And Converse college alum, students are doing their part
APRIL 24, 2011 1:43 p.m. (0)
She is a student in Converse College’s art therapy program and a Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor who used art as a way to cope with the disease 14 years ago.
She was among a group of current and former Converse College students who spent their spring break in Haiti showing doctors and nurses how art can help healing.
The trip, arranged through Lumiere Ministries, a medical mission program in North Carolina, took the four with Converse ties and two from Emporia State University in Kansas to Port-au-Prince.
The devastation from the catastrophic earthquake that hit Haiti more than a year ago remains dramatically visible.
Thousands of people live in tent cities and rubble fills the streets. Very little has been rebuilt.
And the people are showing repercussions medically, said Geri Hurlbut, coordinator of the Converse art therapy program who led the trip.
“One doctor slept in his car because he was fearful of sleeping in his home,” she said.
The Converse students spent a week training nurses at Kings Hospital and working with children in an orphanage.
During one exercise, children built houses out of Popsicle sticks.
“It was symbolic of rebuilding their own house,” Pittman said.
Their first drawings were chaotic, she said. “They went from very unorganized to more realistic,” she said. “They went from the chaos of what their houses look like now to very hopeful.”
Hurlbut said when people experience trauma – whether it is an earthquake or a car accident – they experience it through all of their senses. But they don’t deal with it in a cognitive way because the body goes through shock.
“You go through a mode of shock and survival and then process it down the road,” she said.
Art, she said, is a safe way to process what happened. “Art allows a person to express their feelings without re-traumatizing the person,” Hurlbut said. “Artwork creates a metaphor from which we can talk. The little boy in the drawing is not myself so it is safe to talk about the little boy.”
Hurlbut said all of the young people they met want to go into the medical field.
“I think it’s because they’ve seen so much trauma,” she said.
Pittman said Haitians are resilient people. “There’s a lot of hope, people working and pride,” she said. “During our visit, we went from being really thankful for what we have to being hopeful for them.”
Hurlbut said the students hope to go back to Haiti in December to continue their work.
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