UNICEF Offers Aid to Grenada’s Children

UNICEF has made a generous donation of $240,000 (US) to the WINDREF/SGU Relief for Grenada Fund to continue its valuable Return to Happiness program, begun in Grenada after Hurricane Ivan devastated much of Grenada and rendered the children unsettled and afraid. The Return to Happiness program is a psycho-affective recovery program for children who have experienced the trauma of natural disasters or armed conflict. The program employs the strategies of play therapy and creative arts to encourage children to express their concerns, fears, anxieties, and other emotions related to their experiences during and following a disaster. Adolescent volunteers work with children ages 6-12 in small groups, using program materials, such as puppets, cloth dolls, wooden toys, arts and crafts, and storytelling.

The program has been implemented in many nations, including Mozambique, Columbia, Honduras, El Salvador, East Timor, Ecuador, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Belize, Peru, Paraguay, and most recently, Grenada. UNICEF implemented the Return to Happiness program in eight sites in Grenada during the month of October, serving approximately four hundred of Grenada’s children. UNICEF approached Dr. Zuri Amuleru-Marshall to design and provide an evaluation of the effectiveness of the program. Dr. Amuleru-Marshall and Dr. Omowale Amuleru-Marshall agreed to provide this voluntary service to UNICEF and formed the SGU Psychological Team.

With the success of the initial Return to Happiness program, UNICEF, along with the Grenada Ministry of Education, determined that the program should be made available to all of the children of Grenada and the SGU Psychological Relief Team was approached to assist in planning and administering this national implementation, as well as designing and conducting a robust program evaluation. A proposal was developed by the Team and was approved for full funding by UNICEF, Caribbean Office. The grant to WINDREF provides for all direct program and evaluation costs. The SGU Psychological Relief Team’s contributions to this recovery effort remain voluntary. The project, which is administratively placed in the Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, will be implemented as a 3-week after-school program in each of Grenada’s 58 primary schools, between mid-January and April 2005. Its implementation is being facilitated by the participation of NGOs in Grenada, including the Agency for Rural Transformation (ART), the Grenada Community Development Agency (GRENCODA), and the Grenada Red Cross.

All of Grenada’s children between the ages of 6 and 12 (approximately 10,000) will be invited to play and participate in creative activities designed to re-establish their sense of joy and happiness, security, and confidence in adult protection. Celebrations will be occurring throughout the island as children complete the program, and an island-wide culminating celebration is being planned.

The SGU Psychological Team, an arm of the WINDREF/SGU Relief Committee, is comprised of SGU faculty and staff trained in the field of psychology. This team provides voluntary professional, consultative, and administrative support to several UNICEF relief projects in Grenada. The members are: Dr. Zuri Amuleru-Marshall, Associate Professor of Behavioral Sciences, Associate Dean of Students and a Research Fellow in WINDREF; Dr. Omowale Amuleru-Marshall, Professor and Chair of the Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine; Dr. Terry Ruthrauff, Acting Director of Psychological Services Center; Ms. Novia John, Associate Registrar; and Ms. Nadine Baksh, Assistant Registrar. In addition to the Return to Happiness program, the Team is involved in the UNICEF-supported Grenada Wellness Program coordinated by the Ministry of Social Development. The Team designed and provided training and clinical supervision for mental health counselors in addition to providing a tertiary level of counseling support. The Team is also currently developing a UNICEF supported psycho-affective recovery program for adolescents.

It is planned that the evaluation results of the national implementation of the Return to Happiness program will be disseminated in journals, as well as UNICEF publications.

Published on 01/07/2005