Santo Domingo, Day 12

I arrived here yesterday to catch my flight home today. I envisioned relaxing at the pool before I returned to emails and my report. I sat by the pool but didn’t relax; there is way too much energy vibrating my body. Even though its the same pool I sat by before I went into Port au Prince, I was more aware of the large cement building right beside me—and what that might look like if it fell down.

I’ve seen earthquake damage before, but not so recent. I am just now assimilating how vast the damage in Haiti is; that most of the buildings that have dotted that mountainous terrain, made the city a familiar place for me, are gone. Perception is such a subtle but profound influence on our view of, seeing of, understanding of, the world. It adds depth to meaning. It changes meaning.

The demand for mental health or counseling services is so high. This is new in Haiti. This is not to say that the work in mental health, trauma, and community mental health hasn’t been in high demand before–it has, during many of the terrible political and disaster situations that have occurred in Haiti’s recently history. But every person I spoke with was as worried about all the people sharing the ground where they sleep, all their family, all their friends, as they were about themselves. “We are all traumatized” they said, circling a finger near an ear to gesture the intense sound and activity going on inside their head. “When will it stop?; when will we feel normal again, when everything is gone, when the ground still moves, when we cannot plan for the future, when there are not enough answers?”

I am grateful to see two articles today on yahoo news and elsewhere on “Helping Haiti’s Fragile Minds”. Fragile is a good word. Much of the work I did was, of course, stabilization–temporary stabilization. Basic, practical psychological first aid, and tending to practical needs as best I can. An entire nation that does not feel safe…maybe those in the farther provinces do, in terms of earth shifts, but they are still watching their landscape change dramatically with the influx of people, some joining family, some who simply don’t know where else to go.

Haiti has always been a risk taker–the first country to abolish slavery, the first black republic. The strength and fire I experience in her people has, in my view, been part of their fierce resilience. We all learn from the risks Haiti has taken, and continues to take—she is a world leader in ways many of us neglect to contemplate or appreciate or even notice. Look up, world, a sister needs our help, our love, our respect, our commitment. We have so much to learn from Haiti’s ability to mache, mache, mache.

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