Every day, Maxsony wheels his “chèz woulant,” Haitian Creole for “wheelchair,” from his house near the Fond des Blancs market to his work at the SCI Center at SBH, about half a mile uphill. He began working for SCI about a year and a half after the earthquake. In his role, he does home visits with the outpatient team, leads rehabilitation activities, and visits local schools to raise awareness about the lives of handicapped people.
Maxsony’s own experiences give him unique insight into the barriers between handicapped people and the rest of the Haitian population. Part of the problem, he says, is the pervasive belief that handicapped people can’t support normal lives, “Haitians don’t like people in wheelchairs. They think that you can’t support others, and you can’t have children. You are a burden.” As someone who lived the first 24 years of his life free of handicaps, even he had a difficult time accepting the challenges, “I couldn’t accept my handicap and my condition, but St. Boniface helped me do that.”
Now he takes his knowledge and understanding out into the community, “I help handicapped children find their place at school. Many don’t believe that these children have the right to even go to school. But, we have been able to be a part of changing these ideas.” Maxsony explains that many of these sentiments are also shifting in the larger community, “Not everybody in Fond des Blancs understands, but many people’s ideas have changed about men and women who have handicaps.
Though Maxsony has devoted his life to alleviating these burdens for others, he still faces challenges of his own, all stemming from that fateful day, five years ago. “I can’t get around easily because I can’t ride a motorcycle. I can’t have and support a family like I could have before. And, there are times when I can’t even enter a building without asking for help to get up a ramp or over a step.”