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War Is Not Child’s Play

Media Release 12 October 2001


War Is Not Child’s Play

Usually focusing its work on child development in third world countries, like India, Kenya and Brazil, development agency, the Christian Children’s Fund (CCF), has extended it’s service to New York and Afghanistan.

As the United States retaliates to the recent terrorist attacks and the potential for casualties and loss of life increases daily, CCF is using all its resources to help as many children as possible suffering from the devastating effects of violence and terrorism.

“We’re using our expertise and resources to assist wherever we can at this time. We don’t want to get involved in choosing sides, we just want to help children in the greatest need,” says CCF Communication Co-ordinator, Antica Soljan.

Demonstrating its core value that it doesn’t discriminate between cultures, beliefs or creed, CCF is going where the need is greatest.

“Non-discrimination is our primary premise and even a ‘war on terrorism’ or ‘jihad’ won’t change that,” says Ms Soljan.

CCF is implementing its internationally recognised Trauma and Transition Programme in New York to help children deal with their fear and anger resulting from the September attacks.

Investigations are underway to potentially implement the CCF Trauma Programme with Afghanistan children and refugees.

“Obviously we are unable to assist directly in Afghanistan at this time, however, we are working with Oxfam here in New Zealand to take donations for distributing aid along the Afghanistan border and surrounding areas” says Ms Soljan.

Oxfam is currently distributing food to approximately 750,000 people in Afghanistan while also preparing to supply water and sanitation for
500,000 refugees in camps along the Pakistan border.

"It's a race against time as winter approaches and Afghani civilians head towards the borders for fear of starvation and attack," says Terri-Ann Scorer, Oxfam New Zealand's Executive Director.

“Oxfam New Zealand thanks CCF and its supporters for their generosity and assistance in this time of crisis.”

A report from CCF International states that the atmosphere of hostility and fear in New York has escalated harassment and violent incidents. Youths are especially vulnerable and are the most likely age-group to take on extreme views. Some will even join groups banding together to act against the perceived ‘enemy’.

“We are doing everything we can to provide these youths with a more positive outlet for their emotions,” says Ms Soljan.

The CCF Trauma Programme has successfully assisted children in other troubled regions like East Timor and Kosovo. Now CCF is using key aspects of the award-winning programme to assist New York children with the transition back to normality.

Experts in the area are working through a consortium of youth groups providing them with techniques such as group discussions and role-playing to help children communicate their anger, fear and sorrow about the tragedy.

A large volunteer network has been recruited to assist with implementation of the programme. The programme also addresses issues of cultural diversity and aims to build tolerance and understanding that neither culture nor religion was to blame for these events.

The trauma team is developing a World Trade Center mural of children’s self-portraits to awaken their creative drive, foster self-expression and give them a positive focus. The project aims at declaring and affirming their hopes for the future.

Children severely affected by the attacks may experience concentration problems, difficulty sleeping, withdraw socially or lose interest in playing and other everyday activities. With the international media coverage of these events, CCF is also mindful that the impact may not be limited to children in New York.

CCF experts have found that people are apprehensive to send their children to school or walk the streets of New York. CCF’s programme addresses and helps both parents and children work through these issues. They advise that caregivers, parents and relatives talk with children about their emotions and that they monitor their behaviour.

In addition, CCF has developed training material for caregivers, teachers and counsellors who work with children on a daily basis. Designed to help children deal with their grief, this material will be distributed through schools, churches, community centres and anywhere children frequent, to ensure that the maximum number of youths are reached.

The CCF trauma team also aims to establish an international ‘pen pal’ letter exchange programme so children affected by war and violence can share their experiences with the New York terrorist attack victims.

Obviously not all children will be traumatised by the event, in fact, in some circumstances, children can exhibit remarkable resilience. Although children need protection and a sense of their own safety, they can often be a great support to parents and other adults in times of tragedy.

CCF needs support to implement its work in the United States, Afghanistan and wherever else the need may arise. If you would like to make a donation, please call CCF toll-free on 0800 223 100 or call the Oxfam Appeal Hotline on 0800 600 700 today.

ENDS

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