Project Haiti
Collaborative Effort to Bring Therapeutic Yoga to Haiti

400 Farmers, 1 Medicine Man and My Mom

Today I received an email from Geri Benoit, the former First Lady of Haiti. She tells me that Haiti is not accustomed to yoga and it is not part of their culture. That it will have to be introduced wisely. This made me think of a story I heard lately and I wanted to share it with you all. It was told to me by my mother.

It was the summer of 1984. I had been an exchange student in England that year and was busy wrapping up my last three months stay. By that time, my communication with my family was sparse (remember, we had to hand write letters!) and I was busy making the most of the opportunity to drink “of age” for a while. Back in the states, my mother had taken a job as a public health nurse for 400 Haitian farm workers spread across five tomato farms. Her first order of business was to get every Haitian man, woman and child to register with her so that she could send the list to the local hospitals. In the event that any of the workers went to the emergency room, my mother would be contacted and told to find (insert name here) to administer medication, treatment or wound dressing. It was her job to make sure these people were followed up on and taken care of. My mother worked with a translator, and after each call from the emergency room she would find the translator and tell him, “I need to find so and so to give them medication” and she and the translator would walk from farm to farm, hut to hut and field to field asking if anyone had seen this person. Eventually she would find them and give them the treatment or medication that they needed. Sometimes this involved treating them right in the field as they picked tomatoes. According to my mother, they often didn’t want to stop working because the money they were making was for a family back in Haiti that they were supporting and they got paid by the yield.

One day my mother needed to find a woman who had come to the emergency room with stomach problems. She had to give her antibiotics. She enlisted the help of a translator and they eventually found the woman in her hut. She was lying on her bed, with a bowl of water at the foot of her bed. In the bowl of water was a large stone, and sitting next to the bed was the Medicine Man. My mother knew she could not just hand the pills to the Medicine Man and tell him to make sure this woman took the pills. She knew he would just throw them away. Worse still, he might start the round of medication without finishing the dose and that could lead to big problems. Through the translator my mother spoke to the Medicine Man.

“I am a healer. I see you are one too.”

he looked at her quizzically

“I don’t know how your medicine works but I am interested in learning. Can you please tell me how your medicine works?”

The Medicine Man told her that he did voodoo. He explained to my mother that in Haiti there was “good” voodoo and “bad” voodoo and that he used the good voodoo. He explained to my mother that the stone in the bowl was for removing the poison from the woman on the bed’s belly. He would rub water on this woman’s belly and then rub the stone. That was transferring the poison from the belly to the stone.

My mother sat and thoughtfully considered this. Then she spoke.

“That is good medicine. This woman is lucky that you have such effective medicine.”

The Medicine Man softened.

“Would you like to know how my medicine works?” my mother asked. The Medicine Man nodded.

“This bottle contains pills that the woman will swallow. One pill each 8 hours until they are all gone. These pills also take the poison from her belly but only if she finishes the bottle. If she doesn’t finish the bottle; taking one pill each 8 hours, the poison will come back into her belly.”

The Medicine Man considered this.

My mother said, “I’d like to learn more about your medicine. Can we work together so I can learn?” and he smiled and nodded. She really was interested and she was gaining his trust.

She then made a suggestion.

“Since I am a healer and you are a healer, can we use both our medicines with this woman? I think if we use both of our medicines she is sure to get well.” and he agreed.

That summer my mother and the Medicine Man worked together many times to help heal the Haitian farm workers. They worked together because they had established mutual trust and respect. My mother tells me that of all the jobs she has every worked, this was by far her most rewarding.

Yes, we have a healing modality to bring to Haiti. We must respect and take an interest in their culture and their lives. By barging into that woman’s hut and thrusting those pills on to this woman and the people caring for her, my mother would have sabotaged  any chance to help her. One again I see how wise my mother is.

I hope you enjoyed my story. More developments on Project Haiti coming soon. Visit our website at




One Response to “400 Farmers, 1 Medicine Man and My Mom”

  1. Very encouraging and with this type of open cooperation native healing could continue to help many people.
    I too have been involved with natural health care for many years-nearly forty both hands on and distance work.
    Keep on helping.

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