Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Li, Li, Li!

It's been more than a year since the January 12, 2010, earthquake that devastated Haiti. Unfortunately, conditions on the ground remain awful. I've made it an objective to keep attention turned where it's needed, on this island that still needs our help, whenever I become aware of efforts that we in the United States can support.

* * * * *

We read to these children for the same reason
people read to all other children. We read to them
to help them grow their imaginations, to teach them
about the world around them. And beyond them.
We also read to them to learn from them.
Edwidge Danticat,* Huffington Post, 9/15/10

We take for granted our privilege to pick up a book and read whenever and wherever we want. In Haiti, where so many schools (at least 80 percent) were destroyed or damaged in the earthquake, many thousands of children, homeless and still living in tent and tarp camps, not only have no schools to go to; they may no longer have parents who can console them with a story or family who can spare change to purchase children's books or reading materials of any kind.

One group that's seeking to alleviate the trauma and anxiety of Haiti's children is Li, Li, Li!, a small nonprofit registered in New York and based in Haiti, and a member of the Haiti Response Coalition. "Li, Li, Li!" is Haitian Creole for "Read, Read, Read!" The organization was founded a month after the quake.

Each week, Li, Li, Li! sends two-person teams to conduct interactive story-telling hours in more than two dozen tent-settlement or other transitional camps in Port-au-Prince, Carrefour, Cite Soleil, and other hard-hit areas. (There are an estimated 13,000 "spontaneous" tent camps in Haiti, less than 20 percent of which provide any recreational or educational services for children.) The teams, which use storybooks translated into Haitian Creole and puppets and dolls to animate their narratives, reach more than 3,000 children monthly with their Monday-through-Friday reading sessions. (A slide-show of the teams at work is here.) They also provide reading supplies in Creole and train staff to read aloud. Their efforts give Haitian children respite, easing their difficult living conditions, help to promote literacy, and provide jobs. 

In addition, the organization partners with other aid groups to assist in the provision of necessary medical care services and information. For example, at the end of a reading hour, the teams instruct children in the prevention and treatment of cholera.

Children in schools in the United States have collected children's books, arts, poems, puppets, and money to support Li, Li, Li! initiatives. Grateful for this help, the organization has prepared and posted online a range of materials that can be used in our schools to teach our own children about Haiti, and representatives of Li, Li, Li! have visited partner schools. 

Donations of money and children's books as well as reading accessories such as masks, dolls, and stuffed animals will help to ensure that children in the camps will continue to benefit from Li, Li, Li's reading-out-loud program, that funds are available for transportation to the camps, that readers and coordinators are paid, and that child-appropriate flyers on cholera or other medical issues are printed and distributed.

Volunteer translators also are needed.

* Novelist Edwidge Danticat is a member of the Li, Li, Li! Advisory Board. She is also an editor of Haiti Noir (Akashic Books, December 2010), a collection of stories by 18 authors who live in Hait or are connected to the country.

A New York Times article about the anthology is here.

A portion of sales proceeds benefit the Lambi Fund of Haiti.

See Danticat's interview, "We Are All Going to Die", at Guernica, January 2011. Also see Ann Armstrong Scarboro's "Edwidge Danticat Visits Her Haitian Roots", described here.


Jerry said...

Thanks for the reminder. I was just reading to my little ones last night. I will talk to the family and see how we can help.

Laura said...

Thank you so much for bringing this organization to my attention, Maureen. The efforts that are being made sometimes make my heart leap with joy--the complexity of the need requires giving in such creative ways--and yet I am aware of how much more is needed. My friend, Dr. Ken Wright will be heading back to Haiti in the next week or so for another medical mission. I think I will talk to him about Li, Li, Li! and see if we can send some things along for their effort.

Dawn Potter said...

Thanks for sharing this, Maureen.

katdish said...

Absolutely love this concept. Thanks for sharing this with us.

M.L. Gallagher said...

I am so grateful for your reminders.

L.L. Barkat said...

Who thinks of this stuff? We forget, we forget.

Anonymous said...

good efforts.
thanks for the info.