OperationSafe: Cartoon Characters Help Children Cope With Trauma

Tackling the problem of trauma in children around the world is very difficult. There are any number of stressors that can lead to PTSD, ranging from the obvious things like natural disasters, war and extreme poverty, to less obvious but no less damaging causes such as abuse, human trafficking, and child labor. Another obstacle is that each culture is different, making any one intervention or therapy that might be used in one place less than effective in another.

We wanted to start with the things that are common to all children. All children love to play games, learn new things, create art, make friends, sing songs and listen to stories. All children need to know that they are loved, accepted and important. All children need to learn courage, hope and that they are not alone. It turns out that these very things can help the majority of children who have suffered trauma to make progress on the road to recovery.

OperationSAFE has been using all of these elements with the story “Pete’s Adventure” to help children after earthquakes in China and Haiti, but we want to help not only children after a natural disaster, but those children who are suffering more personal trauma, families who are caring for children with special needs, and even families going through the loss of a family member, divorce or medical crisis. So for the last year we have been working on an animated film version of “Pete’s Adventure.” We still have a long way to go, but we are starting to see the characters come to life. Please let me introduce some of our first characters to you.

Pete’s Family

After Pete is separated from his family when their ice-shelf falls into the ocean, the story centers on whether he will find his way back home to them.  Along the way he meets a cast of characters that challenge him, become his friends and help him to grow.  Through friendship Pete learns that he is not alone, and no matter what happens, he is loved.

Discovery Bay

After a dramatic episode where Pete finds himself on the wrong side of the sliding ice and spends a night alone in the cold, Pete finds himself at daybreak on the other side of the ice-flow amongst a group of other penguins who look different from any that he has known.  Everyone is recovering from the disaster and Pete is relieved that he is not the only one.

Pete meets Gumdrop a baby penguin, Wally the Walrus, Sally the Seal, Rock, Hop and Boo three older penguin boys and as he seeks to find his way home he finds what he needs all around him.  

Sally the Seal

Sally is Pete’s first friend in this new place and she is a very cute seal pup who likes nothing better than to take a nap or curl up with a good book.  They get off to a difficult beginning but end up being great friends.  (My daughter became the model for designing Sally and we can see quite a lot of our art director’s son in Pete)

We are on track to finish all five episodes of “Pete’s Adventure” in 2011 and hope to make it available to help children with trauma everywhere.

“I am Not Alone”

This is the most important lesson and our theme ~ “I am Not Alone”  But through this blog and twitter I am beginning to realize how very true this is.  It seems that almost every day someone shares with me their own story of childhood trauma.

Many of these people are joining our #opsafe twitter team and helping to spread the news about OperationSAFE so that we can help more people.  I am excited to see this online community develop and hope that even as Pete learned that he is not the only one who struggles, many others would find hope and healing as well.  Thank you all for your help and encouragement!

Jonathan Wilson



12 thoughts on “OperationSafe: Cartoon Characters Help Children Cope With Trauma

  1. S. Adam Gilman
    Twitter: onecauseatatime

    God Bless You Jonathan for ALL you do to help these kids and provide Hope, Love, and the reality there are people all around the world that care and ARE doing something for them. Keep up the good work and realize your Crown of Glory is awaiting you.

    Your friend


  2. Puccinia Laveau

    The use of cartoon characters to help these kids is a marvelous idea. As horrific as these conditions would be to adults, it is staggering to image the horror and hopelessness these children must feel. Good work, Jonathan!


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