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Healing Haiti from the inside

12 Nov 2010

Fiona running a demonstrationOne of the Friends asked me today what I thought of Haiti.

I told him that although I find the infrastructure horrific, I love the people. Though people are people and of course there are many differences, this is what I love.

A little goes a long way

Haitian people really look to connect. They are incredibly friendly and usually look you in the eye, interested to check me out, with an expectant invitation that seems to say to me - "just try a little and I'll be there right with you."

And that's the thing; such a little bit goes such a long way here. I feel respect without being deferential. I hear a melodic voice that is rich in its fluidity that draws me in. (It's also great fun how forgiving they are about my French and pathetic attempts at Kreyol). I see a light-heartedness in the midst of devastation, a curiosity that is compelling.

Earnestness with a smile

The community is very open with each other and with me. I see much purposefulness among the HelpAge national community that has an earnestness laced with a smile. All the HelpAge staff look out for me everywhere I go, not in a "she's an American and we have to be careful with her" way, but more like "you have come a long way and we appreciate that you want to be here with us".

A lesson for me today was that because we were late coming from one training to another (about 1.5 hrs), many of the Friends left, so we ended up training just eight. I felt like I had died and gone to heaven. Even though we were in a dirty, dark, smelly shed-like structure in a rough camp, there was no loud generator going like yesterday. Training eight instead of 27 is a cake walk.

The Friends, seven older men and a women were really touching in their attentiveness, very willing to talk about their own difficulties as part of the practice and seemed genuinely moved about feeling more balanced having experienced the work.

Their pride is palpable

Research has come out that it may be less about what therapeutic modality is being used and more about the quality and presence of the practitioner. Each person on the team has that down.

The nurses took another leap in their teaching the skills and we left feeling very accomplished. It moves me to watch more and more Haitians become trained to help their own people. And as they do, their pride and hope is palpable.

That's where the healing has to come from; not from internationals. The only business we have here is to train.

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.