Despite living in what is termed the poorest country in the world, Haitians had expressed a desire to tell their personal stories in their own native language – Kreyole:
“Help us write what is on our minds.”
That was that plea that convinced me I should go. Traveling with a translator, our small team completed nine workshops in 16 days, reaching about 140 people in three provinces of Haiti. Throughout it all, I recorded my thoughts and photos on my blog, NatureofWords.com.
Studies prove that writing helps people discover meaning in their experiences, and thereby promotes self-esteem, well-being, health and healing.
By giving Haitians permission to write their thoughts, we were able to encourage the skills of reflection and observation. They learned their thoughts are important and their stories have significance.
The team feels this is just a beginning.
The experience taught me that we must re-evaluate how we help others, both afar and at home. The Haitians I met want to learn skills so they can improve their own communities. They were delighted for the chance to use their minds. Many of our North American solutions have little relevance within the Haitian culture and do nothing but encourage dependence upon foreign aid. By encouraging people in the process of creative thought, we give them skills to imagine their own solutions to the problems they face, using the assets they already possess. Then international aid funds can be put to more practical use by filling in the gaps.
“I thank Debbie in the name of the entire Haiti team for her courage and wisdom to come to Haiti to help us through this training. Our goal was for personal development through writing our stories. The participants were so happy, they have asked for (her) to return to do an even longer training so that they can learn how to help others, too.”
Ossé St. Juste
Director, Ambassadours Medicaux d’Haiti
“What makes me happy, is that even if I die, what I write here, people will come behind me, they can say this is what my Mother taught people….And another thing…at times, we have to get people to write things for us, but now I know that, more than just writing our own stories, we can write the stories of our country. This is just a taste and maybe there will be more beautiful things to come.”
“I say thank you, God, because if I had not come (here), it would have been a mistake. Starting tomorrow, I am going to fill all of these pages, and save them, so that they can see the stories, starting from the beginning. And I will continue to make my memory work still, so people around can see all of my history.”
“Thank you for this beautiful training. May we go home and write our stories so that our children’s children will know who we were and what we did on this earth.”
“Stories are not something that can ever end. You write all these things and read it together and it will encourage each other.”
“Mme Deborah, thank you for helping us to remember our thoughts. When we remember were we come from, we can enter another dimension. If you don’t remember where you come from you cannot have a future tomorrow.”
“It is not just money that makes us rich. It’s knowledge. You gave us a richness with knowledge.”
“I feel this is a training to help us discover our hidden talents.”
“Thank you for helping us write the knowledge that we have and to value it, because we have just used the ideas of other people and we know the stories of other countries, but I feel that we haven’t left an image for ourselves for the people who come after us.”