Loyola University Maryland

Emerging Scholars

Dinesh John Briganza, L. Mickey Fenzel, Ph.D.

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Core Transformation: A Quasi-Experimental Longitudinal Study

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On January 12th, 2010 an overpowering earthquake hit Haiti and killed more than 230,000 people. This incapacitated entire communities, many of which are still struggling to recover. Almost immediately after the stifling earthquake took place, helpers of all sorts began coming together to help the communities that were devastated. Helpers are still visiting Haiti regularly to assist in a variety of ways to attempt to help the rebuilding process. The purpose of this study is to learn about the psycho-spiritual experience of some of these helpers from the United States. In this study, 13 helpers responded to a semi-structured series of interview questions about their experience. We feel learning about the experience of the helper before, during, and after returning from Haiti will give us valuable knowledge concerning their emotional states and preparation. We hoped to discover what motivated the helpers to volunteer their time in Haiti. We also intend to explore the coping process of the helpers, as being surrounded by debilitated communities can have a traumatic impact on an individual. Additionally, we aim to explore the spiritual challenges that the helpers experienced, and the gifts that they gained from their involvement. Also, we asked questions aiming to learn about the level of stress during the helping experience to see how that influenced their understanding. Furthermore, we wanted to learn about the re-entry experience of the helpers coming back into the United States. Specifically, we want to know which resources were available to the helpers when they returned. Lastly, we are curious as to whether the helpers experienced post-traumatic growth from their experience, or was their spirituality unaltered?

We used a grounded theory to explore the themes that emerged from the transcribed interviews from the helpers. The information gained from this study would be appreciated by the numerous helpers who plan on making trips to Haiti in the future to volunteer. This will give them knowledge they will be able to use to prepare psychologically and spiritually before leaving for Haiti. The information will allow helpers get a better understanding of what they should expect before, during, and after a service trip to Haiti. We believe that another benefit to doing this study is the psychological gain the participants receive from telling their stories. We believe that there are widespread implications from this study that would provide insight into the unique experience individuals have with their God figure. We feel that the helpers, after assisting in a natural disaster, might give us insight into how they grow psychologically, socially, and spiritually over time. These findings could potentially contribute to the research on natural disasters and mental health. We also hope that this study would assist in creating interventions that could improve the happiness, health, and overall well-being of natural disaster helpers.