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Response to Emergencies

Tsunami Relief Project : January 2005 — August 2007

When the tsunami occurred on December 26, 2004 thousands of people in the Asia Pacific Region lost their lives. Homes were destroyed. Families were separated. Children were orphaned. Entire communities were devastated. Essential health and education services and facilities were ruined.

In response to the natural disaster, OMEP launched a worldwide appeal for donations on January 13, 2005. With the approval of the World Executive Board members and the support of World President Selma Simonstein, the campaign would be specifically devoted to collecting funds that supported creative solutions that would rebuild early childhood programs in affected countries after the immediate crisis had passed. OMEP members throughout the world responded generously by sending donations to the World Treasurer. The funds were held in a special account. As funds accumulated OMEP proposed a joint project with UNICEF.
Kate Kolchin, OMEP’s New York-based representative to UNICEF and Joan Waters, OMEP Vice President for Asia and the Pacific, at that time, agreed to work together on the development of an action plan. In addition to their collaboration, Kate conferred with Nurper Ulkuer, Senior Adviser, Early Childhood Development Unit/PDDO. Selma Simonstein, OMEP President presented their plan to the OMEP Executive Board. Approval was given immediately. Although a large-scale project was envisioned it was not feasible. Instead, a smaller scale version was developed with the underlying assumption that the collaborative project would be a model that could be replicated by local education leaders in other areas impacted by the tsunami.
Two (2) major goals were:
  • To ensure that children affected by the Indian Ocean crisis regain their self-confidence in caring, safe and protective environments e.g. Early Childhood Development Centres (ECDC).
  • To ensure that care givers and educators of young children provide quality early programs for young children in the ECDCs.
As a professional organization devoted to early childhood development and education, OMEP’s mission exceeds responding to children during times of crises. Thus, the project envisioned was designed to reflect the following features, including:
  • Local community management
  • Optimum quality programming
  • Cost effective programming
  • Long-term sustainability
  • Flexibility, using diverse strategies
  • Cultural relevance
  • Monitoring and evaluation
While attention was given to immediate and pressing needs in each situation, the most important feature of the proposed project was aimed at providing support that would contribute to long-term and lasing impact for early childhood programs within the ECDC.
With long-term sustainability in mind, the planning team for the project was especially concerned about providing professional development opportunities necessary for the implementation of quality early childhood programs in the aftermath of the crisis. Since this was at the forefront of the planners’ concerns and thinking, the allocation of initial funding would be designated for professional development workshops about child development. The priority was based on the research suggesting that systematic and well-developed professional development initiatives contribute to improved early childhood educators/caregivers practice. Thus, a course curriculum was developed. Many hours were spent in communication and consultation with UNICEF officers.
By the time the OMEP Executive Board met during the World Assembly in Havana, Cuba during July 2005, there was consensus within the group that Joan Waters and Kate Kolchin should continue to work on the development of a joint OMEP/UNICEF proposal until 30 August. After that date, the donations already received from OMEP members would be allocated from the OMEP Tsunami Fund through applications to the affected countries. The distribution of funds was divided into three phases. The initial distribution of funds would be to OMEP Sri Lanka. The second allocation of funds would be given to OMEP Indonesia with the final allotment designated for Joan Waters to complete a monitoring visit in June 2006.
Sri Lanka Project Activity
Twelve (12) preschools devastated completely and eight (8) pre-schools partly damaged structures were relocated about 400 meters away from the coast. All the children attending the preschools were severely affected by the tsunami. Many children lost at least one family member. In the aftermath of the tsunami, they were living in tents and severely traumatized and physically unfit.
With OMEP assistance, the OMEP Sri Lanka group, under the leadership of Mr. C. A. Samaradivakara, was able to continue its trauma-healing program of dance, music, drama and painting with renewed vigor. In September 2005 the first installment of funding was made for a rehabilitation program in the Matara District on the southern coast of the island. By January 2006, progress reports from the monitoring and supervising sub-committee showed that 604 children benefited from the program.
With the funds available new furniture and equipment, made by local craftsmen for honoraria, was purchased and given to the pre-schools. Educational equipment including drawing books, pastels, colored paper, boxes of clay, were also provided. Twenty (20) teachers and twenty (20) caregivers received in-service training in early childhood education theory and practice to strengthen their work with the children. Two (2) trainers endorsed by the Ruhunu UNESCO Association conducted the in-service course that extended over a two-month period (November and December 2005). Sessions were scheduled from 10 am to 4pm. The creative use of indigenous materials as play materials was stressed throughout the course.
On a voluntary basis, nutritious meals were prepared on the premises each day by the parents and members of community-based organizations. Locally grown cereals, fresh vegetables and fruit were purchased at the nearby gardens. Since the locations are fisher villages, fish was available at low prices. Dry foodstuffs and unpolished rice were supplied to parents to be used for dinner. The traditional herbal drink (Kola Kenda) and milk were served on three days/week. It is estimated that 575 to 625 children were fed on a daily basis. . Meals were provided during this period, along with dry foodstuffs.
Doctors and nurses, members of OMEP Sri Lanka group and the Ruhunu UNESCO Association, serviced three (3) mobile health clinics. Children with vitamin and iron deficiency were treated with supplements. Three (3) additional health clinics were open during a 4-month period. Medicine and nutritional supplements would be provided as prescribed. After three months, field reports indicate, “all the children now look healthy and physically and mentally fit”.
A second grant to support the OMEP Post Tsunami was allocated for the ECEC Teacher Training Program for Children (Birth to 3 years). Mrs. Rasfiati Iskarno served as the leader for the Project that began on December 19, 2005 and was completed in March 2006. The aim of the program was to train twenty (20) participants in the application of appropriate early childhood education and care (ECEC) that would:
  • Enlarge caregivers’ competence in EC theory and practice, and
  • Increase the children’s ability to problem solve and cope (birth to 3years).
Previously, OMEP had sought to collaborate with existing Ache tsunami programs specifically in terms of providing assistance for children aged 0-3 years as other programs were focused on school age children only. However, from OMEP’s perspective, the major focus should be on the youngest children in the community. Providing resources and services for the most vulnerable children would reduce more costly interventions later.
With this goal in mind, the trainers for the professional development activities were OMEP members, graduates in Social Work, who had been volunteering in Aceh since January 2005. Tapping local trainers who had experience in fieldwork was a major feature of the training plan. The project team devised:
  • Activities for younger children,
  • Supplementary nutrition services, and
  • Information meetings and campaigns for mothers.
Local community support and participation were encouraged as well. The project was monitored by OMEP Indonesia. The program coordinator submitted progress reports.
UNICEF Funding–Extending OMEP’s Tsunami Project
During the August 2006 OMEP World Assembly meeting held in Tromsø, Norway, the members of the World Assembly voted unanimously to continue to support the Tsunami Project. At the meeting, Joan Waters, who had visited the projects in Sri Lanka and Indonesia during early June 2006 to monitor in situ the implementation of the project presented a Power Point (Appendix 1). Her presentation not only provided first hand impressions and findings about the situation in both countries and the impact of the OMEP’s involvement but served as the impetus for the Board’s decision to distribute the balance of funds donated by OMEP National Committees throughout the world to the OMEP Presidents in Indonesia and Sri Lanka.
At the same time Joan Waters was asked to seek additional funds from UNICEF, New York for the projects in Matara District, Sri Lanka and Aceh Province, Indonesia. The additional funds would be used to further extend the provision of the basic early childhood education and care services that had been established through the original OMEP Tsunami Project.
Working in collaboration with UNICEF representative Nurper Ulkuer, the OMEP grant for U$10,000.00 grant was submitted for review. Notification that the grant had been accepted was received in December 2006. The OMEP presidents for both countries involved in the project received half the grant allocations. In conjunction with the grant they submitted reports about their training programs and the impact the training programs for the children and families.
Sri Lanka At the time, reports were indicating that to sustain the progress achieved, “further resources are needed”, in particular, the services of teacher trainers, doctors, nurses and artists so that the project could be completed as schedule. The cooperation of parents, state officers, and community-based organizations was identified as essential for the successful implementation of the overall project and realization of the anticipated impact. The expected date of completion of the project was 20 April 2006.
With additional funding support provided by UNICEF, professional development training was held for five (5) Saturdays in April and May at Sri Sudharshi Institute Matara. The workshop series provided training for sixty (60) teachers and caregivers working in pre-schools in Galle, Matara and Hambanthota districts. Lecturers from the Open University of Sri Lanka conducted the all-day sessions. The topics were:
  • Basic psychological needs of children,
  • Stages of physical and emotional development of children, and
  • Incorporation of folk tales, folk music and dancing into the curriculum.
Meals and refreshments were provided for the participants, Lecturers and resource persons were paid an honorarium.
Additionally, it is worthy to note that effective August 2006, OMEP Sri Lanka rejoined the organization as a Preparatory Committee.
Indonesia With the additional funds provided by UNICEF, a 4-person OMEP Team from Bandung travelled to Takengong (by plane and minibus) to lead a training program. It was an extension of their previous work in Banda Aceh, where the team had trained caregivers working with children, birth to 3, in groups. In Takengong most of the participants were teachers with knowledge about the education of school-age children. Therefore, over the 3-day training, the content of the intensive course focused on the education and care of children from birth to 3 years. The course topics included
  • Play materials, games and story telling for children 0-3
  • Physical care of babies and toddlers
  • Language development the development of motor skills and language skills
  • Natural environment related to early childhood education.
For the delivery of the course, the lecturers used audio-visual aids. A number of young children participated in practical demonstration sessions. Stationery and musical instruments were purchased. Along with information about child development and the use of appropriate materials, musicians, dancers and art teachers were included as resource personnel during each workshop. Nurses were included as well.
Another feature of the training was having the trainees work with the mothers while children were playing. Through their communications with the mothers and children, the trainers demonstrated ways adults can interact with children to support and foster learning.
As part of the training, each participant received two (2) handbooks, Toys and Games (0-3 year-olds) and Baby and Child Care. Each participant will compile a book of Aceh pictures and stories for later use. The additional grant funds were used to cover the costs of the team members’ fares and accommodation and meals as well the teaching supplies, such as audio cassettes. It is OMEP’s expectation that the workshop participants will train others and provide supervision and guidance as the programs for young children continue to develop.
Based upon the impact of the Tsunami Project in two countries where a natural disaster occurred, the OMEP Executive Board anticipates collaborating with UNICEF on future projects. Meanwhile, the Board will seek travel funds from UNICEF for Joan Waters to make a follow-up monitoring visit to the project sites in Sri Lanka and Indonesia in 2008. The focus of the visits will be to assist the OMEP members in each country to sustain and further develop the quality of programs available in the schools that have been refurbished and/or rebuilt.