A different ‘RAJA’ celebration this time for children amidst ‘FANI’ fury

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Bhubaneaswar: It has been more than a month, extremely severe cyclone Fani had ravaged coastal parts of Odisha after making landfall in Puri district. The extent of damage was so vast that the trail of devastation can still be seen in several affected villages where there are no signs of normalcy and people continue to live in darkness due to lack of power.
More than 10 million children are in the path of the impact of Cyclone FANI in Odisha. It has caused psychosocial impact on children, adolescent and youth. Effects of repeated shocks on the livelihood of the poor is likely to contribute to high level of out of school children and children in migration.
Child friendly space for children
In order to respond to the children’s long term needs Aide et Action, an international NGO working with children has taken initiative to setup child friendly spaces (CFS) to help, support and protect children. The child friendly spaces are established with three broader objectives i) provide psycho social care, learning and protective space for young children and adolescents ii) create access to various government entitlements and services by linked them with those services and iii) create a sustainable protective community for young children and adolescents. CFS centres have been started in Nimapara and Sadar of Puri district. Initially learning kits are provided to the government school children which consists of a school bag, solar light, Note Book, Drawing Book, pen, prime kit, sketch pen and crayons in the first phase and exclusively engage with them through CFS at the second phase.
A different RAJA festival
While the rural Odisha is recovering from the wrath of the cyclone FANI, Raja, a three day festival of brotherhood, happiness and fanfare was approaching this month. Children were uncertain on celebrating Raja festival, which is an important festival for children, adolescent girls and youths in the coastal part of Odisha. Almost every other household will adorn a swing, for the recreation of women and girls to enjoy during the festival. But this year they had lost the trees where they use to prepare Swings since generations.

Looking at the emotion and improbability of the children to celebrate Raja festival, Aide et Action with the support of local organisations, RWI and SNDAYP took up the initiative to celebrate Raja festival in the Child friendly Space (CFS) with the children and adolescent girls at Nimapara and Sadar block of Puri district respectively. Nearly 5000 children and adolescents participated this three day festival different activities which includes singing raja songs, playing games. Children brought cakes and Pan (betel) from their home and shared with everyone. The youth clubs and community members supported the CFS initiative. They cleaned up the spaces and set up swings. This year we celebrated a different RAJA and overcame the fear of FANI with FUN says Payal Priyadarshini Barik who is in 10th standard of Ragurajpur village.
This small initiative by Aide et Action and its partners have brought smiles in the faces of the children inching ahead in addressing unique needs of children affected by disaster.

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