Girls United Team Returns from Haiti Bringing Tips to Help Teens After 10 Geodesic Domes Were Installed Saving Lives from Cholera

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Teen girls from all over California and Rwanda companioned their teen peers with artistic traveling postcards while specialists worked on the ground in Port-Au-Prince and Bulous tent-city. Girls United followed the installment of 10 geodesic domes that are serving as portable hospitals saving 2,000 lives so far from Cholera.

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A visit to Haiti can work wonders - expressed a team of artists and specialists who are just returning from Girls United: Haiti Though Our Eyes. Girls United is a program conceived by San Rafael’s Meridian Health Foundation, after installing 10 geodesic domes in Haiti serving as hospitals, Cholera and TB Wards. To continue helping Haitians, new partners the United Nations and Full Circle Learning collaborated with Meridian to help girls recover and unite through the art of personal story telling using the arts of photography, writing, drama and crafts.

Teenage girls in Haiti have few options. Girls United helps them turn trauma into transcendence by sharing their experiences of the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti in January 2010, changing the lives of many of Haiti’s women and girls, in an instant. According to project partner the United Nations Foundation, nearly half of the Haitian population presents signs of post-traumatic stress or acute stress disorder. After transporting and installing 10 geodesic hospital domes with steal frames that can withstand hurricanes and earthquakes, Meridian wanted to continue to serve these wonderful people. “We visited the domes installed earlier this year to help Haitian doctors rather that docs from the US, thereby helping Haitians to help themselves,” explains Deanne LaRue, Executive Director of Meridian Health Foundation, who began Girls United. “The 90 foot Pacific Dome serves as a Cholera Ward where 2,000 lives have been saved so far; another serves as a TB ward. Girls United is the next phase of work begun In Haiti in 2010.”

Girls United: Haiti Through Our Eyes encourages Haitian girls to use writing, photography and art as tools for healing. Some of our team still in Haiti continues helping girls living in Sean Penn’s J/P HRO camp and the YWCA in Haiti by identifying peer counselors to help other girls. Through written and spoken narratives girls confront difficult issues by using their stories to release pain, empathize, companion each other and restore connection to their communities. In the next phase of Girls United we are creating an Anthology of their art that will be distributed to schools in Haiti, as well as sites in the US and internationally through Full Circle Learning. The Anthology includes instructions on how to replicate this work, adding sustainability to Girls United.

Tips for Teens – Here and Around the World:
Day 1: Looking Around Us
Day 2: Looking Inside of Us
Day 3: Looking at my Path
Day 4: Looking at Each Other
Day 5: Looking at our Common Vision
Day 6: Looking Ahead
Day 7: Looking to our Audience
Day 8: Honoring Ceremony

TV and film celebrity, Rainn Wilson of The Office, came with Girls United, and used drama to help the girls share; “I gathered the girls around in a circle as best we could and we began by clapping around the circle. Pass the Clap the game is called. Everyone, me especially, was a bit self-conscious. My goal was simply to get them playing together. When you start to play together, you start to trust each other and then the participants can really open up.”

Coming “full circle” the Haitian girls made postcards for their companions in California and Rwanda, with other countries to be added through the Anthology like Japan.

The anthology will also be shared with girls from other disadvantaged areas who contributed exchanges to the project, including migrant communities and urban gang areas.

Photos attached and below.

2-minute Girls United Haiti film: http://www.meridianfoundation.org
Girls learn to tell their stories and hopes for the future with photography and drama.
Copyright courtesy of J/P HRO, Girls United            

Photo: Meridian sent 10 portable hospitals –geodesic domes- to Haiti
This Cholera Ward saved 2,000 lives so far…

Photo: Rainn Wilson and Deanne LaRue            

Meridian Health Foundation 1001 4th Street, San Rafael, CA 94901
Info.meridianfoundation.org 415-454-8909

Contact:
Deanne LaRue
415-816-9244

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Deanne LaRue
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