Providing hope in Haiti
A London-based NGO remains one of the few British agencies still on the ground in Haiti five years after the earthquake – and is helping to build hope in one of the world's poorest countries
The Haiti Hospital Appeal (HHA), a BMS World Mission partner, began work in the country several years before the devastating events of January 2010 when an estimated 220,000 people were killed.
Its work has continued to grow, and it has been implementing ground-breaking developments in physical rehabilitation for an injury suffered by many.
HHA founder and CEO Carwyn Hill of Coney Hill Baptist Church, who was in Haiti during the earthquake, explained, ‘A large number of individuals were left completely or partially paralysed after the earthquake due to spinal cord injuries (SCI) incurred from falling rubble.
‘Before the earthquake, people with SCIs had a one-to-two year life expectancy, as there were no facilities equipped to care for such patients. In response to the large numbers of new SCI patients after the earthquake, HHA opened Haiti’s first permanent SCI Rehabilitation Unit, which now continues to act as a national referral centre for people with paralysis.’
Someone who has benefited from this care now works for HHA. Samuel (pictured), a tetraplegic patient had a minimal chance of survival when he arrived at HHA after the earthquake.
Despite impossible odds, Samuel is one of a significant group who have defied medical odds and changed Haiti’s medical practice forever. Five years on, he now works for HHA providing chaplaincy and peer support for other people with disabilities. It is a glimmer of hope in a country whose parliament shut down on the earthquake anniversary and remains beset with problems.
‘In a country where people with disabilities are often viewed as ‘worthless’, his inspirational work highlights a wider army of individuals quietly rebuilding a nation with great courage and hope,’ added Carwyn.
‘Whilst most headlines this anniversary will focus around the political and national failings, HHA is keen to highlight the true courage of this nation through the humble work of individuals like Samuel who are changing Haiti’s landscape in more subtle ways.‘
HHA patron is Laura Carmichael, known for her role as Lady Edith in Downton Abbey. She met Samuel during a visit to Haiti, and said, ‘It’s very easy for people to move on and forget about Haiti, but there is still so much that needs to be done.
'HHA was in Haiti before the earthquake, during the earthquake, and still continues to provide amazing care now.’