Emily Schmitt and I just returned from Haiti with encouraging news from the clinic and orphanage. The children that were rescued from a bad situation in February look healthy and happy. The facilities at the All My Heart Haiti orphanage are better than I imagined and the staff has done a wonderful job of providing structure and a loving environment for the children. We will continue to support this work and give these children every opportunity possible to succeed physically, spiritually and academically.
The clinic in Jacmel is thriving and the staff continues to grow in confidence and effectiveness. Many patients have been affected by the Chikungunya virus which presents with flu like symptoms with the addition of significant joint pain that moves around from joint to joint. We are also in the process of setting up infrastructure to develop tele-therapy in the Jacmel clinic. This would give us the opportunity to continue teaching and instructing clinicians in an interactive environment as well as being available for clinical advise/opinions.
Thanks to all of our patients who have donated items for the orphanage and offered financial support!
Have you ever gone throughout your day and wondered “is this it”? The routine of going to the gym, work/school, family routines, church, pay bills, another month passes, etc had me asking that question quite often. As a physical therapist, I had often thought there must be more that I can do with my training and clinical experience I have gained over the past 11 years.
That question was answered at around 12, 000 feet above the Caribbean on a flight returning from Haiti. The 10 days prior were spent as part of the relief effort in the aftermath of a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that left in its path ~ 250,000 dead, 300,000 injured and 1.5 million homeless. The talk on the plane with other medical professionals was about the experience and looking forward to getting back in the US. However, I couldn’t help but feel that the plane was heading in the wrong direction. There was so much that needed to be done in Haiti, so many people that needed help, so many people that had lost everything including family members. My thoughts were forever changed from “is this it?” to “this is it!”. It is interesting how even natural disasters can be the doorway to your calling.
In 6 trips to Haiti since the earthquake, I have been fortunate to witness the structure of physical therapy evolve from under shade trees and in tents to a free standing clinic in the coastal town of Jacmel. In 2012 I became a Continuing Education Liaison for Community Coalition for Haiti with the task of providing clinical assistance and training for the physical therapy staff in Jacmel. It has been one of the most gratifying experiences to see a clinic develop from infancy into a solid and thriving entity that has touched more than 22, 000 patients in the years since the earthquake.
Missions to Haiti have also allowed me to see that the need is so much greater than physical pathologies. My eyes have been opened to the plight of the orphans and “Restavek” in Haiti. Restavek is a creole term which means “one who stays with” but commonly translated as “child slave or domestic servant”. It is estimated that 300,000 children in Haiti are Restavek and the age range usually varies from 4 to 14 years old. Due to poverty and illiteracy, 80% and 47% respectively, these children are typically given up by their parents to upper class families with the hope for a better future. The transaction is usually an agreement that the child will be sent to school in exchange for helping with household chores/duties. This is rarely the outcome and children become domestic slaves being forced to work long hours cooking, cleaning, fetching water and are often neglected, abused and even raped. One day a child and the next day a slave.
However, there is hope! Through advocacy and awareness as well as supporting orphanages such as All My Heart Haiti, The Hands and Feet Project, Restavek Freedom, Jean R. Cadet Restavek Organization and others, children can grow up in a loving environment, have an opportunity to go to school and hope for a better future.
James 1:27 – “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world”.
If you care to make a donation to increase the amount of support that we can supply, please go to http://www.gofundme.com/physical-therapy-in-haiti
I am so thankful Scott Champagne, Clinical Director at First Choice Physical Therapy on Panama City Beach, decided to travel to Haiti in the midst of a very chaotic time four years ago. Despite the risks, he put his faith & hope in God and trusted what was calling his name. Serving others and selfless actions. Scott shared his testimony with me during work at First Choice Physical Therapy in 2012. In 2013 I decided to come on the next trip with Scott. I was able to witness what a light he is to the Haitian community in Jacmel, Haiti.
Scott and Wade Rinehart have both played an integral role in educating the physical therapy community and advocating for the Restivak orphans. Because Scott and Wade have been a voice for the people in their own community, they have been able to change the lives of people like me and bring hope to those in Haiti.
I decided to make another trip this year in January 2014 after learning Haitian social services would be finally be intervening and rescuing 19 children and bringing them to All My Heart Haiti organization. Traveling alone, I knew God would take care of me. I am on my way back and reflecting on this trip.
Let me tell you how good God is! He escorted me through the airport and helped me with 200lbs of supplies that I had checked. He was just in disguise and using the name Will, who happens to be the Founder of the Hands and Feet project and 10 years of experience of travel in Haiti. Will let me use his phone and taught me how to dial a number in Haiti and take his number if I need anything as I head to the city. Wow. Thank you Lord I thought! It was just two weeks before my departure Scott wrote a blog and mentioned Will’s organization, “Hands and Feet”, as well as the organization I was traveling on behalf of. Because of Scott’s post I was able to say, “Wow, I have heard of what you are doing in Haiti, Will.”
It is funny how God works! Someone before I left jokingly asked if I had a 300 lb body guard traveling with me. No, I said. However I was very wrong. I did indeed have a body guard. He was much, much bigger and much wiser and powerful than anyone could imagine. Looks can be deceiving. Will was only about 160 pounds but his soul exceeded the scale limit. This story has a bigger picture. I asked for prayers before I left. Scott has played major role in the success of my trip. Will and Scott have a lot in common. If they both met today he would describe him as a beautiful soul.
“I believe God makes this world very small when he wants it to be “-C. Eglin
If you would like to help Scott continue his mission and this story touches you in anyway visit our page at www.GoFundMe.com/physical-therapy-in-haiti.
I just touched down in the U.S. Thank you for your prayers and mom and dad for the donations! Thank you Gulf Coast for the awesome learning tools! The kids loved them.
Thanks to all & Glory be to God!
Emily Schmitt, PTA
Emily is a PTA at our Lynn Haven clinic. When she started working for us a few months ago and heard about Wade and Scott’s mission trips to Haiti, she was eager to go herself. She is there and just sent us a short message and photo. Fun moment and good exercise too.
Her message: Supporting Heart Health at All My HEART HAITI! Early morning work out! Great way to start the day! Everyone sends hello!!