Faris, Gail

Advisor Department

Honors Program




Haiti; Haitian History; Haitian Culture


Cultural Competency: A Student’s Examination of Haiti

Heidi Dotson

Faculty Sponsor: Gail Faris, Women’s Center

On January 12, 2010 the world watched as a 7.0 milliwatt earthquake brought Haiti to her knees. It did not take long before the international community had arrived to help Haiti rise from the rubble. On October 21, 2010 the Center for Disease Control confirmed a cholera epidemic in Haiti. One year after the earthquake, only five percent of the rubble had been cleared, and more than one million Haitians were living as refugees in “temporary” tents. Watching all of this from my “temporary” beach house, I had questions.

I began by taking an analytical look at Haiti. This country was born out of genocide and slavery with a revolutionary history not unlike our own. Haiti’s environment has been chopped, burned, and ploughed until decimated. Their culture is a unique blend of African and European influences. Political instability and foreign intervention is not a new problem in Haiti. My research inspired new questions: Was I making judgments about this country? What would Haitians think about my findings? What made me any different than the “do gooders” who had so eagerly insisted that their work was helping Haiti? I wanted to hear from people who had grown up with this unique culture, who had been there when Haiti fell to her knees, and who had their own thoughts on what their beloved land needed to pull herself back up.

I began this project wanting to provide a framework for college students travelling to help in Haiti. I knew that in order to make an effective difference, these students must understand the people they are trying to help. In the process of achieving my initial goal, I have become more culturally competent, respectful, and understanding, qualities that will make me a much needed asset in the clinical healthcare community.

Timeline.doc (34 kB)
Visual Timeline of Haitian History

Cultural Competency.ppt (1251 kB)
Visual Presentation