Relief for the Spirit

AFD Lay Mental Health Workers lead a workshop at a camp in Tabarre

Aristide Foundation Lay Mental Health Workers Lead Workshops in the Camps

Four months after January 12 the experience of that day — the terror and the losses — remain vivid and present in the minds of all Haitians who survived the quake.   Nearly everyone has some degree of post-traumatic stress with hyper-vigilance, startle responses, sleep difficulties, intrusive memories, fear, anxiety, grief, and anger widespread.    Even before the quake Haiti’s mental health structure was nearly non-existent.  Right now for the majority of the population of Port-au-Prince, who are now living in tents in refugee settlements, mental health care is both inaccessible and foreign to their experience.

Beginning in late April the AFD in cooperation with a group of social workers and doctoral students from the University of Michigan began working together to to create a Haitian-model for lay mental health workers to reach people in the camps.  Ten extraordinary young Haitian college students spent a week receiving training from Leah James, a social worker and doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan, and Dr. Todd Favorite and Dr. Mike
Messina, psychologists at the PTSD clinic at the Ann Arbor VA. (Read Leah’s Huffington Post Article Describing the evolution of this project here).

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A Day Away from the Mud and Heat

On Saturday April 24 thousands of children from the AFD Mobile School gathered for a cultural celebration at the Aristide Foundation.  Since late February the AFD has been operating open-air classrooms serving 1260 children who lost their homes in the January 12, 2010 earthquake.  The schools are in refugee camps at Fontamara, Nazon, Tarpage, Carredeux, and Building 2004.

For two weeks leading up to the event teachers and kids in the Mobile Schools prepared presentations on the theme  “Life with Love.”  On the afternoon of the 24th buses from the Foundation brought the children, their families, and friends to the AFD for the event — over 2000 people in all.

Marie Stuart Roche, the director of the Mobile School project welcomed all the kids to the Foundation — which she reminded them is their home.

Toussaint Hilaire, the Director of the AFD welcomed the children and their families on behalf of former President Aristide and his wife.  He reaffirmed to them the Foundation’s commitment to work with them for a better life –a better life meaning: school, food, healthcare, hospitals and parks for them to play in.

Zamor, the coordinator of the schools                                                                                                                                                                                                              at Nazon then took over as MC and introduced the kids, who put on a spectacular show.  The kids from the schools at Nazon danced and sang, the schools from Fontamara put together a threatrical piece about what they lived through at the moment of the earthquake. The kids from the camps near Building 2004 danced and read poetry.  The schools at Carradeux and Tarpage performed music and danced.

All the children who attended received new t-shirts,  part of a large gift of new clothing from American Apparel.  The AFD is distributing these clothes to the kids in the Mobile Schools and to others living in refugee camps around Port-au- Prince.  We want to thank American  Apparel for the generous donation.  There are a lot of used clothes coming into Haiti as donations right now, and while people are in great need of all kinds of assistance, it is especially nice to be able to give the kids new clothes — made in the US, and sweatshop-free to boot.

After the event, everyone present, teachers, kids and their families shared a meal together.  It was chance for everyone to be out of the mud and heat that is a daily part of their lives and to celebrate what the teachers and kids in the Mobile Schools have accomplished together over the past two months, under these extraordinary circumstances.