PROJECT TEDDY BEAR
Some members of the CADSI team are involved in a community children’s program. Project Teddy Bear came about in response to a moral education class which we teach. The children in this class range from 8 to 10 years of age and meet every week to study about developing virtues and understanding other peoples of the world, so that they can be of service and learn how best to respond to the needs of others with compassion and caring. One day in class we reviewed some of the pictures that had been in the newspapers about people in the Tsunami area and we talked about what it must have been like especially for the children.
To help the class to really understand this frightening experience, we did a short visualization where the children imagined that they were on a beautiful beach with their parents. The sun was shining and it was a perfect, happy day. Suddenly there was screaming and there was a huge wave rising out of the water coming straight for shore. The children were hit by the wave and separated from their parents. In the end both parents and child ended up on opposite ends of a hotel balcony, safe from the water and reunited.
Even though this whole exercise was a pretend one, it felt very real and the children didn’t like the scared feelings at all! So we talked about all the feelings that they experienced and then we talked about what helped or comforted them when they were upset. Most of the children responded that their parents and their stuffed animals helped them. We talked about how upset many of the children in the Tsunami area must be because they lost everything, their home, their toys, their friends and even their families including their mothers and fathers. As we talked about it, it seemed like a good idea to try to collect teddy bears to give to the children to cuddle with so that they could feel a little bit better.
A friend who was working in India in Pondicherry, a Tsunami affected area, was contacted. She was working with an international organization called Doctors without Borders and training counselors to prepare them to work with children and adults in dealing with the grief and loss. She consulted with the counselors in the numerous offices in the region and we received their enthusiastic response to go ahead with the project.
The children shared the idea with each of their schools and the principal of one of the schools shared the idea with the school board and principals of other schools in our school district. As a result we collected more than 1600 Teddy Bears and stuffed animals. Our home became a processing point for collecting, sorting, washing, repairing and finally spray sanitizing each stuffed animal. They were then placed into large clear plastic bags, boxed and sent to India.
We are so thankful for the generous contributions of so many schools and individuals who assisted with this project. The children have learned a valuable lesson in how to put caring into action and have become empowered by this experience.
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