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Red Cross distributes booklet to help kids cope after the Victorian bushfires

Wednesday March 25, 2009

Red Cross has developed an important resource to help primary school children recover and adjust to the shock of a natural disaster in their community, such as the recent bushfires in Victoria.

Developed with generous support from the First National Foundation, After the Emergency uses bold drawings and clear language to encourage children who have lived through traumatic events, such as bushfires and floods, to think about what happened and talk about their feelings and experiences to people around them.

The booklet is also available to download from the Red Cross website under the heading Emergency REDiPlan. It is a follow-up to a booklet called Get Ready! that can be used to help primary children prepare themselves for emergencies. These resources include activity sheets and an emergency contact card.

As part of a major three-year partnership with Red Cross, the First National Foundation has provided significant funding for Emergency REDiPlan; a Red Cross community information program to help people in Australia better prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies.

The After the Emergency activity book will be distributed in Victoria to bushfire-affected communities and those in Queensland affected by the floods. It is an ongoing resource that will be available for any future emergencies.

Red Cross National Manager of Emergency Services, Andrew Coghlan, says: 'Our extensive experience helping people after an emergency both here and overseas has highlighted the need to develop a resource to help young people understand what they are going through.'

'The After the Emergency children's activity book talks directly to children in their language. We hope families and children will be able to use the resource to help them recover.'

Psychologist and Red Cross consultant Rob Gordon, who has experience dealing with disaster preparedness, response and recovery, says it is important to encourage children to talk about what happened.

'Kids need to have an opportunity to talk so that they aren't overwhelmed by their imagination,' Dr Gordon says.

'A structured booklet with a series of questions and answers that uses a playful context based on the disaster experience will help kids get their thoughts in order so they can be helped to move on.'

Experienced psychologists say that each disaster brings its own special set of circumstances and that relief agencies have learnt to adapt the counselling they offer to help people affected by natural disaster. Research has shown that between 80-90 per cent of people can be expected to recover from the associated emotional trauma provided they seek help.

The booklet is available from the Red Cross website (see link below) and in disaster-affected communities.