Mobile Schools Continue in Nazon, Fontamara and Tapage

One month after the quake, the Aristide Foundation opened mobile schools in five refugee camps across Port-au-Prince.  Throughout the spring these schools held open-air classrooms  led by young high school and college graduates, offering a refuge for children who survived the quake.   The schools gave the kids a safe place to go each day to relax,  learn and spend time with supportive adults in the midst of the utter calamity they were living though.   The mobiles schools served 1,200 children five days a week and employed 100 young Haitians during the first few critical months after the quake.

By summer as schools across the city began to slowly reopen, we ended the full time mobile school program.  We had never intended the project to be permanent, and we did not have the funds to keep  the schools open indefinitely.

However, in Nazon (central Port-au-Prince), Fontamara (Carrefour) and Tapage (La Plaine) the monitors along with the parents and members of these communities decided these schools  were so important, and the collaboration was so successful, that they determined one way or another to keep the schools going on their own.

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Relief for the Spirit

AFD Lay Mental Health Workers lead a workshop at a camp in Tabarre

Aristide Foundation Lay Mental Health Workers Lead Workshops in the Camps

Four months after January 12 the experience of that day — the terror and the losses — remain vivid and present in the minds of all Haitians who survived the quake.   Nearly everyone has some degree of post-traumatic stress with hyper-vigilance, startle responses, sleep difficulties, intrusive memories, fear, anxiety, grief, and anger widespread.    Even before the quake Haiti’s mental health structure was nearly non-existent.  Right now for the majority of the population of Port-au-Prince, who are now living in tents in refugee settlements, mental health care is both inaccessible and foreign to their experience.

Beginning in late April the AFD in cooperation with a group of social workers and doctoral students from the University of Michigan began working together to to create a Haitian-model for lay mental health workers to reach people in the camps.  Ten extraordinary young Haitian college students spent a week receiving training from Leah James, a social worker and doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan, and Dr. Todd Favorite and Dr. Mike
Messina, psychologists at the PTSD clinic at the Ann Arbor VA. (Read Leah’s Huffington Post Article Describing the evolution of this project here).

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Mobile Schools in the Earthquake Zone

We launched our Mobile School project in late February to do two things: support children living in refugee camps across Port-au-Prince and to offer immediate employment to young Haitians to work with kids at a time when the whole economy has collapsed.   With the generous support from the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund we were able to get schools up and running very quickly.  Since late February we’ve been running Mobile Schools, three hours a day, five days a week, serving 1260 kids in 5 refugee camps in the earthquake zone.

This project has surpassed our expectations at every level.

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