Therapeutic games bring smiles to Haiti's children
This picture of smiling youngsters at play wouldn’t look out of place in any school yard around the world – but in quake-hit Haiti it’s a rare sight.
They are among 250 children who have so far taken part in Plan’s psychosocial games clubs, which are helping to give some of the youngest survivors of Haiti’s earthquake a break from the relentless misery of life on the rubble strewn streets.
As they played pass the parcel, hide and seek and blind mans bluff it was possible, just for a moment, to forget the horrors that the quake had brought to their streets.
Plan spokesman Stuart Coles said the play session in Jacmel, south Haiti, was a vital part of helping children to overcome the trauma of living through a natural disaster.
“All of these children are still living on the street because their families’ homes have either been destroyed or they are too afraid to go back inside,” he said.
“When we invited the youngsters to the play session they were a little nervous and quiet at first but after a few games they started chatting, laughing and for a moment, forgetting the horrendous aftermath of the quake.
“After half an hour or so of play you could see the ones who were still holding back or getting upset, usually these are the children the aid workers will offer counselling too first.”
Safe spaces for children
Experience in previous disasters has shown that a child who has been through a major shock needs a sense of normality returned to them as soon as possible.
“Part of that routine is to create safe spaces where they can enjoy supervised fun and games,” added Stuart Coles.
“The routine also helps the parents to return to some level of normality. We adopt a whole-family approach to trauma rehabilitation. If the parents are coping well then the child will have a much better chance of making a full recovery.”
The coastal town of Jacmel has been devastated by the recent earthquake with more than 350 people reported to have been killed and 60% of buildings damaged or destroyed. A vital Plan shipment of aid including 4,000 tents and 300 survival kits docked in Jacmel on 18 January.
The aid and therapeutic games are part of Plan's emergency relief work across Haiti. Since last Wednesday, Plan has been helping to feed 1,500 families every day.
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