In a first for New Zealand, Save the Children staff and volunteers have set up a space at Kaikoura Primary School in Torquay Street, where school-aged children can come during the day to play and forget about the stresses and strains associated with the earthquake. Save the Children expects to keep the The Child Friendly Space open until all schools can resume.
Spokesperson Melanie Patterson says children who are protected from stress during a disaster tend to recover more quickly. "It also gives families the chance to take care of a whole range of issues that occur during a disaster, while knowing their children are being well cared for by well-trained staff and volunteers."
Save the Children operates child friendly spaces throughout the world in disasters and in conflict zones. It is the first time one has operated in New Zealand and Ms Patterson says the initiative to set one up now has been well received by Civil Defence and the Red Cross. Save the Children plans to operate child friendly spaces whenever and wherever needed during a major disaster in New Zealand because children are particularly vulnerable during disasters.
"Disasters can cause children significant stress because they aren't able to understand or rationalise why disasters happen the same way adults can. It's really important to help children feel safe. That's why we want to see child friendly spaces as just a normal part of this country's emergency response."