by Jeff Ratcliffe, ChildFund Grants Compliance Coordinator
I just returned from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where I witnessed a magical moment with children.
ChildFund has been supporting partner organizations on the ground in Haiti since shortly after the destructive earthquake in January 2010. The country is working to recover, but the day-to-day reality for children remains harsh. Most children lack safe places to play. In Port-au-Prince, any open spaces are filled with rubble and children must play in concrete lots, often near busy streets.
As I arrived at our partner’s office, I watched as the children were lined up. Something was up, but they were not sure quite what. As is common for 5- to 8-year-old children, they were restless. Suddenly, the children screamed with delight as two of the instructors emerged from the building carrying a big blue rug. Many of the children began to dance with excitement. The soft blue rug was spread across the hard concrete, creating a space for the children to play. They wasted no time removing shoes and scampering onto the lush carpeting. They could play freely, without thought to getting scraped or bruised. The smiles were almost instant.
From an Early Childhood Development perspective, the rug provided three benefits:
- It was soft and inviting—a comforting factor.
- It offered a defined space that made children feel safe to relax and be themselves.
- It provided a bright color that made the children happy and cheerful.
The ecstatic reaction to this rug reminded me again of the importance of play in a child’s life. Playing freely without fear of being harmed is important to healthy child development.
For me, the big blue rug reinforced the importance of ChildFund’s work with our partners in Haiti. I was heartened that amidst all the post-reconstruction work we’re helping fund, we’re also supporting the equally important work of helping children play again.