Tales From Abroad: Port-au-Prince 2015 Oct02


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Tales From Abroad: Port-au-Prince 2015

photo (4) (1)I spent two months this summer in Port-au-Prince, Haiti while conducting research through the ACU social work department as we partnered with Haiti Mama, a nonprofit organization reuniting street children with their families. Specifically, my research project aimed to measure the effectiveness of the Assertive Community Rehabilitation model in increasing appropriate emotional and physical development of adolescent youth in Haiti. To do this, I evaluated levels of peer and parental (or caregiver) attachment and self-care practices of children who were homeless but had been reunified with their parents compared with children who are in orphanages. I used two surveys and a demographic sheet to acquire this data for a total of 16 orphanage children and 16 children who have been reunified with their families.

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In practical terms, I would either arrange to visit an orphanage for the day or meet with kids who have been reunified. To start off, I weighed each child and measured their height to later compare any BMI or physical differences. Then, with the assistance of my social worker, we verbally translated each question on the survey and the child used the Likert scale to choose their response. In total, each interview took about 30-45 minutes to complete.
There were several challenges that I faced while working on this project in Haiti. I very quickly learned that planning out my research process was going to involve a lot more “Plan B” approaches than “Plan A”.  First of all, there were a few transportation difficulties that we did not anticipate. Long story short, fixing a truck in Haiti can be a fairly complex, drawn-out process. During that time, my translator and I took public vans called tap-taps to different orphanages in the main part of Port-au-Prince. My entitled perspective quickly shifted when I discovered that the women who sell their produce and goods in the market each day wake up around 5am to walk ten miles to the market so they can get the best plot to sellphoto (6) their products in the streets. At that point, my frustrations with the broken truck situation became more trivial and I developed a respect for the barriers Haitians face transporting to work.
As cliché as it may sound, I grew up in a lot of ways I never expected to. For one thing, I can now say that I successfully navigated a country that is known as being the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. I quickly learned by experience how to greet people in Creole, top-up my phone by going to a man in a red Digicel bib on the street, what cultural barriers existed because I was a foreigner, how to loosely schedule interviews, and how to take showers using well water and a bucket. Not only did I have to adapt culturally, but I also had to teach myself to write an official letter photo (3) (1)to the Haitian government requesting their signature for a consent form and find a way to translate and print the letter on an ACU letterhead. In Haiti. From a spiritual standpoint, my reliance on God to protect me grew exponentially. I encountered many hurting people in Haiti, and letting my joy shine to others challenged my desire to blend in. There were several moments I remember thinking, “How did I ever think I could come to a country by myself to conduct research and survive for two months? Am I really strong enough to do this?” And I realized that I wasn’t strong enough. But God in me was strong photo (7)enough to help me not only survive but also thrive in whatever soil I found myself planted in. I am eternally thankful to have been able to conduct research, partner with Haiti Mama, and to grow as a student and as a person in Haiti.