FINDING MEANING IN HELPING CHILDREN RECOVER FROM TRAUMA

Monday 19 March 2018

The Save the Children Child Friendly Space (CFS) at Kenani Refugee Transit Camp in Zambia’s Nchelenge District is a hive of activity, with over 600 children at any given time doing different activities according to their age groups. It is a popular space for children at the refugee camp, providing an escape from the trauma of running away from their home in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Save the Children organises a wide variety of activities at the CFS, which are facilitated by volunteers from the refugee community: drawing, drama, song and dance, drama, ball games, board games and other fun activities for all ages and abilities. Counseling and child protection services are integrated within the programme. The CFS gives children the opportunity to relax and play among their friends, whilst also allowing their parents and caregivers some time to establish their lives in their new surroundings.

Benjamin with children at the Save the Children CFS. Benjamin Kasongo is a volunteer at the CFS, tending to children between the ages of four to thirteen. For Benjamin, the CFS is not only a place to have something to do, it is also a place he escapes to, to temporarily forget the trauma of fleeing his home in Mpweto in the Democratic Republic of Congo.Benjamin was at boarding school when he heard that his village had been attacked. Upon reaching the village, he found it deserted as everyone had either been hacked to death or had run away. The only sign of previous life were the huts and the dead bodies that interspersed the village. This sight spurred him to run for his life. Not knowing where he was going or if he would be alive the next day.

Fast-forward to weeks of walking and a night spent at the border village between the DRC and Zambia in Chiengi District, he is now a resident of Kenani Refugee Transit Camp. Benjamin watches over the children, ensuring they are safe but also sometimes plays with him in some of their games.

“I am happy to see children interact, play and learn from this place because it helps them to deal with the trauma of running away from conflict. The CFS is their escape because at home [the makeshift houses at the camp] their parents and guardians are busy cooking, tending to gardens and selling at the market and don’t have the time to help the children deal with their trauma,” says an upbeat Benjamin.

Benjamin says it is for this reason that he signed up to become a volunteer at the CFS because it gives him hope of a brighter future for children. “It is satisfying to see children happy and playing with each other. They feel safe here to be children,” he says.