PTSD Professional Perspective: Helping Children Recover from Trauma
Sunday, November 29th, 2009 • PTSD Guest Post: Professional Perspective •
It’s a wonderful time of year for this week’s guest poster, a guy who is really giving back to humanity in a BIG way. Jonathan Wilson is doing incredible work helping children heal trauma. Today, he shares his story…
The first experience I had with the tremendous power of an earthquake and the emotional impact it can have was the Northridge Quake in Southern California back in the mid-90′s. My wife and I grabbed our young son and sheltered under a table while things fell off of our bookshelves and news reports came in of more violent damage in the communities surrounding us.
We were safe and nothing was broken, but what we were not prepared for was the stress of life after a disaster. For a short period of time, everything in our lives had to be adjusted, and every time an aftershock occurred we found ourselves with hearts pounding looking for a table to hide under. The stress wore on our young family and we started to snap at each other and those around us. For us the strain of a few weeks of life after a disaster was difficult, but for many that strain can be almost insurmountable.
For the past few years I have been privileged to start a humanitarian project in Asia: “OperationSAFE” helps children who have been through trauma begin the journey to recovery. Children who have suffered trauma in disasters, war-zones, refugee and IDP camps, poverty and abuse are all in need of help. These children often come to think that somehow they are to blame for what has happened to them. They feel too ashamed or afraid to share their experiences, and they have little access to professional counseling. OperationSAFE brings to these children a 5-day camp where they meet new friends, sing songs, play games, make crafts and listen to stories, all the while learning important lessons to help their recovery.
I have met incredible people who are giving their utmost to help these children regain hope. One such woman is “Summer”, a champion Chinese rock climber who immediately started helping rescuers when the Great Sichuan Earthquake struck. She was so impressed with the needs of the children that she returned to the quake zone with books and set up libraries where the children could come and read in the midst of the evacuation camps. This summer, OperationSAFE helped volunteers like Summer set up nine camps for children in Sichuan.
At one of the camps a little girl was reluctant to hold hands with the other children during games. On the second day of the camp, while relaxing with one of the volunteers she confided that during the earthquake she had lost a finger and was ashamed and afraid that the other children would tease her. With love and acceptance, she faced her fear and was amazed at the compassion of the other children who had also been through the quake. She spent the rest of the camp unafraid and confident.
The core of the OperationSAFE program is “Pete’s Adventure”, the story of a little penguin who is separated from his family when their ice-shelf breaks off into the sea. The children relate to Pete and his experiences of loss and fear, loneliness and despair, but also make the journey with him as he makes new friends, faces challenges, finds hope and learns to help his friends as well.
We are currently working on an animated film version of “Pete’s Adventure” than can be translated and used with children who have suffered trauma all over the world. Please take a look at the trailer for “Pete’s Adventure” and help us help those like Summer who are helping children with trauma.
Jonathan Wilson is the Founder of OperationSAFE. He has been working in Asia for 20 years and has been involved in humanitarian projects in Japan, Cambodia, Indonesia and China.
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