“Live with the knowing that you are priceless. That you are lovely. That you are a delight. That you are a light. Live with the knowing that you are irreplaceable.” -Kayil Crow
“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” -Steve Jobs
“A great pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.” -Walter Bagehot
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.
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.
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.
On Thursday afternoon, we had our second workshop with Líderes Escolares from three different schools. 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. It was truly incredible to see so many adolescents participate in todays workshop, especially given the intensity of the topics we discussed.
Many of the adolescents mentioned knowing someone with a mental illness and/or knowing someone who has contemplated or attempted suicide. As I mentioned before, seeing so many young individuals take the initiative to learn about mental health in general and ways to help others as leaders in their schools has been, and continues to be refreshing and inspiring.
Following the workshop, we made sure to enjoy the sunset once again, before having a Cena Familiar at a local pizza restaurant with everyone from the program, seeing as it was my last night in the program, as well as the last night of a few other students as well. On our way back to the house, we stopped for picarones (the delicious fried dessert that one could only dream of.) After dinner, we played cards to officially end our last night in Huanchaco.
This afternoon, we participated in Trujillo’s Marcha por el Orgullo LGTBI (Lesbianas, gays, trans, bisexuales e intersexuales) in honor of Día Internacional del Orgullo Gay. The energy and feeling of overall love and acceptance at the march was truly beautiful and inspiring. Same sex marriage in Peru is still not legal, and alongside women and persons with disabilities, members of the LGTBI community are one of the most mistreated collective groups of individuals in the country.
One of the many posters that stood out to me was, “Porque mis amigos no pueden tener los mismos derechos que yo?,” which translates to “Why can’t my friends have the same rights as me?” Another meaningful poster that caught my attention was “Mi amor no es el problema. Tu odio, si,” which translates to, “My love is not the problem. Your hate is.” The parade was filled with members of the younger generation, and every so often, you could see an adult with a small child on their back carrying a pride flag alongside a trans pride flag.
The organizers of the march hosted a talent show afterwards, which showcased incredible local talent of children, adolescents, and adults—all of whom united as one for this important cause. A man and his mother attended the march and show together, and were asked to come on stage so that the mother could share her message of love and support to all of the children in the audience. One performer professed her love to her partner, and dedicated a song to her. One teenager in particular sang a song titled, “A quién le importa” by Thalía, and the impactful words really resonated on this powerful day. Part of the song (and a rough translation) can be found below.
Me apuntan con el dedo; They point to me with their fingers
Susurra a mis espaldas; They whisper behind my back
Y a mi me importa un bledo; And I couldn’t care less
Que mas me da; What more can I give
Si soy distinta a ellos; Yes, I am different from them
No soy de nadie; I do not belong to anyone
No tengo dueño; I do not have an owner
Me consta que me odian; I know they hate me
La envidia les corroe; Their envy corrodes
Mi vida les agobia; My life overwhelms them
Porque sera; Because it will be
Yo no tengo la culpa; It is not my fault
Mi circunstancia les insulta; My circumstances insult them
El que yo elijo para mi; It’s what I choose for me
A quien le importa lo que yo diga?; To whom is it important what I say?
Yo soy así, y así seguiré, nunca cambiare; I am like this, and so I will continue. I will never change
A quien le importa lo que yo haga?; To whom is it important what I do?
A quien le importa lo que yo diga?; To whom is it important what I say?
Yo soy así, y así seguiré, nunca cambiare; I am like this, and so I will continue. I will never change.
As we marched As we marched by a church, we received nothing but harsh stares and glances from church-goers. By the time we made our way back to the church on our second lap of the plaza, one church-goer grabbed a pride flag and waved it back and forth. Love and acceptance isn’t as hard as so many people make it out to be, and as one person yesterday mentioned, “Una no necesita ser gay para apoyar la unión civil, solo ser humano,” or “You don’t have to be gay to support civil union. You just have to be human.” And as Mother Teresa stated, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”
No matter how unfair the laws may be or the maltreatment that so many experience on a daily basis due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, the march continues, and it is one of pride because everyone should be proud of who they are. And if society could only find a way to embrace acceptance, the world would truly be a better and more loving place for all.