Laura and the children of the Kids Thrive Haiti Project
As I have shared in the past Mama’s Fire Gourmet Sauce began and is presently the cottage industry for the Sacred Works Project, here is the news from one of the projects we have been supporting:
KIDS THRIVE IN A CAMP IN HAITI
By Laura Simms
After more than two years of living in tents in terrible conditions, the children of Routes des Freres Camp in Port au Prince, Haiti, between the ages of five and ten, have a weekly arts program called TIMOUN ESPERAYSON (children inspired). The title was chosen by their parents who wanted a name that included a sense of hope for the future. I have been visiting the camp since June 2011. Thanks to the generous donations of many individuals and groups, and Sacred Works Projects who serves as our fiscal sponsor, the kids are thriving on Saturdays.
My project KIDS THRIVE has three components:
TIMOUN ESPARAYSON - EVERY SATURDAY FROM 9 – 12 noon. Kids play, create, work together and find joy and solace
Some parents arrive before 9 am to help clean up the area that we use; removing broken glass, dirty papers, and large stones. One of the OFEDA women (a powerful women’s group that meets weekly in the camp) brings paper and colored markers for children that arrive early. No child is turned away or idle unless they choose to sit quietly alone. And children too young to join in activities have a protector and lots of paper to draw. Our camp uses the porch of a school building that is in front of the camp. The school was partially destroyed by the earthquake. I always feel our presence is part of the victory of recovery and honoring those that died there that day. In front of the porch there is a large open area with a flowering tree around which circle games begin. <circle game jpg)
9:30 circle games for 30 minutes
Playing together brings joy, but also focus, relationship, discipline, paying attention, and sheer energy output! We have purchased balls and jump ropes. Up to 55 children have joined the circle on any Saturday. Often mothers and teenagers watch and even join us. It is wonderful to have something structured taking place that brings everyone together.
10 am - storytelling
A story is read every Saturday to provide listening and imagination. We try to include Haitian tales every week. We purchased books and had my stories translated into Creole for facilitators to learn or to read. The kids have their favorites that they like to hear again and again.
Art class in the Rues Des Freres Camp in Haiti
10:15 – 11:15 arts project
Every Saturday the kids are making drawings, designing paper houses with furniture, creating masks, paper cut our traditional trees with birds, children and leaves, or papier mache objects painted, and bracelets made of glitter and banana leaves.
We have purchased paper, crayons, paints, brushes, markers glue, scissors, buckets for water, paper cameras and huge banners. Before Haitian mother’s day over 80 children designed a twelve foot Mother’s Day card that hung in the camp until the rain washed it away!
11:15 a snack
Always includes some cookies or crackers, fruit or fruit drink and ample water. The children grow quiet and often take home pieces for younger siblings or parents. Sometimes teenagers who pretend this is all too “young” for them, sit down and hope for something to eat. This is an important part of the morning.
***We hope to purchase T shirts and special sneakers for all the children this fall, and perhaps a baseball cap that says TIMOUN ESPARAYSON for their pride and joy.
11:30 to noon - sharing and closure
We share our art work at the end of the morning. Children love to have their work seen and appreciated. Sometimes the facilitator asks them for the story and the story of their picture, their dream and memory is spoken aloud. We always give shape and closure to the special day and end with a circle game including their names and feelings. The children tend to linger for a long time not wanting our program to end. The same woman who put out the paper and crayons in the early morning is instructed to put away the paper slowly, allowing any child who is alone waiting for a parent or who longs to draw further to have a chance. We try to send home something with each child so they can decorate their tents and share what they have done with their family
JEUNE OFEDA GIRLS GROUP
Adolescent girls living in the camp are especially vulnerable to sexual harassment, lack of privacy or proper hygiene. In June 2011, 15 girls between the ages of 11 and 18 founded the girls group Jeune Ofeda inspired by the potent women’s group OFEDA that meets in the camp since the earthquake. The girlshave met weekly - sometimes with up to 30 girls from the camp and surrounding area. They created a form for beginning that includes a prayer and a chant with claps that starts their meeting. They have a mission statement and rules, desiring to engage creatively and support one another. At each meeting they talk about their lives, dance and discuss what they want for the future.
This summer - thanks to generous donations from a family foundation and a private donor – the girls were able to have two dance classes a month which they requested; and an ongoing writing class. I began the writing class, and brought a photographer (Ani Feuerman) with cameras to start off their plan for a book. The writing is now being taught by a Haitian writer and an American writer. Both speak Creole. The girls are applying for membership in the Haiti adolescent girls network that will provide funds for their projects and access to library, classes, therapy, and sharing with other girls from throughout Haiti.
In celebration of their first year anniversary the girls asked for a trip out of the camp! Thanks again to a generous gift, I was able to hire a van and driver for a day and take the girls from congested Port au Prince and the camp into the Provinces. We went to the mountains to Kenscov for a picnic and pictures. Then, we drove further into the hills beyond Kenscov to La Refuge, a park transformed -from a colonial plantation and the half finished mansion of a dictator – into a spectacular spot sports with gardens and beautiful grounds overlooking mountains and fields. There were cows, and chickens, and a sun drenched rain storm. They played soccer, rehearsed their dance, chatted endlessly, sang songs and created a make shift beauty salon with five colors of nail polish brought from New York.
THE FUTURE OF KIDS THRIVE:
The children , their parents and the girls want to keep going past August. I promised to raise funds for Fall classes to keep going. All of our classes are run by in country Haitian facilitators, some of whom attended my training with Mercy Corps after the earthquake in 2010. The Girls have three projects: they are applying for funds to construct a girls safe bathing and changing area where they can be private; write a book of stories with photographs to let people know about their lives in the camp and their dreams for the future; and, they want to continue to dance, learn to use computers, and study English.
We need to raise:
Timoun Esperyason: 8 Saturdays at $50 $450.0
Jeune Ofeda Dance Teacher 3 Saturdays $150.00
Dance costume, shoes and scarves $210.00
Writing classes 12 Saturdays $600.00
Notebooks, pens, digital recorder, two more cameras refurbished laptop computer $700.00
Fall trip to work with project leaders. Haiti is extremely expensive
For travel, hotel, food and translator. A five day visit $2500.00
If you can help us with any amount for any chosen project. That would be incredibly helpful. Or find a school to raise funds with you. Have a dedicated dinner party and I will send you photos and stories to share. Sacred Works Project, inc. is our fiscal sponsor making all donations tax deductible. Donations can also be made online by clicking this link.
I am so happy to be a part of this project, I hope you will all join me in supporting Laura’s amazing work with the children in Haiti.
Sacred ingredients…Enlightened taste