RESILIENCE in the Context of Haitian Reality

RESILIENCE in the Context of Haitian Reality

The reflex of all those who hear for the first time about a word or a concept whose meaning they do not understand is to look up the meaning in the dictionary. Sometimes, at the risk of disappointment, they only find a definition referring to a field of activity that does not correspond to what they expected. 

In this article, we shall attempt to define the term RESILIENCE in the context of Haitian reality. To do this, we will first develop a theoretical and conceptual framework, followed by a practical framework in the second stage.

Theoretical and conceptual framework

While this word has its roots in resistance and rebound, it was used for approximately half a century in the humanities before Anglo-Saxons repurposed it. In physics, resilience refers to a substance or body’s ability to withstand stress or deformation.

Resilience is catching on in French-speaking professional circles a little later than in English-speaking circles. Research, training, and practice in the medico-social, psychiatric, educational, and legal disciplines — can find inspiration and a fresh lease on life there. In order to better understand and care for those who have been entrusted to us, we must broaden our perspective and our actions on their social and material environment, life cycles, conditions, and ways of living; this is an approach where respect, empathy, and profound knowledge of the resources — too often unrecognized, untapped — of human beings confronted with the harsh realities of existence must be combined. The term “resilience” was first used in biology, psychology, economics, sociology, and ecology, among other subjects.

In the broad sense (and in particular with regard to human sciences), we can consider resilience as the ability of a given system to overcome the alterations caused by one or more disturbing elements, to return to its initial state and/or normal operation.

The fashionable term “Resilience” is a positive antidote to the negative connotation of “vulnerability.” It is rooted in the potential and capacities specific to each population.

Mechanisms of resilience

Resignation implies an acceptance of an experience suffered without taking into account the beneficial effect that can result from it to the point of coming out, growing, and maturing. In this context, there may be long-term victimization of the individual who perceives themself as a subject but is not considered an actor in what he experiences.

Here we will focus more specifically on the internal and environmental mechanisms called upon and the tutoring elements made available to young people allowing them to recharge their batteries, grow and develop. Although the notion of resilience as a dynamic process holds our attention, it seems important to us to highlight resilience both as a trait and as a result. Paul Bouvier (2001) assimilates a “resilient temperament” to what would manifest as different character traits, such as self-esteem, autonomy, and positive social orientation. Ann Masten, for her part, asserts that “resilience refers to a class of phenomena characterized by good results despite serious threats to adaptation and development” (2001: 227-238). This definition certainly has the advantage of suggesting possible operationalizations, but it confronts us with significant difficulties in this regard, as Joëlle Lighezzolo and Claude de Tychey (2004) point out. We will therefore refrain from raising them since it is resilience as a process that concerns us.

Resilience, a dynamic process

Resilience is seen here as a dynamic process. It inscribes its construction at the interface between the intrapsychic functioning of the subject and its environmental reality, with the intersubjective spaces that it mobilizes, as Lighezzolo and Tychey (2004) point out. Dynamic process refers to an evolutionary change that continues throughout life and is viewed here from a developmental perspective. It is dynamic in the sense that it is never definitively acquired. The young adolescent is constructed over time from the internalization of lived experiences. Resilience is, therefore, a function of the evolution of the subject during its development. It is subject to the temporality and fluctuations of existence.

From a cognitive and behavioral point of view, according to Lighezzolo and Tychey (2004), it is a question of developing the learning of cognitive mechanisms for processing traumatic situations encountered by the subject at first and of external support social for a second time. In summary, facilitate the adoption of an active coping style centered on problem-solving in the face of a traumatic situation to maximize the probability of succeeding in overcoming the adversity encountered.

In conclusion, the rise of this concept has the advantage of drawing attention to the dynamic aspect of each person’s future. However, due to its recent emergence, it is not free from controversy and criticism.

In Haiti, the term “resilience” is currently the subject of many interpretations, particularly because the demarcation between resilience and resignation sometimes seems obscured. 

  • One of the connotations of RESILIENCE is to adapt to the Gordian knots that corrode society and to do better despite previous traumas coming on top of more recent traumas. In other words, an ability to succeed, live and develop despite adversity. This connotation follows that people in a quest for survival and often in inhumane conditions have been able to find ways to adapt positively, recharge, rebuild and even build themselves.


  • Another connotation of this word is closely related to the geomorphological and seismotectonic context of the country. Haiti has a long history of natural hazards. It is also vulnerable to earthquakes. In this sense, we often talk about building capacities and encouraging citizen action in risk prevention through RESILIENCE.


  • An example is related to the COVID-19 health crisis. While in so-called developed countries with a robust health system, deaths have reached an exponential number, while in Haiti, a country with only one hospital bed for 1,502 inhabitants, one doctor for 3,353 inhabitants, and 124 intensive care beds throughout its territory. Health institutions – mostly private – lack everything: equipment, protective equipment, medicines, access to water and electricity, and deaths have not followed the same propensity.


Des vulnérabilités multiples à la résilience et à la prospérité : Un appel d’Haïti

Résilience des infrastructures : Comment les solutions fondées sur la nature peuvent améliorer l’infrastructure de transport ? Leçons d’Haïti

Résilience et processus créateurs dynamiques : pour une reconstruction des jeunes


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