We sent a team of therapists (Guerry, Elsebeth, Collette, Leslie and Cindy) to Haiti at the end of June to train interns there in Play Therapy and EMDR. These interns will be giving ongoing therapy to children in two orphanages, La’ Maison and Foyer de Sion, and one school, Haitian Roots Academy. The children who attend this school live with their families, but need financial support to pay for their education. There are no free, public schools in Haiti and most families cannot afford to pay tuition for more than one of their children, if that. All of these children have experienced trauma and can benefit from therapeutic support.
Collette and Elsebeth were thrilled with the response to the play therapy training, and it was evident quickly that some of it is basic enough that the caregivers could really benefit from much of the same material. The points made on child development and interaction with children to create a strong and lasting trust relationship were fairly new concepts to the Haitian population, according to the interns. They were very engaged and attentive as we talked about children not being miniature adults, that they are unique and worthy of respect, and that their natural language is play. They are eager to teach these concepts to the caregivers as well.
The children, delightfully, responded in what appeared to be the very same way the children react at our center. Truly, play reaches across culture. It was remarkable to see the children settle into a state of wonder and calm as they each approached the toys in the room. Most of them were very quiet and focused. When were started the session out properly with the 5 rules of the playroom, they ended well and left happy with their piece of candy.
Leslie and Cindy conducted group instruction on self-regulation and widening the window of tolerance. The children were eager to participate and all joined in the activities. We saw a willingness to learn and a desire to connect in all the venues that we visited.
We plan to conduct supervision effectively over the internet for a time. “Knowledge is power” and we’ve begun to add to the knowledge base for these folks to help them refine their ability to do relationships, learning to relax into a relationship of trust with the children and each other. Those on the intern team already have great strengths in practicing “reciprocal nurturing relationships.” Building on this strength and extending it to their work with the children is one of the biggest contributions we may make. We also plan to add a fuller understanding of child and personality development principles, hoping to change a few cultural patterns that promote insecure attachments.