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A youthful vision for a new Haiti

Haiti, June 28, 2010

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Nancy Farese for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Fleurismus Valine, 10, who attends the art therapy program Children’s Place, is just one of the many children we’ve helped through Comfort for Kids. Photo: Nancy Farese for Mercy Corps

Harnessing the energy of young people is instrumental in rebuilding a stronger Haiti. Our youth programs put that belief into action by addressing young people’s unique psychosocial needs and investing in their development.

Comfort for Kids
Immediately after the earthquake, Mercy Corps began Comfort for Kids trainings for parents, teachers, pediatricians, psychologists, social workers and other childcare professionals. These workshops offer practical ways to help kids heal from the psychological trauma they experienced, so they can go on to lead healthy lives.

The workshops have immediate impact, says Mercy Corps psychologist Murielle Volcy. “Parents tell us, ‘I didn’t know this information. I didn’t know why my child always had a stomachache or bad dreams. Now I know it is stress from the earthquake and that I can help them with their feelings.’”

Mercy Corps will train a total of 3,150 parents and professionals in Comfort for Kids. They, in turn, will help some 63,000 children. Next, Mercy Corps is launching Moving Forward, a program that will train 50 youth workers and coaches at 25 organizations to use sports and play with 1,500 kids to restore their self- confidence and sense of normalcy.

Mercy Corps has used Comfort for Kids and Moving Forward to help children recover from many other disasters, including September 11 (2001), Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (2005), as well as earthquakes in Peru (2007), China (2008) and Chile (2010).

Re-imagining Haiti
Even before January 12, Haiti struggled with a weak economy, limited educational opportunities and severe environmental degradation. The destruction caused challenges. But many Haitians agree that if there were ever a time to start over, it’s now.

Mercy Corps is working with Haitian youth to become active participants in what many are calling the “re-imagining of Haiti.” This fall, our youth program plans to bring together 100 Haitian artists and educators to offer arts workshops to 1,500 youth and cultural events to more than 5,000 young people. Through photography and storytelling, these youth will learn to communicate their personal vision for change. Their artistic self-expression is a powerful
first step to taking ownership of the challenges their communities face.

Mercy Corps is also bringing Cinema Under the Stars (Sinema Anba Zetwal in Creole) to communities across Haiti. Cinema Under the Stars is a series of multimedia street events that use short films, skits and music to share positive, educational messages — including those in our Comfort for Kids program — with the public. These interactive events will reach 100,000 people over two months, building morale and strengthening their community bonds.