Return to Happiness (RTH)
Return to Happiness (RTH) is a psychosocial recovery program developed by UNICEF for children between the ages of 0-18 years who have experienced trauma from disaster, conflict or violence. Children who participate in the Return to Happiness receive support which aims to help them process their stress and trauma and begin looking towards the future.
In the Caribbean, the program has been implemented in Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, St. Lucia, the Turks and Caicos Islands, St. Vincent, and the British Virgin Islands (BVI).
People respond in different ways to disaster situations, children are usually most affected, and they respond differently to adolescents and adults. As a result, it is important for opportunities to be created for children to tell their stories, express their fears, concerns, hopes and dreams. Children can do so through a wide range of activities.
The goal of the Return to Happiness Programme is to create opportunities for children who have experienced a natural or manmade disaster to process their experiences through a series of guided play activities for the purpose of reducing their post-disaster anxieties and beginning to re-establish their sense of joy, happiness, security, and confidence in adult protection.
The programme targets children aged 0-18 years, in the immediate period following their experience of trauma. The program is conducted for 12 days over a 3-week period – an Orientation day, 10 program days, and a Culminating Celebration Day. Depending on the magnitude of the disaster, the program can be implemented at a national or community level. Parents and children attend an Orientation session on the first day, during which information is provided about the program and guidelines shared with parents to provide additional support and assistance for their children in the recovery process. Children are exposed to a total of twenty hours of guided play activities over 10 days within three weeks. Each session is held for 2 hours.
Children are placed in groups of 10 and participate in activities such as drawing, storytelling, painting, modelling, cultural activities, puppetry and theatre. Through their involvement in these activities, children have the opportunity to express their feelings, anxieties, fears and ideas, while also displaying their creative skills. They are guided through these activities using a process that allows them to relieve their anxieties and return to happiness. Upon completion of the 20 hours of guided activities, a celebration is held to exhibit the children’s creative expressions. This culminating event is open to family, school, community, and stakeholders.