Trauma Healing and Resilience in Haiti

The impact of the earthquake that devastated Haiti more than two years ago is still enormous. While Week of Compassion has responded faithfully to the plethora of needs that emerged as a result of that overwhelming disaster—including material assistance in the form of food, water, blankets, medical supplies, and hygiene kits—we also support spiritual, pastoral, and psychosocial care for those who have experienced trauma. To that end, Week of Compassion supports the STAR Program (Seminars on Trauma Awareness and Resilience) of Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. STAR was established soon after 9/11 and has been working in the areas of trauma healing, recovery, and resilience ever since. In the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, an ecumenical partnership was created to form and fund STAR-Haiti. Week of Compassion is one of the founding partners and faithful supporters of this life-changing work across Haiti. 

Now staffed and operated by Haitians, they refer to the trauma healing seminars as “Twomatizasyon ak Wozo,” which means “Trauma and Resilience.” “Wozo” is a local tree that bends with the wind but then rights itself and does not break. It is a symbol of resilience and strength, able to survive regardless of the circumstances. Many grassroots women’s movements across the country use this tree as an emblem. There are even songs explaining how resilient the wozo trees are.  

We are delighted to share with you some good news stories of just how the Wozo trainings are changing people’s lives throughout Haiti. 

Amost Saint Louis in Grand-Anse
Amost Saint Louis, one of our former Wozo participants who attended STAR I and STAR II seminars, is actively involved in working to make people in his community resilient. His motivation to reach as many people as he can is incredible.

Photo Credit: STAR-Haiti

Immediately after receiving the first level of Wozo training, he created a Club named The Wozo Club with 15 other people who are pastors, teachers, merchants, professionals and youth leaders. The members of the club meet every Monday from 4:00 to 5:30 PM to study the Creole version of the STAR trauma healing and resilience manual. His goal is to help those people become resilient and to prepare them so that they can create other Wozo clubs in their own communities.

A pastor who attended one of his presentations in October 2011 said to him: “I used to be violent every day by the way I used to talk to the congregation, and I thought it was normal to do so. I decided to change this because I realized that some members of my church left because of my violent language and attitude.”

By his insistence, Amost has already received the agreement of his pastor to integrate a STAR training in his church for a group of leaders who are being trained to become Sunday school teachers. Because of his involvement and his experience, Amost was chosen by the Wozo staff to coordinate the two trainings that will be held in Jeremie during this next year of the program. 

Kestia Dalce in Leogane
After receiving STAR I and STAR II training, Kestia Dalce from Leogane has also decided not to keep the training for herself.

Photo Creit: STAR-Haiti

In Carrefour, an area near Leogane, she has already organized a training session for 40 women in an association named Women of Tomorrow. Satisfied with and excited by her presentation on trauma and resilience, the women are looking forward to having more sessions with her, and to being trained themselves.

Kestia often uses what she learned from the STAR training to offer psychological support to people whose relatives have been victims of accidents. For instance, two families in Leogane have been comforted by her advice and her visit after the death of their two children in a motorcycle accident.

Kestia is not only using the training for helping others, she also uses it in her personal life. “The STAR training is so important to me. It helps me be a better mother. I am more patient and more tolerant with children.

Thanks to you and your gifts to Week of Compassion, we are not only providing material assistance after a disaster, but also on-going, long-term psychosocial support, trauma counseling, and spiritual care to those who will, undoubtedly, continue to experience the effects of trauma for a while to come. We are there, accompanying them, present in their time of need. And they teach us courageous compassion and what it means to be truly resilient—just like a wozo tree. 

This Week's Responses

Disaster Relief
West Virginia, fire damage
South Sudan, emergency response and conflict
Sudan/Darfur, humanitarian response
Thailand, floods
Mauritania, food insecurity
India, cyclones
Haiti, trauma resilience training
Thailand/Burma, refugee support on the border
Philippines, Tropical Storm Sendong

Sustainable Development
Tanzania, health care
Global, poverty relief