By: Chris Panganiban
ChildFund Philippines actively backs DepEd in its Education in Emergency efforts.
The Department of Education (DepEd) has recognized ChildFund Philippines as one of its development sector partners. In the Disaster Risk Reduction Management Services (DRRMS) Terminal Report released in February 2023, the government agency cited the participation of the non-government organization (NGO) in the Education Cluster’s emergency response efforts particularly for communities devastated by Super Typhoon Karding (international name Noru) in September 2022 and Typhoon Paeng (international name Nalgae) in November 2022.
ChildFund Philippines has partnered with REINA Federation of Parents Association and Ha Uman Association, Inc. to distribute learner and teacher kits; provide Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) to learners, teachers, and parents; and conduct MHPSS Training of Trainers (ToT) to frontliners, educators, and community leaders in affected communities in Quezon province and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
MHPSS in the aftermath of Karding
In September 2022, Super Typhoon Karding devastated areas in the eastern part of Luzon, including the towns of Burdeos and Panukulan, the eastern and western coast municipalities of Polillo Island in the province of Quezon. As a partner of DepEd’s DRRMS, ChildFund Philippines directly participated in the provision of response programs to affected residents of the distressed town.
After a quick assessment of the calamity’s impact to people, especially children, ChildFund Philippines rolled out the MHPSS program in Burdeos. Forty-seven frontline service providers (including guidance counselors, teachers, child development workers and local government unit representatives) engaged for ToT, which trained them to conduct MHPSS sessions that cover not just children but also parents and other community members.
“Through the seminars, we were able to help our students move on and realize the importance of education especially during difficult times,” said Mark Jade Alpajora, Teacher-in-Charge in Anibawan Elementary School in Anibawan, one of the most devastated barangays in Burdeos. “Eventually, they were able to return to school and continue their interest in learning despite the challenges. For our part as educators, we are confident we can now do the same and help our students carry on in case disasters hit our area again in the future.”
Trained PFA-ers in action after Paeng
The MHPSS program and the Psychological First Aid (PFA) training likewise equipped educators in the municipalities of Datu Odin Sinsuat and Upi in Maguindanao del Norte, which were severely devastated by flash floods and landslides due to continuous and torrential rains brought about by strong typhoon Paeng in October 2022. (The typhoon did not directly hit Mindanao but it intensified monsoon rains, resulting to catastrophic floods and landslides that do not usually hit provinces in the region.)
“Most of us were depressed because it was the first time I could remember that we were severely affected by a typhoon in our area,” said Rhodora Hadjihamid, a teacher from Noru Central School of Upi town. “There were initially 10 of us teachers who were trained under ChildFund Philippines’s MHPSS and then we were able to train other teachers, guidance coordinators, and daycare facilitators in other areas in our municipalities. We are thankful for this support and for some learning materials provided to us.”
The towns of Burdeos in Quezon and Datu Odin Sinsuat and Upi in Maguindanao del Norte are not among the program-supported areas of ChildFund Philippines in the country. But the NGO regularly provides support even to non-program areas as an official development partner of DepEd DRMSS, which holds cluster programs as part of disaster relief efforts nationwide.
“Based on the disaster impact and recommendations from our nearby partner areas, we looked at the situation in Burdeos and Panukulan and found the need to intervene. The same was the case for areas in Maguindanao del Norte a month after,” disclosed Erwin Galido, DRM Program Specialist in ChildFund Philippines.
Galido further explained that ChildFund Philippines focuses on interventions that would maximize limited resources—including replacement of learning materials so that learners could immediately go back to school and provision of MHPSS sessions.
Partnership with DepEd
Marlene Floresca, ChildFund Philippines Education Specialist explained that the organization “complements and supplements the Department of Education’s existing resources.”
She further explained that when a disaster hits an area, ChildFund assesses if additional support is needed particularly in education.
“We take part in the national government’s objective to have a coordinated response and help distribute relief assistance in affected communities and schools after calamities,” said Floresca.
“ChildFund Philippines also provides psychological first aid and training to educators and local government representatives so they can perform MHPSS to children and people in their respective communities,” she added.
Putting focus on mental health
According to Galido, ChildFund Philippines’ focus is to provide support that would equip key members of local government agencies and partner schools on the basic skills of providing MHPSS sessions so they could “help children and other people in their area to immediately overcome the emotional and mental stress they are experiencing and emerge with better disposition despite the disaster.”
Mental Health and Psychosocial Support is a vital initiative aimed at nurturing emotional well-being and assisting individuals in coping with life’s challenges. MHPSS encompasses a range of activities designed to support the mental and emotional health of people affected by disasters.
These activities include providing compassionate counseling services, equipping individuals with effective coping strategies to manage stress and anxiety, promoting self-care practices such as exercise and relaxation techniques, establishing safe and supportive community groups where individuals can share their experiences and extend support to one another, and fostering awareness about mental health issues to eliminate stigma and foster a culture of seeking help.
Education in emergency through community participation
“Disasters disrupt children’s normalcy, including their opportunities to learn and equip themselves for the future. Childhood is a critical window of opportunity to support the optimum development of young people,” explained Floresca.
She further emphasized that ChildFund’s mission to help create a nurturing environment to support this development equips children to become productive members of their communities.
“Education in Emergencies is a life-saving intervention, as it does not only assure children’s learning continuity, it also provides a safe space for children who have experienced adversities amidst disasters.”
ChildFund Philippines, however, underscores the importance of partnerships (including DepEd DRMSS and other local government and non-government partners) and community participation in sustainably equipping victims of disasters and engaging educators, parents, and local leaders with the right skills to make sure there is immediate support, especially in terms of mental health in times of emergency.
“Our partnership with local civil society organizations (CSOs) in disaster-prone communities enable us to respond quickly and effectively to humanitarian crises in the Philippines,” said Anand Vishwakarma, Country Director of ChildFund Philippines.
“Thus, ChildFund is able to achieve its organizational goals of promoting safety, health, and education in the Philippines by providing emergency assistance and education support to children and families in need. This not only helps address the immediate needs of children and families affected by emergencies but also provides a foundation for long-term recovery and resilience-building efforts,” Vishwakarma added.
ChildFund’s national and global strategies are designed to promote well-being of children, especially those living in poverty and facing different forms of disadvantage. In the Philippines and in other countries where it has presence, the organization puts a strong emphasis on emergency response and education in emergencies as part of its mission to keep children healthy, educated, skilled, and safe.