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|Religious Youth Service Supports Summer Camp for Displaced Haitian Children|
|By Ana M. Cobiella-Olson, RYS Educational Advisor|
|Sunday, August 29, 2010|
Cache Cache Douge, Haiti - Emerging from the rubble of the January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti was a vision to offer a joy-filled, educationally creative, character building, memorable week to almost 90 Haitian girls ages 9-16. United Initiatives for Peace (UIP) in collaboration with Religious Youth Service (RYS) and The Haitian Academy in Cache Cache Douge, Haiti, took on this hugely ambitious challenge and transformed the lives of these young girls and equally the lives of the 14 volunteer staff, who generously offered their talents, artistic gifts, compassion and unconditional love.
The enrichment camp hosted a wide range of daily activities—arts and crafts, music, dancing, sports, educational exercises, movies, and beach outings—in an effort to offer affirmation and provide some healing to these young survivors in a country that is struggling to rebuild itself and meet its vast potential.
On one particular evening, we held a bonfire, with s'mores (toasted marshmallows enveloped in graham crackers and chocolate candy) and camp songs. One couldn't help but admire the majestic mountains surrounding the sparkling city lights of Port-au-Prince at a distance, with the moonlit ocean not far from the camp, and deeply appreciate the beauty Haiti offers in spite of its most recent tragedy.
These young campers so naturally and unintentionally taught us, the staff, many lessons about the strength of Haitians in their capacity to continuously transcend profound difficulties that would cripple most of us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Following morning meditation, we began each day surrounded by young spirits possessing an intense curiosity to learn, experience, and expand their boundaries to continue their journey of becoming strong, capable, courageous, and productive women.
At the closing program on our last day together, Dr. Marie Rene, the founding Director of The Haitian Academy (www.haitianacademy.net), accompanied by her extended family and staff, reminded us that any challenge that does not defeat us will ultimately strengthen us.
Furthermore, we understood that the short time we dedicated to these young campers was a sustaining experience for all who were a part of this enrichment camp. An awareness prevailed that women are key to changing the nature of power and progress in any community. UIP and RYS in partnership with Dr. Rene are committed to continuing to encourage and inspire the youth of Haiti, its most resilient and precious resource.
"To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children ... to leave the world a better place ... to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."