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Plan International's Big Blue Bags Deliver Hope to Children Affected by Haiyan

Planís "Big Blue Bag" contains handcrafted toys and learning materials.
Many of the paper dolls, necklaces, flashcards, and learning materials were made by daycare workers and teachers to replace items that were lost during the typhoon.
Many of the paper dolls, necklaces, flashcards, and learning materials were made by daycare workers and teachers to replace items that were lost during the typhoon.
February 13, 2014

“Angel is a special girl,” says her carer Corazon Barrel, as she waits to collect the small girl in a pretty pale blue dress from the Plan-supported daycare session in Guiuan, Eastern Samar.

Today’s session is taking place in a tiny concrete room. Typhoon Haiyan, the largest storm ever to make landfall, destroyed the adjacent daycare center that sits on the coastline. With windows blown out by the sheer force of the storm, the center is filled with debris. All learning materials were destroyed as well.

In the corner of the concrete room sits one of Plan’s “Big Blue Bags,” filled with toys made from indigenous and recycled materials. The resources were made by the teacher, who attended a Plan workshop on indigenous toy-making just last year. Thanks to these toys and learning materials, the sessions are helping to restore a sense of normalcy for children like Angel.

When the typhoon slammed into Guiuan, toppling over palm trees like a row of dominos, Angel was with Corazon. Their house was completely washed out, but the two of them managed to survive. Angel, it seems, is a born fighter.

Angel’s dad abandoned her when she was just one month old. “Angel and her family used to live next door to me,” says Corazon. “Her mother died and her father was struggling to make ends meet. One day her father said he was going fishing, as he had to earn some money for his family. He asked if I would look after Angel, so I said yes.”

When Angel’s dad left, that was it. “He went to Leyte and we have not seen him since. Angel weighed just one kilogram when she was left in my care and she was severely malnourished – she didn’t even have a name. That’s why I called her Angel, because she’s a gift from God,” says Corazon.

Angel is now 7 years old, but it seems her past has affected her. “She can’t talk very much,” says Corazon. “She can write her name and some letters, but beyond that she becomes despondent. You have to communicate with her through sign language.”

However, the daycare sessions are helping Angel’s development, says Corazon. “She is happy here. Even though she can’t talk, she is still able to communicate by using signs and she enjoys mingling with other young girls. I have four older daughters – the youngest is 20 – so at least here she has playmates her own age.”

Corazon and her family have received rice from Plan, while Angel attends the Plan-supported daycare sessions. At these sessions, Angel is able to play with other children from her community. She is also able to learn from the educational toys created by the teacher, with Plan’s support.

“Play is one of the ways young children learn. It not only provides a fun way to learn, but play in itself is a basic right of the child,” says Plan’s Early Childhood Care and Development Specialist Beverly Bicaldo.

Although the future seems uncertain for Angel, it’s clear she will be growing up with the unwavering love of a family that counts itself lucky to have been blessed with a little girl like her.


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