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“Sailing through a river of emotions”: capturing children's earthquake stories

Carol Mutch (School of Critical Studies in Education, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand)

Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 11 November 2013




The three case studies reported in this paper are drawn from a wider project in which schools in Canterbury, New Zealand, were invited to tell the stories of their experiences of the 2010/2011 earthquakes. The purpose of this paper is to capture the stories for the schools, their communities and for New Zealand's historical record.


The approach taken was qualitative and participatory. Each school had control over their project design and implementation. The researchers were partners and facilitators in assisting each school to reach its goal. In these three case studies approximately 100 participants including principals, teachers, students and families were engaged in generating data to create tangible and long-lasting end products.


The two themes from the data highlighted in this paper are: first, the importance of providing emotional processing opportunities for children without severe post-trauma symptoms to support their recovery and second, the ways in which children can be engaged and given a voice in research that concerns them.


The paper contributes to the wider collection of research on and about the Canterbury earthquakes by giving voice to children and highlighting the role of schools in post-disaster response and recovery. The “continuum of engagement” described here is a new and original model.



The author would like to acknowledge the funding and support of UNESCO and the University of Auckland and express her appreciation to the children, schools, families and the research team contributing to this study.


Mutch, C. (2013), "“Sailing through a river of emotions”: capturing children's earthquake stories", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 22 No. 5, pp. 445-455.



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