Return from Haiti: Trauma Relief and Healing in Wharf Jeremie, Cite Soleil

From our ASR Newletter….

We returned from 12 days in Haiti last month and it has taken these past weeks to distill our experience there.

Our focus in Haiti was to implement a stress-reduction program for the women of Cite Soleil, Port au Prince’s notorius slum and to vet child services and reforestation projects.  While we were there, Haiti got under our skin.

Wharf Jeremie- Our project neighborhood

Haiti feels overwhelming. It has something to break everybody’s heart: utter poverty, alarming rates of unemployment, illiteracy, rape, orphaned and abandoned children; and a once-lush countryside which has been almost entirely deforested. Haiti was already the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere before last year’s earthquake leveled its capital city region.

The good news is that the Haitian people are remarkably resilient, bright, and loving, and as we found there, open to trying whatever will work for them, including our program in Cite Soleil.

Wharf Jeremie, Cite Soleil: Trauma Relief and Healing 

The Wharf Jeremie neighborhood of Cite Soleil, where our collaborative implemented its pilot program, has a long history of untoward violence, low literacy and high incidences of disease and sexual assault.  The area is considered so dangerous, most non-profits will not work there. This means that Cite Soleil, likely Haiti’s poorest area, has been grossly neglected.

Over the past year, ASR has helped support the We Advance Women’s Clinic there.  We Advance offers free gynecological care and rape counseling to thousands of women, many of whom have been assaulted ( there are roughly 100 rapes a day in the tent cities and settlements).  They also provide general family care as there is no other help in the area.

Day 3-Course participants meditating

A few months ago ASR learned about the success of a program for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)  and rape victims in Kosovo, Iraq, Palestine, and Afghanistan taught by the International Association of Human Values( IAHV), so we put two and two together, formed a collaborative effort amongst these groups and ourselves, and piloted the program in Wharf Jeremie to gauge the area’s interest.  Members of nouvelle vie, a branch of IAHV for Haitian young adults, would teach the course in Kreyol.

We were thrilled by the response.  Initially, we’d projected 80 women would participate in the program.  In the end, 143 signed on.  Given that the program requires attendance for four consecutive days  for 3-4 hours per day and that the participants would likely be called away for daily domestic duties or for emergencies, we projected about 50% would finish the entire course.  Again, we were surprised, and deeply heartened – more than 80% completed all four days.

Graduation – Participants with their “Setifikas” and gift bags

Since our return, the young Haitian trainers from nouvelle vie have held three followups  in the community, with an average of 90% of course graduates in attendance.

Due to this exceptional response, we’re now designing ways to expand this program further into Cite Soleil and other cities.  

Other Projects

We have identified a highly effective reforestation project in Leogane which, in addition to planting 800,000 trees per year is providing jobs and housing incentives to 600 people. Also, we visited orphanages where we see we can have a direct impact, and held meetings with several other nonprofits, big and small, to discuss ways ASR might make a lasting difference.

In the next few weeks we will finalize our multi-pronged appraoch for Haiti to address the needs for education , medical and psychological care, child services, and reforestation.  We will update the Aid Still Required community to see which programs most inspire your involvement. 

In the meantime, thank you for your support,  It is truly making a difference.


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