A unique program to comfort children who suffered from the intense flooding that hit the Adelaide Plains in early October is having a positive impact at Virginia Primary School.
The Gentle Bears program, implemented by insurance company Gallagher Bassett (GB) was designed to emotionally aid children who suffer from traumatic events, such as serious traffic accidents and domestic violence, by diverting their attention from the immediate, distressing situation with handmade teddy bears.
With the support of Disabilities Minister, Leesa Vlahos, who is also the member for Taylor, the ‘gentle bears’ were recently delivered to Virginia Primary School and to the Red Cross volunteers at the Virginia Recovery Centre.
VPS deputy principal, Voula Pounendis, said the impact of the bears was felt immediately, referring to an incident with a child who had approached her to speak about some problems she was facing.
Mrs Pounendis had to leave the student in her office with the bears to attend to another matter; and when she came back, found the child crying while hugging a bear.
“I was lost for words,” Voula said.
“The student asked me where the bear had come from, and I explained about the Gentle Bear program.
“‘The person who thought of this is truly amazing,’ the student said, before suggesting that we have a few bears in the counselling room.
“I experienced firsthand just how quickly the bears can make a difference in a student’s life.”
For young VPS students Genna and Donnica, the gentle bears were a big hit, with huge smiles lighting up their faces whey they received their bears.
The girls couldn’t wait to take them home and were looking forward to being able to give them a cuddle whenever they felt like it.