Bahamas – Team 4
Ashley Zani (lead), Erin Myers, Gail Klayman
Deployment Dates: October 21-27th
We spent most of our time working with children at the Kendal Isaacs Gym this week. Each day we worked with approximately 25-45 children on socialization through group activities and play, serving about 280 children total throughout the week. Aggression and anger were common to see amongst the children. We worked specifically on community-building interactions, appropriate touch, sharing, personal space, cooperative play, language, taking turns, voicing needs and conversation. Solidifying these behaviors required constant reinforcement, but we saw the children who participated in our activities regularly progress every single day and even hourly.
We strived to provide normalization through age appropriate play. We offered children opportunities for activities to promote expression and processing. Throughout the week they were able to draw and paint pictures of their family homes, most of which were lost and tell us about them. Many used blocks to build homes and knock them over and verbally express it was a storm, but we also heard children voice that the homes could be rebuilt – something we reinforced and encouraged them to do with their blocks to begin to reframe hope. We played games that intentionally promoted communication and expression of feelings and allowed the children to learn and acknowledge that others shared the same feelings. Kids were able to express when they felt scared, happy, uncomfortable, isolated, silly, etc. During those discussions we taught the children easily replicated coping techniques: deep breaths, time alone, blowing bubbles, taking a walk, counting to ten to name a few. We provided safe and comfortable methods of play including, but not limited to puppet play, medical play and small people play, to talk about feelings, experiences and misconceptions. Medical play sessions allowed children to process and better understand the recent vaccination process that they had all gone through.
We utilized a space created for kids and ensured that within that space they could express their fear, anger, frustration and sadness. The vast majority of behaviors observed were typical of children who had experienced and are experiencing ongoing trauma. Behaviors included, but were not limited to crying, hitting, inability to communicate appropriately, fear of a repeat event, hoarding, reported sleep disturbances, and worry among many others. We observed multiple children using a communal story line as their own; claiming their parents or family members had died. When asked more about the reported death, they quickly corrected stating that their person was still alive and, in many cases, also present at the shelter. This type of storytelling can result from hearing others and internalizing their stories. These are all well documented behavioral signs of trauma and left un-addressed will hamper resilience and negatively affect the recovery and future for the children affected.
During one session with school agers and adolescents, we started with feelings flashcards. We went through each one at a time and had group discussion about each feeling, when those feelings might be experienced, and ideas for how to cope with a feeling and/or how to transition to a different feeling. One of the younger girls told the story of saying goodbye to her grandfather who stayed on Abaco as she boarded the last ferry off the island before the storm. Once she was reunited with her mom after the storm she found out her grandfather had died. There were a lot of shared frustrations and all the girls seemed to enjoy talking about experiences that resulted in similar feelings as well as sharing ways they prefer to cope. Faith was a very common theme among them. We then encouraged the girls to choose which of two additional activities they wanted to do. One activity involved choosing words to put on a rock to keep with them. The other involved water color painting on top of a word they chose to write on paper with white crayon. They could choose their words then paint over them to make them appear with water color over white crayon. For both activities, some of the girls chose words or phrases of strength/faith and others drew designs. Toward the end of the time together, multiple girls verbalized that they were feeling calm, relaxed and happy, one girl said she felt fantastic. They all agreed that they were glad they came.