Playmaker Spotlight: Rishi

Playmaker Profile

From the Playmaker Project Archives

January 12, 2010 forever changed the landscape of life in Haiti and the meaning of optimism for Jean Guerson Sanon – better known as, Rishi.

“Prior to that day, when a catastrophic 7.0 earthquake nearly leveled our country and threated to destroy our resilience, I was working for a local NGO called AMURT Haiti.”

At the time, Rishi worked in education and child protection services, and as AMURT became involved in disaster relief efforts, Rishi came to meet and eventually partner with Steve Gross, MSW, the Founder and Chief Playmaker of The Life is Good Kids Foundation (LiGKF).

“I saw Steve lead healing play groups with dozens (in some cases even hundreds) of traumatized children as they awaited treatment outside of AMURT sponsored tent clinics.  At the time so many of us were focused on the essentials: water, food, shelter, the closing of open wounds.  All of which were vitally important AND the joy and love and connection that I saw arise from these children who had just survived some of the most unfair and cruel circumstances felt equally as essential.”

Soon after seeing the power of optimism come to life through these healing playgroups, Rishi attended a Life is Good Kids Foundation Playmaker retreat lead by Steve and other members of The LiGKF’s US based team.

“It was a life-changing and affirming experience." -Rishi

"The Playmaker philosophy and practice instilled the power of optimism in me.  I realized that as a childcare professional I was uniquely positioned to create and cultivate optimal environments for children to connect, engage and explore.  Discovering this Playmaker approach to finding, focusing on and growing the good increased my own capacity for compassion.  It was like I moved passed being able to just see someone’s pain to believing that I could stand beside them in it and even help alleviate some of it, too.”

Since his initial discoveries, Rishi has gone on to become a founding member of the Life is Good Playmakers Ayiti organization.

“Here in Port-au-Prince we call ourselves, Gerye Jwa – which directly translated means: Joy Warriors.”

Since officially opening the doors in 2011, Rishi and the Gerye Jwa team have partnered with dozens of schools, orphanages and other local childcare organizations, invested in nearly 2,000 Haitian childcare professionals, and improved the quality of care delivered to more than 20,000 children.

“I wake up everyday motivated to keep spreading the power of optimism – to keep growing the good for myself, for my neighbors, for my family, my country and most importantly, for all of our children.”