The next day, before we leave, we spend time at the Foyer des Orphelins d’Haiti, an orphanage not far from the airport. The cramped gray-walled quarters, beds without mattresses, and, especially, the kids’ desperate need for attention and touch and anything else we might give, bring us all to tears or to that state in which we knew if we would but let them, they would come. There are 70 kids who live in the orphanage and 100 more who go to school there each day. Already, the principal tells us, 60% of the older kids who have participated in our groups, are calmer, more focused. We will, over the next few months, have 10-week-long small groups for all 170, and do whatever we can to help the orphanage’s caring, committed, and overwhelmed staff provide enough food and guidance so that these kids will have the best possible chance at life.
In Port-au-Prince the next day, Kathleen and Catherine have the opportunity to see the small groups—with kids, teenagers, and adults—in action, to hear which technique has been most helpful to each person, to feel the closeness that develops over the weeks of regular meetings.
Jacmel, a seaside town famous for its crafts, is a three hour drive south across the mountains. At the side of the road are chickens, donkeys and the occasional stray dog, behind them banks of vegetables in stalls; overhead, blue, purple, pink, and orange flowers, and, beyond, ranks of mountains marching off toward the horizon.
Before we leave for the countryside we visit classrooms at Notre Dame de la Guadeloupe where our Haitian team is currently leading workshops. After workshops, which take place in classrooms, have been offered to all 700 students, we’ll begin 10-week-long small mind-body groups for all the kids, and the teachers and administrators as well.
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With me in Haiti is Kathleen deLaski, a former journalist and AOL executive, whose father Don has made possible everything we’ve done in Haiti. Since Don’s death a year ago, she has headed up the family foundation, and now wants to experience firsthand the program that Don so generously and lovingly funded. Her daughter, Catherine Grubb, who is studying neuroscience, is with us, as are Lee-Ann Gallarano, who manages our Global Trauma Relief program, and Laura Milstein, our Development Director. It’s Laura’s first trip to Haiti, as well as Kathleen and Catherine’s. Linda Metayer, the psychologist who leads our Haiti program, has organized our visit.
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The basketball courts lie, like high-value chips a giant might play, across the vast floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center. 400 teams, 4,000 players ages 9-19, at the Jam On It AAU Tournament. There are 12 or 15 thousand parents, coaches, refs, and siblings, the kids in uniforms, almost all of us in baggy shorts.
It’s overwhelming and I am, at first, a bit huffy about it. Wondering why my son needs to fly to another state to play, remembering going every day to the park for pick-up games.
But it grows on me. The kids are black, brown, yellow, white, wealthy and working class, and there are almost as many girls as boys, practicing cross-over dribbles, slapping hands. Very focused.
Financial stress can be one of the most painful and debilitating experiences— something with which many Americans have become intimately familiar.Often, when we are dealing with financial stress, we feel the dual burden of shame for having gotten where we are and a lack of control over how to get out.
Kurt Andersen (“The Downside of Liberty,” New York Times.com, 7/4/12) writes that because of the “do your own thing” ethos of the 1960’s, “we are all shamelessly selfish.”
Anderson misreads the character and is insensitive to the spirit of those times, which my friends and I, and millions of other young people, lived through and were touched by. Doing our own thing was for most of us a quest for authenticity spurred by generous hopes for all and fulfilled in communal action.
Hot off the presses: Center Founder and Director James S. Gordon, MD’s new Sounds True audiobook, Freedom from Depression: a Practical Guide for the Journey launches today!
Based on Dr Gordon’s enormously popular book Unstuck: Your 7 Stage Journey Out of Depression, the audiobook contains new experiential and didactic material. Quoting the Sounds True website:
The true source of healing from depression comes from within—not from doctors or medications. Yet when depression drains away our vitality and will, how can we find the energy to help ourselves? With Freedom from Depression, Dr. James S. Gordon reveals a new and empowering approach for dealing with this misunderstood condition—a way out of the darkness that helps you restore balance and joy to your life.
So much happens to all of us in the Jacmel training as we go deeper, become more aware, take chances, and connect over five days.
Our faculty faces fears of not performing well, of not sleeping at night, and of missing what is muffled in translation. We take the chance of feeling our uncertainty of daily supervision and are gratified that our colleagues have at least as much compassion for us as we feel for those we are helping.