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International Day of People with Disablities - An Important Announcement

An important announcement from Carwyn, our CEO, on International Day of People with Disabilities:

A few weeks ago I had the privilege to be in Haiti and visit Maison de Benediction - MdB (our respite centre for children with disabilities), where I had a team meeting with the incredible staff who run this centre.  They are a heroic, courageous and inspirational group of women, especially the 9 staff who’ve personally fostered some of the children, all with disabilities – including many profound disabilities, into their own homes.

I was left in tears sitting before the staff as I listened to their stories.  Tales of deep love for the children they’ve adopted into their homes and the indescribable sacrifices they’ve made in doing so, but also tales of great pain hearing the constant hurdles they still face.  As one example, even accessing transport to come to our respite centre is an emotionally draining weekly struggle.  Standing at the side of the road for an hour, being rejected again and again by moto-taxis, unwilling to help a child with a disability.  Taken advantage of when they do get a ride, paying prices well over the local rate.  Dealing with the comments and verbal abuse from community members in a culture with deeply rooted stigma against persons with disabilities.  This year has also been harder for these heroic and humble women, with financial constraints meaning MdB has reduced its opening hours by 50% this year, meaning 50% less respite support for the 21 active kids we’re supporting on the programme.

 I started to cry as I grappled with these realities. Aside from the heart-breaking stories I was hearing, I was also acutely aware of the deep injustice and disparity between what I face as a father of a child with a disability in the UK and what these women are facing.  

My oldest son has Down’s Syndrome. Yet each day for school, he gets picked up by the school bus, by a cheerful carer and a happy driver.  And in our street, most people know our son, and look out for him with warmth and love. The reality for these dear women at MdB, is something very different.  Whilst we have achieved so much in Haiti, there is a long way to go. My tears were also an outpouring of frustration and anger.  We need to do better for these women, for these children.  Living with a disability can be hard anywhere in the world, but in Haiti, Uganda and South Sudan, it’s a battle few of us can truly understand (myself included).  

But, in the coming year we are excited that improving care for thousands of people with disabilities will be a core part of our work.  Today, HHA UK announced exciting news that they’ve received a grant to implement a major new disability project in one of the world’s largest refugee camps in Uganda (Bidibidi Refugee Settlement).

This project will include;

  • A new Outpatient Rehabilitation Centre, specialising in wheelchair provision, orthotics and prosthetics (with partners SwissLimbs), and physiotherapy. It’s going to be a game changer for the settlement, employing 12 local staff.
  • A new Mobile Rehab Unit. HHA UK have just ordered a new 4x4 Toyota Mobile Rehabilitation Unit that will reach the most marginalised communities and help with transportation.
  • A new Community Based Rehabilitation Team.  In the last few weeks HHA East Africa have recruited and started training a new team of 18 Community Based Rehabilitation workers, who’ll work in the community, supporting and advocating for people with disabilities.  

Alongside this great news, HHA US and HHA UK will be announcing another exciting new project in Haiti very soon!  We have big plans for our Haiti disability work in 2021, not least, a passionate desire to get MdB back to full time, stratinga new transport service for the carers and children of MdB, and upgrading the respite centre’s building (it needs a bit of TLC!).  

That’s why, this Christmas, we will be launching a special campaign to support MdB. We’re currently working on a catalogue of gift ideas with a range of presents you can buy.  Whether it be a new mosquito net or investing in the transport service.  We’re really excited about what we can do to support these incredible women and children at MdB in the next month!  We’ll be launching this very soon, so pop back soon for more information on how you can help give the kids and carers of MdB a very happy Christmas!