Prim Store


by Paul Young

Prim is a Haitian word pronounced like “preem” that roughly translates as “prize” or “reward”. And Prim Store is also the name for a good conduct reward system that Alison and Goulit have successfully introduced into the Fond Blanc Orphanage. This program is yielding some surprisingly good results.

In the Prim system, the children are automatically awarded two points per day, points which are redeemable at the weekly Prim Store event. Prim Store is full of toys and other goodies set out by Alison and Goulit in a tantalizing display for the children who come in to “shop” one or two at a time so decisions are not rushed because of a rushing crowd. During the week the children can also earn extra points, or forfeit ones they already have – depending on their behavior during the week.

Alison reports that the children have become very invested in the Prim system, and instances of misbehavior are fewer as the children have learned to protect and even add to their points total. Having Prim points taken away serves up a lasting lesson to the offender.

Prim Store 1 050715When the Prim Store opens the available treasures displayed may include fancy shoes, toys (marbles are a current favorite) hair accessories and other such items. The children’s clothes and basic necessities are already provided outside of Prim Store, so this is entirely a reward system for extra treats. But these are not inconsequential award items and the children take this process seriously.

Goulit and Alison are quite creative in devising new Prim awards. The two most “expensive” choices at the moment are: a personal day at the beach at Wahoo Bay (200 points), and a trip to Petionville to eat an entire pizza by yourself (150 points).

On our recent visit, Didi was awarded two extra points for clearing extra dishes at breakfast before church on Sunday. He obviously wasn’t trying for extra points so the surprise award was probably a strong reinforcement for his helpful act. Some children save up points like crazy while others never met a point they were not prepared to spend right away. Each of these children has their own unique and engaging personality.

There is more to Prim, it turns out, than just behavioral reinforcement. There are also the lessons to be learned about earning what you get and then caring for what you have earned. In this respect, Haitian children are no different from American children: they manage to lose their stuff easily but they also tend to keep up better with things they have earned through their own efforts. Because something is required of the children, the value lesson of possessions is reinforced.Prim Store 2 050715

Prim Store is also a good way for us to share the many donations and gifts we receive on behalf of the children. Donations to the orphanage are expressions of love, and many of our supporters have a lot of love to share. But, as wonderful as that may seem, for the children it could become somewhat overwhelming. It would not be healthy for any child to have Christmas morning come every week. It becomes important for us to modulate the flow of generosity from our donors to our children, and we appreciate your support and understanding in that effort.

We try to be judicious in the way we pass along the generosity of our donors. We would not want the children to become desensitized to the significance of those donations, and we are particularly alert for any sign that the orphans might take all this for granted, or somehow form a distorted view of what represents “normal” in their world. Prim Store is an effective tool for us to address this concern as well.

So on your next visit to Fond Blanc, ask Alison or Goulit if you can sit in on Prim Store. Who knows, if you are well behaved they might even award you some Prim points for yourself.


Fond Blanc Foundation