Hope Makes One Live

While blog readers across the country and bored Facebook scrollers have had a few months vacation of not having to read my posts, I figured today of all days is an important day to temporarily halt the hiatus and offer up a few words.

The past few months have been an incredible whirlwind, to say the least, and I’m so fortunate for the experiences I have been able to have. Moving back to Peru to gain more clinical experience and returning to Guatemala to serve the beautiful people of Sumpango were without a doubt among the highlights, but tonight’s focus is on Haiti.

Last month, I was lucky enough to have worked alongside an incredible group of mental health professionals in Croix des Bouquets with Global Trauma Research—an organization whose meaningful and impactful work goes beyond limits. While in Haiti, we had the opportunity to work with medical providers, teachers, lawyers, and both religious and community leaders—all of whom had one goal: learn more about mental health and find ways to provide sustainable mental health care in their community.

While I’ll go into details about the trip later on, I want to bring to light the fact that Haiti suffered a catastrophic earthquake on this day eight years ago that devastated the lives of so many. One and a half million people were displaced, between 200,000-300,000 people were killed, and hundreds of thousands were left injured. While we read about natural disasters that take place across the globe on a frequent basis, it’s important to note the horrendous tragedy that struck this truly beautiful country as we remember those who were lost eight years ago. 

On this day of remembering the tragedy that struck the people of Haiti eight years ago, we must also be cognizant of the fact that the people of Haiti have been mistreated, exploited, and neglected (putting it lightly), not only by their own government, but by many across the globe as well. However unjust the treatment towards Haiti has been, the people of Haiti have an inspiring, unwavering strength, and (amongst many other attractions,) that, in and of itself makes this country a beautiful one.

While I have yet to learn Haitian Creole, I did learn the saying “Lespwa fè viv,” or “Hope makes one live.” Through all the adversity and challenges they have faced, the Haitian people have persevered time and time again. I saw firsthand how the people of Haiti continue to push forward with hope for a brighter tomorrow, and having worked alongside such inspiring leaders in the community while abroad, I truly believe that this brighter tomorrow is most definitely a possibility.

Global Trauma Research offered the following words of support and encouragement on this eighth anniversary of the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010: http://mailchi.mp/a50121b84e76/gtr-fall-17-newsletter-317931
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PASEO Program Adventure—Day 56: Trujillo Alto, Huanchaco, y Lima, Peru

On Friday morning, we hosted another workshop with a different group of Líderes Escolares. Similar to what I mentioned in yesterday’s post, today’s workshop focused on mental health, including psychoeducation regarding the difference between sadness and depression, the difference between stress and anxiety, how to spot signs of suicidality, and resources that the students can use in the case that a peer is experiencing any of the aforementioned topics.

The students who participated in today’s workshop were younger than most of the other students we worked with thus far, but their interest and participation in such serious topics was great to see. Following the workshop, one of the students stood up and thanked us for the work we have been doing in Peru, and for the information and support we have provided the Líderes Escolares with. You can never know if you are making a difference in the surrounding community, and even though we still don’t know whether or not we have been and are making a difference, it was truly rewarding to hear such young students thanking us for working with them. After working with such inspiring, young leaders, one can’t help but feel a great sense of hope for the future.

After our workshop, some of the social workers we have been working with took us out for a delicious lunch, consisting of ceviche mixto and chicharron de pescado. As soon as we finished lunch, I had to get back to Huanchaco for my last Spanish grammar class.

Once our class ended, another student and I ran over to facilitate our last group with adolescent males that I spoke about throughout the past few weeks. Today’s group focused on support systems and evaluating the different types of support we each have in our lives (including practical support, social support, emotional support, and advice-based support). This activity helps you realize the types of support you may or may not have, which is useful in thinking about who one’s main confidants may be. We then focused on TIPP, which I wrote about on Monday.

During times of crises, TIPP is a useful tool that one can utilize to take a step back from the crisis to de-escalate the situation. TIPP can be used when one is about to engage in dangerous behaviors during a crisis, when an individual needs to make an important decision, but is too overwhelmed to think/make a decision, the individual is not processing information effectively, the individual is emotionally overwhelmed, and/or the individual isn’t able to use his/her abilities. TIPP stands for Temperature, Intense Exercise, Paced Breathing, and Paired Muscle Relaxation—all of which are techniques one can utilize during a time of crisis. As we finished the session, we celebrated our time together and the group members’ participation throughout the past few weeks with a chocolate cake.

Following the group, we ran over to the beach to watch the sunset one last time, before having to leave Huanchaco later that evening. After enjoying the sunset, some of the other students and I went for dinner, and returned back to our house to pack, before leaving for the airport. Since I won’t be returning to the States until Tuesday, I took a cab to San Isidro (where I will be staying for the next few days) once I arrived in Lima at around midnight. 

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PASEO Program Adventure—Days 43 and 44: Huaraz, Peru

Since the altitude in Huaraz is more than 3,000 meters (over 9,800 feet) above sea level, Saturday was spent taking it easy and trying to acclimate to the change in altitude. 

On Sunday morning, we stopped by the Museo Arquelógico de Ancash- Huaraz, where we saw beautiful art from a famous Peruvian painter, in addition to artifacts that are centuries old. After walking through the museum, we stopped by the city’s Plaza de Armas and strolled through the city. We returned to our hostel shortly after to get a good night’s sleep, since we had plans to tour Laguna Llanganuco first thing in the morning (as in 5:00am). 

What I failed to mention in yesterday’s post is that after arriving to Huaraz, eating dinner, and watching the concert in the Plaza de Armas Friday night, I spent the entire night learning about the effects of altitude sickness. (Now that I’m a few days ahead writing about my experiences a few days ago, I don’t have to worry about my mother and grandmother sending over a team of doctors to check up on me.) While I can’t exactly say I was grateful for the opportunity to gain such firsthand knowledge, the effects of altitude sickness are much more inexpensive than a colonoscopy or endoscopy, but probably just as effective in cleaning out one’s system. So, at least there’s that. 

Tomorrow’s hike will entail more than four miles of trekking through both flat and mountainous terrain, with the highest peak (at least that we’ll reach) being 15,000 feet above sea level. Before I scare myself out of going on this trek by writing more about the terrifying details, I’ll leave it at that and say here’s hoping for the best. 

PASEO Program Adventure—Day 36: El Porvenir, Peru

Today (last Saturday), we hosted our first workshop with three groups of Líderes Escolares from three different schools in El Porvenir. As previously mentioned, los Líderes Escolares are a group of student leaders in each grade (chosen by various teachers and faculty members) from each school that receive workshops and leadership training events, with the goal of motivating and inspiring their peers—all while gaining the knowledge and support to make a difference in their schools and community.

We will be hosting two workshops with each group (with student leaders from three schools in each group), with the focus of changes in adolescence and psychoeducation regarding anger, aggression, sadness, and depression. Following the first workshop, we’ll host a final workshop with each group with the focus of empowering the student leaders to share everything they learned with their peers, and also how to spot signs of anger, sadness, depression, and suicide, in addition to how they can refer students to necessary resources, should someone be in need of help. It was a blast being able to work alongside the Líderes Escolares this morning, especially because when you see such a drive amongst young individuals, it brings about a refreshing sense of hope and change for the future.

Snapshot Challenge Saturday

In the face of numerous tragedies such as those that recently occurred in France, Lebanon, and Egypt, it is difficult to post a weekly picture that shows something beautiful when so many are suffering. However, as unfortunate as this may be, it is in times of need and in times of despair in which people from all over the world come together as one. There is nothing more beautiful than uniting as one, as this is what must be done if we are to begin looking towards the future. Seeing so many people come together to support those affected in recent days is truly incredible, but there is still much work to be done.

We must find a way to allow unity to prevail—not just in times of need, but each and every day. This is most definitely a step in the right direction though, as the sight of the world uniting for those in need is truly incredible. As Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” This snapshot challenge is dedicated to those who were killed in the aforementioned attacks as well as loved ones affected by the devastation. It is also dedicated to a strong sense of hope that together, we can ensure a safe and bright future for all.

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In the Face of Abuse

On the medical mission trip I attended this past summer to Guatemala, a young girl in her early 20’s asked if she could speak with someone. One of the volunteers asked me to go over and talk to her, so I sat down alongside her and began conversing. She explained that her uncle had recently passed away from alcoholism and his death had left her distraught because he left behind his wife and young children. His wife is not able to work since her children are so young, so his family was left hungry and without any money. This resulting effect had left the young woman in a state of depression, and she could not stop thinking about her uncle’s passing and what would happen to his family.

Upon inquiring more into her background, I learned that this young woman is married with a newborn. She and her husband live with her parents, but the issue at hand though, is that her husband has been physically abusive by consistently beating her. When her husband wasn’t abusing her, both of her parents would take turns beating her, and if she experiencing such severe mistreatment from either of her “loved ones,” her mother-in-law would verbally abuse her and put her down at any given moment.

While many young adults in the United States are in college and finding themselves at such a young age, this young woman was being abused by everyone in her immediate family. Regardless of the awful situation she was facing, she was still concerned about her uncle’s family and what would happen to his children and wife. Through her way of speaking and her mannerisms, you could tell that this young woman was such a strong, resilient, and caring individual. Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible to interfere with her situation at home, because upon leaving our medical mission, the situation could intensify and we wouldn’t be able to do anything about it back in the States. However, for the first time ever, this young woman was able to open up about her life behind closed doors.

While the concept of not actually being able to help her situation at home was painful for me to accept, together, we discussed what an incredible mother she has been and what an incredible mother she will continue to be. She alone will break the cycle of abuse when it comes to her child, and she will teach her child the right way to treat others. We were able to collect numerous nutritional pediatric drinks for both her baby and her uncle’s children.

Such stories are more common than we would like to imagine, which is why we must do everything we can to help prevent abuse and domestic violence here at home and wherever possible. No one should have to experience any form of mistreatment by others, and if we could come together to make this a point across the globe, so many lives would be saved and improved. But in the meantime, somewhere out there is a brave young mother tolerating awful abuse by her “loved ones,” but still continuing to care for her newborn baby and young, hungry cousins.

I will not be posting a picture of this young woman, but instead, I decided to post a picture of a sunset during the mission. Although the nights may be dark, a sunrise will always follow. Therefore, there is always hope for a better and brighter tomorrow.

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