Responding to Haiti's Earthquake: Volunteer Health and Community Relationships

Mary Nelan, University of Texas at El Paso


Disaster volunteers are an important group of workers on the ground after a disaster. International volunteers have not been the subject of much research in the past. Following the January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti, an American-based NGO set up a base in Leogane, the epicenter of the earthquake. The purpose of this research is to further understand the disaster volunteer population and help inform international NGOs who respond to disasters. This thesis focuses on the volunteers who worked with that organization during 2010. As a volunteer, I witnessed the situations that inspired this research through my own experiences for one month during the summer of 2010 in Leogane, Haiti. The foci of this thesis are the volunteer characteristics, their health (i.e. protective behaviors, physical health, mental health, and risk behaviors), and their interactions both with their host community (the people of Leogane, Haiti) and within the international volunteer community of the organization. 90 volunteers responded to an online social survey during January and February 2011. The survey was open for one month. The data are presented in descriptive statistics, OLS and logistic regression models, paired sample t-tests and an ANOVA. I found that the volunteer population was primarily made up of single young adults with a high level of education. Volunteers engaged in various protective behaviors, and women were more likely than men to use of bug repellent and sunscreen more frequently. Few volunteers scored high enough on the PTSD checklist (PCL) to qualify as having PTSD. Being younger was found to be a predictor of risk behaviors (specifically consuming moonshine and marijuana in Haiti). Finally, age was also a predictor of the frequency of interactions with the Haitian host community as the younger adult volunteers interacted more often with Haitians.^

Subject Area

Caribbean Studies|Sociology, Public and Social Welfare|Sociology, Demography

Recommended Citation

Nelan, Mary, "Responding to Haiti's Earthquake: Volunteer Health and Community Relationships" (2011). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI1494366.