One million was the number BEFORE the earthquake. Now, the amount of people with disabilities in Haiti tops that, with nearly a quarter of a million being children.
This month Kay St. Germaine, the 2,300 square foot rehabilitation, physiotherapy and educational center located across the street from St. Damien’s Pediatric Hospital in Tabarre celebrates its 3 year anniversary. The center serves 50-60 a children a day, and since the earthquake has grown to include a special needs school, specialized therapy for orthopedic cases, and a prosthetics lab for amputees. Fifty amputees have been fitted with artificial legs and an average of 25 orthopedic patients receive therapy daily.
Kay St. Germaine is a lifesaver for those with disabilities in Haiti. In a country that severely lacks comprehensive services for the disabled, the one-of-a-kind Kay St. Germaine is a stand-out in quality care. “You cannot imagine the efforts patients make to get to our center each morning,” Gene Heragty, the center director, explains. “Most of the mothers get up at 3:00am so they can begin their journey to us. Many take three different “tap taps” (local transportation) and often suffer pervasive humiliation as they are chided by other passengers for not abandoning their ‘useless’ children.’ Many lost husbands and homes during the Quake and are living in leaking tents – many are barely surviving and still they do all they can to some and get help for their special kids.”
The mothers are hard at work in a new way as well-Kay St. Germaine recently developed a card-making program that employs the mothers of disabled children. There are also micro credit loans for patient families, a home-building program, a home-renting program, and a land-purchasing program. Kay St. Germaine also distributed 400 tents after the Quake, and provided food packages to all patients currently receiving therapy.
Gena has been living in Haiti for over 15 years. When asked how the country has changed since the Quake, she explains “It is the same and worse-kidnappings have increased again, the cost of living is very high, and you have a huge unemployed population. People are hungry, and many kids coming to us for therapy are suffering from malnutrition delayed development.” She pauses. “But our programs are growing and expanding all the time and we are reaching more and more people in need. The kids are making incredible progress and their parents are very happy to see these changes. We are trying to help each parent coming to us so that he or she can find a way to support his/her family in a way that gives he or she independence and dignity.”