In January 2010, a devastating earthquake struck Haiti that displaced over one million people, many of whom were children. Relief International responded to the crisis immediately and saved many lives through its efforts. A short-term disaster, however, creates long term need. One of the first steps to long term recovery is rebuilding communities, which Relief International is facilitating through its Child Friendly Spaces program.
Relief International’s Child Friendly Spaces provides a safe environment for children, some of whom may not have the chance to attend school, to learn and play with peers. Volunteers and community collaborators help kids to participate in group activities from handiwork crafts to dancing and sports. There are close to 400 community collaborators working in sixteen Child Friendly Spaces around the country, all committed to re-building Haiti by empowering the Haitian youth.
Child Friendly Spaces empowers parents as well, for Community Collaborators facilitate open communication between parents and educate community members on child safety and the importance of education. There are already ten of these channels, known as Child Protection Committees, reaching more than 1,500 parents.
Through these committees, it has become clear that parents truly want their children to be both happy and healthy. To address health issues, Relief International mobilizes hygiene campaigns at schools and medical checkups for every child at a Child Friendly Spaces. Relief International has also worked with community members to assess needs, and has, for example, built latrines in communities that were lacking basic amenities.
Verel, an elderly participant of Child Protection Committees, talks about what his grandson has learned from Relief International’s programs: “[He] washes his hands and wants to clean everywhere in order to avoid catching a disease and many other things.”
Recently, Portuguese actress and television personality, Catarina Furtado, visited the Carredeux Child Friendly Space site during her tour of Haiti. Yves Bernard Remarais, who is the Relief International supervisor at this site, explained that Catarina was able to see lots of children participating in diverse activities. To summarize her trip to Haiti, Furtado, also a UNICEF donor and UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador, explained that, “This dignity, this resistance, this will to live—that was what impressed me most during the visit. It is this fortitude and strength that proves that there truly is hope for Haiti.”
Members of the involved communities also seem very satisfied with the Child Friendly Spaces program, saying that “the program is truly useful for the community, especially for children who don’t have the chance to go to school.”
Due to its success so far, the program will continue to expand. There are twelve more Child Friendly Spaces in the works and Relief International continues to spread the lessons learned through constant community dialogue.
To help Relief International’s continued efforts to bridge emergency earthquake response efforts with long-term sustainable development in Haiti, donate to our Haiti: Emergency Earthquake Response Fund here.