accessibility & help

Indonesia: support for traumatised quake survivors

23 October 2009

Women and children sitting on the floor drawingRofiah Sakti/PMIAn Indonesian Red Cross project is helping women and children come to terms with psychological trauma caused by the earthquake in Padang on 30 September.

The psychosocial support team uses counselling, talking in groups, games and activities to help survivors deal with and recover from the emotional impact of a major disaster.

Elly Suryani is co-ordinating the team and has travelled to Padang from Banda Aceh, where she’s been working on a similar project helping people move on with their lives after the Boxing Day tsunami.

Elly says: “When something like this happens you think about emergency relief and providing the material things. It’s easy to forget the massive psychological impact a disaster like this earthquake can have on people – it’s important they also receive help with this.”

Helping children with puppets

Puppet shows are giving children an opportunity to explore how they feel about the earthquake. Elly said: “Yesterday, we had around 50 children take part aged from a few months to about 15 years old. We want to encourage them to go back to school when term starts on Monday.

“We also brought little cartoon booklets about preparing for a disaster and what to do if something happens. We talked about what they did when the earthquake happened and then went over what are the right and wrong things to do.”

Arie Anggraini is a teacher who works in a school that has been damaged.  She said: “Many of the pupils are too scared to leave their parents and come back to school, but the puppet show made a big difference. You could see the pupils really enjoyed it and it was so good to see them laugh again!”

Trapped by rubble

Women have been particularly hard hit by the earthquake as they were the ones at home with the children when it happened. The psychosocial team’s group counselling sessions give women the opportunity to talk about how they’ve coped in the aftermath.

During one session, Arie explained what happened to her when the earthquake struck. “I was at home with my mother, father and younger brother. I felt the whole house start to shake and I ran outside as fast as I could. But my mother was in the kitchen at the back of the house and couldn’t get out in time. I was really afraid and crying. My mother was trapped with rubble crushing her legs. We managed to get her out, but she had to be taken to hospital and she still can’t walk.”

A chance to talk

When Yidya and Elvana, members of the psychosocial team, bring the women together, it’s clear this is the first chance many of them have had to really talk about what happened. One woman shakes her arms and shouts and has tears rolling down her face.

Once everyone has had a chance to speak, Yidya and Elvana talk about ways the women can cope with stress and offer counselling.

Arie said: “The women all came early and were really keen to get involved in the session. It is good for them to talk through and for me too – to come to terms with what happened. I am really grateful to the Red Cross for coming.”

Read stories from survivors of the Indonesia earthquake

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