Plan International and Clowns Without Borders Project to Eastern Samar and Leyte for children and young people affected by Typhoon Haiyan 30th January – 7th February 2014
Typhoon Haiyan, was one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded, which devastated portions of the Philippines. It was an unprecedented disaster affecting 11 million people.
Clowns Without Borders were invited by Plan International to create performances for children. Like us, they believe it is extremely important for to find ways for children to have fun and relax even in the most challenging of circumstances. Our performances were created to focus attention away for the disaster onto something positive and playful enabling the children to be children again.
We also developed and delivered clown performances for communities and two, three-day workshops for 90 young people affected by Typhoon Haiyan in Eastern Samar and Leyte. Our aims was to develop a safe, cathartic and playful space for teenagers who were worst affected by the typhoon to re-build their confidence, share their experiences, build relationships with each other and most importantly, to laugh.
Our methodology is always to focus on the needs of the children and to adapt clown exercises that allow participants to play, share and talk together. Throughout each three-day process we consulted the students to ensure we were targeting our work appropriately and effectively. The result were overwhelming, for example, Anna-Mai’s lost everything including their family home to Typhoon Haiyan. After the workshop she told us:
“I have learnt and laughed. It felt like I would not laugh for a very long time after what happened but I did and now I feel like I am back.”
Dr. Unni Krishnan, Head of Disaster Preparedness and Response from Plan, believes our work to be a “game-changer” and advocates, “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.”
Lotte Claessens, Child Protection in Emergencies Adviser from Plan International in the Philippines, also 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 Some children have nightmares or trouble sleeping, or they become withdrawn, fearful or sometimes aggressive – all normal reactions to the abnormal, traumatic event they have lived through.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.”
You can see from the photographs below two of our participants from the Leyte workshops are sharing CWB activities with young children from their village on 22nd February 2014. This came as a surprise for us and reflects how emotionally connected the students were to the process!
The project was more successful than we could ever dream it to be with ninety young people sharing their experiences and working towards rebuilding their confidence in a safe and playful environment.
As ever, the clown performances were brilliantly received by the community and were specifically devised to help During our share and strengthen social messages identified by Plan in ‘child-friendly’ ways relating to hygiene and safety.
We are also very proud to say the young people continued the work we started by setting the workshops in their own communities.
“This is relieving stress from the typhoon that happened.. so instead of thinking about those things, because of the activities we start to enjoy, we forgot about those bad things.” Darly, workshop participant.