ATLANTA(ABP) — Six months after the earthquake that devastated Haiti, a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship-funded team of students with Haitian ties and faculty members from Mercer University is seeking to help the country recover from its deep psychological wounds.
The team, which was scheduled to depart for the stricken Caribbean nation late on July 12, will help train teachers and pastors through a series of courses aimed at combating psychological trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder and preparing schools for future disasters.
The courses will help victims of the Jan. 12 earthquake that leveled much of the region around Haiti’s capital and largest city, Port-au-Prince, and left more than 300,000 people dead while injuring thousands more.
CBF has funded a $30,000 grant to Mercer’s counseling department to develop and implement training programs for Haitians. The Mercer team is led by David Lane, coordinator of the counseling program and professor of counseling, and Kenyon Knapp, assistant dean for graduate programs and associate professor of counseling.
The team will also include three Mercer students of Haitian descent. Two are from the Baptist school’s Atlanta campus: Bloodine Bobb-Semple, an incoming counseling Ph.D. student whose parents are Haitian; and Rose Donatien, a Haiti native and 2010 graduate. It will also include Olivier Clermont, who is working on a master’s degree in public health at Mercer’s main campus in Macon, Ga. A Haitian native, Clermont is serving as the team’s translator.
“It’s an honor to do a project of this scope, with the potential to impact this many lives,” Lane said. “We’re eternally grateful to the CBF and Mercer On Mission for helping us to do it.”
On July 14 the group will teach 120 pastors from the Haitian Baptist Convention to lead their congregations through small-group sessions to help them cope with less-severe cases of psychological trauma. The pastors will also learn to spot serious cases of post-traumatic-stress disorder and how to refer the sufferers for further help.
On July 19, the team will travel to the provincial capital of Jeremie for a conference of teachers, where they will train 150 teachers from four of Haiti’s western provinces in ways to develop and implement disaster plans for their schools. Then, July 20-24, the teams will hold a series of courses for another group of teachers to train them as trainers.
The group will learn how to train their peers to lead activities in their classrooms to help students deal with non-clinical levels of psychological trauma and to learn the signs of PTSD and how to refer those students to clinicians. Lane expects those 120 teachers to train another 3,000.
The group is scheduled to return to Georgia July 25.
In May, Lane and Reid Doster, a CBF representative, visited Haiti to assess the needs in the area. The two began with a goal of providing counseling training to 15 people, but soon were engaged in partnerships to train many hundreds more. After Lane returned from the assessment trip, he and Knapp developed curricula for each training course and for the new trainers to implement, Knapp said.
The team will also return in October to train two more Haitian groups in similar fashion and will travel to Haiti again in January for follow-ups and assessments, Lane said.
In March Mercer chapel dean Craig McMahan, who coordinates the Mercer On Mission program, traveled to Haiti with CBF officials to lay the groundwork for two Mercer delegations — this trip and a separate group that is providing Mercer-designed medical prostheses to the team. The prosthetics group will also return to Haiti in the fall, McMahan said.
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