Israeli trauma program to help Japan tsunami victims

September 8, 2011 05:50

Program created to help children following the Second Lebanon War in 2006 will soon help Japanese children deal with trauma.

2 minute read.

Tragedy in Japan

Tragedy in Japan. (photo credit: Damir Sagolj)

A unique Israeli trauma program will soon help Japanese children recover from the trauma of the tsunami which struck their country earlier this year, The Jerusalem Post learned Tuesday.

Hibuki (meaning ‘hug’ in Hebrew) is a post-trauma recovery program created by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) in partnership with the Israeli Ministry of Education - Psychological Counseling Service and the Department of Psychology at Tel Aviv University to help children following the Second Lebanon War in 2006. At its center is a plush cuddly toy dog of the same name that hugs the children and encourages them to talk through their worries.

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A team of JDC experts visited Japan to introduce the program and train teachers, nurses and other professionals there how to use the technique. While it has yet to be officially adopted by the Japanese government, the Japanese Puppet Therapy Association is pushing that the program be recreated in areas affected by the tsunami.

“There is no doubt that the Israeli presence and their experience is echoing loudly and powerfully, especially highlighting the need to implement this method in kindergartens in Japan,” said Dr. Michiko Hara, founder of the Japanese Puppet Therapy Association.

“The JDC team showed professionalism, creativity and extraordinary adaptability, harnessing the experience gained in Israel for coping with stress and trauma to help us, here on the other side of the world. I’m full of respect and appreciation.”

Judy Amit, Global Director of the JDC’s International Development program and a clinical psychologist, said: “Our work in Israel and in places like Haiti and South Asia has demonstrated that treating trauma, especially in children affected by war or natural disaster, is a vital step towards recovery.

“By utilizing Japan’s history of dollplay and by helping our Japanese partners tweak the Hibuki program to mesh with local cultural norms, we are working together to ensure that children here find solace in the wake of tragedy,” added Amit.

The Hibuki program – whose training in Japan was carried out by JDC’s Dr. Flora Mor and Dr. Shai Hen-Gal – is based on the principle that children who actively confront their stressful situations can alleviate their fears and better adapt to life after a trauma.

So far in Israel, 50,000 children have been treated using this method, and a recent Tel Aviv University study on the program found there were high rates of reduction in post-traumatic responses and distress among those children.

In addition to the Hibuki program, the JDC also provided critical emergency assistance, including food, water, medical aid, hygiene products, blankets and tents to victims in the immediate aftermath of the tsunami disaster.

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