Aid agency Save the Children has established a child friendly space in the bushfire-affected Huon Valley in Tasmania to support children and families impacted by the disaster.
Bushfires have been burning across the state for weeks, with rising temperatures in the coming days expected to continue to challenge hundreds of firefighters battling numerous blazes.
Running since Monday afternoon in the Huonville evacuation centre, dozens of children have already used Save the Children’s ‘child friendly space’, which provides children with a safe place to play, make friends and take part in a range of activities designed to help them recover.
“We often talk about the physical impacts of bushfires, however, children who’ve experienced a disaster or an impending disaster like this are often struggling to cope with the emotional experience of what they’ve been through,” Save the Children’s Tasmania State Manager Lisa Cuatt said.
“We’ve set up what’s known as a ‘child friendly space’ to help children cope by giving them somewhere they can simply be children again. They can draw, play games and socialize with their peers in a safe and supported environment.
“Our team on the ground are fantastic, creating an incredibly positive and happy space. It is one of the great joys to see a child who’s faced such adversity suddenly smiling, laughing and having fun.
“We know that children are always among the most affected groups in any emergency, and this is no exception. It’s clear that the children coming to the child friendly space are facing a great deal of uncertainty, and they need a way to process and deal with this experience.”
Ms Cuatt said the Child Friendly Space was also a great service for parents.
“It allows mums and dads to go and do the things they need to do like getting support or finding out more information about the fires, while knowing their children are being cared for. So far, we’ve received overwhelmingly positive feedback,” she said.
One of the world’s leading humanitarian organisations, Save the Children has a long history responding to disasters both overseas and in Australia, including the Queensland floods in 2013 and following Cyclone Yasi in Queensland in 2011.
Ms Cuatt said that while she was shocked by the impending threat of the bushfires, she was pleased her team was able to help.
“We have an amazing group of dedicated staff in Tasmania who have a lot of fantastic skills to offer in a time like this. It’s great that we can put these skills and experience to good use to help children whose lives have been turned upside down because of the fires,” Ms Cuatt said.
Save the Children will run the child friendly space until at least Wednesday the possibility of extension depending on the needs.
For media inquiries contact Evan Schuurman on 0406 117 937.
Notes to editor: A Child friendly space is a supervised by trained, pre-screened staff and volunteers and they assist in reducing a range of distressing effects that arise from a child’s exposure to emergencies and disasters. Child friendly spaces are flexible and adaptable to different contexts; they are low cost and can be tailored to support children of all ages.
For interviews, call Evan Schuurman on 0406 117 937