Sunday, February 7, 2010

Li, Li, Li! Psychosocial - Literacy Promotion - Job Creation

© 2010  Michelle Karshan
Li, Li, Li! reader, Isabelle, reads to children at makeshift orphanage on St. Marie Mountain

I first visited Haiti in 1986 but have been living and working in Haiti for most of the last 15 years. Two of my daughters lived there as well. In July 2009, I went back to live in Haiti to work on a prison health care program with Health through Walls.

In response to the catastrophic earthquake, my daughters, Riva and Caitlin, and I developed a reading out loud program in Creole for Haiti's displaced children. We named the program "Li Li Li!" which means Read, Read, Read! We like it because it has a musical sound such as La la la! and is fun and easy to remember. In fact, the children joyfully chant "Li, Li, Li!" whenever our team comes to read.

Our focus is multi-pronged: Psychosocial, Promotion of Literacy, Job Creation

To provide an engaging, interactive, and fun hour-long activity for children displaced by the earthquake that will also encourage literacy, create a model for parents to read to their children, reinforce Creole, contribute to job creation, and be part of much needed efforts to address the trauma and anxiety children are suffering since the earthquake.

These anxieties continue to be compounded by fears of additional severe aftershocks or earthquakes, the continuing death toll amongst those who have survived, and the uncertainties of finding loved ones who survived. And, countless children are suffering and struggling with the pains of injuries, physical trauma, rehabilitation, and post earthquake illnesses. Story time hours help children release tension, find some new joy and give them some colorful and engaging images and stories that they can use at night when trying to go to sleep -- despite their difficult sleeping conditions, physical pain, anxieties and sadness.

We translated colorful, engaging and fun storybooks into Creole and use puppets and dolls to animate the stories as well. Our trained Readers (animateurs) are dispatched in teams of two for storytelling hour at various tent camps (or "sheet camps"), hospitals, and other transitional settings -- both in rural and urban areas.  We have already read to thousands of children.

Through our partnerships and collaborations, Li, Li, Li! seeks out resources and partners for camps in dire need of tents, medical care, cholera prevention and treatment supplies, etc. Through our intervention, and the help of an investigative journalist, Ansel Herz, the Pernier camp made of sheets and sticks was able to receive tents through ShelterBox.

All of our Readers are victims of the devastating earthquake, suffered enormous losses, and lived in transitional settings at the time we started our Li, Li, Li! program. Since  then a few of our Readers were able to move into more permanent housing. Two of our Readers (who are cousins) lost 20 family members, another one spent two days under her house with her niece in her arms until they were rescued. Li, Li, Li! has provided tents to some of our Readers, has facilitated medical care and arranged interviews for two of our Readers with a U.S. legal delegation advocating for humanitarian parole into the United States. Storybook reading to the children has become a cherished and vital role to the Readers themselves as they seek to heal from their own trauma and help Haiti at the same time.

We are very grateful to Konpay, a project addressing environmental issues in Haiti, for their guidance and setting up a donation page for us through their Razoo account. Konpay has a great track record in helping to strengthen small organizations and encouraging collaboration amongst programs. We are happy to be part of their family of organizations each doing good work on the ground in Haiti.

We hope you will join us in this timely, meaningful and uplifting work.

Michelle Karshan
Caitlin Karshan
Riva Precil