Pure horror

By Bernd Ruf, March 2014

Emergency education following Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

Destruction in Tacloban, Philippines

Bitoy is two-and-a-half years old. He clings crying to his older brother as they sit between uprooted trees and his aunt’s severely damaged tiny wooden hut in the village of Burauen on the island of Leyte. Neighbours rescued both of them with their two brothers from the raging waters of typhoon Hayan. Their father drowned in front of them, their mother and sister Princes were killed when the hut collapsed.

Desperation in Tacloban

Bitoy no longer responds to anyone since the disaster. He is suffering from shock and has stopped eating and sleeping. There is a shortage of food. His aunt has to put the children up for adoption. After the typhoon, an eleven-member team from the Friends of Waldorf Education undertook an emergency education crisis intervention mission in the disaster zone. The team was supported by “Aktion Deutschland Hilft” and the Philippine Waldorf movement. The local connections meant that help could rapidly be given. The situation of many children is devastating. Many of them have lost their families. They run through the streets traumatised and confused searching for food and water. Frequently children can be seen standing at the side of the road with signs saying: “We need help”. In the region of Tacloban pure horror is still widespread weeks after the disaster. Over two-and-a-half million people are still dependent on being provided with basic supplies.

The emergency education team helped Bitoy’s brothers to become emotionally more stable. Rhythmical movement games, supported by eurythmy exercises, assisted in overcoming the physical rigidity of the traumatised children. Many children and young people suffered from terrible memories which can trigger fear of dying. Others suppressed them, could not remember anything at all or say anything about the disaster. But painting and drawing offered them the opportunity to give expression to their experiences.

Help must continue

Alongside the work with the traumatised children and young people, the emergency education team offered seminars for doctors, psychologists and teachers in Manila, San Dionysio and Tacloban. It was also possible to hold seminars advising parents how to deal with the traumatised reactions of their children. The work is set to continue with anthroposophical doctors, therapists, teachers and childcare workers.

The children will need continuing support until their courage to live returns and they see a future for themselves. The establishment of a child protection centre in the crisis region in Tacloban is in planning.

Freunde der Erziehungskunst, Emergency Pedagogy


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