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Have you ever gone throughout your day and wondered “is this it”? The routine of going to the gym, work/school, family routines, church, pay bills, another month passes, etc had me asking that question quite often. As a physical therapist, I had often thought there must be more that I can do with my training and clinical experience I have gained over the past 11 years.
That question was answered at around 12, 000 feet above the Caribbean on a flight returning from Haiti. The 10 days prior were spent as part of the relief effort in the aftermath of a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that left in its path ~ 250,000 dead, 300,000 injured and 1.5 million homeless. The talk on the plane with other medical professionals was about the experience and looking forward to getting back in the US. However, I couldn’t help but feel that the plane was heading in the wrong direction. There was so much that needed to be done in Haiti, so many people that needed help, so many people that had lost everything including family members. My thoughts were forever changed from “is this it?” to “this is it!”. It is interesting how even natural disasters can be the doorway to your calling.
In 6 trips to Haiti since the earthquake, I have been fortunate to witness the structure of physical therapy evolve from under shade trees and in tents to a free standing clinic in the coastal town of Jacmel. In 2012 I became a Continuing Education Liaison for Community Coalition for Haiti with the task of providing clinical assistance and training for the physical therapy staff in Jacmel. It has been one of the most gratifying experiences to see a clinic develop from infancy into a solid and thriving entity that has touched more than 22, 000 patients in the years since the earthquake.
Missions to Haiti have also allowed me to see that the need is so much greater than physical pathologies. My eyes have been opened to the plight of the orphans and “Restavek” in Haiti. Restavek is a creole term which means “one who stays with” but commonly translated as “child slave or domestic servant”. It is estimated that 300,000 children in Haiti are Restavek and the age range usually varies from 4 to 14 years old. Due to poverty and illiteracy, 80% and 47% respectively, these children are typically given up by their parents to upper class families with the hope for a better future. The transaction is usually an agreement that the child will be sent to school in exchange for helping with household chores/duties. This is rarely the outcome and children become domestic slaves being forced to work long hours cooking, cleaning, fetching water and are often neglected, abused and even raped. One day a child and the next day a slave.
However, there is hope! Through advocacy and awareness as well as supporting orphanages such as All My Heart Haiti, The Hands and Feet Project, Restavek Freedom, Jean R. Cadet Restavek Organization and others, children can grow up in a loving environment, have an opportunity to go to school and hope for a better future.
James 1:27 – “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world”.
If you care to make a donation to increase the amount of support that we can supply, please go to http://www.gofundme.com/physical-therapy-in-haiti
Compete to Serve
Scott Champagne, PT
First Choice Physical Therapy