It's been a great start to the year for our Rehabilitation patients, and we wanted to quickly update you on some of the incredible things that have been happening on the ground!
Last weekend three of our spinal cord injury patients took part in a 10km race around Haiti's second largest city! It was a proud moment for them, as they got the chance to fight against the stigma of disability, and showcase their gifts! Hundreds of people watched them whizz through the city, which was a joy to see!
In the last month we've also started some new agricultural projects for persons with disabilities, with raised flower beds where patients can learn to grow their own food! This is a new and exciting development, which provides another arm to our rehabilitation approach. We seek to do everything we can to equip and empower our patients with the skills they need, so that when they leave our care, they can still generate income and live independently. We'll be developing more farming projects for them in the coming months.
It's not only been our Rehab patients who've been busy though! Our staff have been recieving a whole load of training, from wheelchair maintenance, to stroke management! This week they are also getting ready to partner with Team Canada: Healing Hands for Haiti, to help distribute over 100 children's wheelchairs to kids across North Haiti!
It's all very exciting, and only possible thanks to your support! If you'd like to help us continue this critical work, please take a moment to invest in the project today. Thanks for all your support.
It's not every day a Downton Abbey star visits Haiti, but last month we were privileged to welcome our patron, Laura Carmichael, who plays Lady Edith, to HHA's hospital in Haiti.
She had a great time with the rehab patients, and even managed to sneak in a game of wheelchair basketball! The staff and patients were thrilled to see her, as Downton fever hit Haiti. Laura shared about her trip in the Sunday Mirror on her return, and spoke of the great need to continue supporting Haiti:
'Like many people, my first encounter with Haiti was seeing the desperate images of the earthquake in 2010. In recent years the country has fallen down the agenda as, inevitably, other news items come to the fore. Coming to Haiti has challenged me, that like many others I had moved on to quickly from Haiti and the devastating images we saw in 2010.'
Our Rehab unit started after the earthquake, which for many people like Laura, was their first encounter with Haiti. However, whilst the news has moved on, this rehab unit is still supporting many people with old and new spial cord injuries. Patients suffering from complete or partial paralysis, who without our help would often literally be left at home to die. The rehab unit also has an outpatient ward which cares for many children with disabilities. The majority of these children have been left disabled due to be being born at home without any medical support, and this is something Laura is passionate to fight against.
That's why, she recently launched our Christmas campaign - A Royal Birth, which is looking to give mothers and babies a safe birth this Christmas! Whilst it's a little different to the Rehab Unit you've supported, it's a critical part of the hospital and we'd love your involvement. Please take a few minutes to visit our special Christmas website which Laura launched in Haiti - www.aroyalbirth.org and find out how you can give mothers and babies a safe birth this Christmas. Your support can save lives!
The patients at the HCBH Rehabilitation Center have taken on a new and exciting project - recycling sugar cane to create charcoal briquettes for cooking. Charcoal is used by the vast majority of Haitians to cook their meals, and currently most charcoal is produced from wood. As deforestation is one of Haiti’s largest environmental, agricultural, and economic threats, this development brings hope for a brighter future for Haiti.
To make the briquettes, dried sugar cane waste (“bagas”) left over from commercial cane production is burned quickly, mixed with water and a starch, pressed into briquettes, and left to dry in the sun. The tools necessary for the process are easy to procure and relatively cheap, about 25 USD.
We have partnered with a couple organizations (Carbon Roots Int’l and Second Mile) to pioneer this program, which promises to be life-changing for our rehabilitation patients. Upon leaving the rehab center, our patients will have the tools and skills to run their own charcoal production business. “Cocobai,” meaning “worthless” is how many Haitians refer to the handicapped, as it is usually practically impossible for them to find a livelihood, so this program gives our patients a second chance at a normal life and an opportunity to change perceptions about disability.
We thank you for your support of the HCBH Rehabilitation Center. Without your generous contributions, programs like this are not able to happen. You are a vital part of our life-changing ministry, and we hope we can count on your continued donations.
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!
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