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Supporting Haiti's children

Haiti, February 9, 2010

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Rinn Self/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Rosemarie, a Haitian psychologist with ten years of experience working with children, will be working on Mercy Corps’ Comfort for Kids program. She believes that psychosocial support is especially important right now. Photo: Rinn Self/Mercy Corps

My name is Rinn Self, and I'm a Communications and Development Associate in Mercy Corps' Seattle office. I've been deployed to Haiti for the next two weeks to connect the international media with members of our emergency response team, as well as highlight and document the work we are doing here to create long-term recovery.

To that end, in the relative calm of our office’s garden, I sat down today with Rosemarie, a Haitian psychologist who will be working on Mercy Corps’ Comfort for Kids program. Before the earthquake, she worked in a small clinic in Port-au-Prince with just one other psychologist and a pediatrician. She has worked with children in Haiti for more than ten years and believes that psychosocial support is especially important right now.

She told me that the reactions she’s seen among kids have been what psychologists would consider very typical — they are clinging to their parents, they don’t want to sleep alone or even go inside the house. Their lives have been turned upside-down, and “they just want a protector,” she told me.

Rosemarie explained how important it is that adults and other family members accept this behavior as a normal response to stress and support these kids through their healing process. She is very glad to be working on the Comfort for Kids program, because it will help parents recognize the importance of emotionally supporting their children.

Rosemarie also told me that she welcomes the opportunity to show people in Haiti how beneficial psychological support can be, both in extreme situations and whenever their kids are experiencing stress. In this sense, she appreciates how the program will target different types of caregivers — psychologists, social workers, parents and teachers. This Thursday, she and about thirty such caregivers will take part in a training of trainers, the first step in ensuring that this program reaches as many Haitian children as possible.