At a glance: Haiti

In Haiti, library project opens doors - and minds

By Thomas Nybo

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, 19 November 2012 – Sadrac Neolin, 13, lives in the most disadvantaged and dangerous slum in Port-au-Prince. The sounds of gunshots and police sirens in Cité Soleil have been a staple of his childhood. Like most of his neighbours, Sadrac has no running water or electricity.

UNICEF correspondent Thomas Nybo reports on a programme that is helping young Haitians to receive library books.  Watch in RealPlayer

 

“I’m not living so good, I’m not living so bad,” he tells a visitor. “Why I am not living so good? It is because most days there are shootings in the neighbourhood. And I come from a very poor family. My family is vulnerable. So I’m not so good, not so bad.”

Bringing books, stimulating creativity

One development about which Sadrac is happy is the project Story Box. UNICEF, in partnership with Libraries Without Borders, is sending a library of 100 books, in French and Haitian Creole, to vulnerable neighbourhoods like Sadrac’s.

This year, 300 mobile libraries have been distributed. Child development specialists and librarians have carefully selected the books to fit within the context of Haiti, and to stimulate creativity and imagination.

Ronald Jean Mary is one of the 90 community workers who have been trained in how best to use the story box.

“This programme is important, especially in this neighbourhood, because children here are disconnected from society,” he says. “They have been totally disconnected from the world.”

Connecting children to the country, and to the world

Story Box is a psycho-social programme designed to promote emotional, cognitive and social development of children and adolescents. Its aim is to complement, not replace, formal education in schools.

Children like Sadrac come to the mobile library on weekends and during holidays from school. UNICEF is supporting 120 child protection community-based organizations that are working together to make it a success.

 

 

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Video
UNICEF, in partnership with Libraries Without Borders, is sending mobile libraries to vulnerable neighbourhoods in Haiti. Story Box is a psycho-social programme designed to promote emotional, cognitive and social development of children and to complement, not replace, formal education in schools in Haiti.

“This programme is now connecting the children to the rest of the country, and even the rest of the world,” says Mr. Mary. “Before, these children had no access to books. But now, they have access to plenty of books, they like reading – and they are really enjoying the programme.”

Opening a world of opportunity

Since the programme began here, Sadrac says that, for the first time, he’s thinking beyond the borders of Cité Soleil.

“I would like to become an engineer – first, to help my country, but also, to help my family,” he says.

Many of the children in Sadrac’s neighbourhood don’t know how to read, so a programme like this one can open up a world of opportunity, he says.

“Reading is important because, once you know how to read, you can become a great person in the future,” he says. “If you can’t read around here, you might become a gang member, get a gun and do bad things. But if you learn to read, you can educate yourself, and even become the president in the future.”


 

 

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