Even after a 7.0 earthquake left the Haitian capital in ruins in 2010, Haitians can still be seen smiling. But Chris Anderson and Paul Garrett, clinical social workers who were among the medical team sent to Haiti by Latter-day Saint Charities, know that there are strong feelings behind the smiles.
“They've lost family members; many have lost homes,” said Anderson. “But you can't see their heart. The earthquake was so devastating; maybe the smiles were their only response.”
Anderson and Garrett, who both work for LDS Family Services, realize that while many Haitians are suffering from physical wounds, almost all are suffering from emotional wounds. Many are grieving, scared, confused, and even angry. They will be working to rebuild their emotions as much as their city and country in the weeks and months ahead. Anderson and Garrett have helped not just the masses in general but local LDS priesthood leaders who are supervising relief efforts and trying to aid local Church members. Anderson and Garrett hope to help local leaders work through their own grief so they will be able to help others suffering from the trauma of the devastating quake.
“We're trying to help them be able to empathize and listen to feelings as well as to accept the emotional hardships that they are going to go through,” Anderson said.
Garrett feels that perhaps one of the best ways to help with the Haitians’ emotional needs is to continue with relief efforts. "When people come into an area and provide a presence, it gives hope that people care,” he said.
Anderson and Garrett also orchestrated a fireside to help interested Haitians learn to deal with their feelings. Over 100 people attended. Anderson and Garrett emphasized that there would be a long road of healing ahead and then offered tips for overcoming the immediate feelings of grief and shock.
Despite the many emotional needs that exist in Haiti, Anderson is confident in their future. “I think they're a very patient people.” Armed with the advice provided by Anderson and Garrett, they continue to pull through the tragedy and rebuild their lives.