Wednesday 10 February, 2010
At a Child Friendly Space in Lycee Petionville, Haiti, World Vision is working with the local community to provide children affected by the massive 7.0 earthquake with a safe place to sing, dance, and play games in one of their few opportunities to return to normalcy.
“I was in my house, doing my homework after school when the quake hit,” says 10-year-old Jousena. “I jumped from the bed and tried to run.” Now, she says, “everything is gone.”
Jousena talks while her 8-year-old brother Alain clings to her hand. “I want to continue to study my lessons,” she says. Her house was crushed in the quake and her family is now living in a makeshift camp across the street, where blankets and tarps are strung together to provide shelter for the displaced.
Alain is timid as he recounts the moment the earthquake hit. “I ran out when I heard the quake. I saw something fall on my house, then someone grabbed my hand and pulled me away. I could feel my heart beating.”
He says that some people have given him clothes, but he has been unable to recover what was in their house and now needs shirts, pants and underwear.
Between 100-140 children aged 6-12 have been attending activities at the Child Friendly Space. The community in Lycee Petionville saw the need for children to be cared for after the earthquake and advocated for a camp to be set up. World Vision came alongside and provided materials, staff and training to 30 volunteers.
“We have trained staff and volunteers in child protection, child rights and the psychosocial affects of disasters on children,” says Sian Platt, World Visions Child Protection Specialist. “Children need protection and opportunities to grieve after a disaster of this scale. Everyone processes grief differently and children are the same.”
“Play and forming new friendships are a powerful method of stabilising their lives and giving them time to process their emotions.”
“The child friendly spaces provide children with a safe and supervised place to play, share their experience and learn in an informal environment. With so many schools damaged or destroyed the spaces are a critical part of children’s wellbeing until they are able to return to school.”
Ten-year-old Mertilus lost her father in the earthquake and says life in the camp is hard. “There is trash everywhere. It is not a nice place.” She comes to the Child Friendly Space for the schooling and the opportunity to sing and dance with other kids. She has no clothes other than the ones she wears, and depends on daily food distributions in order to eat.
As the girls get up and begin to dance, with loud beating of drums and joyful singing, it’s difficult to believe they have experienced such a terrible tragedy.
Read latest updates about World Vision’s response and children sponsored by Australians here.
You can donate to the Haiti earthquake appeal here.