Friday, August 5, 2016

Unilab Foundation’s Play It Forward-On The Move builds resilience among children in Tacloban

The first batch of Play It Forward-On The Move facilitators in Tacloban City. 25 volunteers spent four days to become Play It Forward facilitators through the Training of Trainers workshop, held last July 26-29 at Ritz Tower De Leyte.

Twenty-five volunteers give the power of play to 100 children in four communities in Tacloban to help them build their resilience to face disasters.

For four days, volunteers shared their time and talent to become Play It Forward-On The Move play facilitators during a Training of Trainers seminar from July 26 to 29 in Tacloban City.

Play It Forward (PIF) is the therapeutic play intervention of Unilab Foundation. It is a science- and evidence-based program that employs the use of a play space and a curriculum to facilitate recovery among children in post-disaster areas.

Play It Forward-On The Move (PIF-OTM) was created as a mobile play kit for faster deployment to communities in need. Designed as a bag with a waterproof hood and cape, the kit contains traditional Filipino games and art materials, as well as activity books developed by the Ateneo Bulatao Center for Psychology Services to provide adaptive coping strategies and build resiliency among children in disaster-prone areas. The bag is designed in partnership with Taclob, a Tacloban City-based social enterprise that produces disaster-preparedness gear made by Typhoon Yolanda survivors themselves.

The volunteers who attended the PIF-OTM training came from all walks of life. There were young volunteers from Football for Life, who helped children heal from trauma through the power of sports. There were healers of physical ills, like the barangay nutrition and health officers. And there were those who had no background in providing psychosocial support at all, such as community leaders, parents, even a 70-year-old grandmother; survivors who had witnessed firsthand how calamities can paralyze children and plant seeds of fear in them, long after the storms have left.

After four days of dedicated training, these volunteers were equipped to provide the needed psychosocial support to children. They learned the basics of psychosocial support and went through therapeutic play modules themselves, in preparation of conducting sessions with children. Moreover, they learned how to conduct the training workshops, so that they could bring therapeutic play to other vulnerable areas in Tacloban City and in the country.

Building resilience among the children of Tacloban

A child enjoys playing with her sepak takraw.
This is part of the Play It Forward On The Move
mobile play kit
Tacloban City has always received a significant amount of rainfall, ranging from 1,853mm in 1998 to 4,768mm in 2011*.

One of the most devastating typhoons to ever hit Tacloban was Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in 2013.

With Eastern Visayas geographically vulnerable to typhoons and the La Niňa phenomenon threatening to bring more rain, children stand to be the most affected.

Through the new PIF-OTM facilitators, 100 children were given access to therapeutic play. These kids, aged six to ten years old, came from relocation sites and poor communities in Tacloban City: GMA-Kapuso Foundation Village, Habitat for Humanity Village, Ridge View Park Village, and Barangay 70 Anibong. Barangay 70 Anibong was heavily devastated during Typhoon Yolanda, when huge cargo ships swept the shores and dismantled houses.

The children and the volunteer facilitators gathered together in a Play Day last July 30. The children learned how to express their feelings, how to seek help from their parents, and how to be in control when disaster strikes. They also heard the story of Ufie, a dog who survives many challenges, that they, too, can be heroes. During the Play Day, 17 Tacloban parents also underwent a parallel seminar, in order to reinforce the importance of play even in their homes.

The power of play

Experts have proven that children use play not only to cope with difficult emotions, but also as a way for them to accelerate healing and recovery from trauma. Unilab Foundation launched PIF in 2012 after Typhoon Sendong, to help children in post-disaster areas recover from trauma. It is a child-focused, community-based resiliency program that empowers local communities to provide their children with the necessary emotional and psychosocial support.

The first PIF play space in Brgy. Canitoan in Cagayan de Oro City was fully turned over to the community in 2016. From the physical play space, PIF developed mobile play spaces in several designs: one design features a backpack and a chair, while another contains both a bag and a cape. Both versions were designed to be able to provide a child with space to play under any circumstance. The backpack and chair design was pilot-tested to over 200 children from Tacloban who were relocated in Metro Manila, Navotas and Bulacan.

Unilab Foundation Executive Director Rhodora Palomar-Fresnedi asserts, “A healthier Philippines can only be achieved when every child is healthy, where every child has a sacred space to play, when every child can bravely face disasters and cope with it.”

Jomar reviews the UFIE activity book, part of the Play It Forward On The Move mobile play kit. The book is filled with activities that are designed to enable children to express their feelings.

You can be a hero

Resilience can’t be built overnight. That’s why Play It Forward takes on a holistic approach, involving the parents, community, and the local government.

With more than twenty typhoons entering the country every year, therapeutic play is even more important, and play champions are needed nationwide. If you are a parent, give your child at least an hour of play every day. If you are a teacher, incorporate play in your lessons. If you are part of an organization that can help make play happen, you can work with Unilab Foundation in building a healthier Philippines, one community, one child at a time.

Twenty-first century heroes don’t have capes, but they can give capes to children, true heroes who are capable of overcoming any disaster that comes their way.

For more information about Play It Forward-On The Move, contact Judy Santiago at 0917-531-6524, or email