Day 1 of the Training- Jacmel, Haiti

February 23, 2012

By James S. Gordon MD

The view from Soeurs Salesiennes school where we are doing our training opens out to the sea of Haiti’s south coast. Nuns glide quietly over the grounds and little girls in white blouses and blue jumpers with beribboned hair skip hand in hand.

We are working in a school because no hotel in Jacmel can accommodate our crew-120 trainees plus 40 international faculty, interns, interpreters and staff. We need separate rooms for each of a dozen small groups as well as the grande salle for all 160. Many of the students are on vacation for Carnival and the Sisters who run the school have generously made it available to us.

Meanwhile, Carnival made it almost impossible for us to find any hotel rooms. And those we have are fraught with complications-not enough beds, no water, absent or erratic air conditioning in 90 degree heat, etc. Minor inconveniences really, but reminders of the much greater hardships that almost all Haitians have to endure. The fact that we are able to have the training at all makes me so grateful for all the efforts of Linda Metayer, our Haitian program director, and LeeAnn, Jesse, and Wilguens, our US & Haitian administrative team.

Usual first day confusion and chaos-90 out of 120 doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers, teachers, priests, nuns, and voodoo healers show up. “Oh, did it begin today?” wonder some of the absent ones whom Linda and Regine, one of our interns, called. “We will be there later” they say, and indeed most of them appear.

There are nine in my small group (more tomorrow I am sure) plus Regine, who also teaches yoga each morning, and Marc my interpreter. There’s a wonderful young pediatrician who supervises 40 professionals in the public hospital in Jacmel. She has been in one of Linda’s workshops and comes to our training like a hungry woman to a feast. “Everything” she says “I want to bring everything I am learning to my team.” There are nurses and teachers, the directrice of the regional chapter of the Croix Rouge, a sister who is a school principle, and some people with less formal education who are committed to helping those who continue to suffer from the earthquake and its aftermath. The middle-aged farmer who is helping in the schools and seems to be the head of his local mountain village concludes the first group; “If we had had these techniques before or even just after the earthquake we would have been less victims.”