Creating child-friendly spaces

- Chahana Sigdel, KATHMANDU
Creating child-friendly spaces

May 8, 2015-

The absence of Dharhara is most visible from the expansive grounds of Tundikhel, where a number of tents stand erected in the aftermath of the Great Quake and the children living in the makeshift tents are quick to notice the missing monument.  

Earlier in the day, a group of volunteers had held a ‘drawing session’ for the children at the camps; they could draw whatever they wanted, they were told. Most of the children drew the Dharhara- broken and scattered—a symbol of the shake that rattled the nation  “Most of the children drew what they saw and what they think,” said Yohoshu Ghising, one of the volunteers.

The art session was carried out at a ‘child-friendly space’ created in Tundikhel where children from families taking refuge in the open space can come and indulge in activities.  These camps act as makeshift schools where children, sing, play draw—things they’d do on a normal basis.

According to UNICEF, there are 38 such places in 5 districts—Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, Kavre and Dhading—most of which are within the valley. The ‘child protection cluster’  which consists of government and non-government organization has plans to open up more such areas in the other affected districts as well.  Unicef has stated that over one million children have been affected by the earthquake and are in need of humanitarian assistance.

Arpanah Rongong, Child Protection Specialist at World Vision International Nepal, one of the organisations in the clusters said there are immediate emotional need as well as practical needs for children. “ Many children lost everything they knew when the earthquake struck. It claimed lives of parents and friends, and reduced homes and schools to rubble,” she said in press statement.

According to Rongong young people often start expressing their emotions through artwork and games, which helps them start to make sense of the devastation around them and these Child Friendly Spaces are protected places for children to give them a bit of calm amid the chaos.

At the camp in Tundikhel, 32-year-old Gyanu Thapa Magar’s seven-year-old is at the child-friendly space where children could be heard singing and dancing at around midday. She said her son has been surprisingly resilient and even counsels his friends not to get scared. “Most of the children are terrified. This is a difficult period. Even the adults are scared so imagine how the children must feel,” said Magar whose home in Sindhupalchok was destroyed.

She was in Ason—where she rented out a room—when the earthquake struck. Magar, who made money working as a maid in several household- has not been able to go to work since the quake. However, things will have to go back to normal said Magar and for that ensuring a safe place for her son would be the most important thing. “ This is all temporary, I don’t know what is going to happen later,” said Magar who plans to look for a new place to live in once her fear subsides.

Published: 08-05-2015 09:19

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