Gangs, kidnaps, violence, hope

Reflections from Gena

Seeking Words

I sit before a blank screen and will and woo words, hoping they will suddenly form and leap out onto my fingers.

Not much leaping going on am afraid!

Feels more like they are being dragged out begrudgingly, reluctant to leave my muddled brain!

How to write without words?

I need words to give you an insight into life in Haiti these days.

I need words to convey the terror that has enveloped Haiti these past months.

Words to explain how ordinary men, women, and children, are dying daily – victims of gun battles between gangs.

Victims of horrific acts of violence.

Hundreds have died.

Hundreds have been shot.

Thousands more are cut off from basic supplies – caught up in the gang wars.

Violent gangs, that are heavily armed and show no mercy.

Lines of people having to flee their homes – to escape the gunfire.

Often it is in the middle of the night.

Quickly grabbing a few essentials and running for their lives.

Running to nowhere, as there is nowhere to go.

Maybe a local park, or a church, a cousin’s home – the new abode – for days, weeks, months…

Brave people – amongst them Father Rick and his team – risk their lives trying to get help to the wounded, trying to get help to those stuck inside the war zone.

Those that stay home  exist terrified.

I say exist because this is not living- it is holding on tight, and praying to God they do not break down your door and attack you and your loved ones. As happens all the time to many like you.

Praying the shooting stops so you can get out and buy some water and food.

Where are the words that can adequately explain the trauma of being kidnapped?

Held hostage for weeks.

Some beaten badly, some not,

Some shot in the process, some not.

Some killed resisting.

All traumatized.

Families – scraping and scrambling to pay huge ransoms – money they don’t have and will spend years and years trying to pay back.

Worrying and wondering will the loved one be ok.

Daily reports of kidnappings.

Friends kidnapped,

Colleagues kidnapped.

Children kidnapped.

Professionals kidnapped.

Pastors kidnapped.

Priests kidnapped.

Market sellers kidnapped.

Everyone worried- who will be next?

Major roads governed by gangs.

Not so major roads governed by gangs.

Travel on them if you dare.

Some have no choice so they desperately dare And dreadingly take the roads.

Some get shot in the process.

Many are robbed on the way.

Some make it safely.

Fear and stress cling to them each time.

Is this living?

Hospital beds lie empty.

Too dangerous for the sick to make the trip.

Don’t for one minute think they will get help elsewhere.

For most, these hospitals are their only hope for recovery.

Most therapy patients cannot come either.

No fun running from bullets with a disabled child in your arms.

Tis never fun running from bullets- sadly dodging bullets is now common practice for so many.

Everyday stories bring tears to the eyes, People crying on the radios, begging the bandits to release hostages, Begging the gang leaders to call a truce, to stop the killings.

Stories about relatives that never made it home and families desperate to find them.

Staff stories relating what is now their daily living.

Worried for themselves.

Worried for their children.

Worried for family in the countryside.

Where is Haiti going?

Should they leave?

So many have left already.

So many more are preparing to leave.

Start anew, illegal in a foreign land?

Stay and wonder when it will be you, your husband, or your kids that are taken?

Leave the car at home – they like to kidnap people that own cars.

What hope for a better Haiti?

Years of working hard and you can’t even live in your own home.

Refugees in your own country.

Fuel crisis after fuel crisis.

Massive hike in prices of everything.

Hunger visiting so many.

Everyone so resilient.

Determined to make a better life for their children.

Nobody giving up despite all the stresses.

Everyone pushing on, day after day, trying to make a living.

Daring to hope for better days to come.

Tis lunch time here in Kay Christine.

One by one the young adults arrive back from their activities.

They are healthy, happy and safe – far from the horrors in the city.

What a blessing!

If it was not for this home, and all that support it, where would they be now?

How many people with disabilities are caught up in the latest gang war?

How many children with disabilities are hungry right now?

In the midst of the darkness we must find ways to shine a light.

We must find ways to support all those struggling right now.

We give thanks for all our blessings and continue to pray for peace in Haiti and peace in the world.

My words are for Haiti but I am well aware that there are so many people suffering all over the world.

The Human Family needs peace.

We need to stop seeing people as different to us.

The powers that sell darkness, death and destruction want us to focus on our differences.

There is money to be made from investing in Hate.

Don’t give them that power.

Don’t be manipulated.

We are all basically the same – human, one family.

Let us each, in our own way, be instruments of peace.

‘So let’s strive for the things that bring peace, and the things that build each other up” Romans 14:19

Gena

Gena Heraty

18/7/2022

Crafts workshop at Kay Christine

There are lots of challenges for the NPH Haiti team just to get through everyday activities, but there’s still time for fun.

Recently the residents set to work creating decorative picture frames.

Watch our short video to see how having a disability doesn’t stop people from producing amazing handicrafts.

This is the daily activity for the older residents at Kay Christine, and everyone there has become alert to opportunities to recycle materials into gifts, including for all the staff at Christmas. But the main idea is to be creative.

Everyone is involved. The video shows mainly our more able residents, but they also include the people in wheelchairs.

“The residents have learnt a lot of skills and they really love it. There’s a great atmosphere.”

Gena Heraty, Director Special Needs

The residents may be able to do a monthly sale in due course to raise some funds.

Older ones, daily activity, recycling for gifts, once a month sale, creative, they have learnt a lot of skills and they really love it.” A great atmosphere. Always finding new ideas and new ways. Everyone is saving recyclables.

Flor’s 8 months in Haiti

My name is Daniela ‘Flor’ Duran. I arrived in Haiti on 4 January January 2020. I had completed the Viatores Christi Venture training before leaving Argentina. I worked in Haiti for the last 8 months at the NPH Haiti Special Needs Programmes.

Flor with a patient and colleague
Flor (l) with a patient and colleague

My main goal on arriving in Haiti was to expand my professional knowledge by working in another culture. I also wanted to be able to help and train the people who work in the Special Needs programmes at the Kay St. Germaine School in Tabarre and at Kay Christine in Kenscoff. I was able to share my experience of working with children in Argentina and provide the support they needed during my stay in Haiti. The people who work in these programmes had were already very good with patients thanks to their training by Norma Lopez. That made it even more of a challenge to help the therapists continue to develop in their work with people with disabilities.

For me personally it was important to learn the language, and get to know the country’s traditions, beliefs and culture, which is all so different from Argentina. I think cultural exchange is very important to continue growing professionally and personally.

Flor with colleagues
Flor with colleagues

I have achieved some of my objectives. I adapted to the way of life and I began to learn the language. That allowed me to establish a bond with the therapists I worked with, so that we could exchange patient experiences and share knowledge. I still need to continue learning the language so that I can talk in more detail about working with people with disabilities.

Life in Haiti during this period of covid and social unrest is not easy. Many of the people who live here do not believe the disease exists, so there is a daily struggle to ensure that the necessary preventive measures are respected to avoid contagion. Haiti is a a country that does not have the medical resources to support people with covid.

The social unrest means that there are few possibilities to go out. I largely stayed in my place of work, which made it difficult to introduce variety into the daily routine. Sometimes it also meant I was lonely.

Flor with some of the residents
Flor with some of the residents

It could be frightening when work obliged me to leave the NPH location because of the great insecurity on the streets. When you live and work at Kay Christine, you feel accompanied. There is no shortage of hugs, laughter; you feel like family. People live in a state of constant alertness and stress, but still manage to retain their underlying joy.

This makes me appreciate daily life, always be grateful for what I have and value the little things in life. People never lose faith, and they pray and give thanks every day for what they have, for the people who help them.

I think it is important to highlight the importance of love, respect, values and humility, which are essential to carry out the challenges that arise every day. These 8 months living in Haiti have full of learning and an unforgettable personal and professional experience.

Thank you

Flor’s time in Haiti was made possible in part by support from one of NPH Ireland’s valued partners, Misean Cara, who provide mission support from Ireland around the world, including in Haiti.

Reflections on 2021

As a new year comes in, we are wise to take a look back on the year ending and somehow sum up 365 days of life and all that entails!

In the special needs programs, our biggest challenge during 2021 was the insecurity in Haiti. It is fair to say that we all worried and stressed through every day, and without doubt our greatest success was being able to survive the year!

Our Special Needs school and our rehab centre had to close for several periods during the year but we are still here and still doing a great job. Parents and patients are very happy with the services we provide, and the school children continue to learn in a safe and happy environment.

In Haiti, survival of a program is a huge success!

Gena

In terms of those living in Kay Christine- many of our family members are very fragile, and to get through a year with no death is a great achievement. Credit goes to our wonderful staff and the high level of care we provide. We also had a year where no one was hospitalized – another major achievement! Our family is ageing. Our challenges are increasing, as many that were previously among the stronger ones, now face adult health issues and this demands changes. We will get there!


We welcome 2022 and we pray for good health and strength to deal with whatever comes our way. We pray for peace in Haiti and in the world. We pray for a world where LOVE becomes the trend that takes over! Thank you for staying with us!

Gena Heraty

Residents and carers in Kay Christine

Today I want to tell you a little bit about the wonderful men and women that work as carers in Kay Christine. But first let me just give you a little insight into the Kay Christine family.

The residents

The Kay Christine family comprises 31 residents – 12 girls and 19 boys. The youngest is almost 11 and the oldest is 44.

The average age in the family is 27, so you see why I have to stop calling them kids! Of those 31 residents, 8 are in wheel chairs and are totally dependent- in other words they require carers to take care of all their basic needs. Another 9 are able to walk – some with limitations – but need full assistance with toileting and bathing. Of that 9, all have been taught to feed themselves but some need help with drinking.

The other 14 are able to take care of their basic needs by themselves, but a few need supervision. A total of 10 are non-verbal, 10 more have some limited language, are able to make themselves understood most of the time, but the average non Kay Christine member, would have great difficulty to understand them. 11 can speak clearly and 8 of those 11 can hold a conversation.

The carers

Now back to the carers. We have two different sets of carers- those that live in and those that come and go every day. Both groups work 7 days on and 7 days off. When Covid came we had to re-think things, and came up with this current schedule, which, thankfully, everyone loves!

Special Needs carers
Some of our carers getting in the Christmas mood

Those that come and go every day start in the morning at 6am and finish at 6pm with some breaks during the day.

Our routine

They come in the morning and and their main responsibility is the care of the more disabled dependent residents that sleep in one big dorm downstairs. They get everyone up, bathed, dressed and fed and then take care of house chores – making beds, cleaning, folding clothes, etc. During the day we have a total of 6 scheduled diaper/toileting changes(this includes the getting up and going to bed changes) and many unscheduled ones too depending on individual needs.

The team handles all those changes and all meals during the day right up until bed time. All those that need assistance are ready for bed by 6pm though they may not necessarily go to bed until 7. In Haiti, we all go to bed early and are up early, so this schedule works well for our family.

Night-time care

At 6pm we have 2 night ladies that come and they look after the more dependent residents during the night and they also get everything ready for morning bathing and breakfast. They work 6pm to 6am and have a 5 on 5 off schedule.

While they are not nurses, they have been trained to take very good care of everyone and they are adept at taking temperatures, changing the positions of those that cannot turn by themselves and making sure that everyone is comfortable and safe during the night. Many of our more dependent family members have issues with breathing, so we need to be very careful with them and how we position them.

We are very proud that we never have pressure sores in Kay Christine, and our staff are very aware of all the little gestures our non verbal residents make when they need to be changed or when they need to be turned. We have a nurse on site all the time. Whenever we have an issue the night staff come and get us – the nurse, the supervisor and myself – who sleep upstairs.

Our mobile people also sleep upstairs- we have 2 boys bedrooms and 2 girls bedrooms. In each of the boys room there is a male carer. These men live in for their week on and they take care of the boys/men in each room- three boys in each room plus one carer. The girls upstairs do not need a carer with them, though the nurse does sleep in one of the girls room.

Right beside Kay Christine there is another 2-story house. Downstairs in that house we have one carer and 6 our more able-bodied boys. They are pretty independent but do need guidance with most of the daily activities. Finally we have 2 people (1 man and 1 woman) that each have their own living space and own individual carer, as they can be very difficult and aggressive at times.

Strong personalities

So there you have it! The day is full on and as you can imagine, with all the different personalities, one needs to have a lot of patience- especially when the bigger personalities have disputes among themselves.

Challenges getting to work

Remember I told you the day carers come in at 6am. Well you should know that some of them leave their homes before 5 and walk for at least an hour up the mountain to get to us. Some others can take a motor taxi but more recently with the fuel crisis they also had to walk for well over an hour. No matter the weather, these ladies show up. They are truly fantastic. The staff that live in are equally fantastic. Some of them live in areas that are not at all safe so they frequently have to negotiate burning tyres and gun battles when they are coming and going to our home. Our staff have been with us for years. We joke among ourselves that we have grown up together, as most of them have been with us for over 15 years, and quite a few for over 20 years. What a blessing!

Honouring our staff

So, is it any wonder we want to honor our staff this Christmas? Without them, there would never be this great Kay Christine Family!

Support our Christmas appeal

Support our Christmas appeal and you’ll give a gift to each of our carers and make your contribution to the Special Needs funding for 2022. Thank you!

Gena Heraty, Director, NPH Haiti Special Needs

A family devastated by the earthquake

Jean Max tells of his family’s suffering

Jean Max
Jean Max

Jean Max is a young radiologist, who studied medicine with financial support from NPH.

He was determined to help his country but he wanted to be well prepared to do so, and therefore chose to study at one of the few universities still standing in Port au Prince after the 2010 earthquake.

He’s been working for some years now at St. Damien Paediatric Hospital, providing assessments and diagnoses, especially in the area of maternity and gynaecology. He gets satisfaction from helping to improve lives in his country.

Jean Max has experienced first hand the suffering of many Haitians since the earthquake of 14 August, and the initial anguish of not knowing whether those of his family living in the South-West had were still alive, in the areas around Les Cayes and at Perenie in the countryside.

Everything lost

Jean Max's family home in ruins
Jean Max’s family home

The first news he received was that his aunt and uncle had lost their home and their lifetime belongings. Jean Max then heard that an uncle had died during the earthquake.

A gang blocks access

Some days later he decided to go to Perenie with a cousin and an uncle, to provide support to his family. However, they were unable to get there because of a gang controlling road access to Les Cayes, near Martissant. “They prevented us from getting through to the area affected, where my family lives, which was a real disaster for us”, says Jean Max.

After talking by phone they received photos showing that his family had lost everything: their home, garden, animals and personal belongings.

Ruined home of Jean Max's family
Jean Max’s family home

They need shelter from the tropical storms, bedding, a new home and everything to put their life back together. Emotionally they have suffered the loss of a loved one, and they will have to manage that loss as best they can during this humanitarian disaster.

Aid yet to arrive

Jean Max’s family live in the countryside, in the Perenie area, isolated from international aid, which is arriving chiefly at the large cities such as Jeremies and Les Cayes.

They hope that NPH Haiti can help them to overcome their tragic personal situation. NPH Haiti is evaluating the situation of dozens of families in similar circumstances to Jean Max’s family to see how they can deliver aid as swiftly as possible in such adverse conditions.

More than 1.5 million earthquake victims are experiencing similar dramatic situations and they are waiting for our support.

Your help for those in need

Work goes on to help victims

It’s tough to get aid to the victims of the earthquake for various reasons: roads cut and collapsed bridges make it very tough to get through to the areas affected.

Injured baby receiving treatment from NPH

Gangs and storms

Gangs all around the capital, Port de Prince, and in the areas worst affected, Jeremies y Les Cayes, add an extra layer of difficulty. Additionally, Storm Grace hit the South-West immediately after the earthquake.

In spite of all these difficulties, your donations from NPH Ireland are getting through, via our local organization, NPH Haiti, and also the related organization, St. Luke Foundation for Haiti.

Short- and long-term support

We have managed to get through by road and sea to the worst-affected areas in the South-West. NPH is providing medical care to the sick and injured and is delivering water, food, shelter and psychological support.

Aid on route to earthquake victims
Aid from you on route to the victims

At the same time we are preparing an aid plan for the victims in the medium and long term (reconstruction of homes, planting crops and reviving the countryside as a means of sustainable support for those affected). NPH has been offering care to those we have encountered on route, as well as those in the worst-affected areas.

The Haitians are accustomed to suffering and to keeping their spirits up, but they really need our help in the face of this new humanitarian disaster.

Local staff committed to their country

Our organizations in Haiti (NPH Haiti and the St. Luke Foundation) are staffed by trained local staff, with a very high commitment to their country and its communities. They speak the local languages, French and creole, which is essential for doing their work and showing their compassion with those in need.

NPH has the necessary experience on the ground: 35 years developing education, health and nutrition programmes, as well as our involvement in humanitarian emergencies. We help to improve the lives of more than 100,000 Haitians every year.

Aid delivered directly by NPH

Donations received from our supporters are managed directly by NPH Haiti and the St. Luke Foundation for Haiti, allowing us to ensure their efficient and effective use in improving and saving lives.

Thank you for your commitment

We are grateful for your support. Don’t forget Haiti.
And, please, keep the donations coming.

A chat with Darlene, champion equestrian

If you’ve been following life at the NPH Haiti Special Needs programmes for a while, the name Darlene Milord will be familiar.

Darlene and her medals

Darlene grew up at NPH. She has hemiplegia, a neurological condition that affects strength and control in the right side of her body. She lives at NPH Special Needs in Haiti.

That didn’t stop her winning a gold medal for equestrianism at the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games.

We thought you might like to hear about Darlene’s life as an equestrian in her own words.

How has horse-riding changed your life? 

I feel great when I horse-ride. Riding has given me confidence and the possibility to do more than I ever dreamed. I have new friends from many countries. When the school children at Kay Ste Germaine Special Needs School go riding, I teach them skills such as how to speak to the horses and touch them and how to sit and hold the reins correctly.

Where have you travelled for events?

Thanks to my training in horse-riding at Centre Equestre Chateaublond in Haiti, I have travelled to Denmark, Abu Dhabi, and to Florida many times to compete at the West Palm Beach Special Olympics event.

What competitions have you won and which awards have you received?

In 2009 I received the FEI Award for Rider Against All Odds. At the West Palm Beach Special Olympics annual event, I have won many ribbons over the years, this event helped me to prepare for competing at the Special Olympics World Games. 

A special moment during the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi?

I felt so proud when I won my first Gold medal at the Games. Everyone was congratulating me and I was so happy too for those who travelled to see me compete, and for my coach. 

What are your hopes for Orlando 2022?

I would like to see many more Haitians with special needs competing at the games in Orlando. For myself, I hope to win more gold medals and inspire more Haitian girls to try sport and to do their best. 

What training do you do?

As a classroom assistant I participate in the physical education lessons with my students, I walk and do exercises in the evenings, and I go horse-riding once per week. I like to dance, which helps to keep me fit too. 

How about your role as the Athlete Representative on the Board of Special Olympics Haiti?

I am the voice of the athletes, I try to encourage them to do their best, and I appear on TV and Radio to speak about Special Olympics and the importance of participation and accessibility.

Over to you

We hope you enjoyed Darlene’s story of accomplishment in the face of adversity.

You can support the NPH Haiti Special Needs Programmes and make a loved one happy at the same time. Order some of our handcrafted greetings cards and you’ll keep the smiles on our residents’ faces.

International Women’s Day 2021

Happy International Women’s Day Everyone!

8 March is International Women’s Day. We’re a long way from a gender-equal world, but we’d like to offer you something positive to mark the occasion.

Please enjoy and share our short slideshow of the wonderful women and girls at NPH Haiti Special Needs.

@lisettepalthe

Find out more at the International Women’s Day website.

If you don’t know about NPH Haiti Special Needs, here’s the full, amazing story.

We’re committed to gender equality throughout NPH, so a donation to NPH is a contribution to a more gender-equal future. All contributions are put to good use and are gratefully received by your NPH family.

Gender Equality is No. 5 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by all United Nations member states in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030.