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Let’s hear how field practitioners have adapted activities for children during COVID-19 pandemic!

By watching this video you will hear from field practitioners practical examples on how to adapt group activities for children well being.
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I’m Alaa Mughrabieh I’m the CP Specialist in Hurras Network. Hurras Network is a specialized NGO working in child protection and education services during conflict and emergencies in northwest Syria. In this video I’ll focus on PSS activities and how we manage to adapt them with the new emerging situation and how we have been providing PSS activities remotely. During COVID-19 emergency serving those children with the best manner we know. Before COVID-19 emerged Hurras network provided several group activities. Aside from education activities such as awareness raising capacity building and training for teachers and other school staff and psychosocial support activities for children and their families were provided. With the beginning of March 2020 and the announcement of COVID-19 as a pandemic.
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The health directorate of Northwest Syria announced the emergency in the area, and the education directorate followed by suspending all the educational activities within schools and shifted all of them to the online platform. This led to losing the access to twenty percent of the children who we reached before the pandemic and adaptation to all group activities was needed and different approaches were designed. To start with the adaptation of the activities we defined the approaches upon the vulnerabilities of the children reach. The bottom of the pyramid are the least vulnerable children who we can reach daily and provide routine psychosocial support and social and emotional learning activities and specific time schedules and we can check on them and assess them regularly.
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Next children who could not reach smartphones, internet or electricity. We provided them with PSS kits which have activities explained in brochures, along with the supplies for their parents to provide the activities. The kids serve as an entry point to the children to be assessed and supported when needed. Then, children who are in residential care centres So they are already in groups and gathered But they don’t have access to the protection and PSS activities. They are visited by our mobile PSS team to provide resilience building activities and to teach to the care providers and the centers on how to provide them with PSS activities. It is the children who are referred from the case management team and affected by the pandemic.
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Like if they are in quarantine. They are separated or they have psychosocial distress or other CP concerns. So, they are referred to have face to face condensed sessions with PPE and precautions in place upon their need and depending on their cases. The main thing is maintaining this routine and strengthening family bonding in these hard times. Parents are under pressure to provide their children with education and PSS by themselves.
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Videos of the activities were created by the facilitators very simple, easy and clear instructions and use materials available at home and posted them in specific times during the day to help parents provide activities while creating a routine for the children to make them calmer and reduce the pressure on parents Since it’s dependent on the parents the process is child and family oriented. and feedback from the parents is as crucial to ensure the adherence of the parents to the program. At the beginning of the program’s implementation we piloted the remote PSS program with the parents and consulted with them about the materials and suitability of the contents for them.
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We recieved their suggestions and comments on each video and brochure posted and upon them we changed the next videos accordingly. For example many parents rejected the videos that had music in them or religious purposes and beliefs in which the facilitators respected and never added music to the videos again. another feedback was about the size of the videos as it was consuming a lot of internet data to download and view. So the facilitators had to reduce the quality of the videos in order to help the parents to download them. shifting activities to the online and distance platform was not easy at the beginning for parents nor the facilitators. the parents were surprised about the new modality which is dependent on them.
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But later on and with the course of the program and months of taking daily feedback from the parents. Most of the parents are happy and more connected with their children as they expressed. To reach the objective of those activities Harass Network has built its response around making a routine for the children. In order to make them calmer and build their resilience with a the emergency and staying at home for long hours. This also contributed to the access of the children to to protection services and being reachable by the child protection actors in case, in case of need. Although the children lost the sense of group activities with a new modality. The platform mimics the classroom environment as much as possible.
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As the classroom group students are still together The classroom teacher is supervising the room and maintaining regular communication with the children and their families to encourage continuous participation. Despite that we still don’t have the results of their post surveys scores to measure the improvement. The progress and the development of the children are shown in their daily interaction with their classroom and through the parents’ honest feedback. The internet connection is the major challenge to those approaches which is the main reason for losing reach to 20 percent of the children who were reached before the pandemic.
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On the opposite side child safeguarding concerns rise higher with the children having longer hours on the internet and using smartphones in which it was addressed through the awareness raising sessions for the parents about using the internet and risks for the children for having long hours on the internet and smartphones Sustaining engagement with parents is a challenge. Although now we have relatively good engagement from those who have access. We expect fatigue and disinterest over time. Therefore we maintained a strong link between the teacher and the families. A regular phone call from the teacher serves as a good encouragement for the parents.
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Moreover, shifting activities to virtual platform has made activities lose the sense of being in groups in those activities unless the child is performing the activities with siblings and relatives. Finally, I want to mention a few points which made the program a success and increased outcomes for the children. First, working with parents is key. as we focus with the parents on raising awareness around positive discipline skills. Now we have support groups for parents to cater to their well being. Second, get feedback from the children on the activities and always ensure accountability to the affected population. Third, we use the PSS activities to identify children in need for specialized interventions such as MHPSS and case management.
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Fourth, don’t limit your team to a certain manual or PSS program for the sessions and activities. Guide them to the objective of the activities and leave space for them to adapt activities and provide activities online in a simple way. Fifth, listen to the needs and opinion of the local community. For example we recorded videos in the same environment of the participants. The videos were recorded from the tents of the facilitators and their homes and using home available materials. Sixth, making activities a routine for the children and provide the session over a certain time schedule is fundamental to protect the children within their homes. I hope this was beneficial for you. Thank you for attending this course. And that’s all.
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