Monique Pierre was pregnant with her fourth child when Haiti’s massive January 12 earthquake destroyed her home. About seven weeks after the quake, Monique gave birth to her son Jefferson on the floor of her tent in the Parc Acra camp in Port-au-Prince.
When World Vision health staffers at the camp were making their rounds a few days later, they found that Jefferson’s eyes were badly infected. The staff arranged a quick trip to the hospital.
“Since then, I’ve been going to the World Vision clinic here at the camp,” says Monique. “It took a little while, but he is much better.”
A club for moms
Monique is one of many mothers around the camp who gather at World Vision’s big white tent once a week for the mother’s club. Here, new mothers share about their experiences, learn about healthcare for themselves and their children, and are encouraged to play with their babies, despite their stressful living conditions.
World Vision health workers Mislie and Marie run the mother’s club. They know all the mothers here. Each day, the club has meetings at the World Vision tent for a different group of mothers: expectant mothers, mothers of newborns, mothers of children 6 months to 2 years old, or mothers of preschoolers. Mislie’s and Marie’s goal is to make sure no mother feels isolated or alone.
In the mornings, the canvas walls of the World Vision tent are rolled down, and school-aged children are invited to participate in Child-Friendly Space activities. In the afternoon, the canvas walls of the tent are rolled up to encourage all to attend the afternoon mother’s club.
Mothers come with their children, who often play together during the group discussions. Today, everyone, including Monique, joins in enthusiastically on a song to welcome a new mother and baby to the group, followed by a song about cuddling.
A silly game with a purpose
“Let’s introduce ourselves!” calls out Mislie. “I’ll start. My name is Mislie, I’m the World Vision health coordinator here, and…if I were an animal, I would be a…cow! And I would say this to you. Mooo!”
It’s enough to make the younger children roll in fits of giggles, as their mothers continue the game. Someone chooses a goat, another a dove. One woman chooses a hen, because she says it’s the right animal for keeping her children together. Her clucks inspire laughter and applause.
There’s more to this game than meets the eye. One important aspect of the mother’s clubs is the way it addresses the psycho-social needs of the mothers and their children. The challenges of daily life in the camp, coupled with the memories of the earthquake and what each woman has lived through, has the potential to cause severe stress, tension, or depression. Laughter is a great stress reliever.
One good thing
“For me, life feels hard all the time now,” says Monique. “It is not easy to find good things to talk about. We need to carry the water up here twice a day, and none of us have enough food.”
However, here at the mother’s club, the women have found something good to cling to in the midst of their daily struggles — their babies, their friendships, and a chance to relax, laugh, and have fun.
The results can be seen in babies like Jefferson: Despite one of the toughest starts imaginable in life, he’s healthy, happy, and loved. “That’s one good thing for me,” says Monique.