The power of a hug: What can help children overcome Yolanda trauma

Photo from 1000bearhugs, by JM Mejorada. (1000Bearhugs)

If you have old, huggable stuffed toys you’re willing to let go of, now is the perfect time to let them meet "new friends."

Advocacy group 1000bearhugs has set up a toy drive to help traumatized children recover faster.

While food, water, and medicine should remain as top relief goods, stuffed toys could serve as an integral part of recovery of the young survivors, especially during calamities like Yolanda. Conflicting reports say hundreds have died due to monster storm Yolanda. Children who survived, however, may experience heavy trauma.

“A lot of them were crying because they lost a toy… but a toy is also the number one tool to release their trauma,” says Mon Corpuz of the Black Pencil Project, who is also leading the 1000Bearhugs drive. 

Children need something to hug and hold on to in this time of grief, especially when they feel they have lost everything, added Corpuz.

Corpuz notes that the Bearhugs drive does not only give away toys; the movement also includes facilitating psychosocial therapies through the help of volunteers.

How it came to be

The idea of sending out teddy bears and stuffed toys was initiated by Cathy Babao. It began in December 2011, when typhoon “Sendong” wreaked havoc in Cagayan de Oro.

“We don’t just distribute the bears. We let the children walk in and choose their own toy and the first thing they do is hug the stuffed toy. It gives them ownership, and reconciliation with something they lost,” Corpuz added.

Since then the 1000bearhugs have sent out toys to typhoon-hit areas such as Bicol and in conflict zones like Zamboanga. Corpuz said the organization was able to transport toys to disaster areas through the help of the military and local non-government organizations.

“This is the most personal way to help someone. Imagine the teddy bear is your friend and you let it go,” says Corpuz, adding that some donors “share” their stuffed toys who were with them since they were kids.

Corpuz notes their organization does not accept toy guns, battery-operated toys, even Barbie dolls. What they accept are “huggable” toys. He maintains the movement also does not accept cash donations.

If you want to join the toy drive, you may see the drop-off points here: 1000bearhugs. They will be accepting donations until December 8.

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