Hug therapy: How Tacloban kids are getting over ‘Yolanda’ trauma

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Ambassador Henrietta De Villa of the "Pag-asa ng Pilipino" project gets emotional after spending some time with the young survivors of super typhoon 'Yolanda'.

TACLOBAN City, March 7, 2014—Sometimes, the comfort of human touch can heal as much as traditional therapy and counseling as the experience of some Tacloban kids are showing.

“I embraced him and hugged him. It broke my heart,” said Pondo ng Pinoy Community Foundation (PnPCFI) vice president Ambassador Henrietta De Villa, describing her interaction with a young boy, one of the 100 children who participated in a stress debriefing program in Tacloban as part of the “Pag-asa ng Pilipino Project”.

Hug sessions 

In an interview, De Villa recounted how after distributing cookies to the kids during one of their breaks at Our Lady of the Assumption Academy, one boy in particular refused to eat.

“I thought, ‘Maybe he has someone he wants to give the cookie to.’ So I said, ‘Do you want one more?’ But then, he raised up his arms [asking to be held]… It really moved me to tears afterwards,” she said.

According to De Villa, 50 children from Tanauan and 50 children from Dulag, aged 5-8 years old underwent traumatic stress debriefing and counseling from March 3 to 6, but many of them just want to be physically reassured.

“There was one group that just wanted to be hugged, just hugging. Like for 30 minutes,” added De Villa, who also noted observations of The Reintegration for Care and Wholeness (RCW) Foundation, the group primarily tapped to facilitate psychological first aid, debriefing, counseling and coach training; psycho-emotional assessment and creative therapy for the children.

The next batch of children for psycho-emotional processing in Palo and Tolosa will be having their sessions by June.

In it for the long-term 

To address the long-term needs for Tacloban’s recovery, the “Pag-asa ng Pilipino Project has three components: Katatagan (Stability), Kaalaman (Knowledge), and Kabuhayan (Livelihood).

The Katatagan component addresses the need for psychological and emotional recovery of ‘Yolanda’ survivors. According to De Villa, the (RCW) Foundation will be having debriefing sessions with adults, as well, in the near future.

To help repair at least 4 damaged schools in Tanauan, Dulag, Tolosa and Palo, the Kaalaman component of the project will award P1.5 million to each school.

The “Pag-asa ng Pilipino Project” is in partnership with the Visayan bloc of congressmen. [Nirva’ana Ella Delacruz]

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