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Helping children recover from Typhoon Haiyan

Fourteen-year-old Kenna vividly remembers the night she was forced to leave her home to flee the typhoon that would change her young life. She and her family were among the 16 million Filipinos affected by Super Typhoon Haiyan on 8 November last year, when it ripped across parts of the Philippines, killing more than 6,000 people, with many others still missing, and damaging 1.1 million homes.

Today, Kenna’s village is among the many typhoon-affected communities in the Visayas region that are displaying visible signs of recovery. Shiny new corrugated steel roofing casts glimmers in the morning and afternoon sun. Tall banners announcing the reopening of larger businesses dot street lamps and billboards along main thoroughfares all over Tacloban City. Children can be seen on their way to and from school, sporting identical school bags provided by aid agencies.

Kenna (pictured above) is back in school. She’s now in the Grade 10. Yet for her and millions of others, the catastrophic events of November 8 2013 remain fresh in their memories. She is just glad she can now help other children who went through the same experience as her.

In the months after Haiyan, Kenna attended a ChildFund-supported Child-Centred Space (CCS) in her community, which had been set up to provide a safe place for children affected by the disaster. It was here that she learned to process her fears and emotions from that terrifying night.

Altogether, ChildFund Philippines set up 22 centres in typhoon-affected communities where children could gather, play and receive trauma support. When school resumed in January this year, the spaces were used as temporary classrooms to substitute for school buildings that were destroyed or damaged by the typhoon.

ChildFund youth volunteers are still helping to run games and activities at our Child-Centred Spaces for children on the weekends

The CCS are still very active today. They’re open on the weekend when children are off school, providing nutritious food and safe drinking water, and giving children a safe space to play and receive support from trained volunteers. Kenna is now one of those volunteers.

“Each day of the weekend, I get about 60 to 100 children attending CCS,” Kenna says. “Such numbers can get unruly sometimes, especially among the younger kids, but you just need lots of patience.”

After receiving support herself at her local CCS, Kenna was determined to extend the same support to other children her age and younger. She trained with ChildFund to learn the science behind the games and other activities that are run at the CCS. Kenna and her peers also learned about child protection, particularly in the context of a post-emergency situation, where circumstances remain difficult as people are still recovering and infrastructure is being repaired.

Asked how much longer she will volunteer with ChildFund, Kenna is resolute in her answer: “As long as I’m still needed.”

Following a massive relief effort, ChildFund Philippines and its local partners are now working on the recovery phase of our Haiyan emergency response. For the next three to five years, this will include helping to restore livelihoods, strengthening community-based child protection mechanisms and providing disaster risk management and emergency response training for local communities. The work of local communities, including volunteers like Kenna, is absolutely vital to this ongoing effort.

One year on from Typhoon Haiyan, ChildFund Australia would again like to thank our Project Humanity partners and everyone who donated to support our relief and recovery work in the Philippines. More than $620,000 has been donated to date. Thank you!

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