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MA Aid Group Helps Rebuild Children's Lives After Earthquake

May 27, 2008

Mianyang, China - Two weeks after a devastating earthquake hit central China, a local aid group is planning for the initial phases of the long-term rebuilding effort. Mercy Corps says the focus is still on such short-term needs as food and clean water, but those shipments are also being accompanied by things like work gloves, tools and school supply kits for the weeks and months to come. Mercy Corps' aid worker Joy Portella, speaking from China, says the international relief agency's focus will be working with kids who lost loved ones, and saw their homes and schools fall to the ground.

"There are many young survivors who have had their lives really uprooted by this earthquake. So, we want to work with young people to help them overcome the trauma and help them start to begin their lives again."

Portella says a fellow aid worker was deployed last week to translate a "Comfort for Kids" program, used after Hurricane Katrina, into Chinese. The program uses trainers and workbooks to help children open up about their experiences during the disaster. As Portella puts it, victims' psychological needs are sometimes unaddressed by government relief.

"Going through their story and telling it and expressing themselves. It's hard to describe when you see kids respond to something like that, and see how it helps them to overcome barriers."

Mercy Corps is also sending supplies to Myanmar, which was hit by a cyclone three weeks ago.

Kevin Clay/Steve Powers, Public News Service - MA