This summer, four teams of Mercerians traveled to Haiti to help its citizens recover from the devastating earthquake that struck the country on Jan. 12. The earthquake crippled the country, killing more than 300,000 people and injuring thousands more. A team of Mercer faculty and students from the counseling program of the College of Continuing and Professional Studies spent two weeks working with pastors and teachers on trauma counseling and disaster preparedness, and a Mercer medical student led team conducted health clinics at several orphanages in Haiti. In addition, Baptist Collegiate Ministries led two trips to the country to minister to children there.
The Mercer team was led by Dr. David Lane, counseling program coordinator and professor of counseling, and Dr. Kenyon Knapp, assistant dean for graduate programs and associate professor of counseling. The team also included three Mercerians of Haitian descent, two from Atlanta: Bloodine Bobb-Semple, an incoming counseling Ph.D. student whose parents are Haitian, Rose Donatien, a Haitian native and 2010 human services graduate, and a student from Mercer’s Macon campus, Olivier Clermont, a Master of Public Health student and Haitian native who will serve as a translator.
“We were there to train people, but we were also able to help those we trained,” Dr. Lane said. “As we worked through our trauma demonstrations, the stories we heard just blew us away. It really seemed to help them and also appeared to show that our model worked.”
The CCPS team’s trip was funded by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and traveled to Haiti from July 12 to 24 to teachers and pastors through a series of courses aimed at combating psychological trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder and preparing schools for future disasters.
The group taught 120 pastors from the Haitian Baptist Convention to lead their congregations through small-group sessions to help them cope with less severe cases of psychological trauma. The pastors also learned to spot post-traumatic stress disorder cases and refer the sufferers for help. The team also traveled to the city of Jeremie for a conference of teachers, and trained 150 teachers from four of Haiti’s western provinces in ways to develop and implement disaster plans for their schools. Finally, the team held a series of courses for another group of teachers to train them as trainers. The groups learned how to train their peers to lead classroom activities to help students deal with “nonclinical” levels of psychological trauma and to learn the signs of PTSD and how to refer those students to clinicians. Dr. Lane expects those 120 teachers to train another 3,000.
The team has plans to return in October to train two more Haitian groups in similar fashion and will travel to Haiti again in January for follow-ups and assessments, Dr. Lane said.
A mission team led by students from the School of Medicine spent more than a week in Haiti operating a mobile medical clinic at several orphanages. The mission team included 12 medical students, as well as Mercer faculty and medical and non-medical personnel from Macon and surrounding areas. The team traveled to the city of Les Cayes and was in the country from July 17 to 24.
The team included four Medical School faculty members (including three physicians), a Mercer Medical School parent who is a doctor, four nurses, 12 medical students and eight non-medical personnel, who coordinated a children’s ministry, worked with orphans, and assisted in non-clinical duties helping patients and care providers.
Second-year medical student Amy Mason led the trip and said medical students often organize a summer mission trip and last fall students picked Haiti for their mission. Their travel plans were confirmed on Jan. 12, the day of the quake. The team was in part organized through the Medical School’s Christian Medical Association. The team felt called to go, Mason said, and continued with the trip to help those suffering from the quake’s effects.
Les Cayes is four hours west of the capital, Port-au-Prince, where the earthquake hit, but there are thousands of refugees that have fled the city to the outlying areas. The team worked with both children and adults from the community, focusing on primary care. Students and faculty members are providing their own support for this work, receiving funds and donations from businesses, charities, churches, family, friends and their own personal resources.
“I learned a lot about leadership and the importance of unity while we were there and I was worried about it, but it’s amazing how people when they're in this setting will set themselves aside and work together for the betterment of the people of Haiti,” Mason said.
To see photos and blog updates from the trip, go>.
Chris Fuller, head of Mercer’s Baptist Collegiate ministries led a team of seven students to minister to children in Port-au-Prince, July 7-13. The Mercer students included Alissa McGee, Kacie Niemann, Lauren Spradley and Erin Patterson. Over the course of seven days, the group ministered to more than 700 children doing such activities as playing games, telling Bible stories, doing crafts and playing soccer.
In August, a group of Mercerians returned to Port-au-Prince to continue the ministry. Led by Mark Law, Mercer’s campus minister intern, the team performed similar work with the children in Port-au-Prince from August 4 to 10. Mercer students Brooke Schermerhorn and Kelly Ferrill also participated in the trip.