The aftershock last night was magnitude 5.4, the biggest tremor since the earthquakes last week. The epicentre was in Padang Pariaman - the worst affected zone - so it seems that sometimes when it rains, it pours... On the actual rain front though, it's good news... 24 hours of clear skies have resulted in unhampered rescue, relief and rehabilitation work.
"The Three R's"....It seems that "Rescue" defined the early stages of this emergency response, "Relief" closely followed and is being distributed by World Vision widely, and today we turned our attention to "Rehabilitation."
In the aftermath of natural disasters, particularly those as powerful and widespread as last weeks dual earthquakes, it is sometimes hard to see past the physical devastation and to take the time to help people, especially children, heal emotionally and psychologically. World Vision has long employed a unique initiative in our emergency response work of setting up "Child Friendly Spaces" (CFS) specifically in areas where children have suffered through traumatic experiences. We toured the first of these Child Friendly Spaces in Kota Padang today.
The site for this CFS had been specially chosen. Located in one of the worst hit areas, where countless houses and 4 schools were damaged beyond repair. As the school week restarted today for those students in Padang whose schools were unaffected, hundreds of children in rural areas literally have nowhere to go throughout the week. And for those whose parents must work through the week, this poses a precarious situation. Further, when you take into account that many of these children lost both their school and house, and that they are currently hesitant to re-enter any building for fear of further collapses, a designated Child Friendly Space is of the utmost importance to the mental and physical wellbeing of these children.
The CFS is essentially a day care centre inside of a well stocked tent. Usually in an emergency, pre-stocked tents and supplies are sent from World Vision warehouses around the world to the affected zones and CFS's are set up as soon as possible after a disaster hits. However, transporting these pre-stocked tents into Padang has been problematic to say the least. This is where the staff here got creative... it's wedding season in Indonesia.... hundreds of couples use this month before the rainy season to host elaborate weddings in large tents. World Vision Indonesia procured one of these wedding tents and, using locally sourced material, set up this first of 13 Child Friendly Spaces just days after the Earthquakes.
Arriving at the site of the CFS i was struck by just how necessary this initiative is... the large wedding tent was erected between two demolished school buildings... a site that hundreds of children would have been coming to under ordinary circumstances had first been converted to a disaster zone by mother nature and had now been restored to a safe place of learning and fun by World Vision.
The kids were colouring in, playing tag, making paper aeroplanes and singing songs. Trained child care workers, community volunteers and Child Protection officers monitored this play, ensuring that this remains a Child Friendly Space where children can experience a bit of normalcy after the disruptive and often traumatic experiences of the past week.
All the kids we spoke to told stories of loss and grief, but also of hopefulness. They said that they wished more than anything else that their school buildings could be rebuilt and that they were overjoyed that this brightly coloured tent had arrived giving them a place to play, learn and socialise. All of the children wanted to take us back to their house and show us what was left after the quake, and for the families who we did visit we were all once again struck by the devastating impact these quakes had.
Many houses ceased to be recognisable and almost all showed cracks in the walls, broken roofs or unstable foundations. Tonight, almost every family will sleep under tarps and blankets strung up between trees, some by necessity and for others, whose homes survived, by their fear of another earthquake that they may not escape.
It was an uplifting day, these children have witnessed the obliteration of hundreds of buildings, houses, schools and hospitals, many have suffered personal grief beyond my comprehension and yet, here they were, smiling and playing and returning to their carefree childhood games.
The impact of pyscho-social interventions like Child Friendly Spaces cannot be underestimated, it made me proud to work for World Vision. To know that they not only provide food, shelter and essential physical items, but that they actively prioritised the psychological needs of young children. With something as simple as a wedding tent and some paper aeroplanes steps have been taken in Kota Padang to help restore some of what was taken away last week.
Tomorrow is my final day in Padang, and will be my final blog.
Until then, Stay Safe and God Bless