PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (December 4, 2012) — Sadrac, 13, lives in the most disadvantaged and dangerous slum in Port-au-Prince. The sounds of gunshots and police sirens in Cité Soleil have been a staple of his childhood. Like most of his neighbors, Sadrac has no running water or electricity.
“I’m not living so good, I’m not living so bad,” he tells a visitor. “Why I am not living so good? It is because most days there are shootings in the neighborhood. And I come from a very poor family. My family is vulnerable. So I’m not so good, not so bad.”
One development about which Sadrac is happy is the project Story Box. UNICEF, in partnership with Libraries Without Borders, is sending a library of 100 books, in French and Haitian Creole, to vulnerable neighborhoods like Sadrac’s.
This year, 300 mobile libraries have been distributed. Child development specialists and librarians have carefully selected the books to fit within the context of Haiti, and to stimulate creativity and imagination.
Ronald Jean Mary is one of the 90 community workers who have been trained in how best to use the story box.
“This program is important, especially in this neighborhood, because children here are disconnected from society,” he says. “They have been totally disconnected from the world.”
Story Box is a psycho-social program designed to promote emotional, cognitive and social development of children and adolescents. Its aim is to complement, not replace, formal education in schools.
Children like Sadrac come to the mobile library on weekends and during holidays from school. UNICEF is supporting 120 child protection community-based organizations that are working together to make it a success.
“This program is now connecting the children to the rest of the country, and even the rest of the world,” says Mary. “Before, these children had no access to books. But now, they have access to plenty of books, they like reading—and they are really enjoying the program.”
Since the program began here, Sadrac says that, for the first time, he’s thinking beyond the borders of Cité Soleil.
“I would like to become an engineer—first, to help my country, but also, to help my family,” he says.
Many of the children in Sadrac’s neighborhood don’t know how to read, so a program like this one can open up a world of opportunity, he says.
“Reading is important because, once you know how to read, you can become a great person in the future,” he says. “If you can’t read around here, you might become a gang member, get a gun and do bad things. But if you learn to read, you can educate yourself, and even become the president in the future.”