Afya’s Rehab Medicine Program
Shortly after the earthquake, Afya developed the first model for homecare and local access to rehab medicine in Port au Prince. The program began by training Haitians to become Rehab Techs or Adaptive Builders and, over the last five years, has grown to include a team of 33 Haitian Afya employees.
Our Rehab Techs evaluate and treat acute and chronic physical disabilities. They treat patients at one of our four clinics in Port au Prince and, if the patients cannot get to the clinics, they treat people in their homes. At our clinics, the techs also teach classes that address a wide range of public health issues that our patients face.
Our Adaptive Builders construct adaptive devices at our workshop in Croix-des-Bouquets. These devices range from therapeutic tools, including parallel bars and stairs, as well as tools that help people with physical disabilities cook, clean and care for themselves.
The staff manages the four clinics where they have treated 6,875 patients and have completed 3,750 adaptive building projects. The Afya model capitalizes on the labor-intensive nature of rehabilitative care and uses it as an opportunity to employ local men and women, train the employees in marketable technical skills and transform the social stigma associated with disabilities.
Why Rehab Medicine?
Physical disabilities present a chronic public health challenge in developing nations and in Haiti, where the 2010 earthquake immediately increased the disabled population by 10%, providing humanitarian assistance to people with disabilities is a critical component of national recovery. That catastrophic natural disaster left an additional 8,000 – 10,000 men, women and children with physical disabilities and a country with even fewer resources to treat them.
The absence of services for people with disabilities leads to an enormous financial and emotional burden on caretakers and a caustic stigma against the most vulnerable portion of Haiti’s population. Children with both physical and mental disabilities are particularly underserved in Haiti and the earthquake left many of these children without parents or a family support system.
You can support our work in Haiti by:
• Donating to support our rehab medicine program
• Sponsoring a container shipment of rehab supplies
• Volunteering at the warehouse to sort and pack supplies
Afya In Action: Our Story In Haiti
On a hot morning following a night of pelting rainstorms, a slight, soft-spoken Haitian man wearing wire rimmed glasses and an ill-fitting soccer uniform walked into the Afya rehab clinic. He was carrying the one and only possession he had managed to save when the torrents of water swept through his post-earthquake home, a makeshift tent on a precarious hillside. It was a certificate of proficiency in English. His name was Evenel St. Vil and he had come to apply for a job as a translator.
Before the earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010, Evenel had been a teacher. On the day of the disaster, after leading his students to safety, he encountered a stranger with two broken legs and carried her on his back for three hours through the devastated city to find her family. But we didn’t know that then. We just saw that his English was excellent. So we thanked our lucky stars and hired him on the spot.
Afya’s mission started out as a simple one—to collect unwanted medical supplies in the U.S. and get them to people in resource poor areas who need them desperately. But over and over, we’ve seen the positive impact of this work rippling way beyond that primary mission.
We first sent basic medical supplies to Haiti. But based on her occupational therapy training, Danielle knew that after the earthquake there would be an extraordinary need for rehabilitation equipment and services. So Afya established an in-country program, training a Haitian corps of rehabilitation technicians and adaptive builders who—working out of a converted shipping container—design, construct and customize equipment and furniture for the disabled.
Now, five years after the day Evenel walked into our clinic, he is the director of this highly successful program. He owns a house and car. He is married and expecting a baby. Evenel’s life has changed immeasurably. So have the lives of the staff he leads and the lives of the more than 6,500 patients they have helped. The lives of those patients’ families have been impacted as well. These are the ripples of our work. It might start with giving someone a pair of crutches. But a simple act like that often causes other actions and events and goes on to impact an ever-expanding circle of lives.
Afya’s Haiti Rehab Project Financially Supported by:
EMCB, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, The United Nations Credit Union and The Tisch Family Foundation