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Counseling Initiative Helps Youth in Haiti Relieve Stress From Displacement

Counseling Initiative Helps Youth in Haiti Relieve Stress

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WRITTEN BY Abby Ryckman

Food for the Hungry (FH) continues to provide emergency aid in Haiti in response to gang violence displacing communities.

In December 2022, Belleview La Montagne (BLM) communities, an area outside of Haiti’s capital city, Port-au-Prince, experienced devastating conflict and gang violence, including kidnapping, assassination, and social disturbance, causing highly stressful living situations. Young people were especially at risk. The turmoil forced families to flee from their homes and communities. Many families remain displaced.

FH’s Emergency Response Plan

FH has worked with leaders in the BLM community for the last decade, witnessing remarkable transformations such as children advancing in their education and receiving essential healthcare. Families and the community were propelled toward a flourishing path.

So when these tragic displacements occurred, FH was ready to respond. FH already had the relationships and systems in place to assess what was needed and take action.

FH is providing emergency resources like food, allowances, and mental support to people displaced from their homes. With the help of psychological specialists, FH is offering emergency counseling to the affected youth to help them cope with this trauma. Youth have the opportunity to join Free From Stress, an initiative led by FH Haiti.

A Program Helping Young People

Free From Stress allows youth to meet with counselors to learn coping mechanisms and process the trauma they’ve endured. The program also provides a space for the youth to meet together to foster community support during this stressful time. One of the activities the counselors encourage the youth to do is to visually share what is causing their fear and anxiety by drawing pictures. They also teach young people to engage in healthy stress-relief practices, like games, singing, and dancing.

Teens participate in Free From Stress.

The youth in Free From Stress have requested the program expand to reach more young people. It’s been so impactful for them that they want their peers to also experience the benefits.

20-year-old Remy Lenslau is one of those caring participants.

Remy’s Story Demonstrates Hope

Remy has been involved with FH Haiti for years – he used to be a sponsored child. His main points of anxiety before joining Free From Stress were the neighboring gang violence and witnessing the hardships of other displaced families. Once he joined the program and learned coping mechanisms, he used his new knowledge to help as many other people as he could. 

“Not only did I acquire skills to cope with my own stress, but I also shared these techniques with my family … the young people in the community and I planned play sessions to help the children overcome their own stress. We also collaborated with FH to share the training with other families in the community,” Remy shares.

Compassionate people like Remy show why it’s powerful to develop local leaders. He’s now equipped to impact his friends, family, and community through this crisis.

Adults teach youth at Free From Stress
Adults teach youth at Free From Stress

The Path Forward

Communities in Haiti are sadly still plagued with gang violence, but FH continues to provide support for the physical and mental well-being of the families. Free From Stress is a thriving success in emergency response efforts in the area. FH is deeply grateful for child sponsors who sponsor children in Haiti and Emergency Response donors, who make this impact in Haiti and around the world possible. These supporters are helping vulnerable families and they play a vital role in FH’s mission to end poverty, together.



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