The overall goal of the Medical Teams International Haiti Advantage Program is to share the love of Christ by empowering persons with physical disabilities to function independently and fully within the immediate community and society of Haiti. The Advantage Program is located in Les Cayes and is the only full-time, comprehensive, professionally staffed program serving persons with disabilities in southwest Haiti.
The Program’s objectives are to increase the physical, emotional and economic capacity of persons with disabilities and advocate alongside them to reduce social stigma and increase their knowledge regarding abilities and legal rights. Currently, the Advantage Program serves beneficiaries through rehabilitation consultation and intervention, self-advocacy training, educational empowerment and economic programs.
Rehabilitation Consultation and Intervention. The rehabilitation clinic and prosthetic/orthotics workshop are central to the Advantage Program. Clinic services include evaluation, examination, diagnostic, prognostic and intervention strategies for the physical and psychological care of patients. Custom artificial limbs and braces are made in the workshop and patients are trained in their use. Our staff provides therapeutic intervention and training for patients and families in how to continue care at home and staff members visit patients in their homes as much as possible to assist with practical problem solving. Staff also provides patients with mobility aides such as wheelchairs, prosthetics, walkers, and crutches and training in their use. Patients receive care from expatriate and non-national staff, national trainees and rehabilitation volunteers. Staff members provide ongoing instruction to Haitian technicians through seminars and on-the-job training during day-to-day clinical care. Technicians perform delegated tasks, such as adjustment of assistive devices and wheelchairs and simple mobilization of patients.&
Self-Advocacy Training & Outreach. As part of the holistic approach to serving persons with disabilities, personnel providing rehabilitation services assess each patient’s psychological response to the disability. Patients with limb loss participate in peer counseling as needed, and clinic staff and volunteers provide psychosocial support and instruction to caregivers. To reduce the social stigma, we assist persons with disability to increase their understanding of their own abilities and rights and to advocate for themselves. Through the advocacy program, training is provided to churches, schools and the media. Self-advocacy among people with disabilities is critical to the success of the program, as a person with a disability best understands the daily challenges and can most effectively identify and communicate needs and solutions.
School Sponsorship & Economic Programs. In Haiti, disparity between people with disabilities and those without disabilities is especially evident beyond elementary school. It is extremely challenging for people with disabilities to attain a high school level education due to financial, social, and architectural/accessibility barriers. Vocational training is limited for persons with disabilities due to a lack of vocational training in general and due to social stigmas against disabled persons. The Advantage Program provide educational empowerment by assisting with school fees for program members who are able to attend a regular school, thereby assisting persons with disability to develop the knowledge and skills to participate in general society. Integrated education is a key to affecting societal attitudinal changes toward persons with disabilities In addition, program participants are able to receive micro-loans for small businesses to enable them to become more active participants in their communities and to empower them to gain control over resources available to them.
Since the 2010 earthquake, the Advantage Program has employed two non-national International Society of Prosthetics and Orthotics Certified Practitioner-Category II (ISPO-CPO-II) level practitioners. The practitioners, graduates of University of Don Bosco in El Salvador, provide direct patient care in fabricating custom artificial limbs and braces using appropriate thermoplastic technology considered to be “sustainable” in Haiti. These methods are best for Haiti because of the low cost, availability and durable nature of materials and the minimal need for highly technical machinery for fabrication. The ISPO-CPO-II practitioners and volunteers are providing on-the-job training for a prosthetic/orthotics technician in the Advantage Prosthetics/Orthotics shop. The trainee has been accepted into a University of Don Bosco-El Salvador training program scheduled to be taught in Haiti on a modular basis in early 2012. This trainee will continue to work with the Advantage Program during training and after graduation as an ISPO-CPO-II practitioner. Our desire is to promote the training of many Haitians as rehabilitation providers to eventually reduce the dependency on expatriates for providing the essential rehabilitation therapy services.