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Staff support in Haiti

Gray, Amber

doi: 10.1097/WTF.0b013e3283412680
Field reports

The earthquake in January 2010 that destroyed Port au Prince, Haiti, has been described as the most devastating humanitarian disaster on record. The author, a mental health professional and a dance movement therapist with more than 12 years working experience in Haiti, encountered numerous anecdotal reports of physical illness and psychological distress amongst rescue and recovery workers, humanitarian aid workers, and others. This field report describes a staff support programme in Haiti that consisted of three phases: 1) psychological first aid; 2) needs and resource assessment and training of a local staff support team; and 3) team building, ongoing training and mentoring. While staff support has been ‘on our radar’ for 20 years, the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake may be a pivotal event in terms of putting the issue front and centre for both local nongovernmental organisations and international nongovernmental organisations. The Haitian experience provides important lessons for the future of staff support in humanitarian situations. The author argues that staff support needs to be an integral part of all international humanitarian programming.

Amber Gray is director of Restorative Resources Training & Consulting and its nonproduct counterpart, Trauma Resources International. She has worked extensively in Haiti since 1998 as a licensed mental health professional, a dance movement therapist, and a ‘Sevito’ in the Fran Ginee tradition of Vodou. She has also provided consultation and training on individual and organisational staff support in Norway, Indonesia, Sudan/Darfur, Peru, Lebanon and the United States. email:

©2010 War Trauma Foundation