Stories from the Field: Behind Her Smile
Lanao del Sur, Philippines — fourteen-year-old Ainah shares with the CFSI staff the story behind her smile.
Prior to the outbreak of armed conflict, Ainah lived with her family in Tocali, Marawi City. “My life in Marawi was calm and free of stress,” she said. “I had a lot of friends, I was active in school events, happy, and content with my life. Some of the people I’ve met have even described me as a smiling face.”
Together with her best friend, Ainah was in school enrolling her siblings when the siege of Marawi City began on 23 May 2017. “Suddenly, the vendor told us to run,” she recalled. “I worried at the thought that my family was stuck in Banggolo. I ran so fast to reach my parents, not noticing that my best friend was no longer with me.” Upon regrouping, Ainah and her family immediately fled. The attack on Marawi City brought about the exodus and displacement of many of its population. Evacuation centres were full and conditions were difficult. “Everything felt like a nightmare that I wanted to immediately wake up from,” she shared. “The smile I used to wear was gone due to the profound stress that led me to tears, irritation, and anger.”
CFSI, in partnership with UNICEF, implemented the Psychosocial Support in Emergencies Project (PSEP) in response to the humanitarian crisis brought about by the siege of Marawi City. CFSI staff visited their assigned evacuation centres weekly in order to provide psychosocial support (PSS) for children. PSS sessions were inclusive of various games, lectures on hygiene, and discussions on respect for one another.
“I always participate in PSS activities because it boosts my confidence and allows me to forget my problems and make new friends,” Ainah expressed. She also extended her gratitude to the team for making her happy; she recounts that the Fun Day was probably the happiest that most of them have been since the Marawi siege. After having lived in the evacuation centre for months, Ainah is proud to share that she can now wear her smile again and assist in helping other children feel the happiness and possess the strength she now feels.
— Aisah M. Omar