Case Study: Psychosocial Intervention for Children in Emergency Situations
“Designing Activities for Children”

We will work with community members to first identify existing community centers or safe spaces that may be appropriate for our activities. The ideal venue would be easily accessible to children and their parents, meaning within reach and not too far from the community. It should be located in a secure area where children are able to participate in activities without fear of danger. In addition, we are looking for a venue that includes an outdoor area which is safe for outdoor activities; children who live in a dangerous community or situation may not typically get an opportunity to be outside, therefore we would like to incorporate outdoor activities into our program.

Some venues to consider may include community centers or places of worship which are central to community socialization. We would prefer to avoid having our activities take place in a school, which children may equate with an authoritarian space where they are not free to express themselves.

We would like the space to be child-friendly and encourage creativity; it should be colorful and decorated with artwork and murals designed by the children if possible. The design of the venue should include separate rooms and areas so that activities can be segregated by genders and ages if necessary, but there should also be a communal area for group activities. Ideally, we are looking for a venue where children feel like they can be free to express themselves in an atmosphere that is similar to a home away from home.

In designing, preparing, and implementing psychosocial programming for children, it is necessary to consider the socio-political, economic, and cultural aspects that may influence participation and outcome. For example, it may be necessary to divide children based on their gender, age, and/or ethnic background depending on the religious, political, or cultural context. Dividing participants based on their gender is also an important way to protect women and girls from GBV or sexual harassment (on their way to the psychosocial program, while engaging in the activity, and/or walking back from programs to their homes). Our group also discussed the benefits (and detriments) of implementing a mentor system comprised of older and younger children affected by emergencies and/or armed conflict. Not only would mentoring activities boost self-confidence, morale, instill a sense of purpose and responsibility, and help the healing process for the mentors, the mentees would benefit immensely from the relationship building nature of these programs. This would also be a great way to unite the community after a catastrophic event.

Also, our group emphasized the importance of maintaining a “work” and “play” balance in psychosocial programming initiatives. In other words, allowing the children to participate in art projects, sing-a-longs, and theatrical productions (of course, these are a few examples among many) not only serves the purpose of collective healing and therapy, but also ensures that the participants feel as though they have accomplished something concrete—an important juxtaposition to the oftentimes abstract aftermath in disaster scenarios.