I wrote the following letter to some friends and collaborators at Interplay (www.interplay.org; www.bodywisdom.org) today:
I look at the New York Times online every morning and the other day there was a picture of a young Haitian woman who had had one leg amputated. The caption said she had been a professional dancer. There are many such new amputees in Haiti now, thousands and thousands of them.
And I started thinking... about how Interplay knows a lot about dancing with physical limitations. How great would it be if a group of Interplayers were to go to Haiti, perhaps bringing prostheses and other supplies to make life easier for a disabled person? What if we were to dance and play with survivors of the earthquake, especially amputees, especially children?
When I was in Haiti years ago, disabled people were carried around on their friends' or relatives' backs, or sometimes they were pulled in little rickety wooden carts. I don't think I saw anyone in a wheelchair the whole time I was there. I wonder if anyone is working on super-affordable low-tech equipment for the thousands of newly-disabled people there? I'm sure someone is, but who?
I don't think this is an idea for right now. Right now the needs there are for food, water, and housing. I am thinking a year or a year and a half from now. I would like to go over earlier, maybe with Habitat for Humanity, or maybe with the Haitian support organization that exists here in the Bay Area (I forget their name, they spoke at my synagogue the other week.) I think I could act as a liason and scout out contacts to see if this idea would be even feasible.
I stayed in Haiti for two weeks back in the early eighties with a friend. We traveled on the Tab-Tab's (local trucks which are used to transport people, and are usually loaded to the gills and running on unpaved, rocky mountain roads,) and rented rooms with mud walls and cots and a toilet down the hall for about two dollars a night.
I don't know what exists there now, but my sense is that things have not improved in recent years, and the earthquake destroyed a lot of living spaces. So whoever wanted to go would have to be pretty hardy and up for sleeping conditions that might resemble camping more than a hotel stay. There could also be a health threat from multi-drug resistant TB, since the main hospital where TB patients were housed collapsed and many of the patients who could walk simply left without taking their full course of meds. That is a real danger. (Read Tracy Kidder's excellent book Mountains Beyond Mountains for more on TB and AIDS in Haiti, and on Dr. Paul Farmer.) It would be a more rugged experience than our trip to Malawi, although the plane trip would be a lot shorter.
I wouldn't want to bring a large group, just a couple of very strong, very flexible Interplayers who had skills in rhythm, dance, music, and healing. I'm fluent in Creole and could provide translation services plus the other stuff I do; including storytelling facilitation. Once upon a time I used to know some Haitian folk songs--my students taught me--it's been so long I've forgotten, but I'm sure it would come back.
I know Interplay and Body Wisdom are pretty broke right now and my personal financial picture isn't that strong either. Thanks to all the cutbacks in education, I'm more under-employed than usual. That's why I was thinking a grant might be a good thing.
So...anyone else interested in this idea? Wanna brainstorm? Wanna jump on the bandwagon? Feel free to forward this email to whomever you think might be interested in collaborating. As I said, this is for 2011 or 2012, not this year. But great things could come out of it.