As children in the United States head back to school there is always a flurry of anticipation and excitement — and the usual rush to make sure the school supplies and wardrobe are in order. I am counting my blessings and recalling my experience at an orphanage in Haiti during a visit with CMBM’s Global Trauma Relief team last March. Here are my notes from that trip, and my thoughts about each of us being the bridge between scarcity and abundance.
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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Our work in Haiti starts with our faculty sharing expertise in mind-body medicine with Haitian health professionals and educators in a series of professional trainings. The techniques they learn are healing for them, their families and their communities.
- National Team Leader, Regine Laroche, focuses on helping traumatized individuals rebuild themselves from the inside and regain a sense of hope.
- Haiti Country Director Linda Métayer, MPH, focuses on bringing self-care programs to communities lacking mental health services.
- CMBM creates structure, context, and clinical supervision for these programs to reach a national level.
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Our wonderful donors provide the support that starts this movement with the individual and spreads out to a country-wide level. Please consider giving now to help provide the healing the Haitian people need.
Your support means the world!
Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) in Haiti has not only ensued from the physical, political and economic environments, but also from the internal devastation felt by the individual. Our team of Haitian health-care providers, educators and team leaders recognized their own pain and saw the need in their communities for support. Follow their journey as they work to heal Haiti form the individual to national levels.
“CMBM believes we have the ability to rebuild ourselves”. Take a minute to breathe with Jean Nervian Batichon – banana farmer, community leader, devoted son and part of our CMBM family in Jacmel. He shows us how CMBM helped him find the internal strength to care for himself and those he loves.
The people you see in this video are our brothers and sisters. We bring them hope for healing the terrible losses they experienced in the January 2010 earthquake. Their unaffected courage, their warmth, joy and humor as they learn to heal themselves give me hope for all of us.
I very much look forward to reading your comments.
This is the first of a new series of videos that we’ll be sharing about our work in Haiti.
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