Do you remember the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti last year? With the hurricanes in 2008, political instability and poverty, Haiti was faced with tough recovery. However, what our HappyDoller, Nozomi , saw in this nation was a light of hope: the strong and earnest Haitian children. On Friday, Nozomi left for Haiti with bags full of HappyDolls made by the children in Japan and the U.S. to participate in Global Kids Connect, a project lead by Dr.Judy Kurianski promoting healing for the children affected by the earthquakes in Japan and Haiti. Dr. Judy is a Professor of Psychology at Columbia University Teacher's College, as well as a peace activist who travels around the world healing children affected by war and natural disasters. At this event, HappyDoll's KIDSUNA 絆 PROJECT was able to connect children of Japan, U.S. and Haiti by exchanging HappyDolls carrying messages of hope and encouragement.
Nozomi, Dr. Judy and the KIDSUNA 絆 Global Kids Connect Team!
Dr. Judy's friend, Father Wismick, was able to invite 100 children in Port-au-Prince. Some of them had traveled for hours by bus to participate, wearing their best outfits. Many of these Haitian children had lost their family members, homes and belongings in the tragic earthquake. "When I pointed out Japan on a map and explained to them about the earthquake and tsunami, the children started to cheer for Japan in Creole, screaming 'JAPON! JAPON!'" said Nozomi. "My eyes welled up with tears thinking about what these children went through only a year ago."
After dancing and singing songs in Creole, Japanese and English, we presented the beautiful HappyDolls created by the children in Japan and North Carolina. The Haitian children went WILD!!! Everyone flung their hands up in the air and screamed in joy and excitement as we passed 100 HappyDolls out to each child. Some of them hugged their HappyDolls tightly against their chests, some stuffed them in their pants with a proud smile, and some rushed off to hand them to their parents, a reassuring place for their new precious toy. "I expected these HappyDolls would make them smile, but the happiness they brought to these children was ASTOUNDING. Can you imagine? A single doll making such a big difference to a child?" asks Nozomi. "It gave me goosebumps!" Now it was time for these children to create THEIR HappyDolls! Due to the limited number of pens, we were only able to provide each child with one color. However, these children could careless. Their mind was full of the adventures these HappyDolls were about to embark on. "Where do the kids in America live?" "Do the children in Japan have houses?" "Will they come to Haiti to see us one day?" So many questions filled the rooms as these young artists painted their love and hopes on to the HappyDolls.
"The children didn't fight over the pens or complain they didn't have enough colors," says Nozomi. "We live in a materialistic society overflowing with things, but there was something beautiful in Haiti—like a notion that less is more. They know how to share because they understand things don't last forever. It's more about the people and the connection."
Although it has been over a year since the earthquake in Haiti, debris, dust and devastation continue to fill the streets of downtown Port-au-Prince says Nozomi. Many buildings are shattered, and people live in tents on the grounds of destroyed buildings provided by international aid organizations. Only 3 hours away from New York, is a country which continues to struggle to dig itself out of the disaster and rubble.
As Nozomi looked out the airplane window, she wondered where Japan will be a year from now. What does the future hold for the children there? We will continue to let these children know that they are not alone.
Thank you to EVERYONE who made the HappyDolls and helped us carry out this successful project! YOU have truly made a difference...
If you would like to support Haiti and stay informed, please take a look at this: UNICEF for HAITI RECOVERY
SO What's next!? If you participated in this Global Kids Project, you better get ready! Because you are about to meet a new friend from Haiti!