Project HOPE To Launch Innovative Book To Reverse Stigma Against Haitians With Disabilities On World Health Day

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Project HOPE To Publish Bilingual Book to Educate Communities and Promote Disabled Rights in Haiti

New "Speaking Book" Advocates for Haitians with Disabilities

The theme of our book, entitled “Rehabilitation Medicine: Healing Body and Spirit” translates well to the global message of World Health Day -- that we continue to teach communities how to better understand and accept people with serious health issues.

Global NGO Project HOPE is launching a new innovative book in Haiti that addresses the stigma and discrimination afflicting thousands of disabled Haitians every day and calls for greater tolerance of amputees on World Health Day 2012.

Project HOPE, a global health education and humanitarian assistance organization, and its partners created the first free, comprehensive rehab (and prosthetic) facility in post-earthquake Haiti in 2010. The rehabilitation facility at Adventist Hospital in Diquini, near Port-au-Prince, is known as “Chanje Lavi,” which means “Changing Lives” in Creole. Chanje Lavi has helped thousands of patients in the past year alone to adapt to life with a disability and overcome the hardship that can arise for disabled people in Haitian society.

“The new book follows on the success of the rehab center, which is a model for sustainability and one-of-a- kind in Haiti. We are thrilled that the center’s vital work continues since HOPE’s recent transition of its operations to the local Adventist Hospital, which is working to ensure the sustainability of the program at Chanje Lavi. The theme of our book, entitled “Rehabilitation Medicine: Healing Body and Spirit” translates well to the global message of World Health Day -- that we continue to teach communities how to better understand and accept people with serious health issues,” said Jason Friesen, Project HOPE’s Country Representative in Haiti.

The innovative bilingual book was created by HOPE with the support of Johnson and Johnson and an array of local partners. The book is adapted to limited literacy in Haiti, using both an audio track and printed text, published in Creole and French. Rehabilitation Medicine: Healing Body and Spirit is colorfully illustrated and tells the story of Pauline, a woman who confronts a challenging rehabilitation journey after her leg was pinned under a car during an earthquake.

The story, written by Paula Clermont Pean, tracks Pauline’s struggles with depression after her leg was amputated to save her life, and the difficult process of learning to function as a disabled person. HOPE is working with Haiti’s National Office for Persons with Disabilities and other NGOs to ensure wide distribution of the book , which is to be launched next month and distributed for free to over 5,000 people.

“We hope the character’s journey from victim to a fully functioning, productive, disabled member of society will serve as an inspiration to disabled readers and hopefully prompt them to seek services for themselves and others, and to improve the public's understanding of disabilities in general,” said Friesen.

Friesen believes the book’s message -- that rehabilitation can mend the body and the spirit and that all Haitians have the right to be productive and live free from discrimination -- will resonate with many Haitians who are still struggling to build healthy, successful lives two years after the earthquake. And, like the book’s main character, Pauline, disabled people in the capital, Port-au-Prince, have visited residential facilities on site at Chanje Lavi to receive ongoing physiotherapy and prosthetic fittings, potentially accelerating their improvements.

Chanje Lavi is a model integrated health program that supported and enabled the Adventist Hospital to become the leading orthopedic referral hospital nationwide. Initially treating earthquake victims, Chanje Lavi is now treating victims of traumatic injuries and chronically ill patients with rheumatoid arthritis and congenital defects such as club foot, among others. Care in the Center is complemented by home visits via community outreach, raising awareness about available services and addressing stigma to improve access and quality of life. To date, the rehab center has assisted over 4,000 patients and amputees with long-term chronic health needs.

World Health Day is celebrated annually on April 7 to mark the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization in 1948.

About Project HOPE
Founded in 1958, Project HOPE (Health Opportunities for People Everywhere) is dedicated to providing lasting solutions to health crises, with the mission of helping people to help themselves. Identifiable to many by the SS HOPE, the world’s first peacetime hospital ship, Project HOPE now conducts land-based medical training and health education programs in 35 countries across five continents.

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Geraldine Carroll
Project Hope
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