The earthquake in January 2010 shook a nation that was already in the throes of political instability and poverty. The Red Cross estimated that three million people have been affected by the earthquake, which took the lives of hundreds of thousands, injured many more and left over one million people homeless.
The Art of Living Foundation organised programmes to bring material aid and trauma relief to people in the aftermath of the destruction in Haiti.
Three Phased support for Haitians:
Phase 1: Providing Trauma Relief & Material Aid
In the first phase of the relief work, volunteers distributed essential materials including food, clothes and medicine. Art of Living teachers also conducted trauma relief workshops, which helped people cope with the psychological shock of losing their loved ones and their homes. Many local Art of Living volunteers visited hospitals, counselled refugees and helped to counsel and calm people during the aftershocks.
“I lost my house, so I stay on the streets with my husband and my children. It’s so difficult to sleep at night with the rains and it’s so stressful,” says Maila Villard, a victim of the earthquake. Maila took a trauma relief workshop. The workshop gave participants knowledge and skills to cope with trauma and start life afresh. Maila shared with a volunteer, “When I do the breathing exercises, I forget that I sleep on the streets. It’s like I have no difficulties in my life. I finally feel that I have a clear mind. I feel calm.”
Phase 2: Empowering Haitian youth to lead
The second phase of the relief work in Haiti was initiated on 12 April 2010 when the IAHV launched an intensive programme called the Nouvelle Vie Youth Corps, or New Life Youth Corps. Sixteen promising Haitian youth leaders from Cap Haitien, Carrefour, Hinche and Les Cayes were selected from graduates of the Youth Leadership Training Program (YLTP), which was started by the IAHV in Haiti in 2007. These young people have been trained by a team of Art of Living teachers as well as a perma-culture (sustainable agriculture) expert. The Youth Corps aim to rebuild Haiti by organising communities, conducting trauma relief workshops and by teaching perma-culture farming for a sustainable food supply.
Progress So Far
The Youth Corps have made a significant impact on Haiti: within 16 days, the team had taught seven Art of Living trauma relief workshops to nearly 350 people living on the streets, in camps and in makeshift shelters. Another 1,000 people, including orphaned children, rape victims and youth from Site Soleil, the most violent slum in Haiti, took the Breath-Water-Sound (BWS) workshop, which is specially designed for those in situations of disaster or poverty.
The team simultaneously taught people how to make compost and develop small-scale farms, creating greater self-sufficiency. The YLTP students mixed manure and planted over 100 fruit and vegetable seedlings in recycled containers like rice sacks. These were distributed to orphans, school children and youth leaders in Site Soleil. News of the programme’s benefits had quickly spread in the camps and among partner community organisations.
The Art of Living workshops empower individuals and encourage them to take responsibility for their community. Participants initiated a camp-wide clean-up as part of one course in a camp housing 40,000 people. The simple act of picking up trash created a sense of dignity and ownership.
Phase 3: Creating More Youth Leaders
In the following phases of the project, the Nouvelle Vie Youth Corps would train 100 more youth leaders to be Art of Living teachers and perma-culture trainers. The Youth Corps is committed to serve Haitian communities for a two-year term, spreading solutions for individual empowerment and community development.
MoU for Haiti relief
Advancing efforts to rebuild Haiti, Founder of the Art of Living Foundation, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for Haiti relief with North Miami Mayor, Andre D. Pierre, Esq. on 20th April 2010. The aim of the MoU is to step up relief work in Haiti and provide sustainable solutions to the country’s specific challenges.