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Remembrance of things past in Haiti and Cambodia

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Remembrance of things past in Haiti and Cambodia

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Over the past few years Learning World has heard many inspiring stories about education in the face of adversity and trauma. Two reports that particularly touched us were in Haiti and Cambodia. In this edition we go back to see how things have progressed.

Do you remember Raynane. She’s a young girl from Haiti who lost her leg during the earthquake. We first met her when she was nine years old and reluctant to go to school because of her trauma. Five years on … how is she coping?

Five years ago we introduced you to Raynane, a young Haitian who lost her leg in the 2010 earthquake. Thanks to an artificial limb provided by a French charity, Raynane is able to go to school, play and live the normal life of a young girl, like her twin sister and all her friends in the neighbourhood

She is now 15 years old and still lives in the same part of the capital, Port-au-Prince.

“My life has changed because now I am no longer a baby,” says Raynane. “I understand things now.”

Her father, Jean Raynold, has succeeded in rebuilding part of their home, despite financial issues. Raynane’s mother does housecleaning work but the family still has trouble making ends meet. As Raynane grows, she will need to change her prosthesis regularly. But each new limb means money, and times are hard.

School and support

Raynane adds: “The important thing is my mother, father and brothers we are a close-knit family and they support me.”

For Jean-Raynold, the priority is school. In Haiti, places at public schools are free but difficult to find. Parents are therefore obliged to enrole their children at private school and pay.

Says her father: “She’s a little girl with a lot of ideas. She wants to be a doctor. She has a lot of ambition.

Raynane and her twin sister go to school every day on a taxi moped. On foot it would take one hour. They’ve been going to the same school for the past eight years.

Raynane is grateful for the support she receives at school: “My friends also encourage me. They don’t make fun of me.
They say to me that I have had an amputation and that’s all. I will always be Raynane and nothing has changed. I was happy when they told me that.”

It’s clear that this young girl is well integrated in her school and at ease among her peers. This is in part to her prosthetic limb. But a lot of amputees have another problem. One in particular is phantom pain.

The pain barrier

To address this issue, Raynane and her father go to CERPA, a pain clinic, where they try to find out if she senses pain in her leg as if it were still there.

Often patients feel real pain, sometimes unbearable

Addressing this type of pain that we cannot see or touch is complex. The treatments are often ineffective. It’s about helping the brain to accept and understand the changes.

We asked Raynane if she felt the sand around her stump, says
Capucine Bossard from CERPA. “And it is because she feels the sand around her stump that her brain realises that her leg stops there and no longer at the foot.

“Some children are annoyed because they can never able to manage the pain and can never put it out of their minds. Others are embarrassed physically. That can affect their learning abilities.”

The objective is to make the pain disappear as it can really interfere with their concentration and disrupt their learning.

The treatment can be long but the benefits are huge.

For Raynane, it’s just another challenge that she must face. But this is a courageous, ambitious and well rounded adolescent.

Here’s our coverage of Reynane from 2011

Lighting a way in Cambodia

In 2011 we also discovered a school in Cambodia that uses art, music and circus skills to educate street children, help them find jobs and heal wounds from the country’s troubled past. Today what has changed? We go back there now to find out.

We are returning to Phare Ponleu Selpak (or Light of Art school) in northern Cambodia. The school has changed a lot over the past five years. It now hosts 1,500 students, teaches activities such as drawing, theatre, graphic art and circus skills. The aim is, as ever, to help underprivileged street children regain self-esteem.

It continues to address a population of young people faced with abandonment, drugs, prostitution.

Phunam Pin, a circus artist recounts her experience: “I began to study with Phare when I was seven, but I was too young. It was only at the age of 13 that I started to do circus skills and I think Phare has given me a lot of things.

It was in 1986 that Veronique DeCrop, a young French art professor, implemented drawing workshops in the refugee camps “Site Two” on the Thai border. It was at that time one of the largest refugee camps in the world.

The purpose of these workshops was to help children express and overcome the traumas of the war perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge.

Nine of these young students went on to become, nine years later, the founders of this unique school. Det Khuon the current artistic director was among them.

Says Khuon: “This training helps young people to progress in the field of art, but also, it allows young people to find their national identity and to revive our art.”

Changes

Since our visit five years ago a lot of things have changed here.
In 2013 they opened a Kindergarten which welcomes more than 180 children from two to five years old. A new bookshop/library has opened, as well as a new graphic art studio.

Isabelle Drouillard, Co-President of PPS says: “What’s really changed in five years at Phare, is this desire to professionalise our young people to give them access to employment.

“For several years the curriculum was at a very good level but we did not think enough about the next stage, at the entry into the job market.

“To get young people out of poverty they need access to employment.

To create jobs, generate new resources and give real visibility, the school puts on a show, at Siem Reap, close to the Angkor temples. Every night in a marquee of 300 seats, the shows are played out before a large international audience.

Huot Dara, Chief Executive, of Phare Ponleu Selpak, believes art can be a powerful therapy: “Arts help us to express [ourselves], art helps the young people of Cambodia to heal themselves through expression to tell their stories of life.”

Phunam comes from a poor family, she spent her childhood picking up cans in the streets to make money. Growing up, her father beat her mother and gave her AIDS, and he abused Phunam. She arrived at Phare aged seven, started the circus at 13 and a few years later became the contortionist star of Cambodia.

Says Phunam Pin: With Phare I can say I’m a star, even if I am now very well known, it has changed my life.

Five years later, a younger generation has taken over. The expression related to trauma perpetuated by the Khmer Rouge has given way to new outpourings and brighter forms. The artists now want to express something for the Cambodia of tomorrow.

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