Volunteers keep kids busy amid PH conflict
by FFE PH News staff
Despite the scorching heat and the fighting in the coastal villages of Zamboanga, 50 children are playing games, listening to storytelling sessions and participating in art activities conducted at a makeshift tent in a sports complex.
Thousands of Zamboanga residents evacuated to a sports complex. Photo source: AFP
Volunteers from the Western Mindanao State University and various non-government organizations (NGOs) have organized structured play and other activities under the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s Early Childhood Care and Development (DSWD-ECCD) programme since Monday when conflict broke out between government troops and members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
Greta Martinez of DSWD said that since setting up on Monday, 98 children join the activities every day. The 16 volunteers move around the groups coaxing kids to participate, complimenting drawings and telling others to stop horsing around.
Martinez said the activities are a form of therapy and to keep the kids busy. The children from the six affected communities have missed classes since fighting began.
The two-hour sessions start at 8:30am every day and finish at 5:30pm with 30-minute breaks in between. The volunteers encourage parents to participate to ensure that their children stay during the sessions.
Junaida Maqueputin, 38 and mother of 5-year-old Hussain, says the centre is a good idea. She fled Mariki village with her 5 children dawn of Tuesday after village officials urged residents to evacuate.
She said “It is better that the children go there to learn some things.”
The Philippine Air Force has set up tents inside Juan F. Enriquez Memorial Sports Complex that serves as an evacuation centre for the six communities caught in the crossfire. 44,000 of the 62,000 evacuees have since found shelter in the sports complex.