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After the earthquake: Play is the best remedy

“This is so much fun! I could swing here for the rest of my life!” six-year-old Roshan Karki screams in joy while swinging on a small red and yellow swing. His excitement is no wonder: in emergency housing supported by Finn Church Aid, Roshan – like many others – has used a swing for the first time in his life.

  • In emergency housing, Roshan Karki has gotten to use a swing for the first time in his life. His sister, Sujata Karki, is giving him a push.

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  • Even a small slide can bring lots of joy – especially if it’s the first slide many children get to slide down.

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  • 11-year-old Rashik Shrestha is among the playing children. His head has been shaven, which in Nepal is often a sign of a deceased family member.

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  • Ritesh Khadka seems to be enjoying modelling for photographs as much as playing with friends. He would like to be in every photo.

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  • Six-year-old Suprina Shrestha (left) enjoys the see-saw. She says she misses her destroyed home, her dolls and the fruits her father used to buy.

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  • Seeing the joy in children lets even the adults to put aside their worries for a while.

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The emergency housing for those who lost their homes in the earthquake has been set up in the dormitory of a vocational school for underprivileged young people.

Besides the swing, Finn Church Aid has organised a variety of ways for the children there to pass the time: a small slide, a see-saw and a collection of games and drawing materials.

It is impossible even to attempt to describe the joy of the children. Hopefully, the photographs of their games relay their gratitude to all the Finnish donors.

The adults too, living in emergency housing, look happily at the joyous children. The adults all speak of the impact the toys have had in the spirit of the children.

The adults describe how apathetic the children were after the earthquake. Many children could only nestle still and keep asking if the earthquake would strike again and when would it strike again.

Now, there is no trace of the apathy in the children.

”Hopefully such child-friendly spaces could be created elsewhere as well”, one of the adults says. This space is the only one of its kind that they know of.

The different organisations have so far opened approximately 30 child-friendly spaces in the region of Kathmandu Valley. Because getting around is still extremely difficult, these spaces are only accessible to those who are close to them.

A shaved head is an indication of a lost family member

Right now, there is no way to escape sorrow in Nepal.

Among the joyous children is 11-year-old Rashik Shrestha. He fools around and takes part in the games actively, but he seems to have more than a dose of anguished energy about him.

He has a shaved head.

Amongst the Hindu in Nepal, shaving one’s head means the man or the boy in question has participated in an important ritual, most commonly in the funeral of a close family member.

Three people who lived near Rashik were killed. Was one of them dear and close to Rashik? I look at the happy children playing and the question gets stuck in my throat.

I let the joyous games continue.

Behind their smiles, these children carry the memory of traumatic experiences. Play is the best method of first aid, but the children of Nepal will also need long-lasting psycho-social support.

Fortunately, Finn Church Aid is sending Finnish professional help to them.

Text and photos: Antti Helin

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