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Indonesia after the disaster

Emergency pedagogical follow-up mission on the island of Sulawesi

About two months ago, the earthquake and the resulting tsunami plunged the Indonesian island of Sulawesi into disaster. More than 2,000 people died and parts of the region were literally swallowed up by the earth. The destruction is still clearly visible and the traumatic experiences are deeply rooted in the souls of the locals. A nine-member emergency education team travelled to Indonesia again at the beginning of December to support the local people in processing what they had experienced.

Although rubble and debris were removed at some central locations on the beach and in the centre of the coastal town of Palu, the destruction is still omnipresent and of unimaginable proportions. In the Balaroa district, over 1,000 houses with about 5,000 inhabitants sank into the mud due to the phenomenon of liquefaction. Many children had to watch how the earth swallowed everything from one moment to the next. It is no longer possible to rebuild it and countless missing people are likely to disappear forever. These are memories and experiences that leave deep psychological wounds behind.

While the focus of the first mission, at the beginning of October, was on working with the traumatised children and young people, this time the focus was on the continuity of help as well as the training and further education of local specialists. "The aim of this mission is to train teachers, social workers and student teachers in such a way that they gain an understanding of how trauma affects people and what they can do to stabilise children in the long term," explains mission leader Kristina Wojtanowski. Her international team consisted of experienced pedagogues, art and movement therapists and a doctor. The training took place in the form of workshops and theoretical units at schools and the university. They gave suggestions for healing play as well as musical and artistic activities with which the children can learn to process the trauma. Games and creative activities as well as certain daily routines with rest and action phases contribute to stabilizing the self-healing powers of the children. There is a great need for psychosocial help. The emergency education intervention team was able to work with a total of over 500 local specialists, students and volunteers during the first few days on site.

Kristina Wojtanowski repeatedly found out in discussions with the locals that the process of coming to terms with what she had experienced will continue for a long time to come. "During the discussion groups with the doctor and psychotherapist from our team, many of those affected talked about their experiences for the first time," she says, "It becomes clear how deeply the terrible memories have burned themselves in and that there is a lack of conversation and help," she explains. The psychological effects often only become apparent weeks, months or years after such a catastrophe. It is therefore particularly important to continue the emergency education work in Indonesia.

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