If you’ve been following life at the NPH Haiti Special Needs programmes for a while, the name Darlene Milord will be familiar.
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.
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.
Despite having been mugged at gunpoint for the sake of US$1 – the cost of getting to and from work – Rose* will not be deterred from coming to work at Kay Ste Germaine.
She and a group of other mothers brave the perils of Haiti’s streets to make cards and jewelry for sale to benefit the NPH Haiti Special Needs programmes.
All of them have a story to tell of their ties to NPH. This is Rose’s.
Needs beyond the family’s means
In late 2017, Rose’s son Jean* contracted Guillain Barre Syndrome, which can result in total paralysis. For Rose, who had already lost her husband in the 2010 earthquake, this was a heavy blow.
He required an MRI and a long hospital stay. The medication for this disease is not available in Haiti. Fortunately a U.S. group coming into the country that week, they brought a dose of it with them.
Obviously all of this would be so far out of reach of this family were they not involved with NPH’s programme. While he was in hospital and declining rapidly, family members encouraged Rose to take him to see a witch doctor in the community. Had he done so, he would not have received the medication he needed and would not have survived.
Disaster averted, a life saved
Thankfully after Gena had intervened, Rose did not take Jean out of the NPH hospital and he remained in the ICU receiving treatment. He survived but lost all strength from his neck down. He began attending our outpatient clinic immediately after his discharge from hospital. After some 18 months of therapy he was walking unaided. Since recovering he has become a father.
Supporting Special Needs out of gratitude
Rose said she felt the only reason the muggers did not shoot her was because she told them she was the carer of her disabled son. She loves her work – which is why she continues to come despite the dangers. She knows how lucky her son is to have been involved with our programmes and access medical care and physiotherapy.
Would you like to buy some cards and support Special Needs?
Rose and the other ladies do some amazing handicrafts to support Special Needs, including cards like the one above.
With the pandemic and restrictions on travel out of Haiti, NPH can’t spoil you with overnight deliveries like some companies. But we do have a delivery of cards already in Dublin, so drop us a line and we’ll happily put your name down for when they are available.
Names, marked with an asterisk, have been changed to protect privacy.
This quote comes from an American woman called Lydia Maria Child. Child ranks among the most influential of 19th-century American women writers. She was renowned in her day as a tireless crusader for truth and justice and a champion of excluded groups in American society—especially Native Americans, slaves, and women.
I think this quote is very apt as I am about to appeal to all of you to make a big effort to help us in Haiti?.
Now believe me, I am very aware that life is not easy anywhere right now. The global pandemic has shaken the world to its core and continues to do so. All of you reading this have been affected one way or another during this time and most of you are probably totally fatigued by all the changes to your normal living. We all wonder when it might end, and I suppose everyone is also wondering how Christmas will be this year.
Here in Haiti we have been lucky in that for some reason, compared to other countries, we have not been hit badly by Covid 19. In our Special Needs Programs, we are back offering services. Our young students are coming to school – we had 70 yesterday. Our therapy patients – children and adults are coming for therapy. In our home Kay Christine, our residents are continuing their individual learning programs. So tis busy, busy.
So back to my quote from Lydia Child. As Christmas approaches we are hoping to entice you to make an extra special effort to help us out and we are going to make it fun for you to do so?.
First, let me tell you why I am making this appeal. Right now, we are in an awful situation because apart from all the usual challenges we face, we have two major problems with funding right now. One is directly related to the pandemic as our fundraisers in Europe and the US struggle to bring in funds. The other is due to political issues in Haiti. As you know, we do not receive any money from the Haitian Government. Therefore, we are dependent on overseas funding and our budgets are set in US dollars. This time last year, one US dollar gave you about 96 Haitian gourdes (local currency). Today it will get you 62 gds. You can see our problem. Throughout the year, we had huge inflation and the dollar went up to almost 120 gds. Cost of living was sky high and life impossible for most people. Then all of a sudden, with no explanation, the government injected money into the economy and the next thing the dollar dropped in value daily.
If this had translated into lower prices all round many would be delighted. But sadly, very few things have come down. We have huge shortfalls in our budgets. Our children’s hospital – the only children’s hospital in Haiti – is cutting services. The adult hospital – run by The St. Luke Foundation – is cutting services. These two hospitals save so many lives. They are providing invaluable services to the most vulnerable people in Haiti. Our special needs population depend on those hospitals. Our therapy children come via the children’s hospital. Our stroke patients come via the adult hospital. The residents in Kay Christine, where I live, are cared for in the adult hospital when they have health issues. Most of them came through the children’s hospital when they were small. Indeed most were abandoned in the children’s hospital. I get a sick feeling in my tummy when I consider the impact when services close in those hospitals. In fact, Sunday last, I rushed one of my girls to the adult hospital, as she became suddenly unwell. As she was being treated, I was shocked at how busy the emergency area was. Non-stop trauma cases. If that hospital was not there?? I would be in big trouble and so too would all those people that came that day. And those that come every day.
What will happen if we cannot keep our Special Needs programs going?
So here is where you come in?. We know most people will decorate their houses for Christmas. Here our Kay Christmas family love to see the decorations go up. So here is how we hope you can help us. We have a nice big tree- made by a local welder. Our Special Needs family are going to make decorations for this tree- they have started already- from plastic bottles, cardboard etc. They are going to have great fun making them and want you to symbolically buy one of these decorations. When you donate for a decoration, we will put your decoration on the tree, as as we do so we will say a prayer for you. You can buy a small one or a bigger one. No donation is too small. I repeat no donation is too small. If you have kids, ask them to buy one – have them buy one for a euro or a dollar. We will be putting updates on our web page and our Facebook page so you will see the progress as we make the decorations. We have lots of arts and crafts materials here and lots of plastic waiting to be transformed. We will have lots of smiles and lots of fun. We are offering you the chance to have fun too. Join us. We are not asking you to go hungry. We are not asking you to go into debt. We are asking you to help save lives. Literally. We are asking you to look beyond yourselves and to help us save our programs. Tell your friends. The more people helping, the better for us. Lots of small donations means lots of small lives will be saved. Lots of big donations means that lots of small and big lives will be saved.
All of us here in Haiti have survived so many disasters: hurricanes, the earthquake, torrential flooding, violent political unrest, violent attacks, burning tyres, physical and verbal abuse – you name it, we have faced it. Right now things are very critical for us. The country is more unsafe now than ever, with armed gangs and bandits all over the place. Kidnappings are happening all the time and NO ONE feels safe. We have not had electricity in months, so we are totally reliant on our diesel generators. We run them sparingly. We are committed to what we are doing. We are made of strong stuff. We are people of hope and we do not give up easily. You have kept us going and kept us strong all these years. Please, please, help us get through this latest crisis.