Trauma Teddy

Canberra, Australia, 2020

Trauma Teddy helps process difficult experiences. These teddies are made by volunteers and donated to, for example, families arriving in evacuation centres after leaving their homes due to a wildfire.

Children will hug the teddies and talk to them. Some may be apprehensive at first, so we tell them that the teddy has also lost its home, and needs the child to take care of it. This gives the child a sense of control over the situation, and also keeps them occupied while their parents are busy doing things like filling in forms. This takes pressure off the parents.

When children can talk to their teddy friend about a difficult experience, this brings their trauma from the subconscious to the conscious mind. This helps the child cope much better and stop having nightmares, for example. Trauma Teddy can speak any language, it will listen without interrupting, and it can keep a secret.

I have made and delivered teddies in the Canberra area since 2015, when I became unemployed. I started volunteering because I wanted to do something useful. There are hundreds of volunteers in different parts of the country making Trauma Teddies. I see the teddies being as useful to their makers as they are to the children. For example, many volunteering pensioners have been grateful for being able to participate and find friends.

-Ruth, volunteer 



Corrugated iron sheet 

Valparaíso, Chile, 2014  

In 2014, the Great Fire of Valparaíso destroyed many houses in the unofficial residential areas located on the edge of the city near the bush. One reason why the fire spread so quickly through the area was the combination of light materials and high building density. There was a reason for this too: if you could be evicted tomorrow, why use bricks. Corrugated iron sheet is a very common building material in this neighborhood. 

Because many residents of the area did not have official ownership, some used for example tents to reserve their place of residence after the fire. The place had to be reserved just in case because the law does not secure the place of the residents’ home. The corrugated sheet lasted the fire in several cases, and it helped build a new home. In addition, plywood sheets from the temporary houses of the aid organizations was used as a new wall material. 

Many locals would joke that the lightweight buildings were a temporary permanent solution. A home built of corrugated sheet metal and plywood is not ideal, but it is an understandable solution from the residents’ perspective in those conditions because it is light and quick to assemble and disassemble. 

Resilience should be about equality. Solutions are often designed from the perspective of the wealthy, and the reality of the underpriviledged is not always understood. 

-Eija, disaster researcher  

Firefighter Gear

Kalajoki, Finland, 2021

Five volunteers of our volunteer fire brigade went to Kalajoki to put out the fires. We changed shifts with the previous crew, picked up shovels and nozzles, and got to work. Then the next crew would arrive after 12 hours. We could take breaks to eat and drink, of course.

The firefighting was physically demanding, but it was also enjoyable. I thought that I was doing important work that had to be done. Although it was a catastrophic situation, I felt serene: just keep doing your job, and this thing will end. I have previously attended smaller wildfires. The work was the same this time, but the scale was much bigger. Usually we will see the situation through, but this time, one 12-hour shift was not enough to put an end to things. At times, there was even desperation about how big this thing was. I only fully grasped the situation when I reached the edge of the burning area, it continued as far as the eye can see.

The most memorable thing was the team spirit. People from different parts of Finland all worked as one team. Even though we were all from different brigades, everyone worked together for a common goal and knew what to do.

-Emma, volunteer fire extinguisher


Strathewen, Australia, 2009

A bucket was my last resort in the fire that is now called the Black Saturday. I had prepared well to protect my home, but the blaze was too strong this time. Pumps failed, hoses burned, and the row of buckets shrunk to just the one. The heat melted the bucket as I ran out to extinguish a pocket of fire. I kept putting out small fires with water that I had stored in an old bath until the fire passed. I lost several outbuildings, including a henhouse and its hens, but that bucket saved my life and my house.

-Bill, Strathewen resident