CPI Continues its Play-Based Learning in Haiti Amidst the Chaos

underprivileged children at mask making workshop

CPI Continues its Play-Based Learning in Haiti Amidst the Chaos

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ChildsPlay International (CPI) is a non-profit that focuses on early childhood development through play-based learning.

ChildsPlay’s Mask Making Workshops in Haiti

Last fall, in Haiti, CPI had to pause its advanced workshop for 20 children due to the country’s humanitarian crisis. CPI’s mask-making workshop for 200 kids, was a success. It provided valuable skills for early childhood development through playful learning, including mask-making. In this blog, you will learn more about CPI’s efforts in Haiti and the benefits of playful learning for early childhood development.

Haiti in the News

On October 14, the BBC reported that “Haiti is facing a humanitarian catastrophe.”  CPI had paused its advanced workshop for 20 of the 200 children who participated in our summer workshop in mask-making, a revered Haitian tradition. We were holding our breath.

On October 7, the New York Times ran a stunning piece about the history of the chaos now engulfing Haiti, reporting that “with unchecked gang violence rocking Haiti’s capital and a cholera outbreak spreading, Haiti’s government sought help to pull it back from the brink of a humanitarian disaster.”  In fact, the country has always been desperate.  In May, the New York Times ran a series demonstrating that Haitian poverty – and the resulting, endemic social dislocation – can be traced to decades of reparations that Haiti was forced to pay its enslavers when Haiti won independence in 1791. These reparations were huge.  They financed the Eiffel Tower, over 4500 miles away.  They hobbled any modernization back in Haiti. 

Haitian Children are Resilient

Haitian children are wonderfully spirited. They want to learn and have fun as much as children anywhere. Of course, they understand the obstacles they face. We were impressed with their determination. During CPI’s mask making workshops, when given a chance to learn, the children seized it. They made the most of it, especially because no one knows how long it will last or when another opportunity will come around.  

ChildsPlay’s First Workshop in Haiti

When CPI first visited Haiti in 2012, the country was recovering from a major earthquake and a hurricane.  Schools were destroyed, and many kids had lost their parents. But still, they eagerly joined a mask-making workshop sponsored by CPI and run by Didier Civil, a master mask-maker who taught them the culturally resonant art of mask-making. The skills they learned gave them the courage to participate in the annual Carnaval in Jacmel – a major event where the workshop took place. The kids felt immense pride. They had accomplished something wonderful that everyone, no matter how battered by recent events, could appreciate.  

Even if these kids hadn’t entirely bounced back, they were still bouncing!

CPI understood that resources would be thin. But not much is needed to make papier mache besides old paper, water, and glue. We supplied the paints.  

ChildsPlay saw an opportunity to help Haitian kids – not just so they’d have a few moments of distraction, but so they’d acquire an important skill that would allow them to feel part of a long tradition of mask makers. 

underprivileged children having lunch at mask making workshop in Haiti

Is Mask Making a Career?

CPI’s workshop might even enable some of the most talented children to go on to a mask making career (an honored, lucrative profession in Haiti).  

CPI was not daunted by Haiti’s logistical challenges. We saw them as a condition that cut both ways: kids were attracted by a rare chance to learn about a local art form. Free food was also an irresistible draw.

Summer 2022 Mask Making Workshop

Our initial project made such a difference in kids’ lives that in the summer of 2022, we sponsored an even more extensive mask-making workshop (again with Didier) for 200 kids. 

Our objectives this summer were similar: we wanted to provide the children with a rigorous learning experience.  They learned how to make masks – of course – but also how to take direction from a professional artist and cooperate with their peers.  They learned how to evaluate quality. We were teaching kids to function as artists.  Teaching them to be sensitive to the local culture is now helping them to conserve their culture.

Making Children Feel Valued

This eight-week project was also a great success. Children felt part of something larger than themselves. They felt as though they had a purpose, even if their immediate surroundings screamed just the reverse.  They are excited that some of their masks will be exhibited around Haiti.

children mask making workshop

 

Empowering Girls 

The Exhibition of the Masks is Validation. If the masks that these kids produced are treated like art, then the kids consider themselves to be artists. They will take themselves seriously and, assuming the chips fall in their favor, they may have the psychological fortitude to overcome Haiti’s formidable challenges. 

CPI is betting on the next generation of mask makers in Haiti. As noted above, we asked Didier to choose twenty of the most talented kids from our most recent project to go on to the next level of expertise (you can see some of them on our YouTube Channel here).  They will (ultimately!) receive one-on-one instruction from Didier, and literally be taught how to teach mask-making around the country.  These kids – an equal number of boys and girls – have developed real self-esteem as a result of their selection.  One girl said: “I feel honored.”  More to the point, she will have an opportunity that few girls in Haiti have — to stand out and be an important cultural leader.

Our objective is to teach a skill but also encourage the whole child. A child who feels honored, who is resilient in the face of natural disaster and political unrest, will be better equipped as an adult – no matter what they do. CPI’s goal is to offer encouragement to the “whole child” through play.  In Haiti, we think we are on our way.          

children having fun at mask making workshop

 

Children proudly showcasing their masks during our Award Ceremony in Jacmel, Haiti November 13, 2022

ChildsPlay International (CPI) is a non-profit that focuses on early childhood development through playful learning.

ChildsPlay’s Mask Making Workshops in Haiti

Last fall, in Haiti, CPI had to pause its advanced workshop for 20 children due to the country’s humanitarian crisis. CPI’s mask-making workshop for 200 kids, was a success. It provided valuable skills for early childhood development through playful learning, including mask-making. In this blog, you will learn more about CPI’s efforts in Haiti and the benefits of playful learning for early childhood development.

Haiti in the News

On October 14, the BBC reported that “Haiti is facing a humanitarian catastrophe.”  CPI had paused its advanced workshop for 20 of the 200 children who participated in our summer workshop in mask-making, a revered Haitian tradition. We were holding our breath.

On October 7, the New York Times ran a stunning piece about the history of the chaos now engulfing Haiti, reporting that “with unchecked gang violence rocking Haiti’s capital and a cholera outbreak spreading, Haiti’s government sought help to pull it back from the brink of a humanitarian disaster.”  In fact, the country has always been desperate.  In May, the New York Times ran a series demonstrating that Haitian poverty – and the resulting, endemic social dislocation – can be traced to decades of reparations that Haiti was forced to pay its enslavers when Haiti won independence in 1791. These reparations were huge.  They financed the Eiffel Tower, over 4500 miles away.  They hobbled any modernization back in Haiti. 

Haitian Children are Resilient

Haitian children are wonderfully spirited. They want to learn and have fun as much as children anywhere. Of course, they understand the obstacles they face. We were impressed with their determination. During CPI’s mask making workshops, when given a chance to learn, the children seized it. They made the most of it, especially because no one knows how long it will last or when another opportunity will come around.  

ChildsPlay’s First Workshop in Haiti

When CPI first visited Haiti in 2012, the country was recovering from a major earthquake and a hurricane.  Schools were destroyed, and many kids had lost their parents. But still, they eagerly joined a mask-making workshop sponsored by CPI and run by Didier Civil, a master mask-maker who taught them the culturally resonant art of mask-making. The skills they learned gave them the courage to participate in the annual Carnaval in Jacmel – a major event where the workshop took place. The kids felt immense pride. They had accomplished something wonderful that everyone, no matter how battered by recent events, could appreciate.  

Even if these kids hadn’t entirely bounced back, they were still bouncing!

CPI understood that resources would be thin. But not much is needed to make papier mache besides old paper, water, and glue. We supplied the paints.  

ChildsPlay saw an opportunity to help Haitian kids – not just so they’d have a few moments of distraction, but so they’d acquire an important skill that would allow them to feel part of a long tradition of mask makers. 

underprivileged children having lunch at mask making workshop in Haiti

Is Mask Making a Career?

CPI’s workshop might even enable some of the most talented children to go on to a mask making career (an honored, lucrative profession in Haiti).  

CPI was not daunted by Haiti’s logistical challenges. We saw them as a condition that cut both ways: kids were attracted by a rare chance to learn about a local art form. Free food was also an irresistible draw.

Summer 2022 Mask Making Workshop

Our initial project made such a difference in kids’ lives that in the summer of 2022, we sponsored an even more extensive mask-making workshop (again with Didier) for 200 kids. 

Our objectives this summer were similar: we wanted to provide the children with a rigorous learning experience.  They learned how to make masks – of course – but also how to take direction from a professional artist and cooperate with their peers.  They learned how to evaluate quality. We were teaching kids to function as artists.  Teaching them to be sensitive to the local culture is now helping them to conserve their culture.

Making Children Feel Valued

This eight-week project was also a great success. Children felt part of something larger than themselves. They felt as though they had a purpose, even if their immediate surroundings screamed just the reverse.  They are excited that some of their masks will be exhibited around Haiti.

children mask making workshop

 

Empowering Girls 

The Exhibition of the Masks is Validation. If the masks that these kids produced are treated like art, then the kids consider themselves to be artists. They will take themselves seriously and, assuming the chips fall in their favor, they may have the psychological fortitude to overcome Haiti’s formidable challenges. 

CPI is betting on the next generation of mask makers in Haiti. As noted above, we asked Didier to choose twenty of the most talented kids from our most recent project to go on to the next level of expertise (you can see some of them on our YouTube Channel here).  They will (ultimately!) receive one-on-one instruction from Didier, and literally be taught how to teach mask-making around the country.  These kids – an equal number of boys and girls – have developed real self-esteem as a result of their selection.  One girl said: “I feel honored.”  More to the point, she will have an opportunity that few girls in Haiti have — to stand out and be an important cultural leader.

Our objective is to teach a skill but also encourage the whole child. A child who feels honored, who is resilient in the face of natural disaster and political unrest, will be better equipped as an adult – no matter what they do. CPI’s goal is to offer encouragement to the “whole child” through play.  In Haiti, we think we are on our way.          

children having fun at mask making workshop

 

Children proudly showcasing their masks during our Award Ceremony in Jacmel, Haiti November 13, 2022

 

ChildsPlay Internationl’s work in Haiti was written up in Living City Magazine. Link to story here.

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