Help Me Do My Best in Haiti
January 24, 2010 2:38 PM   Subscribe

My job is sending me to Haiti for a month. Help?

I've never worked in a disaster of this scale, and I'm more than a little apprehensive. I will be doing non-medical administrative reconstruction work and some direct assistance (feeding programs, etc.) I am an EMT but not going in that capacity.

What are the best resources for this? What do I need to be sure to bring? What can I do to minimize the emotional impact and maximize my functional efficiency? I'm sure there are MeFites out there who have experience in disaster relief...

Note: before anyone goes there, I am part of a fully self-supporting team, with many members who have significant experience. I am not one of those "another body" volunteers who show up and wander around making trouble.

Anonymous because I'm being sent by my employer, and want to keep work / the internets as separate as possible. Also, I don't want to be all, "Yay me, I'm going to Haiti!" ya know?
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Pimsleur (an excellent language self-learning company) is giving away a basic course on Haitian creole. You won't be able to use it to learn very much, but you'll at least be able to use it to quickly learn stuff like "please" and "thank you", and learn them well, which I don't think can hurt.
posted by Flunkie at 2:53 PM on January 24, 2010 [6 favorites]

It sounds like you're going with people who have a lot of experience with this sort of thing. Lean on them and learn. It's good to take steps to prepare beforehand, which you're doing, but you should relax a little bit and realize that you're going to be there with people who will be able to help you along and won't expect you to know everything before you leave (assuming they are reasonable people).

Good luck.
posted by elder18 at 3:23 PM on January 24, 2010

What an awesome thing to be doing.

What can I do to minimize the emotional impact and maximize my functional efficiency?

This might be way more basic than what you are looking for, but remember: Never take a bullet that's not meant for you. You are not responsible for everything; you can't solve every problem. You are there to help by doing whatever you can, but you can't do everything, even if you want to.

Balance that with an open heart and a mind set on meeting people's needs. (which may not be what you think they need).
posted by SLC Mom at 3:56 PM on January 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

Breathe. One of the best ways you'll be your best for others is if you've got yourself together. Make sure you're as well rested as you can be, and eating well. You might consider taking with you some melatonin if you find that it helps you sleep. I also found going into a new stressful place that it was good to have an ipod (or personal equivalent) to have a place to escape. Good luck and just do your best.
posted by kch at 4:01 PM on January 24, 2010

Keep a diary, bring a book or two for distraction, bring some leather work gloves, and kids love candy. Remember to smile and stay positive, and take your time, as the rush is over.
posted by furtive at 4:07 PM on January 24, 2010

One study suggests that playing Tetris after viewing a traumatic event can prevent PTSD flashbacks.
posted by djb at 4:56 PM on January 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

Get a GPS and put the OpenStreetMaps data on it. You will be at the forefront of post-quake mapping and an asset to others. Seriously, this will be invaluable.

I see in the post that they mention Garmin Rino and 60CSx. Get one of those and their data cables. Bring the maps themselves on a USB stick.
posted by fake at 5:12 PM on January 24, 2010

posted by fake at 5:13 PM on January 24, 2010

I'd recommend bringing anything you would be ok with leaving there when you're done; clothes you can wear, but you wouldn't miss. A co-worker of mine recently went to Haiti before the earthquake to do work at a mission there. She spoke of horrible conditions (and this was before the earthquake) and she said she literally gave away everything she brought with her; extra clothes, toiletries, her suitcase even, she was so moved by the situation, seeing how little these people had. She knew she had a closet full of clothes at home and it meant so much to the people she shared with.
posted by NoraCharles at 5:43 PM on January 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I had a few friends who went to the Gulf Coast right after Katrina with the Red Cross. They were given an amazing packing list that basically covered all of their needs plus the needs of people they encountered along the way. I don't know if the Red Cross would have posted such a thing yet, since volunteers aren't really being recruited yet, but it definitely included a lot of energy bars and bottled water, personal hygiene stuff like baby wipes, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, bug spray, cortisone cream, anti-fungal cream, antibiotic cream, and other first aid supplies, and clothes that were both appropriate for the weather and disaster conditions and could be given away.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:25 AM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would definately bring as much medical supplies as allowed.
posted by stormpooper at 9:23 AM on January 25, 2010

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