Port au Prince, Haiti Day 10, Trip 6

Just came from Hotel Oluffson where RAM was warming up for their weekly Thursday night fet. Its very, very hopeful to hear that very familiar music again–music that carries Haiti’s root rhythms—in the very same place, same day, same time, as has happened for years.

The NGO Staff Support Working Group that has been meeting monthly since January had requested that this months meeting be a self-care (practical) training. Today we spent a day at Management Sciences for Health, in a brand new, cool and comfortable conference room, where I provided this training. It was amazing–another splash of hope. We worked together (particularly MSH’s lovely HR Director, Joelle Larco) to make this workshop happen for as many psychologists, medical professionals, HR folks and others (who are over-extended, tired, and generally spent) as possible.

I think it would be a boring read for me to review the workshop; its sufficient to say we covered some good and succinct information about stress, trauma, secondary trauma, and somatic therapies, and–played and practiced a variety of self care (body and arts based) practices to calm, relax, balance, energize, center, ground and restore. It was my intention that the day be a “mini-retreat” for all the participants. It succeeded—-and while it certainly wasn’t a magic wand to erase the ongoing intensity and challenge of their work, and the never-ending suffering of so many Haitians–it was a day of communion, laughter, and healing.

I will share two particularly hopeful moments:

One of the participants, after a review of types of trauma, said “Bon–we are experiencing all of these in Haiti now—-it just makes me wonder how we are still here, still standing?”

So I asked the group to answer that question–to ask it of themselves, present moment, and here is our list:

Po ki sa n’ap rete kampe (Why are we still standing?)


What makes us resilient?

Faith of God
Close relationships with others
Contact with others
Open to other cultures
Music and Dance
Laughter and Humor
Wanting to give back
Feeling Lucky
Counting blessings
Reason-to-live (Raison d’etre)
Our Resiliency
Our Haitian Culture
Soccer and The World Cup
“Seize the moment”
Profite la vie
Mete Tet ansam–SOLIDARITY

At the end of the workshop, I facilitated a group activity where we identified shared strengths or resources (in small groups) and shared them with the larger group, in a very creative fashion.

Each of the 3 group created a song—-and the songs were brilliant. I was very sad not to have had a video camera with me as I have never seen such brilliance, heart, and inspiration ever–anywhere–with this particular activity. I would have loved to record them to share with the group–as a reminder of their resiliency–and as a teaching tool for others interested in resiliency.

The songs (crafted in only 10 minutes) were beautifully rhythmic and harmonized, creative, silly, poignant and simple. The words did everything from integrate the song and dance “Amba Decom” (Under the Rubble) that Haitians created to acknowledge the experience of being under the rubble with both blatant clarity and tremendous humor; to invite a call-and-response movement and singing choir where we shaped the rising sun while we sang “We have the sun, we have the light” (for anyone whose never been to Haiti–the light here rivals the magical light that many artists seek in New Mexico).

I wished my friend and colleague Melissa had been here to see this, as this was the hope she reminded us was essential to traversing this 6 month marker where hopelessness tends to overtake survivors. This 5 minutes of song was a sound bath of joy, heart and hope—-and hope is not a word I use easily. Especially here, where there are still so many trauma, hardship, change and loss reminders. Body parts, long removed from their human form, still found daily; over 75,000 Haitians missing. Rubble neatly piled by the road, and suddenly in the road when these seasonal rains become a torrential downpour. People shaking their insufficient tarps out after one of these rains, in an attempt to make their sleeping space a wee bit drier.

Amidst all of this, and despite the tragic sloth-like response of those leaders with the power (and money) to change these inhumane conditions and experiences:

“No problem, no problem, no problem
We don’t have a problem–
We have each other.

We have the sun, we have the light.
We have the trees, we have God.

No problem, no problem, no problem
We don’t have a problem (we can’t fix):
We have each other.

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