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The river can take away everything except our dreams

After losing everything in the recent floods that have engulfed Peru, girls like Esther are on the road to recovery thanks to the opening of Plan International's child friendly spaces, known locally as the 'Plan of Joy'.

"The river can take away everything, except our dreams," says Esther, a 15-year-old girl living in a temporary shelter along with hundreds of other evacuated families who were forced to abandon their homes when the Piura River broke its banks.

Destroyed by the raging water

Around 300,000 people have been affected by floods in Piura province, one of the regions hit hardest by the rains that have plagued the country since January. Many of the families that were evacuated by the Peruvian army and the municipal government saw all their belongings and homes destroyed by the raging water.

"That night seemed so long to us," says Esther's mother as she speaks about the events that led her to leave her home with just her children and an emergency backpack.

"In afternoon, the water from the river was already inside the house. I tried to persuade my husband to leave but he said everything would be okay as he didn't want us to worry.

But by nightfall we had to leave and stood by the roadside asking people to send helicopters and boats to evacuate people as a lot of people were still inside their houses."

Like Esther and her family, many other people in the shelter have their own terrifying experiences to tell after losing their homes and their livelihoods but they are determined to rebuild their lives for the sake of their children.

Safe places and emotional support

To support children's recovery, Plan International has established child friendly spaces in each of the four camps that have been set up in Piura to accommodate families displaced by the floods. These areas provide children aged 5 to 18 with a safe place to play, learn and come together with their friends to have fun. The children also receive emotional support from trained volunteers.

Esther speaks excitedly about the new 'Plan of Joy: At the centre we can play and take part in activities that take our minds off what has happened, this is helping us recover from the memory of the floods.

Along with creating child friendly spaces, we have also installed water points for washing in all four camps and distributed water kits, hygiene kits and 500 early childhood care kits to cover the basic needs of babies.