In Haiti, children giggle with delight

Haiti, May 2, 2011

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I met Guivens Cemervil for the first time when he traveled to Mercy Corps headquarters in Portland, Oregon last January on the anniversary of Haiti’s earthquake. His story is remarkable: he was the only survivor in his university’s classroom of 60 to be unharmed. Fifty-five of his classmates were killed and four maimed. Guivens spent 12 hours digging his mother out of the rubble — he pulled her out alive the next day, on January 13th. His view on life is forever changed – and he inspires everyone who has met him. You can read his story, in his own words, here.

After the earthquake struck, Guivens volunteered to help out in any way possible. His task: to write the names of the dead into the city’s computer database. It was there that he met one of our staff and was hired as a program officer for Mercy Corps’ youth sports program.

Guivens’ enthusiasm cannot go unnoticed. His smile lights up the room and it’s impossible not to feel his zeal for life. It’s only appropriate that his job is working with children to help them improve life skills.

Moving Forward is a youth sports program, in partnership with Nike, where children are taught four critical skills through sports: resiliency, teamwork, self-esteem and communication. After an event as traumatizing as an earthquake, children don’t have the opportunity to share their feelings, talk about their experiences or simply to be children and play again. Mercy Corps has identified and trained 62 caregivers, coaches and youth workers to use sports and games to help these children overcome the emotional distress they have experienced. More than 1,650 Haitian children have benefited from this sports program.

After today’s activities, Guivens distributed cards from supporters who sent messages of hope and love. He explained that these cards were from very special people in the United States who gave money to help them and others in Haiti. He read the cards as he passes them out to the children: Samantha from New York, Rona from California, Charles and Teresa from Boston, the Barney family from Oregon and many more.

Children giggled with delight as they reached for a precious card to feel connected to supporters who have changed their lives.