savage Wind
“The Savage Wind” is the sixth children’s book created by Headwaters Relief Organizations’ volunteers to help children in understanding the trauma they experienced. The book was written to assist children who experienced Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico in 2017, although children and adults who experience hurricanes, tornados, and other natural disasters could experience similar responses.
The coping techniques described in “The Savage Wind” can be applied to most traumatic events. A caregiver guide accompanies the book. “The Savage Wind” is in its third printing. It has been distributed widely in Puerto Rico by Headwaters. In addition, Headwaters provided training to the Department of Health, the Medical Reserve Corp and a diverse group of professionals in order for the book to be further distributed throughout the island. “The Savage Wind” has won three awards.
“Together Again” (Hami Sangai- in Nepali) is Headwaters seventh children book which discusses human trafficking and harmful social and cultural practices that can support it.
Traditionally, the majority of services related to trafficking have been developed to support people who have already been victimized. This book has a preventative focus. It is designed to educate children and their families. Our effort also has been to fulfill the moral responsibility of educating communities against the culture of ostracizing the victims. The book engages children and communities in support of this cultural change.
This book was written to show some of the ways that trauma might affect children after a natural or man-made disaster. In this book, we are offering suggestions for understanding common reactions to traumatic experiences, not specific remedies or treatments.
We want to express our deepest appreciation to Shamim Sarif and Hanan Kattan who worked with us to jointly inspire education about human trafficking globally. Shamim Sarif is the author of The Athena Protocol and chose Headwaters Relief Organization to benefit from the charitable proceeds from this publication.
Our deepest appreciation also goes to Dr. DelRae Messer, whose commitment to the well-being of others, helped us to raise the funds for the development of this book.
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