In our last report, we highlighted the exciting time one of our rehab patients had in London, representing Haiti at the London 2012 Paralympians. Just a few months after he returned, the legacy of London really started in Haiti, as we partnered with a number of groups and opened Haiti's first purpose built Inclusive Sports Centre, as part of our rehabilitation unit.
It's been amazing to see the community get involved in this new area of our work. The heart behind this exciting new facility is to empower persons with disabilities, and overcome the stigma of disability which so often alienates persons with disabilities from the community. The good news is...it's working! Some of the local community who once looked on and laughed at some of our patients playing sport, now use the gym with them, and are developing friendships! This includes our wheelchair basket ball players, playing with able bodied users, and the local amputee football team using the gym for training. One person from the local community said 'this is the first time something has been built, where they can come with our disabled friends.'
The rehab unit has really benefited from this project. One of our younger rehab patients had been suffering with severe depression, as he tried to come to terms with his paralysis. However, thanks to the continued work of our team and the new sports activities available, his outlook was completely transformed, and he left the hospital as a confident, young man. This is just one example of the difference being made thanks to your support! Please continue to join us, as we seek to empower those with disabilities, and prove that disability is not inability!
The summer was a very exciting time for the rehab team, and for the whole of Haiti, as the first Paralympic team competed in the London 2012 games! Josue Cajuste and Nephtalie Jean-Louis competed in the shot and javelin competitions, and Leon Gaysli competed in the handbike events – both representing their country, and also demonstrating to their country that disabled people have the ability to achieve great things.
Leon Gaisli was injured in the earthquake of January 2010, with a spinal injury which means that he is now a wheelchair user. The same earthquake also caused the death of his wife, and 8 of his children – an unimaginable loss, and one from which Leon could not see much hope. He arrived at our spinal rehab centre with a poor prognosis, with many thinking he was not likely to live. Through using sport as a rehabilitative tool, however, he found a reason to get up in the morning, and started working towards ‘the dream’ of competing at the Paralympic games. Leon competed in the time trail event for handbike, and although he finished last, it was an incredible experience. Coming in 20 minutes behind the rest of the field, but not giving up, by the time he crossed the line the entire crowd knew who he was (thanks to the 20 minutes of commentary about his story!) and was chanting his name! Purchasing the rights to show the Paralympic games on Haitian television, we also ensured that his home country could see his great achievement.
The legacy of the Olympics is something which is often discussed in the UK, and we are proud to be part of making our contribution so that all which was achieved by disabled athletes will not be forgotten, but will be built upon for future generations. With funding from the United Nations, construction is underway on a purpose-built inclusive sports centre at our site, where disability sports can be pioneered and promoted within Haiti. We also plan to deliver integrated sports activities for young people, where children who are disabled and able-bodied can play together and learn about each others life experiences.
Please do join with us as we step forward in this exciting new venture as we help Haitians of all abilities realise their potential, and help train the Haitian paralympians of the future!
In June, Paralympian wheelchair sprinter, and Team GB representative Anne Wafula Strike travelled to meet Haiti’s Paralympic hopefuls at Haiti Hospital Appeal’s rehab centre, where they have been training.
Josue Cajuste will represent Haiti at the Paralympics competing for shot and javelin titles and earthquake survivor Leon Gaysil, is hoping one day to become Haiti’s first ever paralympian handcyclist. Anne encouraged and inspired them as they work towards competing on the world stage. “I’ve learned so much from them” she said. “Cajuste is such a star. Here he's someone with a disability who's been marginalised, who's regarded as useless in the community, but he will be representing and flying the flag of Haiti in London this summer. That is so powerful.”
We can't express how grateful we are that you have supported our rehabilitation work with your kind donations. Sport is a very important part of rehabilitation, improving physical functioning and mental stability. HHA’s disability sports centre is going to be a place where people with disabilities can train alongside those who don’t. We want to break down stigma and build advocates of disability sport in Haiti. It is very exciting seeing the dream becoming a reality, and that simply would not be possible without your continued support. From the bottom of our heart, we thank you.
Please visit our website for more news and photos about Anne's visit. We would encourage you to share our work with your friends and family, 'Like' our Facebook page or 'Follow' us on Twitter.
Building on the excitement of opening our HHA’s Rehabilitation unit, one of the first in Haiti, late last year, we have some really encouraging feedback from the unit’s head nurse and our rehabilitation patients.
Head nurse Mme Magloire reports how patients tell her the unit has given them a reason to live; in a country where people with disabilities are known as ‘worthless’ this is truly remarkable. She says they would never have imagined receiving the care they get daily; a holistic programme of physiotherapy, rehab. excercises, a resident psychiatrist to facilitate mental rehabilitation and wellbeing, and vocational activities. It is brilliant to have this feedback, and it is an endorsement of our goals to challenge attitudes to disability in this country; even starting with those who are themselves disabled.
Rehab patient Fritzner Eugene is particularly impacted by the approach of the nurses to their work. “They give us dignity,” he says; “I couldn’t have imagined finding this kind of care in Haiti.” Fritz is also amazed at his own physical healing and progress since he arrived at the unit; “When I came my two wounds were larger than a hand each. Now they are less than the width of a penny.”
What’s more, early in the year we received confirmation of a partnership with the UN’s Community Violence Reduction Team, to begin building a disability sports centre right next to the Rehabilitation unit. Sport is an incredibly powerful tool to overcome the awful stigma people living with disabilities have to face in Haiti, transforming attitudes and helping communities understand disability, so we’re really excited to begin this work which will be a hub of activity, providing indoor training facilities for seeking to join Haiti’s paralympic movement. It will also support grass root activities for kids, teenagers and less competitive adults offering wheelchair tennis, wheelchair basketball and sitting volley ball.
As you can see we have a lot to celebrate and also a lot to work for; can you join us by donating to our Rehabilitation Project? Please help us provide on-going support to those learning to live with disability and grow our work encouraging Haitian society to embrace their adults and children with disabilities and benefit from their skills and contribution.
Merry Christmas from the Haiti Hospital Appeal! We want to take this opportunity to wish all our supporters the very best of seasons greetings. Christmas can be a wonderful time of the year, yet it can also hide us from the realities of life for the hurting and the broken, wherever they might be. For us, we seek to continue to bring hope and new life to the people of Haiti through health care services. It really has been an exciting year. Even today, construction continues on our site. Yet, we look to next year believing greater things are yet to come.
Rehabilitation Centre Official Opening
In November we had the inauguration of the Rehabilitation Centre, the culmination of a building project that partnered five organisations to deliver rehabilitation to people with disabilities across the north of Haiti. Named after our Medical Directors daughter who tragically died last year, the ceremony was a moving reflection both on the tragedy of the last few years in Haiti, but also the hope, belief and reality of positive change. The United Nations, Swiss Paraplegic Foundation, Konbit Sante, Healing Hands for Haiti and ourselves have pioneered this work in Haiti. Work that was thought to be unachievable prior to the earthquake, to take care of adults and children with disability that breaks new ground. It is a privilege to spearhead this work, that we believe will continue to push new boundaries, giving new hope and freedom for disabled people and challenge the culture of fear and oppression that surrounds them from the communities they live in. The event was a huge success. Our long-term spinal chord patients and the children from the House of Blessings took part alongside plenty of dignitaries from across Haiti. It was for us a celebration of what can be achieved through dedication, compassion and the desire to see change that lasts. Before the earthquake, people with Spinal Cord Injuries had little or no chance of survival. However, this centre along with other partner NGO’s has dramatically changed that tragic reality, making ground breaking developments in rehabilitation over the last 18 months, and marking history as the first permanent unit of this kind in North Haiti.
This work needs your help if it is to succeed. Can you support it? Please donate today. Thank you. Keep an eye out on our website for information about a few events taking place over the month of January. On the 12th we remember the 2nd year anniversary since the earthquake.
Thanks for all your continued help and support, we wish you a very happy new year. With love
All of the Haiti Hospital Appeal Team
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