does anyone know the real story
From The Washington Post:GALLERYBy Edward CodyPORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI – When counselors asked the children at the Plas Timoun psychological therapy center to draw, what came out on the paper were images of crumbled houses, severed limbs and blood spurting from people trapped under the ruins.But Jasmine Etelus, 8, was drawing another kind of house the other day. It was a two-story, pink-painted structure in the gingerbread tradition of Port-au-Prince, with a blazing sun on the mountain-lined horizon behind it."It’s for a wedding," she explained.Jasmine is among uncounted thousands of children who were left traumatized by the earthquake that ravaged Haiti on Jan. 12, killing or maiming their parents and siblings and destroying their homes. But she is also among the approximately 600 children cared for at Plas Timoun, "Children’s Park" in Creole, a little haven run by Haiti’s Ministry of Youth and Sports.Michaelle Newstrom, a kindergarten teacher who runs the facility with 26 counselors and assistants in the upscale suburb of Petionville, said it got under way at the end of February with prodding from Elisabeth PrÃ©val, the president’s wife. Plas Timoun is one of two such centers run by the ministry, along with several more run by Haitian nongovernmental organizations or international aid groups such as Doctors Without Borders.Although they reach only a tiny fraction of the children psychologically scarred by the earthquake, the centers appear as islands of progress in a sea of despair. Over the months, for instance, Jasmine has been cajoled by art, singing and counseling, turning her thoughts from horror to happy wedding scenes at least for the time it takes to draw a picture.Before starting Plas Timoun, PrÃ©val visited her counterpart in the neighboring Dominican Republic to solicit help. Among other things, she came home with a half-dozen buses from Santo Domingo, the Dominican capital. The forest-green buses were parked in a shady parking lot, emptied of their seats and turned into instant classrooms.One bus is for art class. One is for pottery class, another for music. One is the library, called the "bibliobus." Dance is on an outdoor stage under a tree. Three shifts a day of about 200 children receive therapy, which is conducted so it seems to them like play.With President Rene PrÃ©val due to step down at the end of his term in February, Newstrom said, funding for Plas Timoun and the other facilities is uncertain. But foreign governments and aid agencies have pledged $10 billion in aid, and she expressed confidence that at least some of the funds will get steered to the center."I hope it doesn’t have to stop," she said. "The children really seem to like it here."As she spoke, a clutch of children gathered in the street and pushed at the iron gate, trying to get into the lot for the second shift of activities, which begins in the late morning.Newstrom said most of the children who show up still live in tents and under tarps in the homeless camps scattered across Port-au-Prince. Some attend school; others do not. Most days they get a meal at Plas Timoun – sometimes hot soup, sometimes U.S. military rations – which they often hoard to take home with them.It is not always enough. The other day, Newstrom noticed one boy bobbing and weaving when the children were supposed to be lined up for a flag-raising ceremony. She walked over to see what he was doing, she recalled, but before she could draw near, he fainted and fell to the ground.The boy, Victor Mayzer, 9, was dizzy – from malnutrition, Newstrom conjectured. She gave him a bowl of chicken-noodle soup and after a rest, he was back drawing pictures with the others. "I’m okay," he told an inquiring visitor and quickly looked away.But as the children gathered later to dance and sing Carnaval tunes in a circle around two of counselors playing a guitar and beating a drum, Victor held back, apparently not in the mood to join in.Newstrom danced a few steps toward him, urging him to participate. In response, Victor flexed his knees a few times to the rhythm and smiled wanly, but in the end he hung back and just watched.When they first arrive, Newstrom said, many children are withdrawn, silent and aggressive. Psychologists visit the facility regularly to care for those most severely affected by what they lived through Jan. 12. The visits to Plas Timoun probably cannot make them forget, she conceded. But as the months go by, she added, many open up and return to the normal concerns of children.Kieziac Genity, 8, was making a three-legged kitchen table in pottery class recently, for instance, but the boy seated next to her was molding the clay into a small rectangle. On close examination, it turned out to be a cellphone.