“Ray of Sunshine” program in camp for flood affected families
In August 2010, during some of the hottest days of a sweltering Romanian summer, AMURTEL Romania’s newly formed volunteer relief team, set up its first “Ray of Sunshine” women and children’s programs in a camp in Braila for families affected by the Danube flooding this summer. AMURTEL Romania had organized a Disaster Relief Management program in July, so it was a perfect opportunity to put the “Child Friendly Spaces” model presented in the training directly into action.
20 children came whose homes were destroyed in floods
Twenty children of a wide range of ages participated in the program. They were all from socio-economically disadvantaged families, that had been living in a state subsidized housing project when the banks of the Danube river across the street flooded into the apartment building one morning, filling up the ground floor with two meters of water in a matter of a few hours. Families salvaged what they could as the waters rose, bringing a few precious items upstairs to neighbors, but the majority of their furniture and belongings were destroyed. It took days for the waters to recede, and the building to dry out so that it could begin to be repaired. In the meantime, the residents of the block were all evacuated to a somewhat run down state owned youth camp, where they are staying in cabins and receiving hot meals until their dwellings are ready to move back into.
AMURTEL organized a children’s program with arts, story telling, dance and more
Thanks to our sponsors, AMURTEL was able to buy a pavilion tent, art supplies, toys and snacks for the children, as well as some camping supplies for the team. The children received special invitations to the program and were eagerly awaiting the team in the morning. Everyone pitched in to help set up the tent. The program included songs, story telling face-painting, paper mache, painting, games and dancing. At first, some of the parents were a bit suspicious, but the joyful laughter of the children attracted them closer, and soon mothers were found absorbed in painting and paper mache alongside of their children, or leading festive Roma dances.
Women’s program full of laughter
AMURTEL also organized an afternoon women’s gathering….actually the women were already gathered in the shade under a tree, munching on sunflower seeds, and we joined them, introducing ourselves and learning more about the group. The women all were enthusiastic to present each other and everyone that they are a very united community that helps each other out and loves to laugh and joke. We discovered that most of them were interrelated by marriage or blood, truly an extended family. We introduced some cooperative games, and relaxation techniques – amidst a lot of delighted laughter and bantering, and then the mothers joined the children for dancing when we put on some traditional Roma music.
The next morning, already at 6.30 am the children were up, busily sweeping the tent and lovingly wiping the tables about 6 times – eagerly asking the team members as they went to the showers or bathroom – what time will you come to play? It was evident that most of the children had had very limited access to opportunities for creative expression and so they responded hungrily.
The second day we read “Where the Wild Things Are” and then made playdough monsters and wild masks and for a party at the end with more dancing and games. The program concluded with a drawing in which every child won a stuffed animal, koosh ball and some snacks to take home. It was a successful and enjoyable program for all.