Post-quake psychosocial support took this girl's sadness away

News and Press Release
Originally published

April 6, 2011

Guirlène*, 15 years old, is the eldest of three boys and two girls. Her mother is a merchant and her father is a builder. She has been attending the Nationale Ecole de Beudet in the Croix-des-Bouquets district for four years now. She says it takes her two hours to get to school every day from her home, walking on foot, but nonetheless she enjoys attending.

"They teach you a lot here," she says, smiling. "And in the morning the director does a lot of training with us—he helps us out a lot. He also gives us advice."

Guirlène remembers the day of the earthquake vividly. She said she knew it was an earthquake because her teacher had already taught her what an earthquake was in class. "When it happened, I yelled out 'it's an earthquake' and ran out of the house. I hit a car and was wounded on my side."

After the earthquake, Guirlène says she was very afraid and very nervous to go inside houses. And she also felt guilty for having left her baby brother inside the house when she ran out of the house. "I felt bad for leaving him," she says now, but luckily, her brother, her family and her home all were safe.

After returning to school in April of 2010, thanks to the interventions of Plan, teachers held talking sessions to help the students to cope with the after-effects of the earthquake. Guirlène says: "The week we came back, we didn't have regular classes. The teachers conducted activities to help us take away the sadness from our hearts."

One of the teachers who conducted the post-earthquake psychosocial support activities for Guirlène and her classmates was Madame Suze. Madame Suze attended a special training supported by Plan. Madame Suze says: "The trainers made us aware of how to explain the new words to the children that had entered their vocabulary after the earthquake, such as Goudou-Goudou (Creole name for earthquake) and Tsunami."

In addition to alleviating emotional trauma, the training that Madame Suze and the other teachers in the Croix-des-Bouquets community received from Plan helped the children know the proper procedures during a natural disaster, such as where to go if they are inside a concrete house, or whether to run out or take refuge, so that the children would feel more prepared for the unexpected.

Guirlène says: "The teachers explained to us that it was a natural disaster and that if we don't have time to leave the house, we should stand under a doorway or under a bed."

"After training and doing the psychosocial activities with the children, I think they are much more aware about how to react during an earthquake," says Madame Suze. "When a disaster happens everyone panics—even if people know what to do, they might not react that way because of emotions, which we cannot forget. But the children are definitely more prepared now than they were before the earthquake. We would have less damage if another disaster happened."

If another earthquake were to happen, Guirlène now says that she would use the training she received in school to properly escort herself and her younger siblings to safety as to avoid further human tragedy.

In the meantime, Guirlène likes to study in her free time and when she gets home she cooks for her younger siblings. On the weekends she plays with her friends, jumps rope and plays tag. When she's older, Guirlène says she would like to study in the United States to become a doctor. She says that when she was younger, after getting vaccinated she realized that she had to become a doctor so that she could one day help others be healthy.

*Name has been changed for protection.

Learn more about Plan's work in Haiti: http://www.planusa.org/contentmgr/showdetails.php/id/88397