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Let’s Hear How Field Practitioners Have Adapted Activities for Children during COVID-19!

Watch this video from Hurras Network in Syria and hear more on how to adapt group activities for children’s well-being during COVID-19.
I am Alaa Mughrabieh, I am 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 and serving those children in the best manner we know. Before COVID-19 emerged, Hurras Network provided several group activities. Asides 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.
At the beginning of March 2020 and the announcement of COVID-19 as a pandemic, the health directorate in 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.
<v 0>This led to losing access to 20% of the children who we reached</v> before the pandemic. <v 2>And adaptation to all group activities was needed and different</v> approaches were designed. To start with the adaptation of the activities, we defined the approaches upon the vulnerabilities of the children we reached. At the bottom of the pyramid are the least vulnerable children who we can reach daily and
provide routine psycho-social support and social and emotional learning activities in specific time schedules and we can check on them and assess them regularly. Next, children who could not reach smart phones, 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 kits serve as an entry point to the children, to be assessed and supported when needed. Then you can see the children who are in residential care centers. <v 0>So the children are already in groups and gathered,</v> 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 the care providers and the centers on how to provide them with PSS activities. Lastly, it’s the children who are referred from the case management team and affected by the pandemic like they are in quarantine, they are separated, or they have psycho-social distress or other CP concerns. They are referred for face-to-face condensed sessions, with PPE and precautions in place, upon their need and depending on their cases. The main thing is maintaining children’s routine and strengthening family bonding in these hard times. Parents are under pressure to provide their children with education and PSS by themselves.
Videos of the activities were recorded by the facilitators with very simple, easy, and clear instructions and using materials available at home; and posting them at 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 crucial to ensure the adherence of the 59 00:03:59.081 –> 00:04:03.910 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. We received 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 for religious purposes and beliefs, to 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 the activities to the online and distance platform was not easy at the beginning for parents nor the facilitators. <v 0>The parents were surprised about the new modality which is dependent on them</v> but. <v 2>Later on - and with the course of the program and months of taking</v> 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, Hurras Network has built its response around making a routine for the children in order to make them calmer and build their resilience with the new emergency and staying at home for long hours.
This also contributed to the access of the children to child protection services and being reachable by the child protection actors in case of need. Although the children lost the sense of group activities with the new modality, the platform mimics the classroom environment as much as possible. The classroom group students are still together and 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 survey scores to measure their improvement. The progress and the development of the children is 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% of the children who were reached before the pandemic. On the opposite side, child safeguarding concerns rise higher with the children having longer hours on the internet and using smart phones. It was addressed in the awareness raising sessions for the parents about using the internet and the risk for the children for having longer hours on the internet and smartphones. Also,
sustaining engagement for parents is a challenge and 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 a good encouragement for the parents. Moreover, shifting the activities to a virtual platform has made the activities lose the sense of being in groups in those activities, unless the child is performing the activities with the 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. 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 as the participants. The videos were recorded from the tents of the facilitators and their homes and using home available materials. Six, making the activities a routine for the children and providing 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.
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