Save the Children has opened the first child-friendly space in Sendai, Japan, less than five days after the city was hit by a devastating earthquake and tsunami. The space opened Wednesday in a primary school currently being used as an evacuation center. Supervised by Save the Children staff, it contains toys and games aimed at 5-12 year olds affected by the disaster. Child-friendly spaces are protective environments where children can gather to play and talk about their experiences with supervisors and each other, allowing them to establish a routine in a chaotic situation. Play and routine are recognized as important ways for children to overcome traumatic experiences. The supervised play areas also give parents time to concentrate on finding food, search for missing relatives and meet other pressing needs in the aftermath of a disaster. Steve McDonald, Save the Children’s team leader in Sendai said: “Children we’ve met are having nightmares and are terrified of another tsunami. It’s essential that we do everything to help them come to terms with what’s happened to them, and that’s where the child-friendly spaces and other activities come in.” “Parents in Sendai can now leave their children in a safe place as they start putting their lives back together. This will be the first in a network of child friendly spaces across the affected area.” Save the Children is planning on setting up more child-friendly spaces over the coming days to complement the Japanese government-led relief effort helping the affected population. Up to 100,000 children were displaced by last week’s earthquake, which triggered devastating tsunamis and damaged nuclear power facilities on Japan’s east coast. The displaced population are living in some 2,500 evacuation centers set up across northeastern Japan in recent days. Save the Children’s relief operation is being run from Tokyo, with an operational base in Sendai, the closest city to the earthquake’s epicenter.
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