By: Steve Gross, MSW Chief Playmaker & Founder of The Life is Good Kids Foundation
In March of 2010, following a catastrophic 7.0 earthquake that nearly leveled Haiti, The Life is Good Kids Foundation (LiGKF) was invited to partner with Amurt Haiti; a local NGO committed to moving citizens through disaster relief to progressive community empowerment.
As part of the partnership, I accompanied Dr. Jose Hidalgo of the Latino Health Institute, and a medical team of Haitian nurses and assistants to many of the tent cities in Port-au-Prince. Each time upon arrival our team would set up make-shift clinics to attend to the overwhelming medical needs of all those who were forced to call that barren pile of broken glass, mud and rubble their home.
On an exam table shaded by a jury-rigged plastic tarp – armed with nothing but their expertise, compassion and a suitcase full of donated supplies – the medical team treated severe skin infections, diarrhea, pneumonia, and a host of other injuries and illnesses.
My work was of a different nature.
I unrolled a colorful play parachute and gently invited a few children who were awaiting treatment to play. They readily accepted and within moments our circle grew to include more than seventy other children who were equally as desperate to join hands and have some fun. For more than an hour we joyfully participated in simple games. We sang. We shared. We imagined. We laughed…we laughed a lot.
Every tent city we visited, every make shift clinic we built, every time we unrolled the parachute, the same positive response came to life.
Sick, hungry, thirsty children – surrounded by physical signs of devastation and traumatized by loss – could not deny their insatiable need to engage, connect, and explore.
When the 2010 earthquake hit, approximately half of Haiti’s population (just over 9 million) was under the age of eighteen – leaving the children of Haiti disproportionally impacted by the tragedy, with many becoming instantly homeless and suffering the loss of parents as well as entire families. Regaining access to everyday essentials including a lasting sense of feeling safe, loved, and connected was clearly needed in order to begin healing.
Since those initial visits to Haiti’s tent cities, The LiGKF has hosted more than 80 unique workshops for local care professionals and partnered with 2,330 individual care providers. The result has been more loving and connective care for thousands and thousands of Haitian children.
With your help, The LiGKF remains committed to equipping Haitian relief personnel and childcare providers with the tools and the means to heal and strengthen children. We also continue to implore strategic planners and policymakers to focus on this critical point:
With proper medical care, physical wounds will heal. With proper tending to the social and emotional needs of children, including their unquenchable desire to engage, connect, and explore, the wounds of trauma can heal as well, allowing an entire generation of Haitian children to assume the lead role in the successful long-term development of their long suffering yet astonishingly optimistic nation.