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Methods Learned in 9/11 to Help Haitian Kids

January 22, 2010

New York, NY - Relief workers will be using lessons learned while dealing with the emotional scars of 9/11 to help thousands of Haitian children cope with the trauma of last week's earthquake. The workers will identify and attend to emotional trauma in these first days after the disaster.

Linda Mason, chair and founder of Bright Horizons Family Solutions, says her group has joined Mercy Corps to redesign the Comfort for Kids Program to fit the need in Haiti, following the program's success in helping children survive the emotional scars of 9/11 in New York.

"When you think of a young child, they depend on stability around them for their sense of self and their sense that the world is a safe place. This has been turned completely upside down; their world is destroyed as they know it."

Bright Horizons Family Solutions is working now to assemble comfort kits for children in three different age groups; infants, pre-schoolers, and older children, adds Mason.

"They have comfort items just for that child, including a blanket, a plush toy, crayons and paper, a toothbrush, and toothpaste."

Emergency response expert Susan Romanski, director of disaster risk reduction for Mercy Corps, says their staff will be on the ground in Haiti passing on techniques that can help.

"Right now, we're looking at children's centers, orphanages, and other local organizations that have been working with children. We train those paraprofessionals to be able to look for signs of trauma because they are going to be working with children; and this training extends even to school teachers."

Relief agencies say they are aware parents also have been traumatized, or worse, killed, making matters even more challenging for children. According to the plan, workers will identify the children most-impacted by emotional trauma for special attention, while at the same time providing comfort to all of the children affected by the quake.

Donations for the Comfort for Kids program are accepted at www.mercycorps.org.


Mike Clifford/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - NY