Friday, January 14, 2011

Haiti: Haitian youths use hip-hop to inspire earthquake recovery

Source: United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)

Children in Haiti are still reeling from the impact of the 12 January 2010 earthquake. Here is one in a series of stories on the long road from relief to recovery, a year later.

By Thomas Nybo

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, 13 January 2011 – An enterprising group of 10 boys who were separated from their parents during the January 2010 earthquake are using hip-hop to inspire their fellow Haitians to rebuild the country.

VIDEO: UNICEF correspondent Thomas Nybo reports on a group of young boys using hip-hop to inspire the process of rebuilding Haiti a year after the earthquake.

They are among 390 boys who live at Centre d'accueil de Carrefour, a residential-care centre in Port-au-Prince, where they receive housing, hot food, education and vocational training while the centre's staff works to reunite them with their families whenever possible.

The boys formed a hip-hop group called Coeur à Coeur (Heart to Heart). Their most popular song, 'We're Making Up Our Minds,' is a call to action – not only to do good but to overwhelm the criminal element in Haitian society with the sheer force of determination to recover from the disaster.

Positive messages

Youri Belcomb, 13, has spent six years at the residential centre. He is one of its top students and takes great pride in his ability to weave messages of positive social change into his lyrics – especially 'We're Making Up Our Minds.'

VIDEO: The young Haitian hip-hop group Coeur à Coeur sings 'We're Making Up Our Minds,' a call to action to rebuild their devastated nation.

"This song talks about the way people can clean up Haiti," he says, "to get rid of the bad and replace it with the good, to make a better Haiti."

The skills Youri is learning in the classroom will help him do his part to rebuild the country. "I will use mathematics to help me with construction," he explains. "Imagine that I'm building a road or a house – I'll need to know the numbers, multiplication and everything."

Safe environment

Centre d'accueil de Carrefour is working closely with UNICEF to make families whole and to ensure the children with no parents have a secure, safe environment that prepares them for a productive and rewarding future.

"Our vision is not to institutionalize the children, because we know that the best place for the children is not in a centre – it's in the family," says Jeff Desruisseaux, who works at the facility.

UNICEF provided educational and recreational supplies to the centre after the earthquake, including tents and clothing, and is now increasing its level of support.

'A beautiful Haiti'

"The management of the centre made clear to us that this centre should not replace the family," says UNICEF Child Protection Specialist Denise Ulwor. "So after giving some supplies, it's time for us to act and to do some tracing and reunification of children [with their families] – and finally, if it's possible, to follow up after reunification and to provide some economic support to the families."

With that support, adds Ms. Ulwor, parents and guardians "can keep their children, they can bring back their children to school and they can provide some medical care to their children."

As for Youri, he's excited about life, not only because he's getting a solid education but because he's discovered how much he loves having an audience for his ideas.

"The change I want for the country one year after the earthquake," he says, "is to see a unification, that all Haitians become one to do the country's work – to clean the country, to protect the country and to construct roads so that we can have a beautiful Haiti."