Haitian Paralympian, Leon Gaisli in training
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!
Josue Cajuste practising the Shot Put