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Villagers come together to rebuild lives

By Luo Wangshu | China Daily | Updated: 2017-06-23 07:26

A boy finds his textbook after the disaster in Funing. China Daily

"The children didn't know what to do when the disaster struck, so they panicked. We have taught them to protect themselves, such as how to react during such a disaster, where to hide, and the safe use of electricity and water," she said.

Having arrived in Yancheng to set up the center, Sun has stayed for a year, but she will finish her work and leave Yancheng at the end of the month. Instead, a weekly regular psychological health class will be available at the Nanwan Kindergarten.

"We evaluate the disaster and the state of people's mental health, and then formulate an action plan. In Yancheng, the program has lasted a year," she said.

Greater awareness

Guided by the professionals, the local teachers have gained greater awareness and the skills to provide counseling. Li, the school head, uses a small sandbox and toy figures to assess the children's mental state; if the child buries the figures deep in the sand, it may indicate that they are repressing emotions and memories.

To further alleviate their anxiety, she teaches her students about the causes of tornadoes, and practices safety drills with them.

"A tornado is a strong kind of weather that mostly comes with pouring rain," she explained to a class of 5-year-old students.

To demonstrate, she inflated a balloon and held it tight to prevent the air from escaping. Then she asked a student to come forward, and released her grip on the balloon so the student could feel the air being released.

"This is wind-it's not scary," she said, and offered another example with a bicycle pump.

She had drawn a picture of a tornado on the blackboard. "It is important for the students to understand that tornadoes don't just happen when they are at school, and we also tell them it's natural to be frightened," she said.

"We've held many safety seminars for the children. We tell them the tornado won't come again, but even if it does it won't affect them."

After the tornado, the kindergarten's buildings were wrecked, and trees were strewn across the playground. However, after two months of reconstruction work, the kindergarten reopened on August 30.

Li experienced a combination of ecstasy and anxiety.

"On the first day, the little girl I saved arrived with her grandma. She dashed across the playground and ran toward to me, but she was still very nervous at school. When her grandma took her to use the bathroom, she cried and would not let go of her. She insisted the elderly lady went into the cubicle with her. Some other children refused to leave their parents, and screamed: 'This is a bad kindergarten. This is the kindergarten that was struck by a tornado'," she recalled.

"What if no one wants to come to kindergarten again?" she said, with concern in her voice.

As the anniversary of the disaster approached, Li had a chance to review her difficult year: "It was the darkest moment of my life. But I will endure this hardship with my students. It's time to heal the wounds and not allow this event to affect our lives."

Meghan Horihan contributed to this story

Contact the writer at luo-wangshu@chinadaily.com.cn


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