Cyclone Nargis killed more than 170,000 people and left many more homeless. Among the survivors were some children whom a team from Family Life Society counselled and recently revisted.

AS I ENTERED the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary Sisters’ house in a village in Myanmar, I saw a young girl decorating trees with drawings done by children during a four-day workshop.

I was in Myanmar with Jesuit Father Charles Sim of the Family Life Society to revisit the children we met from our last trip in June 2008; this time to conduct a workshop to help 26 children better manage their traumatic experience from cyclone Nargis which struck their village in May 2008.

It was the last day of the workshop and the children were looking forward to an early Christmas party. Some were helping the Sisters to prepare the food while others were sticking more decorations onto the walls.

The workshop we conducted is an adaptation from a Professor William Yule research project to teach child-survivors the skills to cope with trauma after a disaster.

These coping skills include breathing and relaxation techniques, drawing and writing exercises of the traumatic event, storytelling, dual attention exercise and creating a “safe place”.

The children responded well to our workshop and were able to use the skills effectively. They were happy to share their stories with us and the volunteers from the local psycho-social team through drawings of their recurring nightmares or frightening images of the cyclone and to discuss the drawings with us. - By Maria Plengsangtip

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