2011 Delegation

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Drumming Workshop - Photo by Tod Seelie

In October 2010, Ayiti Resurrect and Ayiti Cherie Healing Project met with numerous community members within Comiers in order to determine their most pressing needs and to ask what solidarity from international allies could look like. Through these intimate, and sometimes heartbreaking conversations, it became clear that the community needed support in the form of emotional and psychological healing and tangible opportunities to mourn the great losses they have suffered. Many recounted tragic loss of their loved ones whose bodies were not recovered in the aftermath, robbing them of the opportunity to honor their deceased in a meaningful ceremony. Affirming the right of the people of Comiers to have a space for these last rites of passage, we decided to sponsor a commemoration ceremony and memorial to honor the lives of friends and family that passed during the earthquake.

Between December 27, 2010 and January 16, 2011 four members of Ayiti Resurrect and Ayiti Cherie Healing Project returned to Comiers to begin the next stages of the project. We worked in partnership with the Mango Growers Association, local artists, builders, and healers to commemorate the anniversary of the earthquake, erect a monument to honor its victims, implement a mental wellness clinic, and host art and music therapy workshops for youth.

1st day of workshops, Konbit Shelter community center, photo T. Seelie

The week leading up to the anniversary of the earthquake, 14 local artists collaborated with 3 artists from the diaspora to lead workshops that served over 150 youth. Art therapy sessions included theater, song and drum circles, mask-making, river stone carving, and other creative activities using salvaged and recycled materials or things found in nature. An additional  group went into the hillside to learn planting techniques and reforestation principles.

In addition to the powerful community partnerships within Comier, we collaborated with two groups based in Port Au Prince, Ujamaa Works and Nouvelle Vie, to implement a mental wellness clinic. Dr. Robert Francois and Madame Wilner from Ujamaa Works, who specialize in natural and traditional healing practices, conducted initial assessments of survivors in the area. Samson Berlus, from Nouvelle Vie, facilitated a “Breath Water Sound” workshop, teaching powerful breathing, sound and meditation techniques which eliminate stress from the system and promote emotional freedom from traumatic events.

vigil on the eve of the one year anniversary of the earthquake, photo by Todd Seelie

On the eve of the anniversary of the earthquake, we joined in solidarity with the Comiers community and held a vigil outdoors. Attendees wrote prayers for Haiti on colorful strips of cloth and tied them to the branches of the tree in the middle of our gathering place, illuminated by candle-lit lanterns made in the workshops days prior.  Drumming and dancing ensued into the early morning hours.

On January 12th, we held an all-day commemoration event with over 300 community members coming together to celebrate life and their continued survival. The day began with a flag raising ceremony at the newly built memorial site. The collection of the names and the collaborative building of the memorial monument gave a palpable opportunity for the Comier community to come together to acknowledged and honor their deceased loved ones. The cultural events that followed were aimed at supporting Comier residents in finding peace and regaining a sense of connectedness with themselves and their community.

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