Difficult discussions with kids about Haiti

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Posted by Bronwyn W.

We don’t usually let my 10-year-old son, W, watch the evening news, even when he is up late enough to see it. But the coverage of the disaster in Haiti is everywhere and it would be impossible to keep him from hearing about it.

Haiti has brought up some tough questions from W, as well as some very adult concerns.

Last year his school participated in a service project to build a well at a school in rural Haiti. A teacher from Haiti came and spoke to the kids about how a well at the school would provide safe drinking water for the whole village. After the project was complete, the teacher returned to thank the kids, bringing pictures of his students getting water for their families from the new well and talking about the school.

All of the kids in W’s class felt a real connection to that faraway school. Not only did they feel a sense of accomplishment at how their individual contributions had helped other students, they also realized how fortunate they are and how easy it can be to help others.

Now W is worried about those kids and that school. I told him that the earthquake mainly affected Port-au-Prince, the capital city, and that ‘his’ small village is probably all right.

But then he asked why they were so poor. If so many countries were sending things and trying to help, why did the news say things weren’t getting better? Why did ‘that man’ (Pat Robertson) say that Haiti made a pact with the devil? (Thanks a lot, Pat.) W was shocked that anyone would say something like that.

Those are difficult discussions to have with another adult, let alone a child. It is a sad reality for a child who has never really suffered in life to have to come to terms with the fact that sometimes, despite attempts to help, it might not be enough. Some things may never be fixed.

Finally I told him that trying to help Haiti was like raising money to build the well. Having that well won’t solve all the problems that village has, but it helps the kids whose families use the water, in a little way, every single day.

Sending money, food, medicine and doctors won’t solve all of Haiti’s problems or make things better for everybody there, I told him. But if even one person is saved by a recovery team or gets medical treatment or has clothes to put on, safe water or food to eat, then your small contribution has helped that one person. And sometimes, that is just the best we can do. Saying it isn’t ‘enough’ might be true, but it is no excuse to do nothing at all.

That seemed to satisfy W. But I still had to explain about Pat Robertson and the devil. That conversation would take too long to go into here …

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