Children go through terrible experiences during a war. Some are
injured or threatened, many more see friends, neighbours and even their own
family hurt or killed. They live with fear, hunger and loneliness. Violence
and hatred surround them. Even once they are safe, the nightmares come back.
Heather MacLeod is a New Zealand nurse who has worked with many children traumatised
by their war experiences. She knows they need to talk about it and get their
feelings out, or the memories will keep hurting them for years to come. She
says, 'I always know the children most at risk. They're the quiet ones who withdraw
Phyllis Kilbourn, a psychologist who also works with children affected by war,
uses a system to help her plan her programmes. In her book, Healing the Wounds
of War, she lists four things which are important in helping traumatised children.
Together they help STOP the chaos war leaves in a child's mind.
Structure – a regular routine in a
safe, orderly environment Talking and time – a chance to tell
their story and let their feelings out Organised play – to express themselves
and to feel normal again Parental support – at least one caring
adult to support the child
The STOP formula has proven effective in World Vision's Kosovo programme, helping
battle-scarred children recover from the trauma of war. An integral part of the
programme in 1999 was New Zealand actor Aaron Ward's alter ego, Elvo the clown.
As a mime clown, Elvo did not speak so language was not a barrier. He entertained
by making balloon animals, painting faces, and encouraging children to draw pictures.
transformated the refugee centres he visited - at first a degree of puzzlement,
then hilarity, then full-on excitement and delight. Under the circumstances it's
remarkable the children smiled at all. Dr. Deanna Beech, a clinical psychologist
who heads up the programme says, 'Elvo reminded children there are fun things
and they can be happy. Otherwise they would tend to grow up seeing other people
as inevitably aggressive. Without these fun times their entire personality can
change for the worse and perpetuate the conflicts they come from.'
Click Here to download a video clip on Elvo the clown. (Please note - this video requires Windows Media Player 8 or greater)
Imagine that a young person your own age
has just joined your class at school. Ana is a refugee who has just moved
from her war-torn country to yours. Her mother and father were killed in
the war and she now lives with her aunt and uncle in your community. She
is silent most of the time, but becomes angry and violent over even the
smallest incident, for example, when someone accidentally bumps into her.
into small groups Draw a circle divided into three parts. Label them ‘anger’
‘fear’ and ‘sadness’. In the appropriate segments,
list the reasons why Ana might be experiencing that emotion.
List the people, activities and opportunities in your school or class
that might help Ana. Use the STOP approach to help you with your ideas.