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As clinic flexes its muscle, Haitians regain mobility

Haiti

Jude Focette used to earn a living as a truck driver, but that changed four years ago when he suffered a stroke and was no longer able to walk. “I could not move my hand and I could not lift my foot.” He is one of the patients receiving treatment at the Global Therapy Group clinic in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. “Since I came here, they have been working with me, they have given me this device to support my wrist, and now I can actually walk on my own.”

The American Red Cross supports small organizations in Haiti through financial and technical assistance, so they can expand their activities and grow their capacity. This investment at the local level helps create sustainable services that have a direct, positive impact on the communities. In the case of Global Therapy Group, support from the Red Cross allowed them to offer physical rehabilitation services to a significantly higher number of people.

The organization started operating in 2010, shortly after the earthquake, in temporary locations next to camps or hospitals. Back then, conditions were challenging and space was limited. “We had to move multiple times, so we lost patients,” explains Jo Ann Roberts, Co-Founder and Director of Global Therapy Group. “With the support of the American Red Cross we were able to build this permanent building on our own property and it will hopefully be functional for many, many years to come.”

On a regular weekday the clinic may receive up to 20 patients. “Every week we see more patients,” points out Jo Ann. Some patients sit on wheelchairs waiting for their turn as others arrive walking slowly or with the help of crutches.

The clinic offers free services and demand is high. “Most people in Haiti have no access to any kind of rehabilitation services,” describes Jo Ann. “If you were a child and broke your arm, as so many children do, you would live with that disability.” The clinic has helped people affected by strokes, car crashes or other common accidents to walk again, regain their speech, or recover their independence and get on with their lives.

“Here, patients are respected,” says Jude as he performs slow repetitive motions with his arm assisted by a therapist. He is confident he will make a full recovery and his words show optimism, perseverance, and motivation – the same attributes that have characterized Haitians since the 2010 earthquake.

Staff members assist patients as they practice different movements using pulleys, parallel bars, or pedal exercisers. One of the therapists sits on a mat and chats with a little boy, using games and toys to exercise specific muscles.

Global Therapy Group is investing in Haitians so they can become certified physical therapy technicians.

Frantzo Camille is one of the Haitian physiotherapists working at the clinic. “In Haiti, when people were handicapped, they used to be rejected, even in their own families,” he recalls, “but now I have learnt to help the patients, to facilitate their integration into society and into their families as well.”

The American Red Cross has provided funding to a variety of partners in Haiti. For local organizations and small international organizations like Global Therapy Group, this funding makes a big difference in their capacity to support local communities.

About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

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