My name is Heather, I am an English Speech Therapist and I specialise in including children with special needs into society, both at home and at school. I am dedicating this page to reducing stigma and isolation for disabled children and their families in Cap-Haïtien- Haiti. To do this we will reopen the community rehab team that The Haiti Hospital Appeal, once had.
In Haiti disability is viewed as a curse. Special needs children are often hidden in their homes and left alone while their families go out to work and school. The other children refuse to play with them as they are told it could be contagious. These children are very vulnerable to abuse too. Some are abandoned completely and left in hospitals, in slums or rubbish dumps.
I am coming to the end of my volunteer project working in an awesome little rest-bite centre here (called the Maison de Benediction which means House of Blessings), that looks after 20 children aged 3-17. They sleep at The Maison de Benediction during the week and go home at the weekend. Many of these children were orphaned before coming here and now being fostered.
One boy, Noah, I have worked with has been enrolled in 2 different local schools. He can walk and talk but he has trouble staying balanced and his speech can be difficult to understand. Noah doesn’t have learning difficulties and he is 14. He is a determined, sociable and very bright young man. Twice he bought his uniform and turned up for his first day. On both occasions he was told he couldn’t stay because of his cerebral palsy.
I have also gotten to know Jessie, who is back at the rest-bite centre after going missing for months. She has epilepsy and some learning difficulties. When she left, she was talking, playing with the other children and making great progress in her learning. She has returned with burn scars on her cheek, leg and arm. Her arm was so badly burnt that she lost her fingers. Now she is back with us but the incidents around her accident still aren’t clear and we are concerned about her safety. She is brought each week by her mother’s boyfriend.
A great way to help children like these is to have a Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) team. The Haiti Hospital Appeal used to have a team made who went to the children’s communities, including churches, schools and homes. They did lots of individual and group training to raise awareness. They had a huge impact and as a result:
-> Schools who previously didn’t accept children with disabilities changed their policy and introduced children with disabilities
-> Children who were unable to walk, were identified in the community, received physiotherapy and were able to walk
-> Families grew in confidence with their children, with one mother bringing her child with a disability out into the community for the first time ever. Her neighbours never knew she had a child with a disability.
-> The number of people with disabilities attending church grew from an average of 7 members to an average of 18. One church had as many as 47.
-> 100% children said they’d play with and support other children who had a disability.
The CBR team help to reduce the stigma around disability and aims to change perspectives. Unfortunately the previous funding ended. So, I want to start up this programme again. We need at least £1000 to do that. We would love to be able to keep the service open for years to come so anything extra I manage to raise, will go towards that.
I will put in the
rest of my savings from this trip, and I am asking for donations to make up the
And.. I am going to do a Marathon. Here in Haiti in 2 weeks time. I am going to do it on a hand-bike, which is an Olympic sport for paraplegic athletes. It will be a very sweaty morning and to be honest I am not even sure I will make it considering I can't do a full push-up! But knowing that I have your support will definitely keep me going!