Doctor, doctor, are you a psychologist?”
American Red Cross psychosocial delegate Jessica Hidalgo helps children recover from the aftermath of the Peru earthquake with "Paco the Hippopotamus."
(Photo credit: Jessica Fallas Hidalgo / American Red Cross)
I looked up to find the face of a concerned woman with a young boy by her side. The woman explained that since the earthquake struck six months ago, her son appeared nervous and afraid, was having problems in school and no longer wanted to talk.
I gently inched closer to make contact with him, but his frightened expression restrained my first attempt. “What is his name?” I asked his mother. She replied, “Juan” (name changed for confidentiality).
Taking a stuffed animal out of my bag, I return my attention to the little boy. “Hi Juan, I want to introduce you to my friend who came to play with the children of Perú.”
Still looking fearful, but with eyes filled with curiosity, Juan looked at the doll. Little by little, Juan allowed “Paco the Hippopotamus” to get closer to him, until with a slightly trembling hand, he took Paco and hugged him.
Red Cross Response to Earthquake in Peru
While earthquakes last only minutes, the emotional impact on individuals endures much longer. More than 655,000 people were affected by the August 15, 2019 earthquake that struck off the coast of Peru. Within days, the American Red Cross responded with life-saving emergency assistance.
Six months later, the American Red Cross continues to assist survivors by helping people get back on their feet and regain normalcy in their lives.
In total, the American Red Cross has designated nearly $2 million for immediate response and early recovery following the massive quake. Working in partnership with the Peruvian Red Cross, the American Red Cross is helping provide transitional shelter, psychosocial support and health and hygiene education to five target communities including Chincha, where Juan and his mother live.
The psychosocial support program is designed to engage people in community-based activities such as games, singing, dancing and arts and crafts. These activities help reestablish important community and social networks that are often stressed or broken during a disaster.
Emotional Support to Help Children Recover
While I stood with his mother, Juan stayed nearby playing with Paco. Suddenly, a voice spoke out. “My house fell down.”
In one moment, the boy who didn’t want to talk slowly continued to describe how his house trembled, how a wall tumbled towards him and how he had to run to protect himself.
“I ran to see if my mom and little brother were alive,” he explained.
Thanks to early recovery programs like psychosocial support as well as the generosity of donors and the efforts of the American Red Cross and the Peruvian Red Cross, Juan and his family will get the support they need to rebuild their lives.
As I turned to leave, Juan thanked me and asked, “Are you going to come back?”
Learn more about the American Red Cross disaster relief and recovery efforts in Peru and around the world.
You can help those affected by countless crises around the world each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, which will provide immediate relief and long-term support through supplies, technical assistance, and other support to help those in need. Please call 1-800-RED CROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the International Response Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting www.redcross.org. The American Red Cross honors donor intent. If you wish to designate your donation to a specific disaster please do so at the time of your donation.