The process of becoming a survivor is hard.
We are often told to use the term survivor instead of victim. But how does one move from being a victim to becoming a survivor? For those who are victims to tragedies you do not just wake up the next day and feel like you are now a survivor, but instead the struggle has typically just started and you feel more like a victim than ever before.
Part of our team’s goal and work with the Philippines people since Haiyan has been to help children process their struggles, pain, and torment that they have experienced since the typhoon and to help them transform in to survivors. One of these experiences was with a student named Marie Tonie. She, like most of the children on the island, experienced the trauma of Haiyan and has been living in the struggle of the aftermath. She has been terrified of the rain, the winds, and anything that reminds her of the typhoon. Her experience of surviving Haiyan has been the life of a disaster victim.
We were working in a processing session with some of these children and one of the exercises was for them to draw their emotions and experiences on a paper, cut out into a child shaped figure. They would draw a face on the child expressing how they were feeling, they would write a person or thing that made them happy in the heart section, in the hands they would write their reactions and feelings they experienced after Haiyan, and on the feet they would draw the actions and activities they have been doing to overcome these negative reactions.
Marie Tonie volunteered to share her story. As she was sharing she began to cry, the painful memories were so vivid and real to her still that she had to stop. When she heard the stories of her classmates, she realized her need to be vulnerable and decided to press forward. She began to heal and through that healing was able to make friends and to stop the cycle of running and isolating herself. She started to hope and believe that she could have life, life after Haiyan and with that she began her life as a survivor.
Since then the team has seen much improvement in Marie Tonie and her family can tell a difference as well. She is radiant with joy by her sweet smile and laugh. More than that, she is filled with gratitude and faces the world as a survivor filled with hope to face tomorrow and all that it holds.