By Maya Flaminda J. Vandenbroeck
For MindaNews .
Lanao del Sur. Three months after the siege, there’s an overpowering sense of gloom and frustration as paper and plastic cover the windows inside the teacher’s lounge of a small elementary school. Its occupants are Marawi siege survivors who want to keep the light out. They don’t feel well and spend the entire day on the dusty cold cement floor that’s littered with their trash. They rarely get up to move around and just wait, oblivious to their children’s shouting and fighting.
The survivors have different ways of coping. Adults are like zombies while children fight like they’re flushed with adrenaline. They talk in loud voices and try to outmaneuver each other for what they think are food and materials for distribution. They have very short attention spans and are easily distracted in their play. In the presence of nervous and short-tempered adults, children get spanked, pinched, slapped and shouted at every day. Such is the debilitating effect of war. It breaks down formerly loving and disciplined communities.
One of the first to do something about it is Rosan Aliya Agbon, founder of Kids for Peace (Kids) whose story started seventeen years ago when she became aware of the realities of war. Since then, Kids has been conducting psychosocial sessions to help survivors move forward from the traumatic experience.
Aliya anticipated that traumatized survivors of the Marawi siege would need help getting back on their feet. That’s how the six day health/nutrition/psycho-social relief mission, Creating Sinag Within, was born. Twenty-six volunteers from all backgrounds responded to Aliya’s call to collaborate – including six Social Work graduates who are themselves victims of the siege.
“We are the lucky ones because we are living with our relatives and our parents still have their jobs,” says Suli, a Social Worker graduate. She and her batchmates were in the middle of their board review in school when the siege broke.
At the end of the first Creating Sinag Within mission, the team gathered to assess their experience. The unanimous decision: re-group and return in one month to provide patients with follow-up sessions.