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Their classrooms gone, teachers still helping children in China quake zone

With school buildings widely damaged or destroyed by the May 12 earthquake, 21 teachers train to help operate a World Vision Child-Friendly Space for disaster-affected youth.

June 2008



Wang Leehom, a Taiwanese artist, pictured at a World Vision Child-Friendly Space.
"[A] World Vision Child-Friendly Space is like a paradise for children," says Wang Leehom, pictured center. The Taiwanese artist recently visited China's quake zone.
Photo ©2008 Wang Ning/World Vision
Tension took hold in the classroom where 21 teachers from the quake-devastated Yuanba District in China were gathered for a World Vision Child-Friendly Spaces training session.

Sitting at minuscule green, wooden student desks, the group had just felt another tremor.

Despite their fears, the teachers chose to brave the risks to attend the training. The purpose: to be equipped with the means and techniques to serve at the Yuanba District's Child-Friendly Space and identify as well as support youth with post-disaster stress.

Reason for concern

Relief for South Asia

Let your pastor know about a special offering being taken by churches across the country on June 29 to raise funds to assist survivors of the China quake and Myanmar cyclone.

Their anxiety was not unfounded.

When a massive 8.0-magnitude earthquake struck China's Sichuan province on May 12, more than 9,000 children and teachers reportedly died under collapsed school buildings while in class. Some 8,000 aftershocks have since been reported across the province.

Child-Friendly Spaces

Since children are among the most vulnerable to emotional distress following a disaster, World Vision relief workers are quick to construct Child-Friendly Spaces.

These safe areas are kid-oriented havens designed to provide structured activities that enable youth to re-establish routines, mitigating some of the chaos that often accompanies a disaster. Opportunities abound for children to play games, sing, draw pictures, and take part in educational activities.

Children additionally learn about disaster preparedness to deal with the risks they face, and they are encouraged to talk about their often-harrowing experiences in a supportive environment.

'Useful training'

Devastation and relief


Watch a video of footage from inside China's quake zone taken by World Vision relief workers who responded to the disaster.

Shortly following the aftershock, anxiety momentarily took a backseat for the 21 teachers. They slowly warmed to the World Vision staff trainers who employed a simple ice-breaker using sparkling, star-shaped stickers. Laughter soon filled the small classroom.

"This training is really useful … it's great to learn about children's games from a fresh perspective and from a child's viewpoint," said kindergarten teacher Zhang Yan Mi, who recalled the fateful day when the deadly quake struck.

"We were all in school and the children were having their afternoon nap. Together with another teacher, I simply grabbed a few children nearest me who were still sleeping and yelled for the rest to wake up and to follow me to the open assemble area.

"Many children didn't know what was going on, and there was lots of crying and confusion. It took us up to three runs back and forth … before we could get every child out."

Delayed school opening

Two children comb through rubble left in the wake of the earthquake that rocked China's Sichuan province on May 12.
Two children comb through rubble left in the wake of the earthquake that rocked China's Sichuan province on May 12.
Photo ©2008 Wang Ning/World Vision

In view of the vast scope of the quake devastation and the time needed for rehabilitation and rebuilding, the local government has declared an extended summer vacation for all teachers and children in the Yuanba District.

Until school recommences on Aug. 1, the Child-Friendly Space is the only platform through which teachers can meet and support their students.

"The Child-Friendly Space is very well structured and will certainly bring lots of joy to the children," Zhang concludes. "I'll make sure that all the children will spread the word around so that more can benefit from it!"

Learn more


>> View a World Vision video from China containing footage of the earthquake devastation and the response of our relief teams.
>> Read one family's harrowing experience and fight for survival following China's deadly quake.
>> Read more about World Vision's Child-Friendly Spaces.

Three ways you can help

>> Pray for children and families in China affected by the deadly May 12 earthquake and aftershocks; pray especially for World Vision's Child-Friendly Spaces to provide the assistance vulnerable children need to weather this disaster.
>> Donate now to help provide emergency relief to survivors of the recent earthquake in China. Your gift will help World Vision deliver life-saving assistance, including setting up Child-Friendly Spaces.
>> Give monthly to help World Vision deliver emergency aid to children and families in the wake of disasters around the world, like the May 12 quake in China.

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