Bahamas – Team 2
Christen Bradbury (lead), Hallie Chancellor, Cassidy Taylor
Dates of Deployment: October 7-12, 2019
Served ~230 children
Day 1: October 7th
Today we observed a lot of aggression surrounding objects, attention, and space. When working with small groups, we were able to help some of the children work on creative expression, telling their stories to work through their trauma, processing of doubts and concerns (over the future as well as friends/family who they had not heard from), redirection of aggression, structured/safe play, energy release, rapport building, and setting boundaries.
Day 2: October 8th
We spent the day at a smaller shelter in a community center that held about 250 people and worked with about 30 children. Several of the children drew their old homes, which they said were gone. They expressed sadness and said they weren’t allowed to talk about their emotions. We let them know it was safe to talk to us about their feelings and they did. One child drew the beginning of the hurricane, where he saw the trees starting to bend in the wind. Another drew himself in the water during the storm and spoke of his fear when he was in the boat. He drew sharks and said while he didn’t see any, he had heard they were there and it scared him. Another girl took a white piece of paper and vigorously colored almost all of it black. She was unable to articulate what it meant to her.
We later went outside to do some movement activities for healthy expression of energy. We made ourselves “hurricanes” and used our bodies to show the wind, our mouths to mimic the sounds, and our hands to portray thunder and rain. Several of the children chose to name themselves “Hurricane Dorian”, and one said she chose that name because she was “the biggest hurricane and would ruin everything”.
After lunch the younger children used blocks and medical play to help them tell their stories. They were very detailed in their descriptions of the noises they heard, the water, what they saw outside, and eventually their rescue. They talked about being in Nassau and that they would return to school soon. Some of the children expressed their concerns about dying and participated in a lyric writing session to help express and re-shape their fears.
We also did a small group with some of the teens. We guided them through an activity called “Emotion Ocean”, where they each identified emotions they felt during and after the hurricane. They then created a “life boat”, where they identified people or things that help them cope when they are feeling these emotions. As they painted, they spoke about their experiences. One boy said how he was in the church and saw the water rushing by the window. They then had to climb up to the rafters to keep out of the water. The roof was becoming unstable with the wind and he and his family were crying, afraid that they would die. They were eventually rescued but he knew others who he says didn’t make it. Another girl processed feelings of guilt because her step-brother and step-mother had died. They also talked about how they didn’t want to go to school in Nassau because of fears that they would get hurt.
Day 3: October 9th
Today we went back to the largest shelter and worked with 45 children.
One CCLS was able to spend some time with a young 3-year-old who was able to articulate her story very well despite her age. She drew a picture of her father, who she said had been shot. We were unsure if this was part of the hurricane trauma or something entirely different. It was clear that this was affecting her. She described to the CCLS how she saw her father fall down on his side and drew blood where he was shot. She said he had died. The CCLS listened and supported her and asked therapeutic questions, creating a safe and open space for her to process what she needed and how she was feeling.
Another group worked in a different area with adolescents. They were placed at the Bahama Academy after their rescue. A couple teenage boys chose to write – one wrote a song (about his friend) and one wrote a story. They then sang and recorded “Lean on Me” together.
Initially there was a small group at the craft table and the CCLS decided to do “Emotion Ocean” with them as well. One spoke about how they had to leave his dog during the storm and that he thought it was dead. We then started talking about going back to school and feelings associated with starting somewhere unfamiliar.
Day 4: October 10th
Today, we worked with about 50 children at the Kendall Isaacs Gym.
The first group of the day started with a tension release activity and then moved into a “Coping Skills Bingo” game that we created. They talked about how and when to use these skills, and one boy said “I’ve done that before! I did deep breaths when the hurricane came.”
Another group worked on identification of emotions and then specifically worked on aggressive behavior. The CCLS helped the group release tension and negative energy through movements and implemented the “Being the Hurricane” activity with them. They also worked on coping skills and then demonstrated use of them for the rest of the day.
During a group with the teens, they worked on safe community play behaviors and expression through art. They used sidewalk chalk, and several drew their old homes. They spoke about how they missed their island, their homes, and talked about how they were rescued. As some were drawing, the rest were looking on and talking about their shared experiences. They encouraged each other and shared this community building experience.
During a group with just teen girls, watercolor supplies were left out for them to paint with as we talked about their experience. With no prompting, they all chose to paint the sea. One painted it as she liked to remember it and talked about how she liked watching the “gullies” catch fish. Another painted hers with colorful rain coming down. Another, who initially chose not to share, drew a thunderstorm with a rainbow above it. As we were leaving, she stopped us and said she wanted to share what it meant. She said “this [thunderstorm] is how my heart feels right now because of the hurricane, the water below is changing color – it’s showing how change is coming. The rainbow is my promise that the change will be good.”
Day 5: October 11th
Today we worked with 40 children at the gym. We worked on aggression and community building with play-doh activities.
Day 6: October 12th
Today we worked on aggression and coping with a new group of kids, many drew “dream” homes and talked about hope for the future, and spoke about our transition out using the book “The Invisible String.” Some of the children continued to speak about their stories, one young child sat and spoke about his story for quite some time, this repetition helped him to make some sense of it all.
During outdoor play, a CCLS took one of the kids with autism out to play with the other children. After modeling inclusion during popular playground games, the other children began integrating him into play. Eventually they were helping him and making sure he was involved. The sense of community seems to be growing and the children are reacting to the themes we have been working on this week.
At the Nazareth Home we met 7 boys who were displaced by the hurricane. We noted that 4 of them had a disability or cognitive delay. While 3 of the boys wanted to articulate some of their story, only one child seemed to show need for deeper processing. He was avoidant at times but was able to participate in some therapeutic activities that seemed to support his need to debrief after the trauma of the hurricane. He expressed anger and sadness and spoke through a puppet to communicate that he gets aggressive when he feels those things.
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.
If you would like to support our mission and future deployments, please donate here.