Kay Germaine Preparing to Celebrate their 4th Anniversary
Services to disabled children and their mothers has increased.
July 4, 2012 - Haiti
Kay St. Germaine also known as "St. Germaine of Tabarre" is preparing to celebrate its fourth year anniversary this September 8th. The center opened its doors in 2008 as a newly constructed 2,300 square foot building for rehabilitation, physiotherapy and education located across the street from the NPH St. Damien Pediatric Hospital.NPH Haiti started offering outreach rehabilitation services in 2004. At that time, Gena Heraty was invited by Father Rick Frechette to go with him to an outreach clinic in Wharf Jeremy. Father Rick met with one mother of a handicapped child and wondered if the Kay Christine team could help this child. From here, the idea to work with handicapped children and their parents came into fruition. The idea was that if the parents and children received support, education and therapy, then maybe these children would not end up abandoned like so many handicapped children.
Gena and her team started going to the outreach Wharf Jeremy clinic once a week to provide physical therapy to the children who came with their parents. They soon realized that if these kids were to progress they would need schooling and they should learn to feed themselves. Within weeks, they were occupying three spaces in Wharf Jeremy. There are three little areas where the filth and rubbish had been cleared away and the dreary slum was brightened up by the colorful therapy balls, the new blue floor carpet and the beautiful, happy, smiling children. As the program progressed, the team dreamed of building a full service rehabilitation (“rehab”) center where the children would receive all the services they would need. Italian architects came up with a splendid design and volunteer engineers from Germany and Italy oversaw the building of Kay Germaine.
Meanwhile, Father Rick quickly saw how fast the program was expanding and how much space it was occupying, he offered to move the program to Tabarre. Here the new pediatric hospital was being built, and a brand new guest house was half empty. It was decided that part of the program be moved to Tabarre.
Meanwhile, the program also expanded to Petionville and occupied a few floors of the old St. Damien Hospital. It was named Kay Eliane. Eliane was a young child who lived in Kay Christine (home for children with disabilities at NPH’s St. Helen Orphanage in Kenscoff, Haiti) until her death in 1997. As the patients came to Petionville, blue prints were drafted for a new rehab center. This new center opened its doors in September 2008 and on that day there was just one patient! Strong winds and rain kept others away, but little Marvens braved the elements to get there. It was a beacon of light on that grey rainy day. Today, Kay Germaine offers therapy services and special education schooling daily to an average of 80 children per week, plus therapy services to fifty adults (stroke patients) per week. Additionally the team offers physical therapy for children and occupational therapy.
When the time came to move into the new building, the decision was made not to close the program in Petionville as many of the children attending were from that area and it would have been difficult for them to go all the way to Tabarre. Therefore, Kay Eliane remained open to provide rehab services to the children in the Petionville area. Unfortunately, the earthquake in 2010 forced many changes in the services offered by the rehab program at both locations. Firstly, the Kay Eliane facility was completely destroyed. Consequently, a new building was purchased, renovated and opened in March of 2011.
Currently, over fifty children a week receive treatment at Kay Eliane. Prior to the earthquake, Kay Germaine did not work with adults, but due to the many amputees this changed. A prosthetic workshop was created to cater to the amputees. Currently, this workshop, which was organized and donated by NPH Italy, employs two ex-pequenos who have both been to Italy to receive training in the art of making orthotics for the children receiving therapy.
Stroke patients now receive therapy in St. Germaine. Most are referred by St. Luke Hospital situated next door to St. Germaine. On average, approximately twenty patients come each day to the Stroke Clinic and it is amazing and very rewarding to see how quickly they make progress. A great number of them arrive in wheelchairs, sad and despondent. Within two months, they are typically able to walk around the place!
Kay Germaine is a vital resource for Haiti and the objective is to offer a first class service to those in need. Although the children of the school receive free prosthesis, therapy and lunch, the worldwide economic crisis has caused a reduction in all budgets for each of the NPH programs. Kay Germaine is therefore forced to charge a nominal fee of approximately 50 Gourdes HD (about $20 US) per appointment, and about 100 Gourdes HD (about $40 US) per year for each child enrolled in the school. While this is the case, neither children nor adults will be turned away for lack of payment.
Many of the patients must take three different "tap taps" or a Haitian car service to get to the facility. As a humanitarian organization, parents of children enrolled in the program and adults who come for therapy may receive tap tap fares to ease the financial burden of transportation. A further incentive to encourage participation is that all children are offered a glass of milk every morning. Additionally, youngsters suffering from malnutrition are referred to the St. Luke Hospital Malnutrition program, which is a free service provided by the St. Luke Foundation. Children attending the school are also able to go horseback riding once a week, and are free to use the swimming pool weekly.
Outreach programs such as the Wish Card business and the micro credit loans to families continue to reinforce the commitment to helping families with neurologically challenged children. The Wish Card business continues to produce employment for some of the mothers of these disabled children and provide them a means to contribute to their families. The mothers create some of the most beautifully embroidered cards and beaded jewelry for sale. The products are sold in Haiti, Europe and the United States. A vital resource for the parents and Kay St. Germaine, the money helps to defray the cost of living for a good number of parents and children. The pride and dignity derived from the business is invaluable to the mothers who often times are widows and single heads of households.
Kay St. Germaine has proven to be a lifesaver for those with disabilities in Haiti, a country that severely lacks comprehensive services for the disabled. People start gathering at the gates at about 5:30 a.m. although the program’s hours of operation are from 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. Ms. Finesse, the Assistant Director, expresses the need for a facility such as Kay Germaine. To paraphrase her sentiments, we are very proud that we are in a position to meet the needs of our community.
We would like to wish a very Happy Anniversary to Kay Germaine and offer our gratitude to all of the good Samaritans who make this program possible. In a country where there are so many difficulties to be faced and so many stories of sadness, we in NPH Haiti are very happy that Kay Germaine is a bright, happy location, occupied by beautiful happy children. They brighten up the lives of everyone who meets them and they make it a joy for everyone who works with them.
Dieuveck Rosembert and Peggy Parker