Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, is mourning the loss of more than 200,000 individuals after a devastating earthquake on January 12, 2010. More than 1 million are homeless, many of them children.
“I thought Jesus was coming-I was so happy,” Aveska says with a sigh. “After a few moments, I realized that He wasn’t, and then I was very, very frightened.”
This is how 11-year-old Aveska describes the moments of the first earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince. She was standing in her home, on what had been an average day, when suddenly her world was turned upside down.
“My father owns a business, and we lived above it. My mother is a schoolteacher. Everything is gone now,” states Aveska. “I have lived there since I was 5, and my brother and sister have lived there all their lives. Now we can’t go back home. Our home is gone.”
Aveska and her family are living in the IDP (internally displaced persons) camp that ADRA is managing on the grounds of the Adventist university. They are one of more than 4,300 families living under tarps and in tents because they simply have nowhere to go.
“I don’t like living like this,” Aveska frowns. “There is no privacy. I hear and see everyone, and they hear and see me. I feel like there are always people watching everything I do. Sometimes I am afraid when strangers keep looking at me.”
Always at the top of her class, Aveska has completed the seventh grade and longs for school to start again. It is estimated that 50 percent of the schools were destroyed.
In a less frequented corner of the 20,000-person camp, ADRA set up a child-friendly space to provide children with a place to play and interact safely with one another. The program focuses on the camp’s youngest residents, as most have received no post-trauma assistance since the disaster and limited access to educational activities.
“The children are traumatized. We want to help them go back to being the way they were before the earthquake,” says Edna Francois, a staff member of the post-trauma program.
Trained personnel-16 teachers and eight assistants-organize the children in small groups of about 30, then guide each group through four interactive areas, including recreation, art, reading, and health education. The activities, which take place in two shifts of two hours each, are helping a total of approximately 1,200 children.
Since its launch, the program has become very popular in the camp and among the children.
“My favorite activity is drawing,” Aveska says with a smile, “although I do like the games, too. It makes us laugh when we play. I like having a chance to be with other kids and away from all the adults in the camp.”
“If I had one wish, I would give jobs to both of my parents. I am tired of seeing them sad,” Aveska continues. “And I would go back to school soon and stay in school till I become a doctor. Oops, that’s two wishes-oh, well, that is what I want most now.”