Arriving in Jacmel

February 22, 2012

By James S. Gordon MD

We wound over the mountains from Port-au-Prince and arrived in Jacmel in time for lunch. Spills of fruit, vegetables, brightly painted metal butterflies, ceramic vases pouring out of stands onto the edge of the narrow roadway. Agriculture—hoes not tractors–struggling up steep slopes.

At the community center cum chuch in Jacmel we gather—faculty with our twelve Haitian Interns, some of the brightest and most committed of the first group of 120 whom we trained. We have brought interpreters from Port-au-Prince who have helped us before–absolutely essential to be understood in Kreyol, absolutely essential for us and our new group of 120 trainees to understand one another.

The interns talk about what our model of self-care and mutual help has meant to them. Here is Junie, a Nurse and Teacher: “you taught us to heal with all the stress that was destroying us. And now, as we work with kids who are so agitated and move around so much, we teach them to release tension with breathing and shaking and dancing and they calm down.”

Jacqueline, a public health nurse, tells us that Mind-Body techniques have lowered her blood pressure and helped her sleep. “Now I’m working,” she goes on, “with my husband who has a tendency to be irritable.” She laughs, and so do we along with her.

Spencer, a social worker block wide, gap-toothed, and solid, tells us he is using mind-body techniques with the seven soccer teams he coaches. And, Regine talks about our model of sharing and quieting ourselves as a “bridge to peace” among the warring gangs with which she works.

International faculty, interns, and translators sit at our spaghetti and papaya lunch together getting to know one another, planning the five-day training to come.