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CFCA stories

CFCA fathers comfort children displaced by typhoon

June 1, 2010

ERPAT (Empowerment and Reaffirmation of Paternal Abilities) fathers
ERPAT fathers use art projects and activities to help children
cope with feelings of loneliness and separation.

ANTIPOLO, Philippines — Since March, fathers of CFCA-sponsored children in Antipolo, Philippines, have helped to ease the trauma of children displaced by typhoons last fall. Their work was funded with a UNICEF grant.

The fathers— members of ERPAT (the name stands for “Empowerment and Reaffirmation of Paternal Abilities”) —used storytelling, dramatic skits, artwork and other activities to help children cope with feelings of loneliness and separation. They worked with children still living in tent cities and with children who were displaced last fall but had since returned to their homes.

Antipolo Project Coordinator Malou Navio said the ERPAT fathers successfully helped traumatized children to cope with their loss and interact again with others.

“Children who were grieving for lost family members, relatives, neighbors, classmates, or even pets and toys often remained silent and would not eat,” Navio said. “The children are now interacting with other children and have become playful.”

The fathers also taught children fearful of rains and water what to do when heavy rains and floods occur.

After typhoons struck the Philippines late last September, ERPAT fathers, under Navio’s direction, rescued stranded families and brought them to evacuation centers. The fathers also took turns cooking and delivering meals to sponsored members and their families staying at the centers.

Because of their efforts, the ERPAT fathers received a grant from UNICEF for 518,000 pesos ($11,500) on Jan. 8 and March 22 for psychological interventions with children affected by the storm. The fathers met three times a week with 100 children in each of seven communities from March through May.

The grant covered meals for the children, materials, supplies, play equipment and games, transportation and a daily allowance for the fathers, youth and mothers who helped at the sessions. ERPAT oversaw the program. CFCA-Antipolo social workers served as mentors and project accountants assisting the fathers with required tracking and reporting.

“UNICEF visited them on site from the start of the project,” Navio said. “They had good remarks from the personnel.”

Many affected families are still living in tent cities, in makeshift homes along streets or in open spaces because their homes are uninhabitable, Navio said. Efforts by an interagency group working to relocate these families were halted because of the national elections. They may not resume until new government leaders take power in June.

Navio is inspired by the ERPAT fathers’ dedication and thrilled that UNICEF has recognized them.

“The grant from UNICEF tapping these fathers to help children affected by Typhoon Ondoy is one of the ripples caused by sponsorship,” she said.

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