Why Child-Friendly Spaces are vital
"Come Harvy, come. See all the other children are drawing their wishes. Come draw yours here on this coloured paper," gently coaxes Harvy’s teacher, while kneeling against his desk.
Gradually lifting his head Harvy’s expressionless face reveals no sign of comprehension. Seeming distant and lost, Harvy is left to process his new mission. Staring into space for what seemed a lifetime, he musters the courage to pick up the pencil, imprinting the sheet with stick figures.
Diligently moving from one end of the sheet to another, his pencil reveals the blueprint of his thoughts. Not distracted by the noise in the classroom, Harvy, moves on to adding colour to his artwork, making it pop.
With his voice as faint as a whisper, he recalls the bellowing winds of the monstrous Typhoon Haiyan, "It was cold and it was raining. The wind was strong. I was scared that the wind would take me away with the roof."
Finding the warmth and comfort in his grandmother’s embrace, as she wrapped her arms around Harvy and his sister, Harvy consoled himself to stop crying. It was time to bid goodbye to their home as water gushed in. Seeking shelter in a neighbour’s house, Harvy's kin patiently waited for the storm to pass.
It was almost 3pm when lola Anita (Grandma Anita in the local language) dared to venture out on a quest to find her way back home.
Clearly recalling his glimpse of the dilapidated structure that was his home, Harvy says, "The rain stopped and the water went back. I saw my house. The kitchen was destroyed by coconut trees. The roof, blown away."
Harvy fears the wrath of the winds coming again and causing a separation from his lola and is reluctant to come to the elementary school, the site of the Child-Friendly Space started by World Vision. Assured of the benefits flowing from World Vision's Child-Friendly Space Programme, lola Anita accompanies Harvy daily; dropping him off at the school premises.
"This programme helps Harvy," says Anita. "He comes back home and talks about what he did. He is talking more. The other day he shared with me that he learnt about eye, face and mouth."
It is the magical powers of coloured paper and meeting his friends that entices Harvy to conquer his fears and stay back. "Drawing helps me feel good," he says.
"Child-Friendly Spaces help to provide an opportunity for children to express themselves through art, play and also to connect with other children facing similar distressing experiences,” says Bria, a World Vision staff member.
“Stationery, like pencils, coloured paper, plastic envelopes, crayons, etc., all part of these spaces, are used as tools that enable children to write and draw what is on their mind," says Bria, a World Vision staff member.
"The volunteers are trained by us in a five-day module which assists in the smooth functioning of the spaces. They are trained to observe and identify issues of child protection and stress among children after such a catastrophic disaster and administer special care for them."
With the colouring finally complete, Harvy hands over his yellow sheet, filled with his sketch and wish list, waiting patiently for his teacher to transform it into a wish boat. Acting as a mirror and gateway to his mind, the plain yellow piece of paper now reveals Harvy’s hidden thoughts.
"When he started drawing we understood what was bothering him. The child is afraid and traumatised more with the typhoon because his parents are not here to comfort him. We have noted this and are trying to help Harvy through this difficult time in his life," says Harvy’s teacher.
Fold by fold the teacher turns Harvy’s yellow sheet into a boat ready to be released in the river; each fold showcases Harvy’s wishes, a family together, car and ball; his favourite toys.
Unravelling the importance of going to school to learn how to read and write, with the hope of one day working in the city when he grows up, is also depicted in Harvy’s artwork through the symbol of a pencil.
"Here Harvy, here is your wish boat," says his teacher.
Placing his yellow wish boat on the desk, he glances in and out of the classroom waiting for further instructions from his teacher about the mini excursion to the river to release his wish boat into the vastness of the water, in the hope that someday his wishes will come true.
By Annila Harris