I had hoped to be able to update sooner, but we had very spotty internet in Port-au-Prince after the first day. Over the next several days in the capital we spent most of our time in Wharf Jeremie with our incredible team of trainers, Samson, Estavela, Lovely, Faby, Daniel, and
Jeff. Upon our arrival to Wharf Jeremie, the team took through the narrow pathways of the settlement with mega phones to announce the start of the program the next morning. Many women who had already completed the program over the previous year and a half came out of their homes to embrace the trainers who have taught past courses. It was a beautiful site.
The community is not too unique in Haiti–dwellings cobbled together using tarps and old corrugated tin sheets. Pictures truly do not do justice to the conditions there. The people are generally very warm despite the conditions they live in and take great pride in the way they present themselves to the world. The women are busy cooking and cleaning while the children are free to wander when not in school. One such school is run by M. Zachary who was also our host for the trauma relief program. It is home to 450 students who are provided schooling
from 1st-7th grade free of charge which is rare in Haiti. The school was originally sponsored by the government and is currently being supported by one of the shipping companies that comes in and out of Wharf Jeremie.
The first men’s course was held between the two We Advance buildings, a clinic build on the edge of Wharf Jeremie. We had 45 men show up for the first day of the course. According to the trainers, the first day with the men was typical. Men are generally less open to the technique at first and change greatly over the next two days. It was true again in this case. The men who started the program
were not the same as the men who finished. Participants who were wary to close their eyes and take part in the breathing exercises and yoga poses were fully engaged by the third day. They stood and shared personal accounts of tragedy and stress in their lives and spoke about their responsibilities as men in the community. I was completely blown away by the peace that filled the room throughout the training and the utter joy they exhibited during the celebration after the final day. With 37 of the original 45 completing the course, it was a great success.
The women clearly begin the course with a higher level of comfort and it is incredible how quickly they are able to take on the techniques. From my perspective, they seem hungry for this and are open to doing whatever the trainers show them. They are intense and committed to doing the different movements and exercises with total dedication and very few have trouble with the techniques. During our daily meeting with the trainers at the conclusion of each day, Lovely and Estavela, the trainers who led the women, described the training as “perfect”. “The women are right there with us and seem to already know what we are teaching them.” There are fewer women enrolled than we expected, but it was more of a problem of coordination than a lack of interest. In addition, there have been more women who have gone through the program, so there has been a discussion of “widening the net” so to speak, thinking that we must enlarge the area we are walking to announce the program. Another cause is likely the amount of responsibilities the women have in taking care of their home and family. Men seem to do a lot less and, while they say they need to look for work, it is clear that the trainers think they have nothing to do not aggressively seek work.
We have some work to do in terms of the teamwork among the trainers and need to work with them to develop their ability to handle the logistics of the program. Samson and Estavela have been running the Port-au-Prince program along with the help of Jeff, an assistant to the training. Since our last trip to Haiti, they have not been working with Lovely, Faby and Daniel, the other Art of Living trainers. As a result, the ability to work together as a team is something that will take time to come together.
Overall we are very hopeful and know that the program is having a profound effect on the people who complete the training. We are excited about where we can take this in the future and are confident that we have the trainers to make it happen.
At this time, I am having difficulty adding pictures to the post, but will try to do so later on today!