Meaningfulworld 14th Humanitarian Mission to Haiti, 16-25 August, 2019
Stepping into Health with Joy: 7-Steps for Healing our Mind, Body, Spirit & Mother Earth
Dr Kalayjian, Dr Medina, & Lorraine Simmons
In collaboration with Meaningfulworld Haiti Chapter
Ayiti se Lakay Mwen (Haiti is my home)
The Meaningfulworld team, Dr Ani Kalayjian, Dr Justina Medina, Lorraine Simmons and Arthur Jaffe embarked on the 14th Humanitarian Outreach Mission to Haiti in August. With ten days to accomplish numerous goals, we were prepared to work as efficiently and as diligently as possible while maintaining a balance with self-care which included healthy eating, supplements, soul-surfing, swimming and sleep. An important goal this year was to support and empower the newly formed Haiti chapter, led by Pastor Rubinson Dorce & Donie Marie Saint-Louime.
The first day, we attended the 9th Annual International CESSA Conference, sponsored by Center for Spirituality & Mental Health (CESSA), chaired by Fr. Jean Charles Wismick. The theme of the conference was Trauma and Mental Health in Haiti focusing on gratitude and meaning-making. This year there were over 500 attendees of some which serve their communities offering counseling in various ways with one third from religious orders, others included students from behavioral sciences as well as medical doctors, social workers, psychologists and administrators. At the CESSA conference, Meaningfulworld had the opportunity to present a clinical training as well as have Dr. Kalayjian as the closing speaker. Attendees at the closing workshop gave feedback stating that Dr. Kalayjian was energizing and uplifting. Fr. Wismick also shared feedback stating that he could see people respond to her with much enthusiasm. Dr. Kalayjian encouraged people to read authors that she finds most inspiring which include Maya Angelo and her mentor and former professor Viktor Frankl. She also encouraged Haitian attendees to become activists and stand up for and demand their United Nations Human Rights, and the Sustainable Development Goals, which includes free public education for all Haitian children, as well as gender equality and equity. Dr. Kalayjian offered to march with the group to the Ministry of Education to do this. In line with Dr. Kalayjian’s philosophy of love and support the program ended with her signature heart-to-heart circle of love and gratitude.
Meaningfulworld’s third day in Haiti was the last day of CESSA International Conference in which we led intensive workshops. It was very rewarding to see attendees very engaged with curiosity and a quest to learn. Participants were guided through a Soul-Surfing energetic release and then gifts of earrings and essential oils were shared. The large numbers of attendees were so enthused by the workshop that they unexpectedly serenaded Dr Kalayjian several Haitian songs of gratitude. Afterwards, we received an overwhelming request for our literature in Haitian Creole and French by the hundreds of attendees.
During the CESSA conference, Arthur Jaffe also conducted a workshop on Spiral Technique; focusing on mind-body-connection! How emotions are held in the body and how negative emotions exacerbate pain! He guided participants in therapeutic stretches to release tension, pain and discomfort and regain a healthy body and a sense of well-being.
On the fourth day, Meaningfulworld Haiti chapter organized an intensive training, which was conducted at the Nazareen Theological Seminary. We covered the following topics: Self-care, Post-Traumatic-growth, Emotional Intelligence (EQ), as well as individual, horizontal, generational, collective and vicarious trauma. It was a wonderful opportunity to help professionals feel empowered with knowledge and essential skills, which help them daily. We taught a group of 50 early career clinicians, which included: psychologists, social workers, counselors, teachers and priests. The training included the use of role-play to demonstrate challenging concepts such as assertiveness, empathy and mindful leadership. Frequently expressed feelings were fear, worry and sadness. Almost 90% have seen or experienced domestic violence against women; we encouraged them to take the peace oath, which all did, showing their commitment for peace. The exercises were the catalyst for the following initiatives: EQ campaign starting from kindergarten, teaching boys the value of respect, & being mindful of the cultural negative reinforcements. In addition, the 7-step Integrative Model was explained and practiced after lunch. In the setting of fresh air, cool breeze and majestic mountains we practiced Soul-Surfing, releasing negative emotions lodged in our bodies and through breath work and affirmations positivity replaced the negativity. Nearly half of the participants were so moved and inspired with our training that they committed to be part of Meaningfulworld Haiti Chapter.
For the fifth day in Haiti, Meaningfulworld continued the second day of Intensive training, which focused on meaning-making, forgiveness, conflict transformation and Visionary Leadership. In addition, homework assignments that Dr. Kalayjian had given the previous day were reviewed; journaling, breath work and disaster preparedness. The Meaningfulworld team felt appreciated and validated by the attendees’ active listening, thought provoking questions and expression of their points of view. In addition, the training for the day included: role plays, reinforcement of assertiveness, recognition of passive-aggressive behavior, what empathy means and looks like, empathetic listening, and a review of “Four Agreements” by Miguel Ruiz. The training also included discussion and lessons on how to set limits and boundaries in a peaceful manner. Attendees gave feedback, which included statements of gratitude for the 2 days of training as well as their hunger for more training and workshops from Meaningfulworld. It is important to note that almost 1/3 of participants were male, which is encouragingly higher than previous years.
Day six in Haiti was a great day because we had new team members of our Haiti chapter accompany us on our training for supervision and fieldwork. The new team members were extremely helpful and were able to observe, assist and debrief. We had the privilege to train coast guard police officers and several members of the police department. The coast guard and police officers expressed their sense of duty to protect and serve their fellow Haitians. In addition, they stated that they face trauma daily and want to learn ways to release their stress. Thankfully our training included strategies to release their fears of ongoing gang violence and political unrest, worry of the political and economic distress, and embarrassment due to cultural pressures of masculinity. Part of our training encouraged attendees to express their feelings in order to prevent buildup of emotions, which could lead to physical ailments, domestic violence and child abuse. Our training also included assistance in the transformation of generational trauma (colonization), collective trauma (earthquake and gang violence), as well as individual and vicarious trauma. The energy lightened during our training when we moved through the Soul-Surfing exercises and affirmations. The attendees all expressed feeling much more at peace, empowered and energized to make a difference. It was especially rewarding to have the chief of the Haitian Coast Guard express his gratitude and his support of the work Meaningfulworld offers and invited us to return.
Meaningfulworld Haiti Day seven included working with physicians, medical students, psychologists, social workers, teachers, communication specialists, media, nurses and educators! When discussing domestic violence, we were presented with an opportunity of an invigorating, emotional, and passionate debate about sexual abuse and rape! Dr. Kalayjian held her own with approximately 12 men of the 100 participants who expressed inflammatory comments about causes of rape! They insisted that it’s due to women’s provocative clothing; while women were furious, jumping and yelling to defend themselves and reinforced that even nuns and older women are raped. While the men continued to deny male responsibility for viscous attacks on women, Dr. Kalayjian encouraged them to change their rigid beliefs, invited them to think about women as they think about their own sisters and mothers. The program moved forward with discussion of managing emotions and encouraged people to express their feelings while using words. Many people expressed worry about the future (political and economic uncertainty) and shame (due to rampant gossip derived from horizontal violence). Dr. Kalayjian explained the importance of expressing oneself to prevent pent up emotions turning into anger and then increasing the risk of domestic violence and child abuse. The participants were receptive and engaged. During a short breathing exercise people expressed feeling relaxed and reported that it was their first time experiencing this peaceful practice. Many people approached our team after the training and shared their delight with the program. They had in fact never experienced a healing workshop such as ours!
As day seven continued, it proved to be a real eye-opener; we faced some challenging occurrences that Haitians deal with on a daily basis. Upon completion of our morning program, we were determined to go to Bonjour Timoun orphanage but were deterred by several time consuming and frustrating occurrences. The driver was stopped by the police and asked to provide the borrowed car’s registration and insurance papers, after a period of intense waiting, with a fine issued and paid, we were on our way again. We were then made aware that the car was extremely low on gas thus posing the next challenge; locating a station that was selling gasoline. Haiti was experiencing a gasoline crisis, due to its political alignment with USA and not Venezuela, where they were receiving gas previously. The gas prices were predicted to be increasing in the next couple of days so; stations were closed to hoard it for selling for higher profit later. Upon locating an open station with long lines, we struggled to keep place in line with several lines of cars aggressively merging to get to the pumps. As we waited for almost an hour, (even turning engine off) the car ran out of gasoline. Thankfully, the car was close enough to be pushed to the pump. As always, the people who jumped in to help to push had their hands out for money and the person pumping the gas tried to swindle us out of $10 worth of gas. The driver was watching closely however and spoke up, it reinforced that one must always be on guard. The traffic was horrendous, and a short distance took almost 3 hours. These are aggravating occurrences which challenge the Haitians daily, cause high frustration, and result in aggressive behavior. The kinds of challenges that wear people down and contribute to apathy and hopelessness. Our hope for Haiti is for peace, healing and love to prevail.
After the escapade of acquiring gasoline, we were disappointed that time would not allow for the visit to Bonjour Timoun. So, we went to our next appointment, Radio 98.5 FM for a dynamic conversation on the 1-hour live program “Go English Live.” At Meaningfulworld the goal is to strive to reach people directly and indirectly and with the radio interview over one million listeners were reached! The dynamic and charismatic hosts Phedre Delinois and Kenel Joseph invited us into a conversation with enthusiasm. The hosts posed questions on how to empower and educate the Haitian people to break the pattern of generational trauma and horizontal violence and the importance of talking with children about emotional intelligence and gang violence. Phedre was particularly interested in breaking a pattern of non-expression with his 87-year-old father. He admitted that he has had great communication with his 7-year-old son but still hadn’t been able to tell his father that he loves him. We could feel the hesitation and pain that Phedre had over this internal conflict that had been brewing for two years. During the live radio show our team encouraged him to express his feelings to his father and as he gained courage, he resolved to express his feelings to his father that night. The hosts were truly interested in gaining knowledge and did their research of Meaningfulworld, quoting Dr. Ani from a previous interview, “transforming our own traumas, discovering meaning, and using those new meanings and lessons as steppingstones for transcendence! From inner transcendence we feel empowered and help our family, community, Haiti and then the world.” It was decided to continue the urgent dialogue to transform Haiti to Empowerment and peace! In the evening we received a phone call from Phedre; the pattern was broken, he had expressed his feelings of love to his father and to his delight, his father responded with, “I love you too, son.” We were so excited that we were jumping up and down, hearts swelling with joy!
On the morning of day eight in Haiti we were welcomed and embraced by 62 young women and girls at the “Life Is Wealth” orphanage. Yves Lens Louis, the orphanage director is an enthusiastic man with a huge heart. We witnessed that all his interactions with orphans were filled with much patience and lots of love. Several people from the intensive training joined us at the orphanage to assist with translations and communication with the children. The first order of business was to feed the children, snacks we donated were basic: bread, bananas and water. Unfortunately, it is important to point out that the children are so malnourished that it is often difficult to estimate their age. Dr. Kalayjian worked with the older group of young women who were encouraged to express their feelings and were taught the “Four Agreements,” conflict transformation, and 7 steps for healing. The young women expressed feelings of jealousy and sadness and said they felt deprived. They stated that they want more clothing, to go to the sea, and to socialize more. We used that opportunity to encourage the girls to use the sewing machines to design and make one of a kind clothing, which served to spark their creative minds. Dr. Medina worked with girls that ranged from the ages of 11-14 and Lorraine worked with the youngest girls. Some of the children were very affectionate and showed their longing for attention and love while some were clingy, and some were standoffish which showed how desperate they were for affection. It was very heart-warming to see some of the girls proudly share their progress with their clothing designs and sewing skills, by showing off their clothing, which included skirts that they had created. The orphanage was appreciative to receive money that was so generously donated by Meaningfulworld sponsors. The funds will go toward purchasing another sewing machine and fabrics for the girls so they can continue learning and growing their skills.
The afternoon of day eight was especially meaningful because we were able to teach 30 children ranging from ages 5 to 12 at The Children’s Academy, an inspirational school in Petion-Ville. The children learned about emotional intelligence, grounding, meditation and breathe work. They were very engaged in the exercises taught and they said they felt really good afterwards. When looking at the managing your emotions chart, the children were very expressive and gave examples of what different feelings look like. In addition, they learned about the “Four Agreements.” The children found the exercises pertaining to the “Four Agreements” to be relatable and it inspired them to share their own real-life examples. The children gave feedback to their school’s administrator stating; they now know more about emotions and how to keep themselves feeling balanced. While the children were learning about emotions and ways to balance their bodies, their parents and teachers were learning about self-care, managing their emotions, transforming generational trauma and Horizontal Violence. While participants awaited our arrival, they watched a video about a young disabled man who has an inspiring passion and joy for life, this message was reinforced by Dr. Kalayjian as she asked people how they felt learning about this man’s story. They expressed that they too were inspired by his joy and positive attitude despite his disabilities. When discussing their feelings, many expressed that they worry about the future and as well as the past. We reinforced the concept of mindfulness and shared the mindfulness App, which could be downloaded for free on their phones. When asked how they view their purpose in life, many expressed that helping and serving god and others is most important. Generational trauma and horizontal violence were introduced as well as the concept of “The Crab in the Bucket.” The director of the Children’s Academy, Alex Myril is a special person who exudes joy for life, which is infectious and inspirational. The children, teachers and parents equally respect and adore Alex, he is a blessing to all who have the privilege to know him; an exemplary and compassionate leader.
While on mission, in addition to working with groups of people, we sometimes have an opportunity to work with individuals. Sadly, this year we were asked to meet with a 14-year-old girl who had been gang raped by 4 men (ages 19-21). We met with the young girl and her desperate but dedicated aunt. Regrettably, her story is one where the system has failed her, much like so many people who are left to fend for themselves in Haiti. Her relationship with her parents is extremely challenging, she is struggling with friends who are not trustworthy, she is feeling pulled by an older sister who leads her into dangerous situations, and she is feeling depressed and hopeless. The result is, she is making bad decisions for herself while putting herself at risk with drinking and going out with men much older than herself. We made it very clear however that she is not responsible for the horrible actions that these men made. They violated her and they alone are responsible. She presented as timid and slight in stature yet, she was willing to expose herself to us and hear what we had to say. We listened and empathized; we showed support and provided natural flower essence to help with the trauma and fear. We agreed with the aunt’s decision to take the young woman to the appropriate doctors for treatment and that her choice in seeking a therapist who uses EMDR was a wise decision. The aunt felt supported, uplifted and thus felt empowered and energized to continue to support her niece.
Meaningfulworld Haiti Day nine was a day dedicated to working with a few orphanages in Ganthier. With the help of intensive training participants, we were able to present a simultaneous training to staff, administrators, teachers, nurses and social workers. These people are the first line of professionals that the orphans interact with daily, which means our work with them makes it so very important. The children, ages 4-11 were very excited to work with us and were very welcoming and affectionate. They were hungry for knowledge and were engaged in our meditation and breath work exercises, which revolves around emotional balance. The 7-Step Integrative Healing model was emphasized for the importance of expression of feelings for health and well-being. The children and adults convened for a large group of Soul-Surfing exercises where the children added a wonderful dynamic of energy and love.
By the tenth and last day in Haiti, we had rallied over 35 people to attend a morning meeting of the Haiti Chapter before flying back to the USA. This show of support is encouraging and energizing for the few dedicated people who kept the chapter alive throughout the year. We expressed sincere gratitude to Pastor Rubinson Dorce, Kathleen Dorce, and Ms Valmond for holding the chapter together and for making the 14th mission to Haiti a success; with special gratitude to Donie Marie Saint-Louime for taking on the leadership of the local chapter.
During the 2019 mission we directly supported over 1,000 adults and children, and indirectly affected over a one million Haitians through several radio programs and several printed media sources. This year we worked very diligently to meet our ambitious goals and are confident that each goal was met:
- Participated in the annual CESSA Spirituality and Mental Health Post Disasters, International Conference chaired by Fr. Wismick, with a lecture and a workshop
- Taught a 3-day intensive training in Mindfulness, Emotional Intelligence, Forgiveness and Meaning-Making to professionals who will continue practicing after we returned
- Taught & supervised the practicum for intensive program on the 7-Step Integrative Healing Model
- Collaborated with the Minister of Education, and Minister of Health and Social Welfare to schedule a previously approved training with teachers and parents in northern Haiti; this goal was incomplete due to the upheaval in the government, and new ministers are not yet in position
- Provided refresher educational programs for the orphanages, police, coast guard, schools, and communities
- Taught the use of donated flower remedies (FesFlowers.com) and essential oils (Meaningfulworld.com) and discussed the importance of establishing “Peace and Forgiveness Gardens”
- Continued with the “Crab in the Bucket” campaign transforming Horizontal Violence
- Continued promoting “Ayiti se Lakay Mwen” campaign to bring awareness of environmental and ecological health, distributed banners to each organization
- Surveyed multi stake holders (about 300) regarding impact of Meaning-Making and Forgiveness on levels of stress and trauma
- Outreached to women’s protection centers, and made introductory information sharing
- Provided information on physical release and pain reduction through spiral techniques
- Reinforced our meaningful connections with all our previous collaborative partners and empowered and assisted the continued development of Meaningfulworld Haiti Chapter.
The good news is that the MeaningfulWorld Haiti Chapter is now formally registered as a local Haitian NGO with the Ministry of Justice in Haiti. Congratulations to all!
Reflecting on the mission, Dr Medina shared the following, “What a wonderful and transformative experience it has been going to work alongside Dr. Kalayjian and the rest of the Meaningfulworld team. Haiti has so much natural beauty and the people we met and worked with are truly inspirational. They are all eager to learn, grow and support each other in a country that is constantly reinventing itself for better or worse. The Meaningfulworld Chapter in Haiti is such a vital component in helping Haiti change for the better. It has been a true honor and privilege to work with Dr. Kalayjian she is a true inspiration. Her strength, courage, vitality, energy and tenacity are remarkable. I feel lucky to work and learn from her. Thank you!” Lorraine Simmons states, “The people of Haiti are dealing with extremely dire circumstances to survive, it’s a miracle that they are able to take care of themselves daily. I am privileged to work with a team of people in Haiti who are pushing through multiple challenges and have a dream for a safer, healthier, cleaner, and more peaceful Haiti. Thank you to the Haiti Chapter for your dedication, passion and vision.”
Our motto is: When one helps another, BOTH become stronger!
Founded in 1990, the Association for Trauma Outreach & Prevention (ATOP) Meaningfulworld, charitable organization affiliated with the United Nations Dept. of Public Information, has achieved international recognition as a leader in training humanitarian outreach professionals as well as responding to two and a half decades of global and local disasters. ATOP is committed to health, justice, peace, transformation and global education promoting state-of-the-art scientific theory on peace, forgiveness, consciousness research, internship, and the development of technical skills to train mental health professionals, teachers, psychologists, art therapists, nutritionists, alternative medicine practitioners, clergy, nurses, mediators, interfaith ministers, and lay persons committed to service the self and humanity. Meaningfulworld Humanitarian Outreach Teams have helped rehabilitate survivors from over 47 countries, and 25 states in USA making a daily difference in people’s lives helping to transform tragedy and trauma into healing and meaning-making through post trauma growth, resilience, emotional intelligence, mindfulness, mind-body-eco-spirit health, visionary leadership, empowerment, artful collaborations, establishing Peace & Forgiveness Gardens to create a new and Meaningfulworld view. We work locally and globally in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East, The Caucuses, Europe, and South and North America.