Cyclone Fani Affected Children’s Fun-filled Raja celebration

A different ‘RAJA’ celebration this time for children of a few places of Puri district amidst ‘FANI’ fury

By: Himanshu Guru

It has been more than a month,  extremely severe cyclone Fani had ravaged the coastal parts of Odisha after making the landfall at Puri. The extent of damage was so vast that the trail of devastation can still be seen in several affected villages where there are no signs of normalcy and people continue to live in darkness sans power supply.

Everybody including children faced the music thanks to the cyclone. More than  10 million children are on the path of the impact of Cyclone FANI in Odisha. It has caused psychosocial impact on children, adolescent and youth. Effects of repeated shocks on the livelihood of the poor is likely to contribute to high level of out of school children and children in migration. However, at this moment some good samaritans extended their helping hand to support the victims, especially the cyclone-affected children in Puri district.

Child friendly space for children

RajaIn order to respond to the children’s long term needs  Aide et Action, an international NGO working with children has taken initiative to setup child friendly spaces (CFS) to help, support and protect children. The child friendly spaces are established with three broader objectives i) to provide psycho social care, learning and protective space for young children and adolescents, ii) to create access to various government entitlements and services by linking them with those services and iii) to create a sustainable protective community for young children and adolescents.

CFS centres have been started in Nimapara and some at a few other places of Puri district. Initially learning kits are provided to the government school children. The kit has a school bag, solar light, Note Book, Drawing Book, pen, prime kit, sketch pen, and crayons. After getting these stuff children started to look happy. However, it was time for Raja and they again looked sad because this year they were going to miss the fanfare elements of Rajal. However, it was not the end of the story.

A different Raja festival

While the rural Odisha was recovering from the wrath of the cyclone FANI, Raja, the three-day fun-filled festival of happiness and fanfare was approaching this month. The cyclone affected children were uncertain on celebrating Raja festival, which is an important festival for children, adolescent girls and youths in the coastal part of Odisha.

During this festival almost every household adorns a swing, for the recreation of women and girls to enjoy during the festival. But this year they had lost the trees where they use to erect the swings since generations.

Looking at the emotion and improbability of the children to celebrate Raja festival,   Aide et Action with the support of local organisations, RWI and SNDAYP took up the initiative to celebrate the festival in the Child friendly Space (CFS) with the children and adolescent girls at Nimapara and Sadar block of Puri district respectively.

RajaNearly 5000 children and adolescents participated in this three day long festival. They enjoyed amidst different activities which includes singing raja songs and playing games. The children brought cakes and Pan (betel) from their home and shared with everyone.

The youth clubs and community members supported the CFS initiative. They cleaned up the spaces and set up swings.

“This year we celebrated a different RAJA and overcame the fear of FANI with FUN,” says Payal Priyadarshini Barik, a Class X student from Ragurajpur village.

This small initiative by Aide et Action and its partners have brought smiles in the faces of the children inching ahead in addressing unique needs of children affected by disaster.

“I was completely uncertain about the celebration of RAJA festival this time without my favourite space, trees which got divested by cyclone FANI. But the theme of the Child Friendly space did not allowed us to regret. We enjoyed as usual with swings, traditional cakes, betels and sweets. We also performed song and dance and took part in game competitions in the Child Friendly Space set up in our village by Aide et Action,” Said nine-year-old Subhasmita Behera of Kumarpada village in Alanda GP of Nimapara block in Puri district.

Also read: Significance Of Deva Snana Purnima In Jagannath Culture

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