The Day the Cyclone Nargis CameWednesday, February 25th, 2009
Process for Developing the Book
One of the Yinthway Foundation staff made her first trip to the Delta Area affected by Cyclone Nargis two weeks after the cyclone hit. She visited communities, taking pictures, collecting information on the situation in the villages, and listening to the experiences of both the adults and the children. Everyone seemed to need to tell their experiences, so listening to them was an important part of her trip.
Following that initial trip, this staff member made three more trips. On subsequent trips, besides listening to their experiences and the difficulties of their present situation, she focused more on the children – observing them, doing activities with them, generally paying attention to them and giving them her time. This staff member is the focal person for Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) at Yinthway Foundation. She has had more than eleven years of experience in Myanmar in the field of ECCD, first as an ECCD preschool teaching principal and then as a trainer of trainers, teachers, community leaders, and parents, for both community and faith-based ECCD projects.
In the meantime, Yinthway Foundation was loaned the book, The Day the Tsunami Came, by Hijltje Vink. After reading that book, Yinthway Foundation agreed to the request, from World Concern â€“ Myanmar, to develop a similar children’s book for Myanmar. The ECCD staff member then wrote the book, based on seven or eight children’s actual experiences of the cyclone in the Ayerwaddy Delta.
She collected these stories/experiences, in some cases, by observing children and asking caregivers or parents about the children who showed symptoms of trauma. In other cases, as she was doing activities with the children, such as giving them paper and crayons to draw, sitting down with them after playing a game and talking with them, or sleeping in the same room with them at night, the children themselves told their experiences. In one case, an older child told her about a younger child’s experience.
The children’s experiences of the cyclone were all very similar. In most of their experiences, a tree played an important role in saving the child’s life. The differences were in what kind of temporary shelter/camp they went to after the cyclone â€“ either a government one or one operated by a religious organization. This book is a combination of the children’s experiences, creatively woven together by the author, including the stages of grief and ending with the child overcoming the trauma and moving on in his life. The more horrifying parts of the children’s stories, such as, in the morning, after the cyclone, seeing only dead bodies, or seeing the body of their mother or other close relative, for obvious reasons, were not included.
The similarities with Hijtje Vink‘s book are in using a bee to narrate the story and in the objective â€“ for traumatized children (and the adults who care for/teach these children) to understand that their feelings are normal and that they, like the boy in the story, can come to a place of healing and happiness again. The reason for using a bee, rather than another insect that is also common in Myanmar, such as a fly or a butterfly, is that only a bee, among flying insects, is strong enough to survive such a storm.
The illustrator, U Ayar, lives in Yangon. He has never been to the Delta area, either before or after the cyclone. Several of the Yinthway Foundation staff spent many hours discussing and advising him on his illustrations. His first attempt was in the cartoon style, the second attempt was typical of people and scenes in Yangon. Finally the photos from the cyclone-affected area were shown to him and he was asked to draw the people and the environment he saw in the photos. On almost every page the staff gave additional suggestions on what to include to make the book more appealing to children, such as the expression of the bee. Some of these suggestions came from children who were shown the draft illustrations.