Helping a child deal with unspeakable loss

Twelve-year-old Tino has had to deal with serious trauma.

She lost both her parents and all three of her siblings when Cyclone Idai struck her village in Zimbabwe, and washed her house away in the middle of the night. Tino then went to live with her paternal grandmother, who abused her physically and emotionally.

Fortunately for Tino, Plan Canada had identified child protection as a priority following the cyclone, and was visiting communities with a team of specialists, trained to identify and intervene when children were at risk. A few days after they met Tino, the Department of Social Welfare removed her from her grandmother’s home and sent her to live with her other grandmother who was happy to take her in.

Although Tino’s maternal grandmother was taking good care of her, Tino was still demonstrating signs of trauma and stress. The team social worker recommended that Tino visit the nearby children’s centre operated by Plan, which offered a variety of activities and psychosocial support for children and families affected by the cyclone.

In the beginning, traumatized by the loss of her parents and siblings, Tino did not want to interact with the other children or participate in the games, like volleyball and chess, at the centre.

But through individual counseling and group therapy with other children who had experienced similar loss, Tino gradually started to participate in the activities. She says the games helped improve her social and problem-solving skills because the social workers would teach the children as they played.

“They also gave us information on how to protect ourselves as children and what to do if we realize that adults are treating us badly.”

While Tino was busy at the centre, her grandmother was receiving bereavement counselling and positive parenting training. Plan also provided a conditional cash transfer to help her meet the needs of her granddaughter.

Since she started attending the centre, Tino’s performance at school has improved, her self-confidence has increased and she is again participating in activities at school and church. She says, she is inspired by her teachers and wants to become a teacher when she grows up.