Haiti recovery: "I found my smile back!"
Doodmy* is among thousands of Haitian children who have benefited from Plan’s emotional therapy sessions since the January 2010 earthquake. Plan’s Kristie van de Wetering reports on his journey.
Nine year-old Doodmy’s voice can be clearly heard among the other children’s as the singing class gears up for the grand finale. Maybe, just maybe his smile is a bit bigger and brighter than his neighbors’.
“I found my smile back at the center,” he says with a grin.
Like so many children, Doodmy lost someone dear to him in the earthquake. “My grandmother died in the earthquake. I was very sad. I would cry all day and night because she was very important to me. I used to think about all the things that happened, and that could happen again. I was so scared.”
Mélinia*, 9, shares her friend’s experience. “After the earthquake, I forgot a lot of things that I had learned in school. My house was destroyed. I came to play at the center and I started to remember things again. Coming here, I started to forget the sadness in my heart. They taught me to sing and to dance and how to write poetry. I like the dancing the best! Coming here makes me happy!”
Healing through play
Research shows that emotional and psychological counseling and assessments play a vital role in helping children to recover from disasters. In a context like Haiti, where physical needs are not met, emotional and social needs are very often pushed to the bottom of the agenda.
Julie Grier, Plan Haiti’s senior psychosocial manager, explains: “They need time just to be kids. But you can take these fun activities, and make them a little more useful. You can take a soccer game and use it as a learning opportunity for children to learn about conflict management, teamwork, and emotions.”
One of the objectives of Plan Haiti’s earthquake response program is to strengthen the capacities of families, communities and authorities to protect children and adolescents against all forms of abuse. This includes the provision of emotional first aid, or psychosocial support.
Plan has established 30 child-friendly spaces in Croix-des-Bouquets and Jacmel that have supported more than 4,500 children. The spaces are run by youth volunteers who are trained by Plan.
Looking ahead with joy
Today Doodmy lives in a tent in one of the many camp settlements in Haiti. He does not know when he will be able to move into a proper home. But one thing is for sure: he is a different boy today than the boy who woke up on the morning of January 13, 2010.
“I have joy in my heart because I have almost totally forgotten about the earthquake,” he says.
Learn more about Plan's work in post-earthquake Haiti.
* names have been changed