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Haiti: Running a marathon in a minefield

08 Nov 2010

Somelia, teachingI just finished the second day of this first three day training and feel like I am running a marathon in a minefield.

Many of the participants are talented and willing, but many have been so traumatised since the earthquake that I am having to negotiate how to work with them appropriately for their own self care, as well as teaching them how to train other care providers.

All heroes

Several men claim 12 January as a day in their lives when they felt good about themselves because they had the courage to help people get out of their houses and help the injured.

Those who barely made it out, lost family members and couldn't help anyone because they were so debilitated feel tremendous shame, guilt and loss.

That said, these men and women are all heroes to me in the way most of them can laugh and sing and dance and connect with each other.

They are so wonderful to me - so appreciative, warm, supportive, inquisitive, real and willing to be vulnerable.

Progress is slow, but happening

Practice sessions have been good today but way behind because there is so much personal work that needs to be done for the nurses to move forward. It is happening, but slowly, so I have to figure out how to spin something tomorrow that gets us there.

It's hard work trying to figure out at night how to make each day work after the challenges of the previous one. We lost an hour and a half today because of transportation issues (a day in the life of Haiti). That doesn't rattle me at all, given that keeping the trains running on time has never been my strong suit. Luckily, they have a logistics person that is taking care of all that, but cars invariably break down and get stuck in crazy traffic.

On call

Everyone has to be transported from all over the Port-au-Prince and Carrefour areas, so it is a total crap shoot when everyone will actually be there.

And then there is the matter of the cell phones, which have to stay on because all of them are in leadership positions in the camps and there is a cholera epidemic going on. Every person with diarrhoea has to be evaluated immediately, rehydrated and referred fast if they do have cholera.

The cell phones are having to be responded to all the time, so it feels like I am teaching in a three ring circus. But I have to look at the other side that these people and their bosses feel like what I am doing is important enough to field everything else. That is pretty awesome. I hope maybe we can make a dent.

Read more about HelpAge's work in Haiti

Visit Stephanie's blog about her experience working with HelpAge in Haiti

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Stephanie Citron

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.