Friday, August 13, 2010

Several of us had dinner with a really good friend of Marilyn's, Mike, who has been in Haiti for the last 2 years working on a big USAID project assisting over 10,000 farmers change over into growong more profitable crops for export. Mike says Haiti is referred to as the Republic of NGO's. I had read that over 10,000 ngos were in Haiti after the earthquake and Mike says at least 9500 were probably here before due to the extreme poverty and years of ineffective government not providing an infastructure. Though certainly the number of ngos here reflects worldwide humanitarian concern and response, there certainly lies the possibility of dollars wasted by unnecessary duplication of administrations and undermining capacity building for Haitians.
To that end, our day was much more satisfying than yesterday. We met with a fabulous Haitian physician trained both in general practice and psychology who heads a small organization, CARPA that has been providing a kind of integrated care (combined medical and psychological care) to older people in Haiti for 10 years in clinics all over and in mobile health units in the camps. So many Haitians carry their trauma and suffering in their bodies. and he treats his patients wholisticaly. It sounds like he has developed his own morphing of somatic experiencing, by tracking emotions in the body and doing relaxation. Because so many international ngo's are finishing up their their initial emergency phase funding, it is leaving many of their Haitian partner agencies potentially without funding to continue their work. I don't know what will happen with this one (it actually hasn't been known to Helpage before now) , but it holds promise and I hope they won't be left high and dry. Helpage is looking at partnering with an ngo that supports them that would also help with livlihood issues, which would be great.
We also had an encouraging meeting with University d'Etat d'Haiti faculty in the psychology and social work departments that demonstrate interest in having their students participate in psychosocial efforts in the camps. They have been putting together a project that hasn't quite materialized, and there are great seeds for collaboration. We also met with the project manager of the Mental Health and Psychosocial Services working group cluster to help our Steve,our Helpage Haitian psychosocial coordinator get hooked in with the coordination efforts there.
Lastly we met with the head of the IFRC (International Red Cross and Red Crescent) Psychosocial Dept.. They are forming a consortium of the 8 big country red cross orgs that are all in Haiti doing their own thing to put them all UNDER a new hired Haitian director who will be with the Haitian Red Cross over the IFRC . This is important stuff moving the work from the direction of international ngo's running Haiti ,to Haiti running Haiti with international ngo partners. A long way to go but there is momentum. Very impressive to me.
Tonight our team went out to dinner together to celebrate the end of an incredibly intense week. We have become quite a little band- the five guys and me. We have started to poke fun at each other and we are getting to know each other as people and support each other as we try to make our way through the morass of this country of such suffering, need, confusion,heat, danger, desperation and spirit. Everyone is so comitted to what they do, it blows me away. I feel so privileged to be a miniscule part of this .

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