It’s noon on Thursday, December 7, a month and a half has passed since the Hurricane Otis causing destruction in its path Acapulco, and about twenty women and men surrounded a soccer field in a town on the southeast side of the port. They sing, draw and talk about their experiences with natural disasters as part of a “friendly space” session, installed by professionals from the organization Save the Children.
Debris from the destruction still remains around the farm. There, social workers and psychologists worked with minors for two weeks, although their work began a month ago to find the areas with the most damage and design a plan to contains content. childhood and adolescence in the most vulnerable areas in this time of crisis.
At the beginning, girls and boys listen and welcome their classmates, sharing what they did and what they did in the hours after the previous day’s session. Here the minors set the rules of coexistence.
They support the children of Acapulco who were affected by Hurricane Otis with activities
After they disinfect their hands to proceed with other activities to ensure their emotional and mental health after Otisthat in a few hours from a tropical storm to category 5 storm. The main interest is to know and work on their shock level due to the typhoon.
Among these twenty children are José, Ana, Gael and Lía, whose names have been changed to protect their identities. Everyone said that two weeks ago they were “depressed” about stormbut now they feel “happy.”
–How are you?–, asked José, who is 12 years old and in the first grade of secondary school.
“Amazing,” he answered frankly.
José is unique among the children present, not only as one of the oldest, but because of his eloquence and clarity in expressing his feelings.
–Before seeing what my house had become, I felt sadness and loss. Here they help me raise my emotions, they help me feel happy and content,” he commented later.
José, under 12 years old, remembers the day Hurricane Otis passed through Acapulco
The reason for his sadness is because of what he experienced in the early morning of storm. On October 25, none of the five members of his family, including his two brothers, one older and one under four years old, who were also in the friendly space, his father, his mother and him, slept in house because they are They. left homeless. The wind blew away some of the blankets, and amidst the wind and rain they took refuge in their uncle’s house, which had a cement house.
On the second day of storm They saw how the houses were abandoned, including theirs; “They were very ugly and that’s why it hit us so hard.” Because “the material is in flight; “It destroyed the houses and many were killed,” said José when he remembered those times.
Later, he saw his mother crying because there was not enough to feed them. Because of the destruction of storm and looting of stores, there was a shortage of food at the port. There is also no electricity, water, telephone or road communication; more with work.
What is Save the Children México doing in Acapulco, Guerrero?
The independent organization Save the Children México works with children on different axes, depending on the context and needs of the place they go to. For example, in the north of the country they usually focus on the issue of migration, but in the particular case of Acapulco after a natural disaster, focused on education and HEALTH.
Most of the boys and girls missed classes because their schools were affected. As of December 5, 829 schools remained damaged. Meanwhile, according to local authorities, 403 public schools of various educational levels are continuing in-person classes in Acapulco and Coyuca de Benítez, in 1,200 of the two towns.
In the first weeks after stormthe suspension of classes due to damage to the schools of Acapulco and Coyuca de Benítez affected 214,716 students at all school levels.
The axis of HEALTH It includes physical and mental aspects, and subjects of water, hygiene and sanitation, which the organization lists as “Washing”, with the aim of minors contributing to their community.
The effects on childhood mental health caused by the passage of Otis in Acapulco
Within these axes, the element of greatest attention is that of mental health.
“(…) We, as the third brigade, are already responding to specific issues such as HEALTH mentally, because we see that children experience sadness, and they do not express it. Their emotions are not managed, and they have no way of channeling them, so we observe poor management of emotions. What we are working on is mental health with them,” said Arizaí Anzueto Pérez, manager of Human Rights Protection. Save the Children México.
The past and present work of this organization in Acapulco This is done by brigades within defined axes. The first two brigades work to map the most affected areas and make the first contact with the population, while the third brigade, which is active today, focuses on the aspect of emotional health.
They do this using the “Heart” method, a healing program through the arts, such as music, painting, design and writing, so that minors can express themselves and, at the same time, -explore their creativity.
In the town where this “friendly space” is located, the damage is as evident as the dangerous conditions in which many families live. In addition, they face other consequences, such as the lack of institutional attention to aspects such as public safety, despite the fact that this area is no more than 15 minutes by public transport from the city of Acapulco. The state of insecurity at the port is known both inside and outside the state.
she storm This exacerbates the situations that minors are already in.
“Maybe that’s your first thought storm creates effects; “Here it only highlights the many vulnerabilities that already exist in the area,” said Jorge Ángel Coca, Livelihood Leader of the organization.
He pointed out in particular the weaknesses that are also present in the area, such as the aspect of personal hygiene and risk avoidance, since many families are dedicated to collecting garbage.
But among the many vulnerabilities is the uncertain context of the port and the individual life stories of each child. Ana, 11 years old, mentioned this when she studied the sadness experienced by those storm seeing his house destroyed.
“A few days ago I was sad, sometimes I cried, because my mother and my father were gone. “They killed my dad, and my mom is not with me, she went to Tijuana.”
Fortunately, now, even in the midst of what he had experienced, his emotional state was different. “I’m happy here,” he added.
The friendly spaces of this mission have the task of creating a safe place to protect girls, boys and adolescents who are at risk due to various situations that, in many cases, can lead to abuse.
They set the pace.
They address the needs of children affected by Otis
One of the key points of the mission is to identify the weaknesses of the area and listen to the needs of women, men and teenagers, and solve them according to the rhythm and direction they set. One of the main objectives of the method they use is that minors can express themselves through the games they choose.
“What we know is what we ask with them, and that’s what we focus on: that they can express their emotions, that they can enjoy free play and that they can develop self-control,” explained Jorge.
Arizaí said that, through the drawings, they know the serious aspects that minors experience, so they intend to work with other places, organizations and institutions. They work closely with mothers and fathers in the communities.
Of all that José does in the “friendly space” of his community, he especially enjoys painting, but he also enjoys breathing exercises, perhaps because it gives him a moment of peace.
Ana, Gael and Lía are also drawn to painting, but they value these mission actions as their refuge.
Primary and secondary schools in the area were destroyed, as well as their homes. Women, men and teenagers have no activities because many, including educations, have not yet been reactivated in the port.
In Lía’s house, the only concrete room they had left standing, determined the situation of her and her family. “To distract myself, because we’re bored at home, so I can’t miss it,” said Lía, 11, when asked what the “friendly space” was for.
Save the Children México currently there are two “friendly spaces” open in different locations of Acapulco, including the one visited, and in the third location they made a map. These spaces operate from Monday to Friday, from 10 am to 12 pm and from 2 pm to 4 pm. The names of all these places have been omitted to protect the safety of children and teenagers.
The independent organization’s prototype project in response to this natural disaster crisis will last 18 months. They started a month ago, but the plan is to expand the friendly spaces and maintain them permanently with the collaboration of the residents of the communities.
–Did you like the activities? –Gael, 10 years old, was asked.
– How did they help you?
– To forget Otis.