The Art of Perception

Newsletter issue: 
April 2014
News item date: 
Monday, May 19, 2014

By Tim Scordato

Elissa Kergosien, Volunteer alumna (2009-2011)

Editor’s note:  Elissa Kergosien was the Lead Volunteer and in Haiti on January 12th, 2010 when the 7.0 earthquake struck south of Port au Prince.  THP President, Deacon Patrick Moynihan noted: “I’ll never be able to thank Elissa enough for her tremendous leadership at the moment of the earthquake.  While it was a difficult three days that it took me to get back into the country, I was confident in Elissa’s leadership at all times.”

      In the fall of 2010, a team of visitors and staff scaled the particularly bumpy road to Pétionville, Haiti.  Mary Jo LeGrand, a visiting board member at the time, packed into the back of the school’s twelve-seated vehicle and forgot just how bumpy the road could be.  A friendly conversation with the others turned nauseating-literally.  Mary Jo recalled, “Elissa grabbed me by the shoulders, switched positions with me, and told me to look forward.  She somehow sensed something was wrong.”

      Elissa Kergosien’s gift of perception was an important asset to The Haitian Project (THP), whether it was applied to something as simple as sensing nausea or something much greater like healing emotional trauma.  She always showed a willingness to help others during her period of service as a Volunteer and then as the In-Country Coordinator for Community Development (2009-2011).  Betsy Bowman, a fellow Volunteer alumna and current THP board member, said, “Elissa is not the loudest person in the room—she has a Southern gentle quality about her.  But she is incredibly perceptive and not afraid to do what needs to be done.”

      Today, Kergosien applies her talents to her doctoral studies in clinical psychology at the Institute for Psychological Sciences (IPS) Center for Psychological Services, a Catholic outpatient mental health facility.  Kergosien noted that one of the center's focuses is on the importance of the Catholic view of seeing and building virtue and the understanding of the person, marriage and the family. 

      While teaching her religion classes at LCS after the earthquake, students often asked Kergosien “Why did this happen? How could God let this happen?” She sensed their fear and confusion, but, more importantly, perceived and drew out their strengths.

      She remembers, “I was really impressed with the Philo students who kicked in with meal preparation.  Those that threw themselves into the work did better… [Now], if I can get my clients to volunteer at a pregnancy center, that really helps.  Or at a gathering, there is always someone that needs a friend – why not make it a mission to talk to them? It is very powerful for my clients to see themselves as helpers and not just victims.”