We have received two emails from an Emergency Services Organization. We signed up with them a couple of years ago and gave up because we never got a call or an email to be deployed anywhere, NOT EVEN to Burma.   I was ready then. Yes we will be compensated — Me as a Licensed Master Social Worker and J as a Psychologist.

Well here we are with Haiti’s earthquake and they are looking for people who are available for at least two weeks starting NOW. I am!  I’m available! Since Jack is just returning back to a new semester he is not available.

Two Things:

No pictures (I know, sounds shallow)

My emotions

We now have a blog.   Wherever we go we take pictures, lots of them. Whether taking one or two or three is up to us, but NOT have a choice to take any pictures?– well— that is what we signed up for with them if I decide to go.

When I was in Thailand visiting Mae Tao clinic in Mae Sot, in 2008 with my mother, I felt uncomfortable taking pictures. The Burmese people that took us there told us I should so I can tell the world the conditions the Burmese people are living in and suffering from. But I felt as though I was imposing. I took a couple inside the clinic, but with some  hesitation.


Mae Tao Clinic, Mae Sot, Thailand 2008

We also met and spoke to a retired British surgeon (and his wife also a physician)They have been volunteering there for over 7 yrs. When I asked what made them stay there for so long, his answer was “Guilt.” He went on to say, “We (the world) have forgotten about the Burmese and what’s happened to them.  It’s only right that we (the couple) are here to take care of them.”  I was in tears the minute I walked into that clinic and after having a conversation with the surgeon, it simply turned into buckets.


Inside the clinic

I want to have a choice, but I also want to be in Haiti to do what I can.   What I also know is that  it will take years to rebuild, like it has with Burma after Cyclone Nargis.  (Obviously, it is not a safe situation to be inside the country now for just any volunteer. What they need are essential personnel).

When Katrina survivors came in 2005 to the Dome in Houston,  I went, that very same day.  I was a different person then- jumped right in, very hands on, worked the  longest hours, assisted in coordinating many efforts throughout the city for the seniors and came through just fine, then.

So after the first initial response of “I want to be there now,” I wonder how I would handle myself emotionally as a working social worker in those helpless and hopeless circumstances after being away from doing that very same thing, on purpose.  And do I really want to still wear the hat, officially, of a professional social worker?


So now I am waiting to see what turns up with Matador Network or other organizational efforts .  If I can find a way to get over there as just plain Aye,  the volunteer, who can help dig or feed the kids or hand out food, help find loved ones,  it’s better I’m thinking or Is it?  Maybe, I’m just better off distributing information, staying  right where I am at.

Fellow Social workers,  other mental health professionals–  Am I simply being a wimp?   What happened to the eager beaver in me in the last two years?

Frankly, you and I both know that eventually, throughout the recovery effort, the mental health issue will BE an ISSUE!  There will be plenty of need for  grief, bereavement and PTSD support.  For mothers, orphans, elders, fathers, husbands…….


6 thoughts on “Dilemma

  1. Wow, that’s a tough one. Though I do understand their hesitation in allowing photography under the circumstances, as a photog myself I would feel extremely frustrated with that, even though in a way I agree with their rule. I agree with Candice, ultimately do what feels right. In the end, if you decide to go, it is for a short period, not too long of a commitment, so you will be helping out without getting stuck in a frustrating position. In any case you will be so very busy helping out that you won’t have time to think of these things, much less photography. Best, John

  2. There’s no doubt in my mind that you will make some sort of profound contribution to this effort. Do what feels right, you have yourself to think about too.

  3. You seem to be between the proverbial ‘rock and a hard place’ and unfortunately only you can really know what you are and are not capable of. As someone with an educational degree there is little I can do other than just being a volunteer, you as a social worker would face many more hardships in Haiti along with being separated from Jack and Emma. The best I can say is don’t rush your decision and good luck on finding some clarity.

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