What a very long and full day in two of the camps. We set out at 7am through crazy traffic driving through rubble bouncing around on trecharous roads that would give Carly a heart attack . The first one was in Port au Prince and was so amazingly crowded and hot. We interviewed about 30 older people who told us their stories of what their lives have been like since the earthquake living in the camps. So much loss and yet so much spirit. This lady was telling me about losing her son, her home, her dry cleaning business, now with no means of a livlihood. But she says God helps her, and her community helps her. She is often hungry, without food for a whole day. And she was so grateful for our being there to hear her story . We stayed in this tent for almost three hours talking to people- everyone so open, willing to tell about their pain and what gets them through such hardship.. For almost everyone, they raise their hand up to the sky- "Dieu". I got a first hand experience of what it is like for them in the tents- suffocatingly hot- all of us dripping sweat for hours and noone wanting to leave.
We drove another hour again bouncing through rubble bumper to bumper now with many more people trying to sell stuff on the sides of the streets- mostly second hand Salvation Army clothes and shoes, cheap new cell phones and chargers, rotton looking produce. These are the small businesses that many of the older people were talking about that they wished they could start to begin to make a living for themselves again. The second camp population was about 29,000 , but because it was on the edge of the city it was a little more spred out. The tent that hosted our gathering was bigger with a higher ceiling and we could breathe a little better than the first camp. Again, each person was eager to tell their story. Many people still shake in their bodies and have a general malaise of generally feeling bad since the earthquake. Camp living is especially hard for these older people who struggle with not feeling safe due to theft, feeling alone in the world having lost their families, and still now 8 months out go hungry many days. They are hoping the food and safety issues will be addressed and that they could have a designated place to congregate to talk together and tell stories to the children and other adults.
Got back to the staff house around 6:30 to wrap up what we learned today. I did my interviews with the new young Helpage psychosocial coordinator Steve- a really kind and smart Haitian man . He was my interpreter and co-leader of the groups and we have bonded well. Gordy is working with another interpreter doing interviews with camp staff and other groups. Between the 4 of us we are learning lots. It is hard to stay on the emotional stuff in the face of so much basic need for food, health care, housing and money, but folks do want to talk about the sadness and frustration and how they are getting through. I think it has been perhaps some good that they have been asked to name what inside them and outside of them that gets them through such tremendous hardship. Naming these resources and tracking the feelings in their bodies is the beginning of healing trauma work. It is hard to hold back from trying to do treatment interventions, but this is the time to do the assessment . The need and destruction would totally overwhelm me if I did not see so much beauty and strength and ability to connect in these people. Out to two more camps tomorrow!