Theatre as Therapy project targets camp residents in Haiti

Haiti  - IOM Haiti is conducting a series of theatre workshops amongst internally displaced Haitians living in camps as a medium to express their often traumatic experiences in the camps, as well as to introduce them to the notion of social theatre as a means of self-expression and communal learning.
The first round of sessions took place in Jean-Marie Vincent, one of the most insecure camps in the Port- au-Prince area due to the high presence of gangs and the frequency of sexual violence against women and girls, particularly at night while they walk to the toilet and shower areas.
Since 2010 IOM has worked with the camp’s women committee and with the Gender Unit of the UN Police to combat gender-based violence, including increasing the number of lamp posts at strategic points. A total of some 280 participants attended the sessions that took place weekly between March and August 2013.
Prior to the relocation of its residents, carried out throughout the year by IOM through the Government of Haiti rental subsidy scheme and funded by the Bureau de Monetization des Programme d’Aide au Development, Jean-Marie Vincent was the biggest camp left in Haiti with some 7,800 households at the height of the displacement.
Participants for the theatre workshops were selected among those who were going to leave the camp within two weeks to be relocated to safer accommodation.
After being introduced to the concept of social theatre, participants were invited to share their experiences (positive or negative) of life in the camp and discuss the chosen social topics. Subsequently, they worked in groups to prepare and stage a short play on a topic of choice, followed by a debate.
The chosen topics thus far range from health in the camp, cholera prevention and food security, to gender-based violence, juvenile delinquency and hurricane preparedness.
IOM officers, including from the Disaster Risk Reduction and Psychosocial Units, were invited to give sensitization talks on relevant subjects during the activity.
“As its name implies, the Theatre as Therapy project was conceived to offer support to those who have suffered so much by allowing them to give expression to the difficulties and challenges encountered in their everyday life in the camp. This has beneficial effects in terms of stress reduction and management of negative feelings,” explains Communication Assistant Mike Charles.
“Living under a tent can be tough. Many among us have developed chronic illnesses due to the camp conditions. Girls as young as 12 have become pregnant and many youth got involved in juvenile delinquency,” said Marie-Emmanuelle, a 28-year-old participant.
“My experience in the camp is chaotic and indescribable. I had a normal life before the earthquake, but I have been through the worst afterwards. I have no words to describe the reality of living with so many strangers with different backgrounds and habits. I have witnessed rape and insecurity in the camp,” explained 40-year-old Marcelin. “Theatre for us is laughter, is fun. With all that is happening in our community at the moment, the theatre workshop allows us to express the harshness of life in camp,” he added.
A new cycle of Theatre as Therapy sessions will begin in September in Terrain Accra, another big camp hosting some 4,100 families targeted by the IOM relocation project.
For more information, please contact
Ilaria Lanzoni
IOM Haiti
Tel. +509 3702-5066
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