12/12/2009, 00.00
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The work of Catholic volunteers for children of Sumatra earthquake

by Rosalia Royani
Games and playtime to alleviate the trauma caused by the earthquake. At least 150 students have fled the area, for fear of new tremors. The media have fuelled the alarm, but the rumours were unfounded.

Padang (AsiaNews) - Treating the trauma of children who survived the earthquake, with magic tricks and leisure time together. These are the activities organized by a group of volunteers in an Indonesian Catholic school in Padang, West Sumatra, badly damaged by the earthquake of 30 September. Classes resumed two weeks after the earthquake. Teachers are accompanying normal lessons with moments of recreation, to help students "bury" the trauma of  the recent experience.

The 7.9 magnitude earthquake claimed thousands of victims, many of which remain under the rubble. The quake also knocked down 135,488 buildings, 65,380 private dwellings, 2164 schools, 51 hospitals and 1003 places of worship, including mosques and churches.

Enno, a six year old primary school student witnessed terrible scenes in the hours following the earthquake. Many of her comrades are died under the rubble. The child’s father recovered several bodies, many of whom were children of the Mariana KG Catholic Institute, the same school his daughter attends.  

Two and a half months on, small Enno has begun to smile again but for many others the path to recovery is more difficult. One child responds to the volunteers invitation to participate in group games with rude gestures. Another child spends most of his time alone in silence.  

But not only children are feeling the consequences of the earthquake, even the adults have suffered trauma. For this reason the Catholic Humanitarian Charity Organization (Kkbk) has developed a specialized team which devotes its activities to the "recovery" of parents, older siblings, older people.  


In the weeks following the quake, rumours of possible shocks have contributed to the climate of terror and fear. More than 150 students have left schools in the area and the city of Padang, to take refuge with relatives or friends scattered throughout the Indonesian archipelago.  

Rosalia Mujirahayu, principal of a Catholic school in the city, points the finger at the media - television and newspapers – which have repeatedly sounded the alarm for new earthquakes, spreading panic among people. Only the intervention of a rescue team of the Catholic University of Parahyangan in Bandung (West Java), has helped to defuse the climate of fear. "Thanks to them - says the woman - we knew that these rumours were totally unfounded".


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