Children in the Philippines celebrate Christmas

Angelyn, aged 11, at a UNICEF Christmas party in Tacloban, the Philippines, for children affected by Super Typhoon Haiyan
“We are happy because there’s still a party,” said Angelyn, 11, painting a mural at the Christmas Festival for children affected by Typhoon Haiyan

Bangon sa Araw ng Pasko (Rise up on Christmas Day)

11 year old Angelyn G. Arandia will never go home again. The last seven weeks have been spent in a cramped evacuation centre after Super Typhoon Haiyan blew her house to smithereens, destroying all of her family’s possessions.

Last weekend, UNICEF and the City of Tacloban threw a party for Angelyn and 1,500 of her fellow survivors. Brothers, sisters, and friends, together with 500 adults, hopped on Jeepneys – a stretch Jeep which is commonly used as public transport here – and hopped out at the Rizal Plaza.

Singing, parading, clowns, arts and crafts, storytelling and children mix well, and several hours of joy followed.

We are happy because there’s still a party even though Typhoon Yolanda [local name for Haiyan] has passed, there’s still a party,” said Angelyn.

For UNICEF, the Christmas party’s fun had a serious underpinning – to continue the process of recovery and healing while empowering children and their parents about services that are available to them.

One step in a long recovery process

We just came from a very devastating calamity. But, despite that, we are still trying to make things an inspiration for our children. Especially this kind of fun fare that you cannot see in evacuation centres knowing that they’re almost head to head when they sleep,” says Liliosa Baltazar, City Social Welfare Officer.

So I am very happy that UNICEF came in to save us because at the beginning we don’t know what to do, we don’t know where to start. And it was good when UNICEF came in and tried to explain about the Child Friendly Space. I already know before because we had training but how to execute it, I don’t know. I’m just being honest. But after a series of talks with Pernille and other staff of UNICEF, it came now to a more holistic approach that we will be making in the future for a better Filipino family.”

Every child will have a memory from this event that is lasting but it’s not just about today“, says Pernille Ironside, Child Protection Specialist for UNICEF Typhoon Haiyan Response. “Today is one step of the recovery process that the children of Tacloban and the whole Yolanda affected area have in order to take one step forward at a time.”

I hope that we can forget

For Angelyn it was a special day. She also attends the Child Friendly Space in her evacuation centre which UNICEF began setting up after the Typhoon.

There are 15 Child Friendly Spaces (CFS) operating in classroom sized tents in Tacloban, 9 of which are run by the City with UNICEF’s support. There are 146 CFS currently operating across the Yolanda affected area by various organizations, and a total of 303 planned of which UNICEF is supporting 214. Each CFS has recreational supplies, early childhood development materials with day care workers and youth volunteers.

Every day Angelyn has the chance to get together with her friends for organised recreational activities and learning, which helps her to get back to normal life little by little. “My message for my friends and other children is I wish that through this party, we will be able to forget what happened to us during the typhoon,” she says.

Kate Donovan, UNICEF, Tacloban

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