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Janie Blakely, Theresa Robertson

Relief Workers in Haiti: Exploration of Resilience Processes

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            Despite the efforts of the Haitian people, over one thousand charitable organizations, and countless relief workers, the devastating effects of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti persist.  Recent research has examined the trauma experience of the earthquake victims in Haiti within the construct of cosmology episodes (O’Grady, …. Rest of citatation, 2013).  The term “cosmology episode,” coined by Weick (1993), refers to an event that initiates a sudden loss of meaning, or sense losing, which is followed by a process of sense making, and ultimately has the potential to promote transformation of the individuals’ perceived reality.  The present study examines the phenomenological experience of Haiti relief workers within the framework of back-to-back cosmology episodes.

            Preliminary analysis is being conducted, and is exploratory in nature.  Semi-structured interviews with five Haiti relief workers are being examined using a case study methodology.  The purpose of the study is to assess the process of sequential cosmology episodes from the perspective of the lived experience of the five Haiti relief workers. 

The first cosmology episode occurs when the relief workers’ worldviews are disrupted upon arrival in Haiti.  Subsequently, a second cosmology episode occurs in relation to the disruption upon returning to the U.S.  This cosmological shift follows a worldview reconstruction experienced during the initial cosmology episode.  The analysis examines points along the continuum of the two cosmology episodes.  Combined, these points of analysis are 1.) Pre-Haiti Anticipation, 2.) Haiti Senselosing, 3.) Haiti Sensemaking, 4.) Post-Haiti Anticipation, 5.) Haiti Cosmology, 6.) Re-entry Anticipation, 7.) Re-entry Senselosing, 8.) Re-entry Sensemaking, and 9.) Re-entry Cosmology.   

An iterative process is being applied to the analysis to capture the lived experience of Haiti relief workers in terms of their psychological and spiritual experience related to the preparation, senselosing, sensemaking, and transformation they encountered as a result of their relief work.  As a preliminary investigation, the iterative process provides a framework to support an open and flexible approach to the data.  As such the original data coding scheme may change as informed by the researchers’ ongoing interaction with the data.  This initial examination of the data is expected to provide information that will be of use in contributing to the understanding of concept of cosmology episodes.  In addition, the analysis will be used to inform more in-depth future analysis of these cases as well as other data collected using the same interview format.


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