A central focus of the trip was a 3-day weekend Playmaker certification training of early education teachers from Port-au-Prince, but light and inspiration took many shapes and forms along the road.
By John Jacobs, co-founder of Life is good
The Life is good Playmakers partners with frontline professionals — such as teachers, social workers, and child life specialists — who dedicate their lives to helping children overcome poverty, violence and illness. These Playmakers use the power of play to build healing, life-changing relationships with the children in their care.
Chief Playmaker Steve Gross and I returned recently from an inspiring visit with the LIG Playmakers Ayiti team (nickname: “Gerye Jwa”, Haitian Creole for “Joy Warriors”), and I wanted to share some good vibes and gratitude.
A central focus of our trip was the observation of and participation in a 3-day weekend Playmaker certification training of early education teachers from Port-au-Prince, but light and inspiration took many shapes and forms along the road.
The home team (Gerye Jwa) is strong, united, balanced, and passionately committed to the Playmaker movement in Haiti. It’s a beautiful thing to see their mutual respect, love, and support in action.
The Haitian people carry an undeniable resilience that’s a deep part of their history and their character. Life is extremely difficult for most; the challenges are complex and will not be solved overnight. However, from within the Gerye Jwa trainers to the teachers to the average person on the street, there is an internal light of warmth and joy that shines through it all. The GJ is working every day to help childcare professionals (and thus the children as well) to find and nurture and spread that light.
Steve Gross (in red) deftly balances playing the role of observer, advisor, master teacher, jester, listener, Chief Playmaker, mentor, and friend to our trainers and trainees. He also considers himself an expert at removing luggage from an airport carousel.
Our emphasis on listening first and truly empowering our local community-based leaders to run the programs and drive key decisions gives us the best chance to have sustainable positive impact in Haiti.
The ‘Little Things’
When our car broke down en route to the training site, some special things happened as a result. First, an impromptu game of roadside bowling broke out with some young kids who had just finished school, and the light inside these kids (as they shared the one ball and cheered each other on) was aglow. Secondly, we were picked up by a busload of teacher trainees, so we got to witness and partake in a rollicking ride of song and camaraderie that united everyone in spirit and purpose long before we arrived at the training site.
During a Playmaker activity that encourages trainees to draw a positive, playful memory from childhood, one teacher drew herself as a little girl riding a donkey, next to her mom on the way back from the market. She said that she had such strong associations with those rides that to this day, when she sees any animal, even a chicken, she dreams of riding it.
At the start of our post-training meeting with Gerye Jwa leaders, Fabiola started a simple but beautiful practice of holding a ball and making a silent wish for the person to her left, and then handing the ball to that person, who in turn did the same for the next person. It may not sound like much, but it was, and it is. Warm eye contact and thoughtful positive energy to a friend.
The little things are the big things.
To learn more about the Life is good Playmakers, visit lifeisgood.com/playmakers