Haiti 2011 Outreach

Haiti 2011 Outreach

UF Haiti Outreach 2011 (photos in Quicktime movie format)

In the fall of 2010, former UF faculty member Dr. Cirecie West-Olatunji received a UF Faculty Enhancement Opportunity grant to augment understanding of post-disaster resilience and coping within a multicultural context.

To connect with knowledgeable scholars and representatives at non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Dr. West-Olatunji partnered with Project Teach: Haitian Institute for Studies in Education, From Gainesville With Love, the UF Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, and the UF Counselor Education program. Dr. West-Olatunji’s team of clinical professionals (that included one art educator) collaborated with community members to determine service needs and provide services informed by the needs of the community members. More importantly, the interventions used were drawn from local contexts.

The 12-day outreach trip occurred on July 16th – 28th, 2011 wherein the team members experienced clinical encounters in various settings, such as community agencies, neighborhoods, and institutional settings. These encounters served as a foundation for upcoming outreach trips that will involve extended engagement. Most importantly, the outreach experience provided participants with the opportunity to develop relationships with individuals while practicing culture-centered counseling.

Three objectives guided the 2011 Haiti Outreach trip. First, the team wanted to determine the disaster mental health needs of individuals and families in Port-au-Prince communities. Second, it was also vital to offer consultation to mental health professionals and outreach workers serving individuals experiencing primary and secondary effects of the 2010 earthquake. Third, the team was able to provide valuable direct clinical services in the form of individual, group, and family counseling, as well as art therapy, to community affected members.

This outreach trip was successful for a number of reasons. The team partnered with a local community agency to deliver 4 professional development workshops where they were able to exchange information with other mental health professionals, and non-profit agency representatives, such as the United Nations, USAID, and MADRE. They also provided private consultation with local psychologists, and assessed the mental health needs of the community.

As professional development experience, this initiative contributes to the education of students and professionals in a number of ways. Primarily, immersion experiences increase multicultural competence by providing a more accurate portrayal of individuals in affected communities. Additionally, outreach advances understanding about culture-centered disaster interventions. Finally, disaster outreach aids in comprehension about catastrophic disaster relief within a longitudinal context. The team’s blog is available for viewing at the following location: