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I help people in the wake of the earthquake in Haiti

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The earthquake that hit Haiti on January 12, 2010 was a dramatic and unusual event because it was sudden and unforeseen, and because of the extent of the casualties and losses it caused among the Haitian population. A disaster of such severity disrupts the daily lives of those affected, on physical, financial, material, psychological and social plans. But beyond the uncertainty and the losses that may arise, this situation calls on individuals, families, the entire Haitian community, and society at large, to adapt and organize. It requires us all to offer mutual help and solidarity.

In this situation, people can receive different kinds of help - from family and friends, from community resources, or from government agencies. All, in their own way, help people to overcome the obstacles related to this disaster.

How can I help?

The help you wish to provide can take different forms. It may be on-going or on an as-need be basis, be short or long term, depending on the needs and available resources.

Helping someone close to you

  • Support them find food, lodging, clothing, money, care, etc.
  • Offer them a break, accompaniment, transportation, babysitting, etc.
  • Offer them a listening ear and an opportunity to express themselves, without dwelling on the details of what they saw and felt during the event, and avoiding making judgments.
  • Encourage them to stay in contact with their social network: family, friends, work or school colleagues, community and spiritual resources.
  • Support them as they search for reliable information on the situation (see the section Where can I get information?).
  • Accompany them to appropriate help services, for example support groups, helping services, etc. (see the section Where can I get help?).
  • Inform them of measures that the authorities have taken to assist people affected by the disaster in the short and long term.
  • Help them to not lose hope that the situation will improve.
  • Tell them that there is an information sheet for people who have lived through the earthquake (see the sheet I have lived through the earthquake in Haiti).

Helping in the community

  • Get involved as a volunteer in a support group or others.
  • Make donations to recognized organizations.

What might I experience when providing help to those around me?

Your desire to help others may be motivated by a number of factors, such as your personal and cultural values, a feeling of kinship, or your sense of solidarity. Getting involved gives you great credit, but as a helper, you may face new and challenging experiences.

For example:

  • Feeling overwhelmed, powerless, irritable, angry, worried, etc.
  • Feeling useful, appreciated, proud of myself.
  • Having to adapt to role changes (looking after parents or children, providing physical care, etc.).
  • Discovering new strengths (stress tolerance, ability to listen, ability to adapt, etc.).
  • Having to perform administrative or legal procedures.
  • Acquiring new knowledge (help resources, emergency measures, etc.).
  • Undergoing family conflicts brought on by stress, proximity, fatigue, etc.
  • Enjoying moments of special closeness with the persons I am helping.
  • Forging new relationships.
  • Feeling I am doing too much, or not enough, for those around me (guilt, frustration, powerlessness, uselessness, etc.).
  • Modifying or strengthening my beliefs and values.
  • Physical ailments (headaches, muscle stiffness, exhaustion, etc.).
  • Having to reorganize my daily routine (work, travel, housework, place to stay, etc.).

What are my strengths and my resources? What can I do?

You are the person best placed to know your own strengths, resources, and needs.

Here are some questions that might help you pinpoint them:

  • If I have experienced a similar situation before, how did I deal with it? What proved effective and positive? What can I put into practice in the current situation?
  • What do those around me see as my strengths? What strengths can I use in the current situation?
  • Among my family and friends, whom can I talk to about the situation?
  • Who can support me in my role as a helper (allowing me to take a break, providing information, material and financial assistance, etc.)?
  • What community and government services can I call on?
  • What warning signs show that I am reaching my limits? What can I do to avoid exhaustion?

Some examples of strengths and resources

  • Ability to adapt to situations easily
  • Personal and cultural beliefs
  • Presence of and access to a social network
  • Personal qualities (patience, generosity, determination, courage, etc.)
  • Availability of community and government resources

Ways to help myself

  • Stay informed about the current situation.
  • Get information on help that is available.
  • Discuss matters with those around me to help me identify difficulties and find solutions.
  • Ask for, or accept, help.
  • Allow myself relaxation time.
  • Share tasks.

Despite measures you take to stay on top of the situation and avoid exhaustion, you may need to seek professional help.

Watch for these possible warning signs:

  • I cannot recuperate from my fatigue.
  • I constantly feel overwhelmed.
  • I cannot concentrate or make decisions.
  • I have frequent outbursts of anger and I am afraid I might become aggressive with those around me.
  • I suffer from insomnia.

Do not hesitate to ask for help. Your health is at stake!

Despite the difficulties disasters cause, they may also bring beneficial effects, such as a surge of solidarity between members of the community.

Do not give up hope!

Where can I get information?


  • Services Québec toll-free line: 1 877 644-4545
  • Régie de l'assurance maladie: Montréal, 514 864-3411, elsewhere in Québec: 1 800 561-9749
  • Emergency Operations Centre, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada: 613 996-8885 (collect call), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week


Where can I get help?

Produced with the collaboration of

  • CSSS de Lac-Saint-Jean-Est
  • Mr. Pierre-Paul Malenfant, t.s., (psychosocial) Civil Security Counsellor (psychosocial), MSSS


  • BRILLON, Pascal. Se relever d'un traumatisme, réap- prendre à vivre et à faire confi ance, Éditions Quebecor, 2004.
  • BRYMERS, M., et al. Psychological First Aid: Field Ope- rations Guide, 2nd Edition, National Child Traumatic Stress Network et National Center for PTSD, 2006.
  • ECHTERLING, Lennis, Jack PRESBURY and J. Edson McKEE. Crisis Intervention: Promoting Resilience and Resolution in Troubled Times, New Jersey, Pearson Merrill Prentice Hall, 2005, 269 pp.
  • GARANT, Louise, and Mario BOLDUC. L'aide par les proches : mythes et réalités, Québec, ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux, June 1990.
  • GOUVERNEMENT DU QUÉBEC. Earthquake in Haiti, 2010, Québec. (Consulted January 23, 2010).
  • MALENFANT, Pierre-Paul. "Les réactions des personnes sinistrées: module 4", in L'intervention sociosanitaire en contexte de sécurité civile, Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux, 2007. [Working document].
  • MALENFANT, Pierre-Paul. "Le processus d'adaptation: module 5", in L'intervention sociosanitaire en contexte de sécurité civile, Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux, 2008. [Working document].
  • MALENFANT, Pierre-Paul. "La fonction intervention psychosociale: module 6", in L'intervention socio- sanitaire en contexte de sécurité civile, Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux, 2008. [Working document].
  • MALTAIS, Danielle, and Marie-Andrée RHEAULT (eds.). L'intervention sociale en cas de catastrophe, Québec, Presses de l'Université du Québec, 2005, 392 pp.
  • MALTAIS, Danielle (ed.). Catastrophe et état de santé des individus, des intervenants et des communautés, Chicoutimi, Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, 2002, 866 pp.
  • MARTEL, Claude, and Alain BRUNET. "L'intervention psychosociale lors de sinistre", in Intervention en situation de crise et en contexte traumatique, Gaëtan Morin éditeur, 2006.
  • MINISTÈRE DE LA SANTÉ ET DES SERVICES SOCIAUX. Taking Care of Your Loved Ones: A Matter of Solidarity.


Different psychosocial information sheet about earthquake in Haiti are availlable:

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