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June 28, 2010   Columns Articles | Inside UGA | Profs assess stress in Haiti

Profs assess stress in Haiti

Emily Williams

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By Emily Williams | June 28, 2010
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Amid the rubble and sea of blue and gray plastic tent cities that now cover the landscape of the capital city of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, School of Social Work professors Larry Nackerud and Ed Risler canvassed the makeshift housing for tens of thousands of homeless Haitians for a study on the effects of trauma on people after the devastating January earthquake. The pair spent the first week of May in Haiti assessing the trauma and giving seminars on stress, poverty and immigration policy to Haitian young adults.

"Clearly they are traumatized," Risler said. "The rough data certainly indicates that."

With the help of a translator, the team administered two trauma scales, one of which was developed by UGA social work professor Brian Bride, to displaced people in Port-au-Prince and Terrier-Rouge.

They didn't have any trouble finding subjects, according to Nackerud.

"People were very eager to speak with us. People wanted to fill out the scales. They wanted to talk about their experience during the earthquake," he said.

This was the fourth trip to Haiti for Nackerud and Risler. After receiving a grant from the Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach four years ago, the team has gone every year since to assess the impact of poverty on children and families. Last year, they looked at the impact of the downturn in the U.S. economy on the already poverty-stricken country. They also worked on a community development project, which focuses on education, health care and sustainable agriculture.

In an effort to maintain international attention on the recovery of Haiti, Nackerud and Risler have been in contact with former president Bill Clinton's U.N. Special Envoy to Haiti and will share the results of their research on poverty and trauma with them.

"The recovery of Haiti from the earthquake will not be done quickly or easily. It will take a long-term sustained interest and effort on the parts of other people for years to come," Nackerud said.

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