In the Ahrtal valley and the other areas affected by the 2021 flood, the devastation from that time is unfortunately still strongly evident this summer. While a large portion of houses and roads have been restored by now, you can still see the gutted structures between the renovated and newly built houses, which have not yet been demolished or redeveloped. Along the Ahr river, one will see the ruins of bridges, currently waiting as piles of stones on both sides of the banks for their reconstruction, and the empty areas where materials and equipment are stored. In the inhabitant’s memories, the catastrophe stays alive in the form of intense images and challenging emotions. For many, it is not easy to endure longer or more intense periods of rain and some are reminded of the panic of that night by the sound of rushing water. A kindergarten teacher told us about a child in her kindergarten that experienced the flood as a baby and always becomes completely agitated whenever it hears the sirens of the nearby fire station.
Our workshop for adults on Emergency Pedagogy, in cooperation with the Child Protection Association Ahrweiler at the Caritas Community Centre in Ringen on the second anniversary of the flood, was well attended and received. Parents and educators were able to find answers to their pressing questions about dealing with traumatized children, children with complicated attachment behaviors, and their own flood-related stressors. Participants were taught rituals and relaxation exercises that they can use in their daily routines with the children. There was a lively exchange, and at the end, there was a strong desire for follow-up sessions.
Also, well-received was the Atelier Artig program funded by us, which had offered a kick-off event in June for an ongoing program for affected students. The need for creative self-expression is evident in the fact that the children voluntarily came to school on a hot summer weekend to create art on the theme of heroes. This artistic work can strengthen the children's self-confidence and resilience over the coming months.
Our children's summer program in the Eifel region from July 10th to 14th and 17th to 21st provided a valuable framework for the children, allowing them to let go and process various stress factors. Free programs such as this one are important for the families of the children.Parents get the space needed to continue coordinating the usually very bureaucratic reconstruction efforts or can use the time to take care of themselves in this ongoing challenging time. Exercises from theater and art pedagogy/therapy, as well as string games and music, were offered and well received by the children. In the second week, the highlight for the children was the visit of the puppet theater "Karfunkelstein," which performed a lively and inspiring story for them.
On August 16th, we offered a sound and painting workshop for the second time this year. This time, flood-affected adults were invited to the Caritas Community Center above the Ahrtal valley to relax with a musical sound journey, let go of the burdens of daily life, and engage with the flow of watercolor paints. The participants were grateful for the open and non-judgmental approach to being artistic and left inspired and relaxed, taking their artwork home.
The plan is to continue these activities and expand them based on the needs of the affected people. For example, in the fall, we are starting a trauma-pedagogical program in the Eifel in collaboration with a specialized farm working with therapeutic horses.
Johannes von Mitzlaff