Bahamas – Team 1

Bahamas – Team 1

Cara Smith (lead), Eileen Esposito, and Hayley Wells

Dates of Deployment: September 27 – October 6, 2019

Over 240 child-interactions

Saturday, September 28

The team provided therapeutic play and psychosocial support at the shelter at Kendall Isaacs Gym.

Many of the children were very eager and willing to share their stories through play. One boy used blocks to share his experience of the hurricane, building familiar sites and structures as he shared about outrunning the hurricane, seeking shelter in a church and his journey by boat to Nassau. He said that he has had difficulty sleeping due to the images that continue to pop up in his mind from the events. He also talked about the many friends he lost contact with after the hurricane and his concern for their safety.  

Sunday, September 29

The team provided support at Ranfurly Home for Children.  Children used art, body movement and breathing, play and music to process through emotions present after the hurricane and transition to a new and unfamiliar home.

Monday, September 30

The team returned to Kendall Isaacs Gym and were greeted by the children eager to connect and engage. Conversations around the disaster experience naturally arose during playful engagement.

While braiding a team members hair, many of the girls began to talk about the family members and friends they had lost in the hurricane. The powerful winds were also a common topic of discussion.

Children engaged in play with blocks centered around rebuilding their schools. They were blowing the schools over and then joining together as a team to rebuild the schools, playing out an empowering moment and demonstration of mastery of a challenging experience.

Many children painted pictures of the hurricane. A group of children playing with the town scene encountered an unidentified threat to their community, they were able to ban together and defeat the threat – an excellent demonstration of empowerment. One CCLS read a book about feelings. When it came to the “scared” page, many children began sharing about the fear and terror that accompanied the hurricane.

Tuesday, October 1

The team provided psychosocial support and therapeutic interventions for children displaced by the hurricane at the Emergency Children’s Hostel.  Many children were very responsive to opportunities to express anger and frustration in safe and empowering ways. By the end of the day, many children were demonstrating new learned coping skills of deep breathing in response to stressful environmental stimuli.

Wednesday, October 2

Per the request of Dr. Lockhart and other medical team members, the team provided support at the Thomas Robinson Stadium during back to school physicals and immunizations. CCLSs were also stationed in the immunization room, supporting children during the stressful experience of injections. Many children were required to get up to four injections during the process. 

While one provided assistance in the emergency room, the two other team members provided interventions for a weekly support group of adolescent children at the Bahamas Academy Shelter. Eileen Esposito led some of the children in therapeutic song writing, while Cara Smith led children in a therapeutic art activity.

The children responded powerfully to this experience, sharing stories and experiences from the hurricane, some of which they stated they had not shared before. Many shared about the storm itself, the loss of friends and family, and the loss of all of their possessions. One boy wrote a song about Depression Dorian “who comes in and takes everything that you have, including your friends without giving you the chance to say goodbye”. A girl cried as she painted a picture for her grandfather lost in the hurricane and wrote, “I miss you”.  

Thursday, October 3

The team spent the morning focusing interventions at the Thomas Robinson Stadium and Kendall Isaacs Gym.  

Children can be seen displaying myriad emotions and opportunities to share their experiences without judgement in the presence of a supportive adult. As an example, one child drew a picture of a sad man. When children asked why the man was sad, the child responded, “He’s my dad and he’s lost.” 

Friday, October 4

The team returned to the Thomas Robinson Stadium, as high numbers of children were expected for school physicals. One intervention in particular demonstrated the important role of CLDR in this environment:  A young girl was required to receive four shots for immunizations. The girl had a fear of needles and was hovering in the corner upon entering the immunization room. The CCLS was able to encourage the child onto the mother’s lap in a comforting hold in order to complete the procedure. The procedure was extremely distressing for the child. The CCLS validated and comforted both the parent and the child. Once the procedure was complete, the child quickly rejoined the play opportunity with the CCLS. The mother, who expressed feeling guilty about not having access to her child’s previous immunization documentation, expressed deep gratitude for the support of the CCLS for both her and her daughter. 

This same CLDR team member was present for the child’s physical later in the day. The child engaged in medical play, giving the CCLS four immunization shots, two in each arm, playing out her own experience and demonstrating mastery over what had been a distressing intervention just moments before. After her physical, the child told her mother that she didn’t want to leave; she wanted to stay and play with her new friends. It was amazing to watch the transformation of a child hovering from fear of a medical intervention, to engaging freely and fully in playful interaction over the scope of her clinical visit.   

Saturday, October 5

The team assisted with a mental wellness session for a family of children affected by the hurricane. With assistance from the CLDR team, the children were able to be separated into smaller developmentally appropriate groups in order to provide more intensive interventions. The children engaged in block play, expressive art, body movement and breathing, music and bubbles. 

As we reflect on this past year, one of our greatest accomplishments was serving  children affected by Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas.

We would especially like to thank Veterans United Foundation and the many other private donors who made this deployment happen.  Without their kind and generous donations we could not have provided the therapeutic support desperately needed by these children.

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