Celebrating recovery in communities rattled by earthquake

China, February 11, 2014

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Alexandra Corazza for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Last year, after an earthquake rocked Ya’an Prefecture in southwestern China — a poverty-stricken area comprised mostly of children and the elderly — we quickly implemented our Comfort for Kids program to support the area’s vulnerable youth. Photo: Alexandra Corazza for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Alexandra Corazza for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Children deal with trauma and loss differently — many suffer from nightmares, isolation or behavioral problems that can have long-term consequences. Comfort for Kids uses creative activities, like writing and drawing, to help them communicate their feelings and work through what they’ve experienced, like losing their homes, belongings or even loved ones. Photo: Alexandra Corazza for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Alexandra Corazza for Mercy Corps  </span>
    We worked closely with local groups in the area to identify the schools and communities with the greatest need for this program, and collaborated with them to tailor the curriculum to the cultural and situational context. Photo: Alexandra Corazza for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Alexandra Corazza for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Students recounted their experiences in the “My Earthquake Story” workbook, which acted as a diary and a safe space for them to work through and grow past their trauma. Photo: Alexandra Corazza for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Local partner New-zone of Youth Development Center  </span>
    Jin Yong, a first-grader who was badly injured in a landslide caused by the quake, was frequently frightened and would cry easily even after his wounds had healed. When he returned to school, he communicated his fears through drawings, poems and writing in his workbook. Photo: Local partner New-zone of Youth Development Center
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Alexandra Corazza for Mercy Corps  </span>
    By sharing their stories with peers and caregivers, students find solace and support. Eventually they are able to heal and return to a sense of normalcy in which they can learn, play and feel safe again. Photo: Alexandra Corazza for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Alexandra Corazza for Mercy Corps  </span>
    We trained local caregivers to administer the Comfort for Kids curriculum in Ya’an. Teaching educators and counselors in vulnerable communities how to respond after crises ensures children will have the support they need even after the program closes. Photo: Alexandra Corazza for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Zhang Jia/Mercy Corps  </span>
    “I feel much more prepared now to support my children,” said Xie Hongmei, a caregiver at Shuang Shi Primary School. Until she went through the training, she recalled feeling very unsure about how to respond in the aftermath of the earthquake. “I now know how to help,” she said. “I must listen carefully to their fears and patiently help work through them.” Photo: Zhang Jia/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Alexandra Corazza for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Other caregivers who went through the program expressed that in helping their students face the difficulties of loss, they were able to work through a great deal of their own trauma. Photo: Alexandra Corazza for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Zhang Jia/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Zhang Junming, the head teacher at an elementary school, was proud when asked about the Comfort for Kids program in his school. "Through the workbook, the teacher becomes the child's counselor and friend," he said. Photo: Zhang Jia/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Alexandra Corazza for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Throughout the program, we helped nearly 6,000 affected children heal from the trauma of natural disaster, and prepared the communities’ committed teachers, counselors and caregivers with the resources they need to continue to provide this vital support in the future. Photo: Alexandra Corazza for Mercy Corps

Written in collaboration with Liu Wanlan, Program Logistics Officer.

The first Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) after a disaster is a welcomed ceremony. It is a time of renewal — a chance for communities to honor the sacrifice many families have suffered, and look toward building a better future.

In the midst of this ongoing two-week festival, we are celebrating a successful project helping kids in remote China recover after their communities were rattled by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake last April.

In the days after the quake, we distributed urgently needed supplies to meet the basic needs of families in the hardest-to-reach areas, and later helped reopen kindergartens to give kids a safe place to go while their parents worked to rebuild.

We also implemented our Comfort for Kids program to provide long-term emotional support for the area’s affected children, who are especially vulnerable after trauma. Now nine months after the quake — in communities formerly ravaged by disaster — students once again gather to laugh, run and play.

Click through the photos above to see how Comfort for Kids helped these children heal.