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1/11/13 - "Men anpil, chay pa lou" by Donaldson Conserve

Men anpil, chay pa lou

by Donaldson Conserve

Donaldson Conserve received an ARC research grant in Fall 2012 for his project entitled "Examining the Impact of Psychosocial and Cultural Factors on the Sexual Health Beliefs and Practices of HIV-Positive Haitian-American Adults in New York City".

Diaspora

The Haitian proverb Men anpil, chay pa lou (Many hands lighten the load) recognizes that with the help of others we can accomplish our goals despite the challenges. This proverb exemplifies my research experience throughout the past couple of years. Shortly after the 2010 earthquake I interned in Haiti with the psychosocial and mental health team of Zanmi Lasante/ Partners In Health. During this internship I worked with Haitian social workers providing socio-economic assistance to patients receiving treatments for HIV and multi-drug resistant tuberculosis . In addition, I learned about the psychological and medical services Zanmi Lasante was providing for people who were injured from the earthquake. Upon returning from Haiti and realizing the long term effects of the earthquake on the Haitian community, both in Haiti and the United States, I set out to conduct a research project among the Haitian Diaspora in Brooklyn, New York, home to the second largest Haitian community in the U.S. Since I was interested in understanding the experiences of HIV-positive Haitians after the earthquake, one of the first challenges was finding a community based organization that provides services to individuals living with HIV.

To overcome this challenge I inquired about different community- based organizations in Brooklyn. I eventually learned about an organization called Diaspora Community Services (DCS) that received funds from the NYC Haitian Community Hope and Healing Funds with the goal of addressing the needs of individuals, families, and communities in the NYC area that were affected by the earthquake. Through DCS, I was able to gain access to the Haitian community in Brooklyn and learn more about the mission of DCS, which is an organization that empowers individuals and families to maximize their ability to succeed through culturally sensitive health promotion, family support services and advocacy. Although my internship at DCS ended during the summer of 2011, I have returned to the organization to conduct two research projects focusing on the experiences of their members from Haitian descent: One project involved those who receive group support for HIV-related concerns and the other involved those who participated in the Haitian American Empowerment Program, designed specifically to meet the needs of members after the earthquake. I presented the findings from the second project entitled “Post-earthquake challenges and successes of Haitian immigrants residing in Brooklyn, New York” at the 24th Annual Haitian Studies Association Conference in New York.

Another challenge I faced was finding enough Haitian participants willing to share their experiences since they contracted HIV. With the assistance of DCS and from participating in AIDS Walk New York, I was able to identify three other organizations that provide services for people living with HIV: 1) Haitian Centers Council, 2) Iris House, and 3) African Services. With the help of these organizations and participants I was able to successfully accomplish the research project. As the Haitian proverb indicates, I was only able to carry out this research project due to the many hands that assisted and supported me including family, friends, advisors, funders, community leaders, and participants. Overall, I was deeply moved by some of the sacrifices the participants made in order to allow me to interview them. Some of the participants really valued the research I was doing, especially those who had been active in the HIV community in Haiti and the United States. They wanted to share their experiences and raise awareness about HIV in the Haitian community. To some of them, participating in this study was one of the routes to raising such awareness because they wanted to make sure that other people learn that HIV is not a killer. These sentiments were expressed when the participants would comment, “HIV doesn’t kill people, it’s people that kill people because they treat HIV-positive individuals scornfully”.