Benoit Samuel, 9, is rooting for Lionel Messi – his favorite soccer player – who’s playing today for Argentina in the World Cup. Haiti doesn't have a team in the Cup, but that doesn't mean that Haitians across the country aren't watching their favorite teams: Argentina and Brazil.
From here in the States, I’m rooting for Benoit. He’s just one of some 900 kids who attend Children’s Place (Plas Timoun), an arts therapy program for children initiated shortly after the earthquake by First Lady of Haiti Elizabeth Préval. At Children’s Place, children get a chance to learn, play, and start the healing process in a supportive atmosphere.
Approximately half of the kids at Children's Place are currently living in camps and not able to attend school. Haitian artists, led by internationally renowned artist Philippe Dodard, work with the children on a variety of art therapy projects, such as pottery, dancing, singing and drawing. Mercy Corps has trained these artists, and continues to train the children’s parents, in our Comfort for Kids methodology, which gives them the tools to address children’s special mental and emotional needs post-earthquake.
Benoit has been attending the arts program for about two months, coming here after school. He was lucky to survive the earthquake. “When the earthquake happened,” he said, “I was at home alone, studying. My parents were at work. I went outside because the house was shaking.”
Benoit’s favorite thing to do at Children’s Place, obviously, is playing sports, especially soccer. And the activities are helping him. “Here I talk to the other kids about the earthquake,” he says. “I feel better to be with the other kids.”
I’ll be cheering for Benoit today—and his favorite soccer player.