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Trainers help young minds focus on the future

By AN BAIJIE in Lushan, Sichuan | | Updated: 2013-04-23 21:00

Zhu Yikun acted differently from the other children during a gathering on Tuesday - he bowed his head, a drawing folded in his hand, and was reluctant to talk to others.

The 10-year-old student from Lushan County Primary School was among pupils attending the gathering, aimed at providing psychological help to children affected by the magnitude-7 earthquake on Saturday.

Trainers help young minds focus on the future

During the event, attended by about 50 students aged from 6 to 14, the children were asked to draw a picture of their imagined future homes. All houses in Lushan county were destroyed by the quake.

All the other children handed their pictures to the training teacher, but Zhu did not respond, keeping his head low. The teacher approached him, patted his shoulder in a friendly manner and asked what had happened to him.

“My thumb hurts,” the boy said in a low voice.

On hearing this, the teacher took out a bottle of medicine and sprayed on the child’s thumb, telling him: “Don’t worry. You will be OK.”

The boy raised his head, looked at the teacher but remained reluctant to hand in his picture.

“Tell me, how else I can help you?” the teacher asked. “Could you please give your drawing to me?”

After talking to Zhu for about 10 seconds, the teacher produced colored pencils, gave them to the boy and encouraged him to draw a picture.

Finally, Zhu completed his drawing — with a red sun, men with green hands and birds of different colors. He gave it to the teacher but remained silent.

Long Qing, the training teacher from the Odeman Outward Bound Center, an NGO based in Hong Kong, said the boy’s mother injured her feet during the earthquake, which made him depressed. He was also not confident about his drawing, so refused to hand it in.

“What we do during the training is to encourage the students to be optimistic, confident and happy,” Long said, adding that he and other teachers will pay close attention to the boy’s mental state.

Most of the students experienced the quake, and some of their family members were killed or injured, Long said.

During the training, Long and three other teachers tried to create an active atmosphere, with the children playing group games, making speeches and sharing their feelings with others at the gathering.

“Our goal is clear and simple — to make the students happier and reduce loneliness,” Long said. “Psychological aid is not about teaching the children doctrines, but to make them communicate with others and lighten their mood.”

Tan Jie, another training teacher, said the trainers tried to cheer the children up by using several methods, including patting their shoulders, smiling at them and praising them for their behavior.

“We try to avoid acting in a merciful way because the children need respect, not mercy,” he said.

During the training, the children even joined in the volunteer work, helping to distribute relief materials including food, water and notebooks for students.

Hu Guokang, a 10-year-old from Lushan County Primary School, said he was happy to distribute the notebooks.

“I felt that I was being useful since I could help the other children,” he said.

Tan offered psychological help to children during the Wenchuan earthquake, which struck on May 12, 2008, killing more than 69,000 people. He said the government paid more attention to psychological help nowadays.

“When we arrived here on Monday, the government helped us to set up a stall where we could recruit volunteers and publicize our activities,” he said. “Rebuilding the houses will take a long time but repairing minds should be started right away.”

Some of the pupils adopted an unusual approach at the gathering, with 9-year-old Yang Meikang introducing himself to his classmates by saying, “My hobby is fighting.”

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