TRI Update August 2013

August 5, 2013
I’ve just returned from TRI’s second training this year (and fifth training in the Ke Ansamn series). July is a particularly potent time in Haiti: It is hurricane season, so the dense, hot air swirls around in big winds at night, and occasionally, cools the daytime. Big rains are often not uncommon. The air explodes with coolness right after these rains.
It is also a powerful ceremonial time. Ogou, the warrior Lwa (“spirit”) is celebrated from July 23-29 in the Northern region. “Tet Ogou” refers partially to the spirit of warriorship that may enter ones head—and heart– in times of distress, crisis, or when change is needed. My friend Mikaben sings about Tet Ogou in the song I mentioned in January: “Ayiti Se”. The work of Fonasyon Fwa exemplifies this strength and commitment of spirit.
After our training program, we accompanied a musician friend from Australia (Mei Lai Swan), Mikaben, and his Father Lionel Benjamin who is one of Haiti’s most beloved singers. Because the trauma & resiliency framework that TRI’s Director, Amber Gray, teaches is based on Haiti’s rich spiritual and healing traditions, many of the psychologists being trained have expressed an interest in connecting more deeply to their historical & spiritual roots. Most of them, like so many Haitians, have never played a tambou (drum); never learned the meaning of the powerful, beautiful movements and gestures that comprise Haitian folkloric dance, and have never witnessed a Vodou Ceremonie. So we took a field trip to the North Coast, both to introduce my Haitian friends to this aspect of their own ancestry, and to support Mikabens documentary based on the song Ayiti Se.
At about 2 am on July 27, as dancers from a famous Lakou in Gonaives honored Ogou with their magnificent dancing, Lionel turned to me and said: ”Imagine. I am over 70 years old, and I am Haitian. And this is the first time I have ever seen this. It is so beautiful”.
While many of TRI’s activities are training and capacity enhancement, the real heart of our work is this: To support the inherent resiliency of any country and culture we are invited to work with. We never go in as “the outside expert”; we always go in with open minds and hearts and far more questions than answers. Our goal is to leave with even more questions to ponder and contemplate, for our own learning.
TRI was established in 2009 as a non-profit organization, serving survivors of torture, war, political violence and natural disasters. On January 13th, 2010, TRI mobilized quickly to support URAMEL, IDEO and other local, well-established, and well-respected organizations in Haiti, who have a long standing and long term future commitment to Haiti’s well being.
Things have changed. URAMEL and IDEO, who formed the Sant Siko Twama (Psycho Trauma Center) in late 2010, now have two separate projects. URAMEL houses the Sant Siko Twama and maintains its expertise and prominence in medical and forensic services. IDEO has established Fondasyon Fwa (Faith Foundation) and have returned to their former (and now partially rebuilt) office in Bourdon. They are the premier mental health program for survivors of not just the earthquake and other natural disasters, but also the ongoing and intensifying kidnapping, rape, organized violence and torture that occurs ongoing. They also receive clients with histories of interpersonal violence that date back to the 1990’s embargo years, and the very violent period of 2004-2006.
In 2012, TRI provided two trainings (Part 2, and Part 3) in Restorative Movement Psychotherapy (“RMP”), and its cross-cultural framework for adapting creative arts and somatic therapies in post disaster contexts and complex humanitarian emergencies. These trainings took place in April 2012 and July 2012. Thirty psychologists, counselors and social workers were trained in the foundation of RMP, and are now utilizing it in their practices. As this training series is a Training of Trainers (“TOT”) format, the core team who are continuing with Fondasyon Fwa will continue to supervise the other clinicians at Sant Siko Twama and Fondasyon Fwa, and train others (community workers, health and mental health professionals, spiritual leaders) throughout Haiti. We did all of this on a shoe strong budget, with a few funds left from 2011; $1100.00 from private donors, and $3340.00 from Bucknell University. We had just enough to cover training costs, and our Director did not take fees for training time. The total raised throughout 2012 was $5440.00; however, at the very end of 2012, after a year of grant writing,

TRI received several meaningful awards from:
The Marian Chace Foundation ($3000.00)
The Kind World Foundation ($7500.00)
The Frost Foundation ($5000.00)
The Charles F Gray Trust ($4000.00)
These donations make it possible for the entire training program, as well as programmatic support and start up costs for the community based mental health program, to take place. Donors and organizational funders—we thank you! Mesi anpil, anpil.
Moving through 2013 and towards 2014: Fondasyon Fwa is up and running! It has hired several new counselors and psychologists, and partnered with other local organizations serving survivors of abuse, domestic and communal violence. As Fondasyon Fwa grows and offers its services to more and more adult and child survivors throughout Haiti, TRI is supporting them. We are now training their core team of 13 clinical psychologists, as well as 10 additional therapists from partner organizations. We completed the fifth training on July 30, 2013. As per the “TOT” format, as the program grows the team will continue to train new hires in Restorative Movement Psychotherapy.
This fifth training went really well. The longer-term, “advanced” students held a catch up class for the new hires and partners, and we all worked together for three days, immediately following this class, to review the foundations (“core components”) of this work, and to deepen our clinical practice with clients. A fourth “intensive” day was held for the senior staff, to strengthen their skills in both applying and teaching this work. This intensive included a restorative yoga class taught be Mei Lai Swan, which the Fondasyon Fwa team is using both for self care and for clinical work!
In December 2013, a 2 day advanced clinical skills class will be held for the core team, and a 2.5 day training in creative arts therapies for children will be offered to the entire team, their partners, and therapists from other organizations who are working with children.
You, our donors, make all of this possible. Nap mache, ansamn. Mesi Anpil.
Amber Elizabeth Gray, Director

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