Asheville-Haiti connection: “You cannot share joy, if you have none inside yourself”

There are places I go that I cannot take you.  Where the air is thick with poverty, misery and disease.  Where the rivers run deep with garbage and despair.  Where there is no work, no help and no future — but this is not one of those places, writes Asheville-based Lorin Mallorie, who has, once again, gone to Haiti.

Here, an hour north of Port-au-Prince is Calico Beach, a stunning destination brimming with all the promise of a Caribbean holiday, a sunny afternoon; a tropical oasis. Here, there are swimming lessons, boat rides and relaxation.

Swimming lessons at Calico. Video by Unsung Media Productions.

From just weeks after the earthquake’s initial destruction, the Ananda Marga Universal Relief team has brought hope, love and play to the children of five major tent communities in Haiti’s capital. Led by UNCA’s own Demeter Russavof, the AMURT team has created a safe-haven, among the torment of homeless life, for thousands of displaced Haitian children.

In the midst of a disaster, AMURT organized “Child Safe Spaces” in these impromptu cities, providing games and song to more than 3,000 children from “9-3” each weekday.  For a morning or afternoon, Haiti’s children, many orphans and all traumatized by the devastation and death surrounding them, get to laugh and relax, enjoying the fun and games provided by the Haitian organizers. 

Jagat Bandhu, AMURT Child Safe Spaces, Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Video by Unsung Media Productions

Now, these brave and selfless Haitian team members, some still living in tents themselves, are finally getting a chance to relax. Here, at Calico Beach.

Project Joy, a grassroots nonprofit dedicated to healing traumatized children through creative play, has teamed up with AMURT’s “Child Safe Spaces,” providing a weekend of training and much deserved relaxation for the teams working in the camps. “You cannot share joy, if you have none inside yourself to give,” said Steven Gross, founding “playmaker,” repeatedly during the weekend training at Calico Beach. 

Through three days of playful psycho-social training, the AMURT team learned how to create inclusive games that also help children to process the pain experienced during the “tremblement de terre;” the catastrophe of January 12th. 

And through this weekend-long seminar, the AMURT staff was finally able to relax and enjoy life themselves, so far removed from the stresses of work in the crumbling capital city. 

“Through play, young children express themselves, build healthy relationships and prepare to successfully meet life’s challenges. Play is also one of the most effective ways for children to process their experiences.” — Project Joy

Follow the news about Lorin Mallorie in Haiti and other Asheville-Haiti news at “Helping Haiti: Asheville’s ongoing response.”




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