Psychosocial interventions for children in Emergency situations.

Designing activities for children.

Your psychosocial team argues that you should work with community members to identify secure venues for children’s activities. What kinds of venue are you looking for? Why?

It is important to let the community participate in designing interventions for children in emergency situations because of various reasons. For starters there are often pre-existing community based mechanisms and it would be a waste not to use these. After an emergency it is important to identify the existing community mechanisms by talking to a variety of key informants. After the existing coping mechanisms and community-based mechanisms have been identified, one should try to build and improve these systems. This argument of community participation is based on realizing an effective and efficient approach of child protection (using the existing sources and building upon them). Another argument for the participation of community members is that the community members know what approaches of child protection and venues are cultural appropriate and will appeal to the community. The participation of community members also could contribute to engagement, community ownership and sustainability of the intervention.

In order to realize community participation in identifying appropriate venues for the psychosocial interventions for children, we should first explain the importance of activities for children to the community. Children’s activities are, for example, important to help normalize the condition of the children during the emergency and to help them recover from trauma.

We can identify several benefits from working with community members to identify secure venues (as mentioned before). If we work with the community, we will be able to find what activities and locations are suitable for children. Also, the participation of the community will provide us with information about the cultural norms and values. This knowledge will enable us to make informed decisions on the interventions (as well as the locations) in order to avoid cultural inappropriate measures. We could set up interviews with different key persons at the community or use FGD with parents and PRM with children in order to identify suitable venues for the interventions. When listening to the community members, take into account the representational value of the group of community members we are listening to. Are several subgroups of the community represented; are the diverse voices of the community being heard?

The community members will be able to help us identify suitable venues for the interventions, they could help us by telling which locations are secure and are accessible to children, where children feel comfortable etc. Besides that, the community members will be able to help us identify existing community resources and coping mechanisms, which we could use as a base in the formation of interventions.

During the key informant interviews and the focus group discussions, we will ask the community member whether there is a location that fits our criteria, namely:

Criteria of the location:
1. Child friendly
2. Easy access
3. Conducive for learning and training processes
4. Secure
5. Sustainable

Examples of possible venues could be a school, a childcare center (Posyandu), a primary health centre (Puskesmas), a community center, a youth center etc.

We would prefer to use a pre existing location in community (a location that existed before the emergency found place). There are several benefits from using a pre existing community. The community members and children will know where the location is, they will know how to get there; this might contribute to a feeling of easy access. Because the children and community members are already familiar with the location, it might feel more secure to them. And finally, the location already existed and will keep existing (in contrary to for example a temporary tent, which could be used for psychosocial interventions), this will contribute to sustainability.

Another important criteria for the venue will be that it is a location where the children can also have fun and play. It would be preferable if there is a playground near the venue. If there is no playground, or the existing playground has been destroyed by the emergency, we could try to make a new one. For the children, who might be traumatized after the emergency, it will be very important to be able to play in a secure environment. We should try to establish that. In order to identify a secure, appropriate location for this playground, we should ask the community members to participate.

Also of great importance will be to establish a location where the youth can do whatever they like, create a youth center. In Indonesia we call this ‘gelanggang remaja’. A place for the youth to gather, hang out, talk and have fun. In order to identify a secure, appropriate location for this youth center, we should ask the community members to participate.

We would also prefer to include key persons of the community in the psychosocial interventions. For instance we would like them to become facilitators to conduct the activities with the children. The participation of community members in the activities is important because of the sustainability of the psychosocial program. We hope that after we leave, the psychosocial program can still continue.

Criteria for the facilitators of children activities are:
1. Care about children
2. Patient
3. Friendly
4. Responsible
5. Creative to create fun and educative activities for the children

The community participation as mentioned above should not be limited to just giving information on suitable locations. We should also ask them to join in preparing (or building) the location, making them child friendly etc. And after that we will try to include community members in the children’s activities.

The involvement of community members should be on different levels and in different activities to create engagement, community ownership and sustainability.


In designing psychosocial activities, you are asked to be mindful about “Doing No Harm” to your participants. Why is this important? How is this principle related to being culturally sensitive? Please provide an example.

“Doing No Harm” is important because the community has just experienced an emergency. When we come in, to provide psychosocial interventions, it is one of the first steps to help them recover and to normalize their lives. Therefore, it is crucial for us not to worsen the situation by doing (unintended) harm. By letting us guide by the principle of “doing no harm” we can avoid double victimization in the community, minimize the chance of (secondary) trauma, and we can build trust with the community. By doing no harm, the recovery of the community will be quicker, better and more sustainable.

Being culturally sensitive is the part of the “Doing No Harm” principle. We will have to adjust western oriented ideas to with the local culture. In order to do no harm we will have to adjust our approach to the local norms and values, to tradition and to the cultural wisdom. Although we will have to take all these local norms and values into account when designing the intervention, we also need to take a critical look at the local norms and values. They will have to contribute to the recovery of the children, not make the situation worse. So, we will need to take local norms and values into account, but not blindly follow them. By being cultural sensitive, we can avoid double victimization and (secondary) trauma. To be cultural sensitive will also enlarge the chance of acceptance of the community.

For example: When designing a psychosocial intervention in Aceh (Indonesia) there are several cultural norms and values that should be taken into account:
· In some parts of Aceh is very strict about music, so we must very careful to implement music as a therapy method.
· The culture in Aceh is closely related with the religion (Islam). In the Islam, there are several rules that govern the relationship between men and women, If both the man and the woman are Muslim, they will have to minimize direct contact (they have to be accompanied or they should be separated by a long cloth). In Aceh it is forbidden for men and women to be in one room together. So we must separate men and women using “hijab” (a long cloth). We should ensure that the girls will never have to be alone with a male facilitator in one room and vice versa.
· The use of a cross sign and animal pictures or puppets such as dog and pig, are forbidden in Aceh.
· Wear appropriate (covering) clothes.
· In some parts of Aceh it is forbidden to wear jeans.
· Women should wear a headscarf.