Monday, July 25, 2011

Connecting the World - by Becky Houran

This summer is full of projects, but one of my main focuses is a project Dr. Judy founded called Global Kids Connect (GKC). GKC grew out of Dr Judy’s work in Haiti with her colleague, Father Wismick (also a rep for her United Nation NGO, the International Association of Applied Psychology), her work in Japan over many years, and her work in helping the survivors of disasters around the world. This project is perfect for me because it united my interest in in psychology, helping people, and in international places, especially Japan. 
Children with their decorated Happy Dolls in Japan

How amazing that Dr. Judy teamed up with a Japanese organization, called HappyDoll Inc. Nozomi Terao, a native of Tokyo, Japan, began HappyDoll Inc. in January of 2011, just a few months before the earthquake. A former banker, Nozomi had the goal of working with and for children. She has been running a summer camp for kids every summer for the last 10 years, but she wanted to do more, and so she created the “happy doll.” Based in midtown NYC, the small organization sews blank dolls and holds events for kids (local and in Japan) to give those dolls names and faces. The dolls are then sent to other children in need. Like Nozomi, Dr. Judy has also been very focused on the needs of those suffering all over the world.

GKC is an international project to spread warmth and support among children impacted by the trauma of disaster. After the earthquake in Haiti, to help kids, Dr. Judy developed a cultural project for children where children in the U.S. wrote cards of hope and comfort for the children of Haiti (similar to projects that happened right after 9/11), and her music group, The Stand Up for Peace Project, wrote a song of healing in Creole, which they taught to the children in Haiti. Similarly, HappyDoll Inc. started a project after the devastating tsunami in Japan, sending soft, plush dolls to the children suffering after the disaster. Dr. Judy and Nozomi Terao collaborated to bring the two organizations together to connect U.S., Haitian and Japanese children through the creation and exchange of plush dolls among those two countries and the U.S.A.

One of the most exciting events for me in this summer internship with Dr. Judy is that I was invited to be part of the GKC project mission going to Haiti over the July 4th weekend. I am amazed at this opportunity- who would have thought I would actually be going to Haiti on my internship to do this important work! I told Dr. Judy when she interviewed me on camera, “this is so much different from just studying about issues at school, to be in the field making a difference. I am so lucky to have this opportunity.”

Children with blank dolls in North Carolina
We brought dolls to Haiti that were made in the U.S. and in Japan. Haitian children came together in a day of creativity, relaxation, song and dance to celebrate each other and their peers. Nozomi described the look on the Japanese children’s faces when they were making the dolls for the Haiti children, as they experienced this creative process: “There was happiness, a look of mystery about where the dolls were going next, the feeling of understanding that they were making something that would go across the world, to strangers. They knew that they were helping other children – even though the earthquake in Haiti was over a year ago, the kids are still suffering, and they need help. And they [the Japanese children] got it, they understood.”

The Haitian children received dolls from their new friends in Japan and America, each unique and full of love, and then they drew and wrote messages of their own on dolls that Nozomi took to Japan.

After a day of decoration, multi-cultural songs of peace, and bestowing their love into the doll they receive and make, these messages of support and kindness will be carried to the Japanese children when they get to hold these special gifts in their arms. Through the touch and comfort of the dolls, these children effected by disaster and trauma will be able to feel the love of the children across the ocean every time they embrace their very special doll.

I am excited to share more of our Haiti story in a future article – it was a truly incredible experience.

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