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Journey of Hope  

Helping children cope, build resilience and strengthen relationships.

Building resilience among children after disaster

Save the Children works to ensure all children and young people are supported – from the immediate response to a crisis and throughout recovery. 

In the first hours after children are evacuated from their homes and communities, we are there to keep them safe and supported through our Child-Friendly Spaces in evacuation and relief centres. Then as relief centres close, we work with local authorities to mobilise outreach psychosocial support in communities that have been hardest hit. 

Once the immediate emergency has passed, we continue to work with families and schools to ensure the most heavily impacted children receive the support they need to process what they’ve experienced and mitigate the long-term impacts. 

We do this through our Journey of Hope in-school recovery model. Journey of Hope helps children and caregivers cope with traumatic events, develop their natural resilience and strengthen their social support networks.

The ongoing impact disaster can have on children 

In any crisis, children are always the most vulnerable. More than half of those affected by emergencies are children, and crises can severely affect both their physical safety and emotional wellbeing.

Research confirms that without early intervention, children experiencing trauma may suffer negative effects that impact educational and functional outcomes later in life.1 Studies2 show that primary school children in bushfire affected areas demonstrated reduced academic progress compared with their peers two to four years after the event. Significant delays in progress in reading and numeracy have been observed in children who started school in the year prior to a moderate to major bushfire.
 
Thanks to generous donations by international supporters, investment from Save the Children international member organisations and domestic fundraising, Save the Children has been able to offer Journey of Hope to 77 schools in NSW and Victorian communities affected by the devastating 2019-20 bushfires and COVID-19, reaching over 5,000 children since June 2020.

An evidence-based program with proven results 

Journey of Hope was first implemented after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and developed with children and educators. The program has since been delivered to more than 85,000 children in numerous countries, including an adaptation in New Zealand following the Christchurch earthquake.

Through rigorous evaluation, including by the International Institute for Children’s Rights and Development, Journey of Hope has been shown to improve student social and emotional well-being, as well as knowledge and skills3, by: 

  • Teaching children to recognise and manage their emotions, which builds confidence, self-esteem, and ‘I believe I can’ attitudes. 
  • Developing positive peer relationships, which help children experience a collaborative environment based on respect and understanding. 
  • Reducing disruptive behaviours, which supports more concentrated learning in class.
[Journey of Hope] was encouraging you to tell your story. You can be heard, and you don’t have to keep it in anymore. You can fix things and just stress less. I use these things at home.

STUDENT, JOURNEY OF HOPE PARTICIPANT, NSW

Save the Children drew on expertise from the University of Melbourne to guide and support a new evaluation of the program, which found that the implementation experience was very positive for children and school staff. Students, teachers, and parents consistently agreed that the program was serving critical needs, given the unprecedented disasters students had recently experienced.

It found that program participation was associated with statistically significant improvements in students’:

  • report of difficulties in their daily lives;
  • attitudes to and relationships with others; and
  • use of positive coping strategies, which were greater than natural improvements over time.
According to the evaluation, these outcomes are likely to contribute to individual recovery and to more positive classroom and home environments, which was reflected in student, teacher, and parent reports. Based on wider evidence, these psychosocial improvements are also likely to support children’s capacity to learn.

The evaluation findings are consistent with growing evidence of the benefits of implementing universal psychosocial support programs in schools following disaster and support future implementation of the program in disaster-affected communities.
 

The program design 

Based in social cognitive theory4, Journey of Hope teaches children social and emotional skill building to promote self-efficacy, problem solving and positive coping so they may have the capacity to overcome current and future trauma5

The program is implemented by trained facilitators in small groups of up to ten students. Multiple student groups can be supported in the one school or region. Each student group works with the same facilitators over the duration of the program, with curriculum organised into eight one-hour sessions that can be implemented within a school term. For the older age groups, the program will be adapted into fewer sessions to enable easy integration into the existing curricula.

The Journey of Hope program is tailored for six age groups:

  • Early Years – Pre School
  • Early Primary – Year Prep to Year 2
  • Upper Primary – Year 3 to 6
  • Early High – Year 7 to 9
  • Upper High – Year 10 to 12

There’s also a workshop to help parents and caregivers look after themselves, so they can provide better support for the children in their care.

The Journey of Hope programs are the light in the sky for us. Our kids are now feeling safe enough to talk about their deep feelings with the Journey of Hope facilitators. That is huge!

MEL CROAN, ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL, ULLADULLA PUBLIC SCHOOL.

The program’s key learning objectives support children to:

  • understand and normalise emotions associated with traumatic stress
  • develop positive coping strategies to deal with these emotions
  • build on their innate strengths and of their families, schools and communities to further develop positive coping mechanisms
  • instil a sense of hope, empowering them to feel more in control over stressors.

 
The program uses experiential and reflective learning activities, including cooperative play, discussion and creative arts, to help children recognise and process common emotions, identify stressors and triggers, and build capacity to deal with those emotions6.

Supporting teachers, parents and caregivers

When we enter a school or early education setting, our facilitators offer a workshop for teachers and parents, so they understand the program and its objectives, have an opportunity to ask questions, and feel equipped to support their children as they progress through the eight-week curriculum.
 
We aim to complement existing social-emotional supports being offered in schools. By working directly with students, the model reduces pressure on educators to deliver specialist content in an already crowded curriculum. By delivering in group settings, the program encourages students to build positive peer relationships and learn how to support the coping skills of one another and allows facilitators to identify those children who may benefit from further support, such as 1:1 counselling.
 
Having these services delivered by outside agencies allows children and teachers affected by disaster to be part of the experience and develop shared language around recovery and resilience, while supporting an overarching wellbeing framework.

Flexible delivery

Depending on the timetable of each school, Journey of Hope sessions can be provided once a week for eight consecutive weeks, twice a week for four consecutive weeks or otherwise by arrangement. Program facilitators are equipped to respond to a diverse range of coping levels to ensure those who struggle can learn from those coping better.
 
In this way, Journey of Hope is able to accommodate the educational and psychosocial needs of students returning to school after prolonged absences as a result of disasters and align with different school and community visions for local recovery.

To find out if Journey of Hope could be right for your school, please email journeyofhope@savethechildren.org.au

Images: Save the Children

1. Goodman, Gail et al. “Trauma and Long-term Memory for Childhood Events: Impact Matters”. Society for Research in Child Development. Vol 13 (1) 2019.
2. Gibbs, Lisa, et al. "Delayed Disaster Impacts on Academic Performance of Primary School Children". Child Development 90.4 (2019)
3. Blanchet-Cohen & Nelems, “Journey of Hope (JoH) Curriculum: Building Children’s and Communities’ Resilience”. International Institute for Child Rights and Development (2009)
4 & 5. Bandura. “Health promotion from the perspective of social cognitive theory”. Psychology and Health. (1998)
6. Malekoff. “Transforming trauma and empowering children and adolescents in the aftermath of a disaster through group work.” Social Work with Groups (2008). Salloum et al. “Grief and trauma group therapy for children after Hurricane Katrina”. SocialWork with Groups. (2009)

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