Helping Children Cope After the Flood: Mehboob's Story
In September 2022, more than 33 million people were affected by floods in Pakistan. More than 1,700 people lost their lives, including more than 400 children.
Mehboob, a 22-year-old Right To Play-trained coach, lives in a village in Kashmore, Sindh province, one of the areas most affected by the floods. He supported the emergency psychosocial response Right To Play mounted to support children and families in the area.
He reflected on his experiences as a volunteer and how play can help children cope with crisis. His account has been translated from Sindhi.
“When rain first hit in September 2022, we did not know that it would cause havoc in our village. Every house, including mine, started flooding with water, so everyone went out to take temporary shelter in the only government school in our village. There were space issues since everyone had to fit in one large building. Food shortages, unhygienic practices and the realization of lost livelihoods started to emerge. Water-borne diseases even led to the death of a couple of children, while others were in severe trauma.
I could hear people calling for help while everything they owned was flooded with water, and I could see children’s faces filled with distress and fear of losing even the smallest toy they had. Being affected by this disaster, I knew their pain and I could not stop the urge to help.
I was already volunteering with Right To Play as a coach, and the most important thing I had learned from that experience was to work together in hard times. I started talking with people about what their children needed the most right then. While most of them said it was safe shelter and food, some said they needed to get their stress out, but they did not know how. So, I joined in the relief efforts and started conducting play-based activities in smaller groups.
“Being affected by this disaster, I knew their pain and I could not stop the urge to help.” – Mehboob, Right To Play-trained coach
Seeing those little smiles, other children and parents started joining in these activities. With the expertise I gained from Right To Play, I chose games such as ‘Hope Is in the Air’ and ‘I Like My Neighbour’. These are games that provide psychosocial support to children.
Over a short period, I noticed how these sessions were helping them to see a light amid despair. The healing power of play not only allowed them to release the negative emotions caused by the floods, but also sparked the spirit of togetherness, a spirit to fight against all odds. Parents started conversations on how they could act to create a new life out of uncertain times and connect better with their children. Through this, the children helped create a sense of normalcy for everyone as their voices echoed across the village each day.
Play-based psychosocial support activities reduced fear among the children, while making them feel more resilient. They understood that uncertain times require everyone to act together. Community members, especially parents, realized the importance of play for a child’s well-being. Even after the situation got back to normal, they requested the other Right To Play coaches and I continue conducting play sessions.
“This is the first time in my life that I have seen people getting up amidst a calamity and children’s eyes filled with joy, thanks to the power of play.” – Mehboob, Right To Play-trained coach
The children who were once shy started speaking to their parents and their peers due to these play activities. Playing ignited a solution-oriented approach in their lives. It made them more resilient and able to handle the hardships that life brings.
This is the first time in my life that I have seen people getting up amidst a calamity and children’s eyes filled with joy, thanks to the power of play. This is the message I would like to convey to the world: Call for support when hardships hit, but do not sit with your hands tied. Explore everyone’s abilities, bring your skill sets to practice and be the captain of your own ship.”