TFT Trauma Training for Survivors of Haiti Earthquake

TFT trauma relief for Haiti

UPdate Magazine, Issue 16, Autumn 2010

Haiti 2010: TFT Mission to Haiti

By Phyllis Robson, TFT-Adv, and Howard Robson, MD, TFT-Algo

When we heard of the disastrous earthquake that struck Haiti on 12th January 2010, we immediately thought that TFT would have much to offer to the traumatised population following the initial rescue and emergency interventions.

Haiti has a troubled history; It was occupied by European colonists. The native population died out and African slaves were used to replace them.

Plantations and logging provided great economic benefit for the colo­nists, but at a critical cost to later generations of Haitians. Deforestation caused soil erosion and mudslides. Despite achieving independence over 200 years ago, the country has been marred by violence, instability, poverty and corruption. There is a lack of infrastructure and a susceptibility to hurricanes.

When the opportunity to visit Haiti came later in the year, on behalf of the ATFTFoundation, we were in a position to volunteer. We were to be part of a mission led by Dr. Jean-Murat Carolle (Angels for Haiti), which was part of a larger medical mission led by Dr Charles René.

We immediately thereafter began collecting supplies for the visit, especially as part of the project was to enable the children to express themselves through arts. These supplies included pens, paints, brushes, books and paper, as well as some medical and dental supplies and toiletries.

We were particularly grateful for the help of our dentist and family and friends. We were also grateful for the provision of the TFT algorithm manual in French from Suzanne Connolly, which we modified slightly for the local requirements, and printed sufficient copies for our expected training sessions. We managed to obtain a reasonable rate from the airlines for our considerable luggage excess.

Essential to visiting a country such as Haiti is to understand the local culture and attend to personal safety and health (vaccinations and anti-malarial drugs). We attended to these issues as much as possible, to maximise our contribution to the mission and not be a burden.

We left home in the early hours of 1st July, 2010, via Newcastle, London, Miami and Port-au Prince for La Vallee de Jacmel in Haiti. La Vallee is a mountain village serving a rural population in southern Haiti, 11 miles from the coastal city of Jacmel. The primary occupation is farming; there is economic hardship, and lack of resources and infrastructure.

Although some distance from the epi-centre of the earthquake, there had been ten deaths within the region of La Vallee Jacmel which also had suffered considerable structural damage. The experience of the earthquake and after-shocks had affected many local people. There had also been an influx of people from more affected areas. These people had lost homes, posses­sions and whole families.

International arrivals in Port-au-Prince were welcomed on leaving the aircraft by local musicians, which typified the welcome we received throughout the country. Due to structural damage, an old hangar served as the arrivals hall. Views of Port-au-Prince on landing and subsequent take-off, and whilst transferring to our domestic flight, gave us our first glimpse of life in Haiti. We especially noticed the notable number of amputees without prostheses.

We met some other members of the team for the first time whilst in the airports, and met others at the hotel in La Vallee. Our first TFT client was at the domestic terminal in Port-au-Prince. A young team member suffered from nausea due to travelling and the oppressive heat; following TFT she completely recovered and completed the rest of the journey uneventfully. A short flight took us to Jacmel, and thence by road to La Vallee. The 11-mile journey took an hour and a half due to the poor condition of the unpaved mountain road.

No formal training had been planned for the weekend of our arrival, so we joined some members of our group visiting local schools, to meet the children and review their art projects. Our group included a lecturer in art and Ally, who at ten years old, was a United Nations “Art Miles Mural Project and Shoes of Hope Ambassador”.

During the weekend however, we offered the team an opportunity to learn something about our work with TFT, and encouraged them to treat any anxieties that they might have. This program was so popular that two nurses, a doctor and an artist, attended our subsequent two-day algorithm training.

The formal TFT training took place as a two-day course commencing on the Monday at a training centre in the countryside some distance from our accommodation. The building was an unfinished concrete shell, but at least it had a roof. Thirty-two people attended training, including the four members of our team.

The local trainees were mostly professionals (teachers, nurses, community leaders and medical and nursing students). Many travelled for several hours by foot or motorcycle to attend, some from as far as Port-au-Prince, although none stayed overnight. Beverages were available during training and a hot lunch provided each day. Each participant was provided with a training manual.

Although we were often able to communicate with a mixture of French and English, Haitian Creole was the local language, and a Creole speaking interpreter (Dr Carolle) was essential. Phyll was lead trainer for the attentive and enthusiastic group. Certificates of attendance were distributed at the end of training.

On subsequent days, we attended the hospital in La Vallee, a fifteen-minute walk from our accommodation, with the medical, surgical and paediatric team. Howard undertook medical clinics and calibrated basic equipment. With the lack of interpreters and drugs, TFT was particularly valuable, especially for treating palpitations, anxiety and pain.

The trainees were invited to attend the hospital with Phyll, to experience supervised practice treating local people and staff suffering from a variety of problems, including pain, anxiety, anger, frustration and traumatic stress.

Most of them harboured fears of dying should there be another earthquake, and a fear of living in their home. Quite a few had lost some or all of their family members.

The trainees who attended the hospital demonstrated enthusiasm and the pleasure of experiencing the power of TFT for the first time. Dr Carolle has subsequently obtained testimony from some of the trainees and clients, attesting to the benefit of the training to themselves and the communities they serve.

We travelled home by the same route as we came. TFT treatment continued right up to departure from Jacmel airstrip. We arrived home on the 13th July. The weather had been kind to us during our visit, enabling us to have the good fortune to appreciate the beauty of a country, largely unknown to the rest of the world.

We are also enriched by the great friendliness and resilience of the people of Haiti, and our thoughts remain with them. A large number of physical and mental problems consequent to the earthquake remain, compounded by the continued poor governance, lack of infrastructure, hurricanes, and now severe water-born infections. Meanwhile, the International community interest turns to fresh crises elsewhere.

Acknowledgements: We are grateful to all who supported us, especially the people of Haiti who welcomed us; Suzanne Connolly for the French version of the algorithm training manual; Dr Jean-Murat Carolle for inviting and supporting us; Beate Berman-Enn for assisting with translation during training and supervision; Guy Marriott and Anisa Toscano for supplying contact details and security advice; Joanne Callahan for support and encouragement.

A letter from Dr. Carolle sent September 20, 2010:

Dear Joanne,

Once again, please receive my heartfelt thanks from me as well as those who were trained in the TFT techniques, those who have received and continue to receive such invaluable tool to help them mitigate their suffering following the earthquake.

I finally had a chance to post something on the Angels for Haiti blog. Here is the link Haiti Trip. Here is what I said about our experience with TFT:

The ATFT Foundation (charitable arm of the Association for Thought Field Therapy) provided a generous grant and the gracious help of a husband and wife team Dr. Howard and

Nurse Phyll Robson, both TFT trainers from England. We provided a 3-day training involving 30 Haitian teachers, nurses, community leaders, medical and nursing students, from as far as Port-au-Prince. The training not only helped them personally but also gave them the opportunity to help relieve the trauma of as many earthquake survivors as possible. Even more importantly, trainees learned techniques on how to relieve pain, which would be beneficial in an area when medical personnel and pain relief medications are scarcely available.

I have talked to some of the attendees in Haiti for these past few days. Here is what they had to say:

“In a culture where a mental illness is frowned upon, the TFT training gave us a new perspective on how we humans work. This tool is a lifetime gift. Many of us now see our fellow human being in a different light.”

“After taking the training, it has helped me improve my communication with those I serve.”

“After losing everything including my home, family members, and everything I worked for, participating in the TFT training gave me a new lease on life. I am now a healthy citizen who is using the tools I have learned to help those who were suffering just like me.”

“As a teacher, I use these techniques with my students; their attention span in the classroom has greatly improved.”

“It was such a great gift that we received from the Robsons – who taught from the heart.”

Many community leaders also asked me to convey their heartfelt thanks to the TFT team. Please feel free to use my name and any of the quotes.

With Love and Gratitude,

Dr. Carolle

Jean-Murat Carolle, M.D.

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A letter from Dr. Carolle sent November 15, 2010:

Dear Joanne:

As you may have heard, hurricane Thomas hit Haiti Friday before last. Unfortunately, the county of La Vallee de Jacmel – where the training took place located at 3,000 feet above sea level was in his path.

The high winds wiped out most of the agricultural crop and brought down many homes that were previously damaged by the earthquake.

I just got a phone call letting me know that many of the rescue volunteers were those who attended the TFT training. They were mentally strong to rise up to the occasion.

Without the training, a second blow could have been deadlier.

Thanks again to you, your organization, and the Robsons.

With love and gratitude,

Dr. Carolle

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