|© UNICEF video|
|Children in Jacmel, southern Haiti, play with toys and games supplied by UNICEF to a pre-school run by Lauritas religious order. The school buildings were damaged in January's earthquake.|
By Thomas Nybo
JACMEL, Haiti, 6 April 2010 – When the earthquake shook the mountains outside this port city in southern Haiti on 12 January, rural schools throughout the area were destroyed or damaged. Not only were classes cancelled for the short term, but looking ahead, parents were afraid to send their children back into damaged classrooms that they feared might collapse.
|© UNICEF video|
|Staff and students at a school in Jacmel, Haiti, where UNICEF delivered three large tents, along with 20 early childhood development kits, so that students could resume their education after the earthquake.|
The day the ECD kits arrived, Ms. Saint-Fleur walked an hour with her children to get here. She had to carry her youngest daughter, whose legs are paralyzed but who had no trouble dancing with her upper body as the toys were distributed throughout the tent.
‘The tents are a haven’
“We are so happy to receive these toys and supplies,” said Ms. Saint-Fleur. “And the tents make us feel secure, because we are scared to return to our damaged houses…. We don’t want to send our kids into damaged classrooms, so the tents are a haven.”
She explained to a visitor that her family is sleeping outside at night with no roof over their heads. She has many unanswered questions about the family’s future – most important, how will they rebuild their home? But for a few hours, at least, she was content, knowing her children would have many more days like this one.
“It’s very comforting for me as a mother to see my daughter here enjoying herself,” Ms. Saint-Fleur.
Model for rural areas
UNICEF is encouraging communities like this one near Jacmel to develop their own ECD materials. Along with the kits and tents provided by UNICEF, this sustainable approach gives children access to stimulation, early learning and play, without making the community dependent on external aid.
“We are establishing a model here,” said Mr. Conchon. “I can see the enthusiasm of the community here, and really, we hope that we can establish a good model that we’re going to replicate and scale up in other places – especially in these rural areas that are somehow forgotten.”
All around him, the silence of empty classrooms was broken by the laughter of children.
Earthquake in Haiti