Project Haiti
Collaborative Effort to Bring Therapeutic Yoga to Haiti

Forget the Melting Pot..it’s more like a salad!

I’m happy to report that after a gazillion emails and some lovely phone calls yesterday things are starting to get more clear. The initial whirlwind around this idea was overwhelming and somewhat scattershot but in my experience you sometimes need to cast a wide net to see what you’re going to catch and only then can you plan, cook and enjoy your dinner. Now that the team has congealed somewhat, things are feeling a bit more focused and here’s the update. I spoke with Mark Lilly of Street Yoga (whom I adore and is one of the most sensible, articulate and wise people I know) and Steven Gross of Project Joy . I love what both these men as well as other minds on the team have to say.  As Mark put it: This project will be focused on using yoga and mindfulness to help build long-term resilient communities by fashioning part of our work on the Community Health Worker model, with yoga and other mindfulness practices as tools for individual and community self-care. This model will allow us to train people on the ground in Haiti who are already community leaders, people who can each train countless others, and whose impact can last for generations. This is exciting to all of us because we all feel that moving fast and furiously with a broad and heavy hitting approach and then leaving without having empowered the community to do this work themselves is accomplishing very little in the end, and in fact creating more chaos. It’s kind of like curing a headache with a gunshot to the head. It gets the job done but leaves a pretty nasty mess behind!

In my conversation with Steve, he had some fantastic advice and great things to say. Steve has spent a lot of time in devastated countries and communities, training the community leaders, caregivers, teachers to help the children of the community heal through play and movement. Steve has worked in the field of trauma for many years and has a real, unassuming and refreshing approach to working with any an all populations!  I love that he stressed flexibility. I know in my work with yogahope that you can have the most meticulously laid out plans, but once you get in there is a pretty good chance that you are going to have to tweek and change things around so that your are making the connections that you need to make! Often times you really don’t know what that’s going to be until you are in the work (this is the VERY thing I love about my work; the fact that the women I work with are the ones who shape the very work we do) As Mark said in an email “the tools we offer will be tailored to be locally appropriate” which means (as Steve stressed) maybe we don’t call it yoga. Maybe there is another way of framing what we are doing where the root of what we’re doing and the effect is the same, but the “packaging” is different. Steve is a smart man, who has worked around the globe and he’s right when he says “if the people of Haiti are not receptive to ‘yoga’ then we’re dead in the water.” We may need to get creative around how we present the idea to them. I am going to the concert on january 31st where there will be many local Haitian community members who have families in Haiti (and who are also dealing with devastation and loss of this earthquake). Information on this concert is at www.longwoodsymphony.org. I hope to meet some of these community members and get a better sense of what they might be receptive to. I hope Steve is able to join me at this event.

One other thing Steve mentioned that I absolutely loved. In his experience, cultural differences are not really an obstacle when you are connecting with people at a fundamentally human level. Laughter, love, sadness and joy are some of the elements we all share, whether we are Americans, Haitians, Africans or Palestinians (have you seen the film Promises? It’s such a heartbreaking testament to this notion. I recommend it..two thumbs up!). I experience this first hand with the women we work with at yogaHOPE and it’s what drives my passion. It’s not how I (or we) am different that allows me to reach people, it’s how we are the same.

Lastly, Steve (clearly, my new best friend) had this to say: “forget about the melting pot: we’re really a salad” and then he went on to explain. If we are going to truly collaborate, we need to honor the work that we each do, which we all do really well, and allow that to happen. Just like a salad, all the ingredients standing alone have their own deliciousness and value. Together they make something delicious and nutritious yet the integrity of the individual ingredients are all still there. Mark, Steve, David Emerson, and Jenn Cohen of Little Flower Yoga are all amazing at what they will shine in this project. One thing is certain: we all agree that focusing on community education and empowerment with an eye to long term sustainable programming driven by community leaders is crucial. Also, we’re taking the “plant the seed” approach. When the time is right we will use local contacts to determine on facility, (home, hospital, community center or whatever) s the best place to place our program and we will plant the seed. As they say, “give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he’ll eat forever”

Thank you for reading this blog. It’s an honor to share this process with all of you and to have a way to keep thing documented for myself and anyone else wanting to embark in similar projects. My children come back to me tomorrow so I’ll be quiet for a few days. I look forward to updating you again soon! Peace and Blessings..

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2 Responses to “Forget the Melting Pot..it’s more like a salad!”

  1. hi Sue,
    regarding “framing it” so that people can absorb and accept it, that skill will come over time, and by allying ourselves with locals.

    one benefit from serving caregivers enduring secondary trauma is that we likely have an audience more culturally similar to us. we can jump right in with staff while we learn and connect on the ground.
    🙂
    m


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