Today I'm living another way

Haiti, January 11, 2011

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Fabiola Coupet/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Guivens Cemervil (at the head of the table) trains local youth workers in the Moving Forward sports program in Port-au-Prince in July. Mercy Corps has trained 55 mentors from 23 local organizations to hold their own sports programs for six months. Photo: Fabiola Coupet/Mercy Corps

I've been working with Mercy Corps for four months now on the Moving Forward project. Moving Forward is a sport and play-based psychosocial support program designed for youth affected by the January 12 earthquake here in Haiti. We've trained 55 local mentors in a unique curriculum of innovative games and fun sports activities that support the recovery and development of youth in four key areas: resiliency, constructive communication, teambuilding and self-esteem.

My job is to bring this program to 23 orphanages, local and national organizations, camps and schools in the Port-au-Prince area. Through these 23 institutions, we are directly reaching about 1,650 children and youth.

This is an important experience for me, because it's the first time that I've worked with a non-profit organization as the coordinator for a project like this. I used to be a high school teacher. Then, right before the earthquake, I was assistant director at the Center Athletique d'Haiti. So I have a lot of experience working with children and other institutions, which gives me the strength to be comfortable doing this job. Sometimes when you do something and you feel you own it, it feels good. I'm feeling my life in these activities. I have the capacity and motivation to do them, and I am lucky to be supported by such a strong team with Mercy Corps Haiti.

This program is very personal to me, because I can see how important the core themes are. I can see the way having these qualities helped me growing up, and how they continue to help me now, after the earthquake.

When I was growing up, life was hard. For example, my parents couldn't find work. My father went for ten years without a job. But both of them know how to tailor and make clothing. They worked hard to earn money making clothing, just so they could spend it on school for me and my brothers and sisters.

When I was 16 years old, my uncle asked my father if I could come live with him, because he didn't have children. So I was separated from my family, and I studied hard, because I knew I needed to study to be a good person in the future. I passed every exam and I went back to Port-au-Prince to study at the university. But my mother and father didn't have the means to send me to university. Every morning I would get up and write. I wrote stories. One day my brother said to me, "Hey, every morning you are writing, writing, writing. I think you could be a teacher. I have a friend who is a teacher and will see if you can go to teach with him."

My brother talked to the school and they accepted me as a teacher. I taught for eight years. After that, I become the assistant director at the Center Athletique d'Haiti. But after one year, I was laid off from that position. That was six days before the earthquake struck.

On the day of the earthquake, I had a class at the university to attend. I needed to take three taxis to get there. I had already taken two cars to get there when my girlfriend, who was with me, said she had a bad feeling. Something in her heart was saying that I shouldn't go to class that day.

I said, "Maybe I shouldn't go then."

And my girlfriend said, "I have a feeling that I don't want you to go to school today."

I said, "Really? Okay, I won't go." And I turned back. Instead of going home, I went with my girlfriend to her house.

When the earthquake struck, the school building where my class was collapsed. There were 60 students. Fifty-five of them died. Four of them lost their arms and feet. I was the only one who wasn't there.

My home also collapsed. My mother and younger sister and brother were at home. Our home had four floors, and our home was on the first floor. But God saved my life and my family's life also. Everyone was okay, though we lost everything in our house.

I thought that — if I did not go to school that day and I didn't die and my family didn't die — I needed to live my life better. God has a plan for me, and God has a plan for my family. That's why, eight days after the earthquake, I went with my girlfriend to the mayor's office of Tabarre (a city on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince) to volunteer.

Our job was to type up the name of each person who had died in the earthquake. It was there that I met Griff Samples from Mercy Corps. She was starting the Comfort for Kids program; she was impressed with our professional skills and invited us to participate in the training. She also asked us for our resume, and now that's how we both came to work for Mercy Corps.

Mercy Corps was the plan for me. I have a new family in the staff here. I feel comfortable. I feel that I need to give all my abilities and motivation to our youth programs. I would like to see every project of Mercy Corps a success.

What I want to say about Moving Forward and my life, when I'm working on this project and I'm reading about the core themes — constructive communication, self esteem, team building and resiliency — I feel something change inside me. I see the reality of these core values in my own life. I see that I need to be so strong; I need to be confident in my abilities.

Today I'm living another way. I have work that I had dreamed of, that is now a reality. Now when I face problems, I see a way to resolve them. And then I see also that it's important to share what I've learned with other people, with kids. That's why I am working my whole life, to share with others the core themes of Moving Forward.

Resiliency is so important to share with the people of Haiti. When we have resiliency in our life, we can confront any of our problems.