The Joint Distribution Committee Israel – Ashalim and the Education Ministry’s psychological counseling service have revived a therapeutic project to help children cope with trauma during Operation Protective Edge.
As part of the therapy method, children are given a stuffed dog, Hibuki (“Huggy”), which has extra-long arms that wrap around, giving them a hug. The idea behind the program is that when a child is given a stuffed animal to actively care for and address its fears and suffering to, the child transfers his or her emotions onto the stuffed animal. By taking care of Hibuki, the child is essentially treating his or her own trauma.
In the therapy sessions, taking place in preschools and kindergartens, children expressed their fears through Hibuki and offered to help and take care of their new friend.
“Hibuki is sad because missiles were fired on his doghouse,” one child said. “He is afraid of the war,” or “he is afraid a missile will fall on his house,” and “he is afraid to die” were common concerns raised by the children.
Some 330 children in trauma were treated using this method in communities surrounding Gaza, as well as in Rishon Lezion, Rehovot, Ashkelon and Ashdod this past week, while some 30 professionals received training in an effort to expand the scope of the program to reach thousands of children in need. In addition, parents were given tutorials on how to help their children alleviate their fears through the use of the stuffed animal.
The method is based on experience from the Second Lebanon War in 2006, when it became necessary to address the needs of a large number of children who experienced distress and anxiety.
The project was developed as a collaboration between JDC Israel – Ashalim, the Education Ministry and Tel Aviv University’s Psychology Department, and is led by Dr.
Flora Mor, Dr. Shai Chen-Gal and Prof. Avi Sadeh.
“The Hibuki doll is a simple solution to the complex problem of trauma,” Dr. Mor said.
“Children receive the doll with an explanation that it is in distress, like the distress in which they find themselves immersed. The teachers give the children a task to treat and care for them. It is amazing how quickly we see results,” she said.
To date, some 60,000 children have been treated using this method during Operation Cast Lead, Pillar of Defense, the Carmel fire disaster, and in dealing with car accidents.
The method has even been adopted on an international scale, for example in the tsunami disaster in Japan.