Friday, 8 February 2013

Mission to Haiti a Success

Haiti Mission a Success
By: Diane Henry
Feb 2013 issue of Rusagonis-Waasis Community News

It was a labour of love and a mission of faith as 15 Rusagonis residents embarked on an 8 day journey to Haiti last month with the hope of helping three families build homes from rubble. The group from the Rusagonis Baptist Church spent a week in the earthquake ravaged country between January 7th -14th picking up rubble by the handful.

They managed to fill nine dump trucks with debris—enough to build three houses—as well as laid the foundations for two homes.  Pastor Brent MacDonald and his wife Wendy led the group to the impoverished town of Grand Goave.

“What we take for granted in our own homes is so important to these people,” said Brent.

The working mission was part of a larger project by Conscience International and Canadian Baptist Ministries to re-construct the country out of the rubble left behind by the devastating quake of 2010.  Many Haitians are still living under makeshift homes of tarp and sheet metal.

“My fire wood lives under a tarp,” said Wendy, describing the stark contrast between our way of life and the current reality for most Haitians.

The homes being re-constructed measure about 12 X 16 feet, what would be considered large enough to be a bedroom in most Canadian homes. “But to them, they’re getting the world,” explained Brent.  “They are so pleased with so little.”

Gathering up the rubble from what used to be homes and businesses was back-breaking labour but it also held unusual dangers.  “I did not expect to find so many critters,” said Wendy. “There were scorpions and tarantulas.”

Their hard work has paid off for three families, but the MacDonalds admit there is a whole lot of work left to be done in Haiti.   “What we did there was drop in the bucket compared to the need,” said Brent.

The church group will be followed by other missions groups taking up the task of helping the Haitians dig themselves out of piles of rock, cement and garbage.

“It was hard to leave without wanting to go back,” said Brent. “They were a generous, beautiful people.”

Monday, 10 October 2011

October 11, 2011
By: Diane Henry

Donnie Greenslade was speechless as he viewed the portrait of his son mounted in a transport truck that was playing gentle music on Saturday.  Pte. David Greenslade’s face is among 157 portraits of soldiers who have died while serving in Afghanistan that are now travelling across the country.

When artist David Sopha opened the newspaper one morning back in 2008 he was taken aback by the one hundred tiny faces starring back at him. They were postage-sized photos of all the Canadian soldiers killed to date in the war in Afghanistan.

“As an artist I looked into their eyes and got to know them,” he said. “That moment was emotional and I knew I had to do something.”

That something, was painting life-size portraits of every soldier who made the supreme sacrifice on a massive mural that is making its way across Canada. The Portraits of Honour National Tour is in Moncton today, after stopping in Saint John yesterday and CFB Gagetown on Saturday.  

The tour began September 1st in Alberta after a huge send off in May from the Prime Minister and Governor General.  It is being sponsored by Kin Canada and is being escorted by motorcades of veterans, police, RCMP, and other groups who support the military.

The 50 foot long and 10 foot tall mural displays the faces of 157 souls who lost their lives while serving in Afghanistan since the war began in 2001—including 10 New Brunswick natives.   

The parents of Pte. David Greenslade viewed their son’s painting while it was on display in Saint John at the Barack Green Armouries.  Pte. Greenslade, 20, was killed on Easter Sunday in 2007, along with five other soldiers, when a roadside bomb exploded as they drove through irrigation ditches in Afghanistan.

Greenslade’s mother, Laurie, said it was a touching gift.

“It brings back memories of that day he died and the day he deployed [for Afghanistan],” she said.  Laurie recalled the moment her son left on his mission overseas and the last thing David’s sergeant said to her: “we’ll bring them back.”

“It's probably the worst duty you could ask us to do, to be honest,” explained Colonel Ryan Jestin about his obligation to tell family members that someone they love has been killed while serving in Afghanistan. 

He spoke briefly with reporters in the spring of 2007 following a moving funeral service for Pte. Greenslade. Hundreds had gathered at the Main Street Baptist Church in Saint John to pay their final respects.

“When you have a family member overseas, you’re always watching the papers,” said Sopha.  Having a nephew in Afghanistan when he first began painting the mural gave him a further sense of urgency to ensure there was a legacy for the soldiers.

“I felt I needed to do something that would last forever.”

Sopha, an airbrush artist, turned to oil paints to ensure the portraits would last hundreds of years. Airbrush paintings will eventually fade, but as Sopha is learning, so will oil paint if it is exposed to sunlight and flash photography—something he encourages.  In order to preserve the portraits in top condition when they’re eventually placed in a museum, Sopha said he will have to paint another coat over the entire mural.  

The mural also has 82,136 poppy petals and Sopha wants to paint one for every fallen soldier from WWI to today—about 116,000 poppy petals.

Along with the military personnel, Sopha later plans to add the faces of Glyn Berry, a Canadian diplomat killed in Afghanistan in 2006 and Michelle Lang, a Calgary Herald reporter who died while covering the conflict in December 2009.

Sopha said he wants as many people as possible to see the portraits so that they can honour the memory of all the military personnel who have died while serving their country.   “Everyone should be respectful of our military,” he said.  

Sopha has committed to keep painting until Canada no longer has troops in Afghanistan.

The Portraits of Honour National Tour wraps up December 10th after making further stops in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Manitoba.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

By: Diane Henry
Originally Published: September, 2007

As more and more people switch over to the environmentally friendly compact fluorescent light bulbs concerns over their disposal have been raised because they contain mercury. The general manager of the Fundy Region Solid Waste Commission says the Household Hazardous Waste Materials Program has been very successful in diverting the bulbs from the landfill.  

“I think the Fundy region population has been very receptive with lots of participation, and I think that’s what’s important,” said Mark MacLeod. He says the one-year-old program has already diverted more than 50,000 litres of liquid hazardous waste from the landfill.

Compact fluorescent light bulbs use only a fraction of the energy incandescent light bulbs use, and generate more light while lasting several times longer. “The issue with mercury in compact fluorescent light bulbs is that mercury is an element, it’s at its lowest point so it doesn’t degrade,” said MacLeod. “It’s always there. We just don’t want it in our waste.

“Right now what we ask people to do is collect their goods like paint, fuel, oil and batteries, and to try to collect them all into one big collection and come to our site and drop them off.”

If mercury is such a problem in landfills, why not make it easier for users to safely dispose of the potentially harmful light bulbs? MacLeod says it’s not an easy process because they are considered hazardous waste. “So to set up remote sites requires special permitting.” 

That means, users can’t just take the bulbs back to the retailer, producer or even Saint John Energy when they burn out---a shorter commute for most than heading out to the landfill.

MacLeod says it comes down to a government loop hole that prohibits the Fundy Region Solid Waste Commission from transporting the light bulbs from a remote site back to the Hazardous Waste Materials Program at the landfill. “We fully support the cfl’s because they are great for the environment,” he said. “We just want to see the government close the loop by addressing the disposal of those items.”

The provincial Department of Environment recently met with the Solid Waste Association and Efficiency New Brunswick to come up with a game plan. “We need to be proactive on this, recognizing that 2012 is the date incandescent light bulbs will no longer be available,” said Mark Bolden, Manager of Bioscience and Resource Management with the Department of Environment.

The federal government has set 2012 as a deadline for moving completely from incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent light bulbs. Bolden says the waste commissions in New Brunswick are all handling the new energy efficient bulbs differently, and now they want to bring the differing methods together to come up with a common approach for safe disposal.

“What we would prefer to do, if we could, is divert all of that through the use of a stewardship program,” said MacLeod, “that would be great.”

Environmentalist David Thompson argues disposal of these light bulbs is not a big problem right now because they last five to seven years. “People are just beginning to use them now because they’ve just come on the market, and I’m sure industry will be producing bulbs very soon with little or no mercury in them. So, the bulbs here now in the market place are not an emergency factor because of their long life. We’re not seeing hoards of them coming to the landfill every day.”

The amount of coal needed to burn a regular light bulb produces more mercury than is in a compact fluorescent light bulb. “It appears that the amount of energy saved will reduce the amount of mercury given out at generation plants,” Thompson said.

The industry has actually reduced the amount of mercury in the compact fluorescent light bulbs over the last number of years, and Bolden believes it may fall on industry to reduce it more and make the bulbs as environmentally friendly as possible. “I think ultimately the responsibility will fall on the industry to manage something that they are producing.”

Thompson easily agrees, “I don’t think it will be very long before the matter of traces of mercury being found in these bulbs will be resolved and it [mercury] won’t be in the bulbs any longer.”

For now, waste commissions across the province are struggling to deal with the number of hazardous waste products, such as compact fluorescent light bulbs, that are being put in with regular garbage. “In one household it’s not dangerous to have that light there,” said MacLeod. “It’s not dangerous to have two, three or four; where it becomes dangerous is if we have all of those lights in one area, and of course one area could be the landfill.”

In the past there was no effort to segregate household hazardous materials such as small cell batteries from going into the landfill, and up until recently those contained a lot of mercury, hundreds of times as much mercury as one cfl would contain.

“So, we already probably have a much higher concentration of mercury there then we would ever get from all of the fluorescent light bulbs currently out there in the market,” said Thompson.

Bolden says there is still work to be done in the province as far as working with the commissions and Efficiency NB. He says the province has another meeting planned in the next couple of months to look at this issue again. For now, the Department of Environment will hold discussions with the Solid Waste Association to come up with a common message or a common approach for right across the province in dealing with all household hazardous waste.

“Mercury is in a lot of places in the environment, unfortunately,” said Thompson.

**Side Note: This article was written four years ago, which means the life span of these compact fluorescent light bulbs is nearing their end. That means the landfills will soon be seeing a lot more of them and their mercury.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

By: Diane Henry

There are very few monks in Canada, but on a walking journey across the nation in September 2007, a monk stopped in Saint John. I had a chance to speak with Bhaktimarga Swami about his spiritual pilgrimage.

Where are you from?
I’m a Canadian, I was born here. I love Canada. I’m from Ontario in particular.

This is your third walk across Canada, what’s different about this one? 
I started this walk a little differently. I walked Western Canada last summer and then I broke the walk up and this summer I’m doing Eastern Canada, whereas the last previous times I walked straight across the country.

Why do it?
Since I am a monk of the Hare Krishna tradition one of the things we do is when you get on in your years you spend less time with worldliness, and you just get out and about and have no fixed address and become nomadic, and become inspired by what you see. So, I thought I’d put my feet and my heart together and go for long walks, and it’s working.

How do people react when they see you?
Their response is overwhelming. It’s almost like having cheerleaders all around you sometimes, some days it’s like that. I get very little, lets say, red neck dynamic. People are either indifferent or just really almost envious wishing they could do that, go across and have the time and energy to do this sort of thing.

Some would see it as having somewhat of a free spirit. Is that how you would describe yourself?
Yeah. It’s kind of a carefree lifestyle, casual and it is certainly car free. Free spirited, that would be a good way to describe it.

You say you have no fixed address and you can just get up and walk across the country, so how do you fund yourself to pay for food and whatnot?
Well, I’m a vegetarian and I do live a simple lifestyle and I have a friend with me who has agreed to use his vehicle for support and we brought a large tent, so basically we have been tenting out. But I’d say that we’ve been living on the generosity of some people from our own communities across Canada, as well as persons who just have some feeling for the walking mission and they want to just offer something. I even had a police office while on duty give me a few bills, which is pretty unique.

Where did that happen with the police officer?
Oh, that was back in Ontario

Do you find a particular part of the country that’s more generous or more interested than other parts?
People have been kind every where. Even in the prairies, what I would consider very conservative territory, people were just really, really nice. Ontario has been very special, but with the language barrier in Quebec I just decided to walk across that place really fast. I don’t know French that well. But I will tell you quite frankly the more East you go, like in the Maritimes, the more sweet it gets.  Finally, Newfoundlanders are just real sweetie pies.

So you have a little bit of favouritism I see.
Well it’s just based on experience. In terms of favourite places, I don’t think that I’d be doing justice to be partial to any particular area, but I must admit I’m a bit of a sucker for the North Shore of Lake Superior, but it’s all beautiful.

How would you describe this pilgrimage?
Just as the term implies it has something to do with the spiritual life. I’m walking to try to encourage people to live more of a simple life and probe more deeply into the spirit and not get too caught up in consumerism. You have to balance things. What I’m saying is lets check the imbalanced lives we live in Canada.

The walking mission is really a self discovery type of program and it’s something I think more people should get out and about doing.

What are some of the rules that you must follow as a monk?
As a Hare Krishna tradition we’re strict vegetarians, I don’t get involved in any type of gambling activities, and no intoxication. That’s something I may have experimented with before I became a monk, but I realized that there is a higher purpose and a higher pleasure, so I don’t do that anymore. Those are some of the basic traditions. Early rising and going out for mediation is another. While I’m walking I’m also spending considerable time on my meditative beads.

What are those?
They are called Japa beads and on each bead you chant a mantra. A mantra is kind of like a mind releaser, a bit like a prayer, and basically it’s there to pacify the mind and gain a sense of focus.

What about celibacy?
As a monk I’m celibate. In our tradition most of our members are encouraged in our young teens to be celibate, for young boys and girls to learn chastity, and then later on we’re encouraged to take up family life. If you have an inclination later on once your family duties are taken care of then you might go the celibate way again, when you don’t have the same oomph or drive or passion. It comes natural. Then you might go the simple life and go on long walks like the kind that I’m doing.

Are there many female monks?
We do have some. I’d say that there are very few male and female monks.

Well thank you very much for your time.
Well thank you. I appreciate the time you were able to give, and I hope people in Canada can take a little more towards power walking and particularly reflective walking. 

Facing the effects of covering trauma

Facing the effects of covering trauma

The news culture, says the co-author of a U.S. study of post-traumatic stress suffered by journalists, has always honoured those who rush into danger to get the story. "To admit you have been wounded by that action is seen as a declaration that you aren't a good journalist."

By: Diane Woolley (Now Diane Henry)
Originally Published: Oct. 12, 2003 in the 
Kings Review

Lisa Taylor: "Misery likes company." Photo: Courtesy CBC
Lisa Taylor: "Misery likes company." Photo: Courtesy CBC
She dipped her fingers into the icy waters off the coast near Peggy's Cove hoping that someone lived. As she pulled back her hands they were filled with something soft and pink. That's when journalist Lisa Taylor realized she was holding the remains of someone's body.
It was Sept. 2, 1998 when Swiss Air Flight 111 slammed into the Atlantic Ocean near the rocky edge of Nova Scotia. Taylor was there reporting on the crash that had killed 230 passengers and crew.
Floating along in a fishing boat with her cameraman, Taylor admits to losing her journalistic objectivity. She was no longer looking for a story, but a survivor.
"There was a lot of debris from seat cushions, and things like that that had just been sort of shredded up. But there were also a lot of human remains that were shredded up into tiny little pieces, and they were on us and on the boat and on my hands and everywhere.
"And realizing that yeah, that pink stuff wasn't just something else that had sort of broken up on impact but that it was people that had broken up on impact, it was horrible.
"And that was the image that kept on coming back."
But Taylor was lucky: although she suffered stress immediately after covering the crash, her symptoms were not long lasting. Within a couple of weeks she was getting over the traumatic experience. She had gone to see a psychologist and armed herself with the knowledge of a topic many reporters still avoid, post-traumatic stress disorder. She says knowing the symptoms helped her be aware of her own mental situation. That way she knew to seek further professional counselling if it was needed to help her cope. But what really helped her get over the traumatic stress, she says, was going to law school and immersing herself in school work.

Psyschologist: Stress disorders better recognized after Gulf War

Dr. Ann Wetmore, a Halifax psychologist, says people have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or symptoms of post-traumatic stress for centuries. But it was only after the Vietnam war that many people started to realize that not only soldiers were getting traumatized, reporters were too.
Wetmore says that PTSD became even more widely recognized among journalists during the Gulf War, but even today many journalists don't recognize the symptoms or don't want to acknowledge that they may be suffering from them. She says some journalists see PTSD as a sign of weakness, when suffering from symptoms of post-traumatic stress is a very normal reaction to witnessing extraordinary events.
The Washington based Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma website quotes Chantal McLaughlin in a case study published online by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism: "The American Psychiatric Association characterizes PTSD as at least three months of recurrent and intrusive recollections of the event, emotional numbing, and avoidance of people and places that are reminders of the event. Another common symptom is hyper arousal, which may include irritability, jittery behaviour, poor concentration, sleep disturbances and feeling a lack of security. Trauma survivors often become depressed and have trouble with work and family relationships. People with the disorder may not understand what is causing their symptoms and may never be diagnosed, suffering in silence, perhaps for years."
According to the American Psychiatric Association, some people may not suffer from PTSD for months or even years after the incident. That's when they may experience flashbacks and other symptoms.
Although many journalists may deny suffering from symptoms of post-traumatic stress, the larger problem is that many may not be aware they are suffering from a disorder. The culture of the news business works to suppress the idea that journalists are vulnerable. In fact, many journalists have reported that they had no idea there could be psychological consequences for doing their job, when they started. Most reporters and psychologists would agree that the best way to deal with these issues is through mutual support within the craft and having editors who have walked the walk and understand what their journalists are doing.
Dr. Diane McIntosh, formerly a psychiatrist for the Canadian Armed Forces in Halifax, says general assignment reporters are at high risk of suffering from PTSD because they are witnesses to the death and injury of others. She says foreign correspondents are also at risk because they are constantly putting themselves in dangerous situations where their own life is at stake.
However, McIntosh says, journalists are better at coping with traumatic situations than members of the armed forces. Journalists can control their situation most of the time, deciding whether to go into a dangerous place or not, whereas soldiers are ordered to go in, whether they think it's a good idea or not.
Dr. Anthony Feinstein, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto, and two colleagues published the first study on war journalists and PTSD. The study, published in the September 2002 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry, concluded that war correspondents suffer from far greater psychological difficulties than journalists who do not report on war.
This may not come as a big surprise. However, the study also found that a war journalist's lifetime prevalence of PTSD is similar to rates reported for combat veterans, and as much as four times that for police officers, whose rate of PTSD is between 7 and 13 per cent. War journalists are also found to have higher weekly alcohol consumption and higher measures of depression, than other journalists.
Perhaps more disturbing than the statistics is that the study revealed war correspondents were no more likely to seek mental health treatment than their peers who had not reported in war zones.

Puddicombe in Afghanistan: "I was saying goodbye to my friends"

Stephen Puddicombe: "I don't get scared when I'm there. But when I'm leaving I'm absolutely terrified." Photo Courtesy Stephen Puddicombe
Stephen Puddicombe: "I don't get scared when I'm there. But when I'm leaving I'm absolutely terrified." Photo Courtesy Stephen Puddicombe
Stephen Puddicombe, CBC Radio's national reporter for the Maritimes, isn't afraid to admit that he has suffered from symptoms of PTSD, but unlike some reporters he sought counselling. He has done reporting in several dangerous or traumatic environments, most recently Afghanistan and Iraq. He says he doesn't get scared going into dangerous situations, but upon reflection is faced with some bad memories and even some nightmares.
Puddicombe first went to see a psychologist after covering the Swissair crash. He thought he should check in with one after realizing he was remembering the events of the crash differently from how they actually occurred. He remembered cloudy and miserable weather the day after the crash, when in reality it was bright and sunny that day. Since then Puddicombe has been seeing a psychologist after every traumatic experience or dangerous situation, such as in Afghanistan and Iraq. Puddicombe began seeing Dr. Wetmore after he returned from Iraq.
But what bothers him most about those places isn't going there or even being there. "I don't get scared thinking about going in. I don't get scared when I'm there. But when I'm leaving I'm absolutely terrified. That's when it all sinks in."
Puddicombe says you can't help but develop relationships with the people you meet in those places. He considered his translators and his driver to be almost like family, and when he left for home he felt incredible guilt. He honestly believed he was leaving them to die. He also feared for the lives of his colleagues who were left behind as he went on to safety.
"I felt totally useless. I felt hopeless and useless," he says. "I was saying goodbye to my friends. Imagine getting up in the morning and seeing your husband or your fiance, and you know that as you leave that door, you're almost positive that he's going to die before you come home. How do you tell someone what that feels like. I don't know."
"It's very traumatizing," Wetmore says, "when suddenly you get to come out and you don't know if the people you left behind are safe."
Puddicombe left Iraq before the bombing started in March, after being there for eight weeks. He says the CBC brought him home because they didn't want to do his funeral. The CBC has a program to help its employees find counselling if it's necessary and offers support to its reporters. Puddicombe says his employer's biggest concern is for his well-being.
Not all reporters feel that about their employer. Bob Bergen, former military affairs reporter for the Calgary Herald, says that when he came back from reporting in Croatia and Bosnia in 1994 his paper treated him like he had just returned from covering a hockey game. He says he doesn't begrudge the other reporters' lack of compassion, because he understands that they had their own lives, careers, and families and that nothing had changed for them. But he often wondered why he was risking his life, waking up inside a warehouse that was so filthy the military needed tents inside to make it livable for the troops, to put on his flack jacket and helmet just to go to breakfast, and travelling over roads filled with land mines, for a newspaper that he felt didn't appreciate what he was doing.
"How could anybody in a nice comfortable newsroom picture that?" he says. "They can't. And, while the military has post-deployment support and recovery systems, the journalists have nobody."
Bergen went to Bosnia and Croatia before the strike of 1999 at the Calgary Herald. The newspaper was owned by Conrad Black at the time. Peter Menzies, the new general manager of the Calgary Herald, which is now owned by the Aspers, says, "irrespective of ownership, the Calgary Herald has and continues to maintain one of the most comprehensive employee assistance programs in Canada."
Menzies says he can understand where Bergen is coming from and that he himself has experienced feelings about needing more support from colleagues in the past. He says that perhaps Bergen had a manager who failed to express the proper concern or make him aware of what the company had to offer. But that was a few years ago, and Menzies says things are a little different now with different managers in charge.
Bergen doesn't think he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. But he will say that the experience affected him, that his friends saw a "wild look" in his eyes when he returned, and that he wasn't at all sad to leave the Calgary Herald to pursue a Ph.D. at the University of Calgary. "The University of Calgary puts a premium on my knowledge and experience that the Herald under Conrad Black never would."
Menzies says sending reporters overseas is expensive, and that "to indicate the newspaper doesn't appreciate it or doesn't invest in resources to help its journalists in these situations just isn't accurate."
But not enough news organizations have support for journalists who suffer from symptoms of post-traumatic stress, or are returning from potentially traumatic situations, says Robert Frank. Frank is one of two Canadian founders of News Coverage Unlimited, a non-profit organization to help journalists deal with trauma. He became interested in PTSD after witnessing journalists at the Swissair crash demonstrating signs of traumatic stress.
There was a well orchestrated support system for all of the volunteers at the Swissair disaster. "However, the support for journalists was haphazard at best," he says. He did notice that a dozen or so CBC journalists would get together every night and blow off steam over a beer. "They discovered to their surprise that other colleagues were experiencing the same odd feelings," he says, "and by finding that out they discovered they were normal, they were not alone, and that this was a normal reaction to extraordinary and very terrible things."

Changed attitudes

Since Sept. 11, Frank says, people's attitudes about PTSD have changed. More reporters are talking about it openly and the public is beginning to realize that journalists suffer from witnessing traumatic events the same as firefighters, police officers, and military personnel do. But Frank says the World Trade Center attack also produced an attitude that it takes something of monstrous proportions to create feelings or produce symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress. "It's very unfortunate," he says, "because we already know that all kinds of reporting produces traumatic stress."
A recent study reveals that of all assignments given to photojournalists "covering automobile accidents, fire and murder were the most common; and automobile accidents were most often ranked as the most stressful assignments." The study, conducted by Dart Center research advisor Elana Newman, executive director Roger Simpson, and Dart fellow David Handschuh, appears in the January 2003 issue of Visual Communication Quarterly. The study found that the vast majority of photojournalists have covered traumatic events, and the more traumatic events they cover the more distressed they become.
Roger Simpson, who's also a journalism professor at the University of Washington, says eight to ten per cent of domestic reporters and photographers in the United States have PTSD. Despite exposure to trauma, the study found that only 11 per cent of the photojournalists surveyed said they were warned by their employers of the potential emotional impact of the job, and 34 per cent said they were warned of the physical hazards of the job. Only a quarter of the photographers reported that their employers had offered counselling.
Not only is a lack of support a problem, but Simpson says even with support and counselling many journalists still try to deal with the traumatic effects on their own. "The news culture has always honoured those who rush into danger to get the story. To admit you have been wounded by that action is seen as a declaration that you aren't a good journalist."
Robert Frank, of News Coverage Unlimited, says many reporters don't admit to suffering from symptoms of post-traumatic stress because they fear being reassigned to soft beats. Also, he says, some people feel that expressing a vulnerability will leave them open to ridicule by their peers. "That's where openness, mutual support within the craft is a powerful means of healing. It's not the only one but it's a start," Frank says.
Dr. Diane McIntosh agrees. She says there needs to be support for employees within any company, especially for employees who are at high risk of suffering from symptoms of post-traumatic stress. She cautions, however, against forcing journalists to talk with strangers about their problems, and says it is better to encourage family communication and peer support.

* * *
Lisa Taylor's last day at the CBC was Friday, only two days after the Swiss Air plane crash. She says she wasn't yet ready to move on. She was hoping to see the story through to the end so that the initial experience would feel less surreal for her. Taylor says she needed to recover from what she had seen, by being around other people who'd experienced what she had. "Misery likes company," she says. Taylor wanted peer support.
Instead, she says, the executive producer at the time, Mike Pietrus, told her to go on to law school -- she was to start the following Monday -- and forget about the crash. She says that was one of the most "unfeeling and thoughtless" things he could have done.
Rob Gordon: "Your job is to allow thousands, maybe millions of other people to share that experience." Photo Diane Woolley
Rob Gordon: "Your job is to allow thousands, maybe millions of other people to share that experience." Photo Diane Woolley
Told about Taylor's comment, Pietrus says he doesn't remember the conversation. He says the CBC had counselling available to its employees, and that had he known Taylor wanted to stay as a means of coping he would have looked at the decision more carefully.
But for Taylor the lesson was simple: "Institutional policies and directors and HR [human resources] strategies for crisis management are all very important; but on the ground floor you have to have sensible, reasonable, caring managers."

* * *
Journalists deal with witnessing traumatic events in different ways. For Lisa Taylor it was a need for closure, but Rob Gordon, a reporter for CBC Television in Halifax, says that when he is in a dangerous or traumatic situation he focuses on his job and not on what he is feeling.
"Your job is to allow thousands, maybe millions of other people to share that experience, to find out what happened that day, what happened at that event. And that's your job. And it's not to get emotionally attached to anybody, and it's not to get weighed down by an event."
He does admit, however, to having a fear of being taken hostage, a reality for some foreign correspondents. Gordon also admits to having nightmares about what he saw while covering the Swissair crash, the trauma of which led him to seek counselling.
Gordon cannot say what one experience has affected him the most. "Twenty years of being a reporter -- there is in some ways one incident that will stick out, or one story, but it's what the whole business does to you, it's what the whole docket of everything you see does to you."


Asia Diaries
Originally published: February 2, 2007
By: Diane Woolley (Now Diane Henry)
I lived and worked in China for eight months from 2004 to 2005. Among my travels in China, Cambodia and Thailand, I realized just how real the poverty is in that part of the world, especially among children. Having grown up in the Saint John area of New Brunswick, I know there is poverty here too. These are my stories…
Part One: “Begging Is His Job”
The small Chinese boy follows me into the bank and reaches out with his dirty little hand, tightly clutching a small yellow bowl with his other. He knows me; I always find him at the same street corner. His name, Xin Tao. He is only nine years old, wears old clothes, and has messy hair and dirty cheeks. His job, begging.
Xin Tao is among thousands of children all over China who spend their days and nights begging for money, or selling roses to tourists and visitors. These children don’t go to school, or play games, or have friends. They are forced to beg by their parents, grandparents, and even strangers. Desperation and extreme poverty drives some rural families to sell their children into slavery. 
“You know, many beggars in China are richer than the workers in rural areas,” says Du Juan, a Shenzhen resident. “They don’t like to work because they can make more money begging in the city.”
In 2002 the average yearly income in rural China was $269USD, three times less than the $853USD made in urban areas. Migrant workers seek riches in large cities such as Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong, many through begging in the streets where they can make more money than Chinese farmers.
Small Canadian cities like Saint John face their own battles with poverty, much like the rural landscapes of China. Here, one in four people, about 17,000, live in poverty and 42% of the poor children live in single-parent families.
In the Shekou district of Shenzhen, many women rent babies to hold while begging, in attempts to appeal to the sympathetic hearts of Western tourists. They appear to be single mothers desperate to feed their children, but are sometimes caught swapping babies throughout the night. 
For them, begging is an occupation and it is becoming big business. “It’s their job,” says Ye Houng Chen, a local high school student. “Those people are not suffering, they are making money.” Some people are actually granted permission by the government to beg, because no one will hire them due to a disability.
But children like Xin Tao certainly are suffering. They are the victims of the begging industry.
Xin Tao hovers nearby as I withdraw money for dinner with some colleagues at a local restaurant. I don’t often give him money, because I know it’s not his to keep. Instead, I offer food. Tonight I pull out a candy from my purse and hand it to him. Slowly, cautiously he opens the plastic package to retrieve the treasure inside. ‘Crack’ it falls to the floor, breaking in half. As he picks it up to put in his mouth, his seven year old sister Tao Mei comes crying into the bank. She wants a piece too. He gives her the other half without hesitation and I offer my last piece of candy for them to share. I know I will see them again on my way home and will offer them a piece of fruit or bread.
As I walk away, I see an old man standing in the shadows watching the two children work. They run to him with their yellow bowls jingling whenever someone offers them spare change. I think he is their grandfather, or perhaps their owner. When I ask, they call him daddy.