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Haiti: May 2010

Child Friendly Spaces

Protected spaces based on the principals of Waldorf Education for traumatized children in Haiti.

On the 12.01.2010 an earthquake hit the poor house of the Caribbean: Haiti. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed and millions injured and left homeless. When flying towards Port-au-Prince the countless shacks, which sprouted up again after the earthquake, are not to be overseen. In the camps, which are not more than a makeshift shelter for the people who lost their homes in the devastating earthquake, there is hardly any space to move. Due to the mighty thunderstorms the inhabitants often spend the night standing under their sheets of blue tarpaulin in several centimetres of water. Afterwards everyone is up to their ankles in mud. This is the rainy season in Haiti. The hygiene in the camps is catastrophic. Despite many efforts, there are still not enough toilets. People are still dying due to bad hygiene or lack of medical attention.

As always after a catastrophe, the children have the worst of it. According to the British aid organisation “Save the Children” two million children are in severe danger due to the earthquake.[1] Many of the littlest victims of the earthquake are still alone. The earthquake traumatized and orphaned countless children. The small orphanage “My Father’s House” is now home to eleven month old twins, Ericson and Erica. Their mother was pregnant at the time of the earthquake. The children are ridden with infections and show conspicuous signs of malnutrition. Their gaze is empty and unresponsive. The 50 other children have oedema and seem apathetic.

Those who have to give the children the protection, security and orientation that they so urgently need are often under enormous strain or traumatized themselves: parents, teachers, social workers, therapists etc. They all urgently require material and emotional support.

In February and May 2010 the “Friends of Waldorf Education” carried out two Emergency Pedagogy crisis intervention operations in orphanages, hospitals, schools and camps for the homeless in Port-au-Prince and Léogâne. In addition to the immediate assistance for 600 children, we were able to train 300 pedagogues in Emergency Pedagogy first aid measures.
In May 2010 a one day seminar for about 120 pedagogical assistants took place in the St. Damien’s Hospital, which is run by the aid organisation “Our little brothers and sisters” , in Port-au-Prince The participants work in the 16 slum-like emergency shelter projects in the capital city.  Teachers from the “College Waldorf Steiner” in Port-au-Prince also took part in the seminar. At a further seminar in Petit Goave over 100 co-workers from various children’s aid camps and teachers from the waldorf orientated school “ L’ecole du village” inTorbeck near Les Cayes took part in an Emergency Pedagogy course.[2]

Four weeks after the earthquake the “Friends of Waldorf Education”, together with the “Emergency Aid for children” and the local NGO “Acrederp”, were already able to open a protection centre for children, based on the principals of Waldorf Education. This Child Friendly Space is in the town of Léogâne, about 40 km west of Port-au-Prince. Ninety percent of the town was destroyed by the earthquake. There 320 children between two and seventeen years of age found a protected space. Thirty teachers from the area took part in a intensive one week course to prepare them for their work in the child friendly space. Since then a second camp, “Terre force”, for a further 300 hundred children has been opened in Mariannie near Léogâne.

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