I wrote about the “vomiting” culture in a previous post. Even though “vomiting” is common for adults, it is not common among the children at all, nor adults speak to children about it. The unseen mental stress of child fatality is thus mostly found in shadows. In this post, I write about my experience about interacting with children in an affected region and fun things I like to do as a way to be with them and share our familiarities together. I am not a specialist in this subject and besides not trying to be subjective in this topic, nonetheless trying to share the things that I absorbed along the way.
After helping to distribute relief supplies with local community personal, I usually spend sometimes with kids. It usually saddened me every time I interact with them and learning how much mentally and psychologically the earthquake has traumatized them. Not everyone but some of them were shocked, scared for any movement, are not able to speak, and are mostly staring at one certain place with eyes wide open. While trying to speak with them, the sense of cold touch in their hands made me feel how, in our culture, as I talked earlier, lack in understanding of mental problem and importance of psychological support towards people who are in need for that. That practice of when one don’t know what’s happening, blame it to the bad spirit or some angry god.
While being with children, I am mostly being with them, nothing whatsoever planned way, but just hanging around. Sometimes speaking with them about experiences, knowledge sharing, listening to how they feel, writing, drawing, telling jokes, making things out of papers, and playing games in groups. It is actually not so difficult as you might think it is.
Some children are usually shy in the beginning and might be still not comfortable to be with strangers right away, so I don’t expect to happen anything fast. The thing I need is the willingness to be in their physical level (sit in ground), smile, willingness to hear, ask question about them and their interest, feel free to tell about myself in simple way, respecting their views, little (sometimes lot of!) patient, and no expectations whatsoever from the interaction. In most cases, the session goes forward towards learning to use camera and photos of things they seem to tell or value. Not all the time is suitable or time for kids to interact with you, it so I usually try to be sensitive towards that too.
Does it sound difficult? I thought the same in the beginning, but surprisingly it does not take time once you forget yourself as an adult and become friend with them. And what about the whole group, you might think if it sounds difficult with one child. I have good news; it usually happens that once I am able to interact with few children, in no time there will be a bunch of others joining as an interest or curiosity.
Sometimes I have realized that it is also about the trust I am able to create with them and how much I am comfortable with them, which further can be seen from them reflecting upon back to me. Just like simple saying goes “to create a trust and respect, you need to be able to give trust and respect to the others!”
Besides, I have revisited the same location twice or even thrice and have managed to find few kids from previous session who has been so happy to see me and have been sort of “recommending me” about the things they did with me to other new kids and thus the trust pass over to new ones without any effort.