West Tennessee Haiti Partnership

St. Vincent’s Center: Two and a half Years after the Earthquake

Having just returned from our July Mission 2012 to St. Vincent’s Center for Handicapped Children in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, I can report that it was the best mission yet and that the most frequently asked question I get is, “Has St. Vincent’s been rebuilt? Hasn’t it been 2 ½ years since the earthquake?” I respond, “Not yet, but we are making major progress.” More progress than most Haitian institutions.

MSAADA is an international architectural and engineering company that was engaged by the Episcopal Church of Haiti to create the new St. Vincent’s design. They have completed the final design, cost documents and plans. They are terrific, and we can all now tum our efforts to vigorous fundraising so these wonderful dreams can become reality.

In other areas we can report:

Our partnership with the Coalition (Hanger Prosthetics, Catholic Medical Mission Board and Physicians for Peace) is working together to remodel the brace shop and increase its size for the expansion of the rehabilitation and prosthetic sections. The construction has started.

The Water Purification System is another major accomplishment. The goal to provide safe water for the Center and the local community will be accomplished in three weeks with the completion of a temporary building to house all the equipment.

The handicapped van has arrived. It seats 17 and has space for 2 wheelchairs. It will make such a difference for the children at the Center! We have to thank Suzanne Swanson and other donors who made it happen.

Program development is the most exciting part of post-earthquake new activities. Thanks to the Perkin’s School for the Blind in Boston, our teachers are becoming better prepared to work with the blind and the seriously visually impaired. Teacher training seminars are being held at St. Vincent’s. Perkin’s has also provided a workshop on the preparation of adaptive materials for students with multiple disabilities. This fall our school head master, Mr. Junior Alexis, will be attending a 9 month training program at Perkin’s in Boston. This is an extensive program that will mark a major milestone in staff qualification(s) for education of the blind students.

During this mission, we were able to bring to St. Vincent’s Center an Eye-pal reader. It is a portable scanner/reader that instantly converts printed materials into speech. This new equipment will allow the older blind students and blind teachers to “read” any book. One of the blind students thought it was magic and enthused that it would allow him to “read” all the books in the library. We also sent an Aladdin closed circuit TV system that can scan, magnify and display the text on a large TV screen, a major tool for those with some but minimal vision.

Camp Jake is a special camp for St Vincent’s orphan children. This Camp is organized and sponsored by Red Thread Promise and Physicians for Peace. It has been held at Kaliko Beach Club in January and July. About 44 orphaned St. Vincent’s children attended the camp. The kids really enjoyed it and can’t wait until next July.

For the last several years, Dr. Susan Nelson’s medical team, from West Tennessee Haiti Partnership, has provided primary medical care to the children at St. Vincent’s with twice a year medical missions.

The pharmacy has been stocked and up-dated.

Audio-prosthetics Without Borders provides audiology care. They are also training Ms. Johanne to conduct local hearing tests. Red Thread Promise is helping provide hearing aids.

The Friends of St. Vincent’s and Red Thread Promise have initiated a program to provide an Eyeglass Clinic for the students. During this year we developed a new partnership with Save the Children of Sweden. This partnership brought a big 25 kw generator, an inverter system, plus many musical instruments, food, and equipment for the water purification system.

With this support, we are able to restart the music program. Our children in the bell choir performed recently at the Children National Day, a celebration organized by the Haitian government. The Deaf Education Team, which includes Friends of St. Vincent’s, United Deaf International Services and Team Canada —Healing Hands for Haiti, is in the process of forming the St. Vincent’s Sign and Praise Choir. This new choir will include teachers of the deaf and students from St. Vincent’s. The deaf kids will sign the words of the hymns at the same time the hearing kids sing.

The Deaf Education Team is working on a year-long course which will include teaching American Sign Language and the practice of teaching techniques specifically designed for the deaf student. This is the first step to expand the deaf education program and empower the St. Vincent’s deaf community. One of our long term goals is to provide vocational education to supplement academic education of the deaf students.

A computer laboratory for the students will be set up in October by Red Thread Promise.

The Friends have helped to fund the Art Program at St. Vincent’s by bringing on board a professional art teacher, Mr. Fredricks. He will also be setting up the St. Vincent’s Gift Shop to feature hand-made craft items made by the students, staff and volunteers.

In summary, Fr. Sadoni’s goal is to make St. Vincent’s Center the training center and hub for education and services for handicapped children. Our goal is to help him reach his!

Hope Lennartz, RN MSN

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