Philippines

Philippines: Bridging peace gap at child-friendly centres

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By Shirley Kimmayong, World Vision Philippines communications

"I hope wars will end in our place because we do not want to evacuate again. It is a horrible experience," said Fuzia, 11, a sponsored child living in the village of Pananag, Sarangani.

Her whole family evacuated amidst the armed conflict in their village. They cautiously walked in a single line towards a safer place as they witnessed the ongoing battle and heard the deafening sounds of gunshots.

Fuzia's experience is common among the thousands of children displaced within the battle zones in Mindanao.

World Vision set up Child Friendly Spaces to address the physical and psychosocial needs of these children including Fuzia. Aiming to restore normalcy in children's lives and help them recover from their distress, they were established in the affected villages of Pananag, Lumatil, Daliao and Lumasal in Sarangani and attended by almost three thousand children coming from different tribes and religions.

"At the Child Friendly Spaces, different tribes in the community explicitly expressed friendship with each other which was not previously done," said Saada Lumatao, an elementary teacher in Pananag and one of the volunteer CFS facilitators.

The camaraderie among children was established through group activities, including singing, drawing, blowing the bubble soaps, playing and story telling among others. Refreshments were also provided for the children.

"We did not expect that amidst our fearful experience of war, our lives will be filled with color and joy," said Zaira Loraine Usman who joined the CFS.

In the context of conflict particularly in Mindanao where the war once again highlighted issues of mistrust between Christians and Muslims, the Child Friendly Spaces do not only serve as safe places where children can enjoy their normal activities.

"These will also give them an opportunity to build friendships even with their differences in tribe and religion. They are also empowered as peace builders," said Yheleen Veso World Vision CFS team leader.

Jumaira Marohombsar, CFS participant says, "Thanks to World Vision, you help us recover and you taught us how to mingle with other people. We have learned that it is possible for Christians and Muslims to unite. We promise that these learnings will stay with us throughout our life."