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
Our rehabilitation service continues to take in new patients with spinal injuries and stroke impairments. Outpatient rehabilitation care provides assessment, physiotherapy and exercise for children and adults. Sadly many of the patients are receiving remedial care for conditions that should have been corrected in the early years of their lives; for example Amable, a 10 year old girl who has clubbed feet, had learned to walk on her ankles and is now receiving some basic physiotherapy to help her and her mother strengthen her lower leg muscles.
Over the last few months the construction has been developing rapidly, our new purpose built rehabilitation centre is now completed providing the perfect setting for our rehab patients. It will provide a unique and life transforming service for the country, recently highlighted in a report about our work by Dr Fritz Moise, one of Haiti’s leading SCI specialists: ‘The opening of the HHA centre of SCI was without any doubt a turning point in the destiny of the northern population of the country, especially in the life of those suffering from disabilities such as SCI. The feedback is positive and the statistics show the growing numbers of consults and the waiting list for new admissions in the inpatient unit.’
In addition we have started to launch our mobile rehabilitation team that provides support to patients in their houses. The team connects discharged individuals with community leaders and groups so they can be fully integrated within their communities and access the support they require. The team can also reach some of the most vulnerable, housebound patients, ensuring everyone is offered the opportunities they deserve.
We are also developing sports therapy for the rehabilitation patients with the provision of basic equipment javelins, discus, shot puts and a sophisticated three-wheel hand cycle. These activities are highly motivational and provide both great physical and mental development elements to treatment at a relatively low cost.
In relation to this rehabilitation project, we have launched a campaign for Haiti, “The Dream”, to be able to send a team of athletes to the London 2012 Paralympic games (http://www.haitidream.org/). The campaign would allow Haiti, a country with the highest rate of disability in the Americas, to be represented for the first time at a world event, raising the awareness of the lack of facilities and opportunities for the disabled in that country. We formally registered four of patients for the Parapan American Games in Mexico this November (one of the qualifiers for London 2012) with the Haitian Paralympic Committee. We have welcomed onto the HHA team a full time voluntary disability sports coordinator who’s going to be helping out with all this side of the work! This isn’t a one off campaign! We want it to leave a lasting legacy to provide the platform for future Haitian Paralympians to develop.
If you'd like to continue supporting this urgent work, please contact us today or make a donation via GlobalGiving. It's only thanks to you that such positive change is being made! Thanks again, and please keep up the great support.
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