Saturday, October 31, 2015

Special Needs Health Fair

I had the wonderful opportunity of going to Leogane area and help with their first ever special needs health fair. What an amazing week in so many different ways. 

The trip did not start out to great…well it started with a long bus ride down to PAP starting at midnight typically a 9-10 hour bus ride but turned into 13. You all probably know by now that travel in Haiti is always an adventure. So as always I have a good story…kind of scary story…about my adventures down to Leogane. I will admitt that I was not excited to go…coming off of 4 crazy busy weeks with a lot of travel I was tired and not feeling super well…but I was excited for the special needs health fair. Since I left just 1 day after the hurricane came through the roads were super muddy. This led to lots of slipping and sliding around and maybe ending up on 2 wheels multiple times. I can officially say I never prayed so hard in my life. We had to get off the bus 3 times and wait while the bus tried to make it up big hills…then walk up the hills. Lets just say it was the most adventurous ride to date! But God provided a beautiful sunset, a familiar face on the bus and some good conversations. Thankful for worship music and that I serve a God who is always with me. Never leaves me and protects me.

I am so thankful that that Sandra and her husband met me at the bus station to pick me up. It was great to get to know them on the hour and a half drive to HHM by Leogane Haiti. By the time I got there I was definitely exhausted though…It had been 36 hours since I had gotten sleep. 

During the week I stayed at Haiti Health Ministries (HHM). They are located in Gressier. HHM’s purpose is to show the love of Christ to the lost and to strengthen the body of Christ in Haiti. Thus they endeavor to present the Gospel and subsequently follow up with discipleship training as an outgrowth of the medical ministry and outpatient medical clinics. Patient education, community health education and screening, training and encouraging national medical workers, as well as cary for indigent patients is a part of their ministry. To read more about their ministry you can go to There was team from Texas staying there as well and they came specifically to help put on the special needs health fair. It was such a joy getting to know and work alongside each of them throughout the week.

First thing Monday morning The Texas team and I headed up to Respire....

Respire is a multi-faceted ministry in Gressier that provides Restive Awareness and education, has a christian school, saturday discipleship program, community outreach, english language program, soccer/sports discipleship program and their Medical Clinic. To read more about this ministry you can go to Respire is where the actual health fair was held. The space was the perfect set-up to have such an event. The team worked on setting up the education/fun stations and I helped Ashley set up the therapy area. The stations included
  1. Registration
  2. Hand Washing
  3. Malnourishment (where took height and weight)
  4. Food groups education- education on a balanced diet
  5. Dehydration Station- where they handed out rehydration mix
  6. Fidget Sensory Station- where the parents got to make a small fidget toy with their kids
  7. Therapy Ball Handout- at this station each of the kids got a therapy ball and education on how to use it specifically with their kids along with handouts for specialized HEP for their child.
  8. PT/OT evaluation
  9. Visit with a nurse and doctor
  10. De-worming station
  11. coloring/bubbles a fun station
  12. Bible Study Station











Ashley graciously gave me a tour of Respire. The school, The medical clinic, The recovery house, etc. From their facility there are amazing views of the ocean, of the mountains, etc. I am so excited for Ashley as they are in the process of building a 2 classroom special education school. They started classes at the beginning of the school year in the medical clinic area but will soon be able to move into their new school!

Monday afternoon a few of us headed to the big market in Leogane hoping to find someone who could make the specialized Haitian chairs that I use and adapt with ductape and foam. Unfortunately we were unable to find anyone but did find some big chairs that we thought we could adapt. So we bought 2. We also had PVC pipe to make standers, buckets to make bucket chair, foam, ductape, drills, etc. We had a whole room full of supplies ready to be creative…and creative we were for the 2 days of follow up. 

Tuesday was the big day. There were so many organizations from across Haiti who came together to pull this Fair off.  We had 5 organizations alone present to assist with the therapy (Miriam Center, Respire, HHM, Reach Global, Healing Hands, and Medical Teams International. It was such an amazing day. We had about 50 children who came out and received all the services above (pictures of each station above). 

We had 4 OT/PT evaluation stations set up and as you can imagine it was a very busy day.

 I started off doing evaluations with Karli a PT here with the HHM Texas team. I then got pulled to make a hand splint which turned into making lots of hand splints, a scoliosis wheelchair back pad, and fitting AFO’s and shoes. 

I don’t have the words to describe how amazing it was to see so many families get these needed services. I could actually see the relief and the gratitude on their faces and the hope that they each had. Their kids were loved on for hours by so many different people. They are so used to people making negative comments about their kids, looking down on them for having a special needs child, etc. but not this day. This day they were accepted and LOVED and Cherished for who God made them to be.

The highlight of my day was seeing a little boy who could not walk…walk for the first time using pediatric crutches and seeing his face light up! then learning that this new found independence opens the door for him to get to go to school! (I wanted to upload the video but internet to slow...)

Therapists present from Miriam Center, Respire, HHM, Reach Global, Healing Hands, and Medical Teams International.
Wednesday and Thursday were Follow up days. These were held at HHM’s facility. Any child who needed a specialized chair, walker, stander, AFO’s, etc. was given a day to return to have the equipment made and fit. We had about 20-30 kids come back for the follow up days.

Over the 2 days we made about 8 bucket chairs, 1 Haitian adapted chair, fit multiple sets of AFO’s, 15+ PVC pipe standers, and a few other pieces of adaptive equipment.
 We were super blessed to have Patti a seamstress there to just sew for us. She made the seats for the PVC pipe standers, boppy pillows, cushions for the bucket chairs, etc. We would not have been able to make all the equipment we did if she was not tirelessly sewing for 4 days from the time she got up till she went to bed! Thank you Patti!!!!

The following was my highlight of day 2 of follow up….this little boy found a new level of independence! We started out trying to get him in a stander...he screamed and cried and buckled legs. While working to fix stander saw day holding his hands and that he could walk. The result was realizing he felt confined in the stander and just wanted to walk! Our solution was to create a walker out of what we had. I love being this was the end result!!! So Excited for this little boy and his family. So wanted to post the video but internet too bad :-(

The highlight of the 2 days as a whole were definitely watching the families leave with huge smiles. They left feeling empowered…the left encouraged…the left thankful for the equipment that would help their children. 

On Wednesday I got to see Rebecca again (The sweet girl that 3 weeks prior when I was in PAP I took measurements to have special lift shoes made). It was a God thing that her heart appointment was at HHM the same day I was there! She now has shoes that will help her walk even and help correct/prevent further scoliosis. A huge thank you to the STAND team in PdP who made the lifts and to Julie a PT that was at the follow up days helping who helped fit them!

Personally this trip meant a lot to me. This trip I made some new friends that I know will be friends for a long time….

Meet Ashley. She is an Occupational Therapist who started and runs a therapy program at Respire. She has a Rehab Tech and recently hired a Haitian PT who went to school in the DR. She is also running 2 special education classrooms. Ashley and I connected right away. I finally found someone who really understands my crazy ministry life as an  OT in Haiti. She daily lives it. We have so much in common and by the end of the week we considered each other partners in crime ;-) Monday after the health fair while some of the group was continuing to clean up Ashley and I snuck out back and spent a few minutes jumping on the big trampoline that overlooked the most beautiful view of the ocean. Well…when we came back in we realized I got left….lol In the end it turned out just fine….I got to spend 2 hours with the Respire Mission Family and had a great time getting to know them and watching them play a fun game :-)
Megan, Me, Ashley

Meet Sally. Sally runs the Malnourishment clinic at HHM and is the one who set up the special needs health fair after seeing many families with children with special needs come through HHM medical clinic. Her sister Pattie was the seamstress aka “sewer” lol for the week. It was such a blessing getting to know both of them personally. We had many late night conversations and a value their wisdom! 
Ashley, Patti, Sally, Me
At the end of the week I had a wonderful conversation with Sally about “now what?”…Now we know that their are 60 families with special needs care and most of them are not apart of a program…what now…How do they help. I am excited that we were able to brainstorm some very practical possibilities that will be low start up cost. I am excited to return in December before I head back to the states for christmas and train some of her workers on pediatric disability massage that I got trained from Tina Allen through Liddlekidz Foundation. They would start with the malnourished kids providing pediatric massage daily and training the mothers to do it as well. We also discussed the possibility of hiring a rehab tech and being able to have a small outreach program similar to the one I run up north at HHM. I am excited to be able to help other organizations start up much needed programs to help these children and their families. Please keep these ideas in your prayers. Pray for wisdom and guidance for all involved and that if it is God’s will that the funding and staff would be available. 

So there you have it…a super quick condensed version of my 4 days working on the Special Needs Health Fair.  Just a few of the many many pictures that I have...Such incredible 4 days! So thankful that I got to  play a small part of the week. I am so thankful that I was able to share and teach others how to make some of the equipment that we use up north. And I loved having other like minded people who helped us adapt and make some changes that make the equipment even better.