A Community's Enthusiasm to Heal Their Children
Today was my first day in Haiti. It’s an experience to arrive here: I came on a small plane with five other aid workers, two of them were Mercy Corps colleagues. We landed in a field behind the airport, a strangely empty facility with jagged cracks marking the concrete walls and one glass door shattered, looking like an eerie spiderweb.
I spent a good chunk of my first day with Griff Samples, our “Comfort for Kids” specialist; Griff has designed and implemented psychosocial programs for us in New York City, China, New Orleans and Peru. In short, she’s a pro.
After a meeting of the various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) involved in child protection issues, we headed to the Tabarre section of Port-au-Prince. This was a return trip for Griff. Last week, she was encouraged to meet with religious leaders of Tabarre to discuss Comfort for Kids and how it could facilitate post-trauma healing for kids.
Expecting a small group, she was floored when 110 religious leaders of Catholic, Protestant and Evangelical churches showed up and warmly received her. Many of them told her that their churches were caring for orphans.
Today we were back to discuss Comfort for Kids with the mayor and deputy mayor. (Apparently the folks who run each section of the city are referred to as “mayor.”) We walked into what has become a normal scene in Haiti. The mayor was sitting under a tree and tent outside the building that usually serves as his office. The building was compromised enough by the earthquake that the mayor and his staff decided not to go back in until February 21, by which time hopefully aftershocks will be over.
The mayor’s “office” was surrounded by a group of about 30 Haitians, some conversing with him, others looking on with anticipation. “Some of these people are waiting for food,” he told me. “Others are waiting for jobs.”
All of them seemed hopeful that their dynamic mayor could help.
The mayor and his deputy led us to their “office annex.” That was a nearby fold-up table plopped on what appeared to be half construction site, half rubble pile. Our talk lasted nearly an hour and ended with success: the mayor and his deputy agreed to host trainings for adult caregivers — some of the same religious leaders Griff met with last week — this coming Thursday and Saturday. They are also happy to have us distribute “comfort kits” — a pack with toys, a blanket, a sippy cup and other items — to earthquake-affected children in Tabarre.
As Mercy Corps enters week three of our earthquake response, it is exciting to see our psychosocial programs for kids getting off the ground.