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PLAN INTERNATIONAL is sending a group of clowns to Haiyan affected areas this holiday season to bring laughter and help children recover faster.
As part of its recovery work, child rights agency Plan International is working with Clowns Without Borders, an organisation dedicated to alleviating suffering in disaster situations such as Typhoon Haiyan. Between 21 and 31 December the clowns will entertain those affected, particularly children, by performing in public places, relief camps, evacuation centres, schools, and child-friendly spaces in Tacloban, EasternSamar and Leyte.The shows will be packed with music, juggling, acrobatics and other forms of circus-oriented performances.
“Children affected by the typhoon have gone through a traumatic experience. This innovative approach, which blends fun with psychological and humanitarian support, can reach children and help them heal faster.”
Nearly six million, 41 per cent of those affected by Haiyan, are children. This initiative will further support Plan’s work with affected children in the Philippines.
Lotte Claessens, Child Protection in Emergencies Adviser from Plan International in the Philippines, said:
“In a disaster like this, it is normal for children to be distressed. Some children have nightmares or trouble sleeping, or they become withdrawn, fearful or sometimes aggressive - all normal reactions to the abnormal, traumatic event they have lived through.
“Simple strategies can be used to comfort and calm children, such as telling stories and playing simple games.”
With this in mind, Claessens and the Plan team have worked with Clowns Without Borders to create a programme that will acknowledge children’s distress, fears and anxieties. Through performances, song and dance, the shows will help console children, build their confidence and thus aid healing. The team will also incorporate simple messages into their act including those related to emotional support, safety, education, health, hygiene and recovery.
Michael O'Neill, from Clowns Without Borders, said:
“In our experience, this kind of show provides children an emotional outlet and helps youth and adults heal from traumatic events, such as Typhoon Haiyan. Laughter releases tension and assists the healing process, while the clown is the mirror image of the human condition. Through the lens of the clown, the most absurd or overwhelming situations becomes more palatable and light.”
To mark the holiday period, Plan also hosted more than 200 children at a Family Day Celebration in Hernani. With Christmas decorations scarce, a makeshift tree adorned with shiny CDs was erected outside the temporary child-friendly space in Carmen Elementary School. Children from the surrounding villages joined in the celebrations, which included dancing, singing and laughter.
A number of child-friendly spaces are also being established by Plan staff and volunteers, providing children with a place to play, learn, receive ‘psychological first aid’ and process what's happened to them in a safe environment.
Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the Philippines on November 8, 2013, is the strongest recorded storm at landfall, leaving widespread devastation in its wake. Thousands of people lost their lives, and it is estimated up to 14.1 million people have been affected and 4.1 million have been displaced. Millions of children and families still remain at risk without shelter, food and water in the Philippines. Plan will continue to supply essential aid throughout the festive period.
Since Typhoon Haiyan, the Filipinos have not given up hope, even in the face of devastation, as photos of makeshift Christmas trees, tents festooned with shiny decorations and messages of hope held up by children have continued to surface.