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HeARTs with Haiti


"Building Resilience Through The Arts"

Following the massive 7.0 magnitude earthquake near Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Jan. 12, the Tulane Institute for Psychosocial Health and Tulane Social Work students and alumni wanted to help the people of Haiti, especially the children, overcome the trauma they had just experienced. One of the Institute's goals is to mitigate childhood trauma and boost resilience to help the children build a better Haiti for the future. Thus, the HeARTs with Haiti program was born.

The project aims to structure a sustainable program of collaboration, networking and funding for social workers, teachers, artists, and other helpers in delivering alternative psycho-educational methods that utilize the arts (music, dance, painting, sculpting, storytelling, drama, photography and film) with elementary school children in Haiti. The ultimate goals of the project are to mitigate childhood trauma, boost resilience, and integrate the HeARTs curriculum into the infrastructure of the elementary school system of Haiti as part of the Social Rebuilding Plan.


Arts-based Education

Traditional western “talk therapy” seems incomplete and at times culturally insensitive in a crisis driven environment with traumatized individuals.  Heightened anxiety often disrupts the ability to hear, much less integrate, even basic psycho-education and counseling.  Use of culturally specific artistic expression with more traditional methods may bypass certain defense mechanisms and tap into the limbic learning process to complement cognitive-behavioral methods. The HeARTs with Haiti project directly relates to the mission of the Tulane Institute for Psychosocial Health and to the Reconstruction Plan/Social Rebuilding of Haiti by promoting high quality and culturally inclusive resilience training, education, and evaluation in the community.   

Program Structure

Phase I of the HeARTs of Haiti Project will be to provide kits of supplies containing user-friendly arts and crafts materials that go along with stories, movement, and songs of courage, hope, and optimism to be used in targeted elementary classrooms or other points of access (such as in a health clinic or very nearby) in Haiti.  Those classrooms may be mobile or stationary, and the kits are easily moved from place to place.

The exact content of the kits including actual stories, songs, dances, and other children’s artistic/play activities will be determined by Paul Fowler, Tulane MSW, educator, and artist coordinating efforts in the U.S. in collaboration with other artists, educators, and therapists/social workers from Haiti, the U.S. and International community. Full instruction and training in the use of the HeARTs program would be provided in a “train the trainer” model, whereby those using the kits in Haiti could in turn train others in the country to utilize the kits. The Tulane School of Social Work is currently collecting donations, both monetary and of arts supplies, to equipment the first kits.

Phase II of the project will involve an evaluation of the perceived usefulness of the program by those teachers, artists, aides, or others utilizing the kits with children.  After revisions based on user feedback, the HeARTs team at Tulane would then request a pre and post test of childhood anxiety be applied before and after the HeARTs program is applied in a set of different schools.  Results would be reported to all users and appropriate government bodies. Provided the users and Haitian officials approve and that funding is available, Phase III would consist of extensive training and provision of supplies to all elementary schools in the country. The pre-test/post-test measure, as well as user evaluations, would continue to be applied for continuous quality improvement.


Additional Information

For further information, please contact: Jane Parker, MPH, LCSW, DCSW, Director of the Institute for Psychosocial Health at janep@tulane.edu or Paul Fowler, MSW, at pablo_fowler@hotmail.com.

To donate to the HeARTs with Haiti program, please click on the link below.(Please select ‘School of Social Work’ and include ‘IPH—Haiti’ in the comments section when donating.)


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Tulane School of Social Work, 127 Elk Place, New Orleans, La. 70112  1-800-631-8234 msw@tulane.edu