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Mercy Corps introduces "Comfort for Kids" in Haiti to heal emotional trauma of children

Haiti, January 21, 2010

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Portland, OR – Mercy Corps will provide post-trauma help to Haitian children using Comfort for Kids, a methodology that promotes resilience in children traumatized by the earthquake.

The program was developed by Mercy Corps and Bright Horizons, a global workplace childcare provider. Comfort for Kids will help up to 100,000 young earthquake survivors.

“Children in the earthquake zone are in desperate need of emotional help. They have lost parents, friends and homes; their worlds have fallen apart. Unlike adults, children do not have the experience or judgment to process that kind of trauma by themselves,” said Griffen Samples, Mercy Corps technical advisor for Comfort for Kids. According to Samples, traumatized children who are left untreated can develop serious, sometimes life-long problems: regressive or anti-social behavior, depression, aggression, and difficulties in school.

The Comfort for Kids methodology combines a trauma-training workshop for adults with an interactive workbook that helps children tell their story of the disaster in safe environments with adult caregivers. Children also receive “comfort kits,” which contain soothing, age-appropriate items such as blankets, stuffed animals and books.

Comfort for Kids was first developed by Mercy Corps and Bright Horizons after 9/11 to facilitate the emotional recovery of children in New York City. It has subsequently assisted thousands of children in post-disaster environments including New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and following severe earthquakes in Peru (2007) and the Sichuan province of China (2008).

Comfort for Kids focuses on training locals who are not mental health experts to help children heal. These trainings make the program sustainable and scalable. Through carefully devised workbooks tailored to the language and culture of Haitian children – workbooks will be in Creole – experts will train local caregivers and educators to talk to children about the disaster they witnessed, and address difficult questions such as those about death and grieving. Trainings will be conducted in French and Creole.

Griffen Samples will travel to Haiti this Sunday to research and lay the groundwork for Comfort for Kids, with the goal of initiating trainings in early February. “The sooner we can start the better. Helping children now promotes short-term recovery, and will allow these children to be part of Haiti’s future,” she said. Samples added that the program will be tailored to the Haitian context and target specific needs of the most vulnerable children.

Boston-based Bright Horizons is also enthused about the potential for Comfort for Kids to heal children in Haiti. “The beauty of Comfort for Kids is that it empowers caregivers – whether they are parents, older siblings, teachers or simply other people in the community – to intervene and end a child’s cycle of trauma,” explained Linda Mason, chairman and co-founder of Bright Horizons and board chair of Mercy Corps. “Bright Horizons is proud to partner with Mercy Corps on this critical work.”

Comfort for Kids is just one aspect of Mercy Corps’ comprehensive response to the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that rocked Haiti last week. The agency’s team of expert emergency responders is addressing the immediate humanitarian needs on the ground, distributing food and working to provide water to families in need. Mercy Corps will also boost economic recovery through cash-for-work programs that provide earthquake survivors a daily wage to clear debris, restore buildings, and repair basic infrastructure.

HOW TO HELP:
Mercy Corps
Haiti Earthquake Fund
Dept NR
PO Box 2669
Portland , OR 97208
www.mercycorps.org
1-888-256-1900

Mercy Corps helps people in the world’s toughest places turn the crises of natural disaster, poverty and conflict into opportunities for progress. Driven by local needs and market conditions, our programs provide communities with the tools and support they need to transform their own lives. Our worldwide team of 3,700 professionals is improving the lives of 16.7 million people in more than 40 countries. For more information, see mercycorps.org.