Wheelchairs—and so much more

Hope Health Action (HHA) has been an important friend and partner organization for more than 13 years. Together, we have supported communities in the wake of disaster and improved the lives of some of our most vulnerable patients.

HHA has been providing dignified health care and disability care in northern Haiti since 2007. The organization has also provided timely support through Haiti’s natural disasters and crises.

In fact, responding to crisis is what initially brought our organizations together. HHA sent us 30 wheelchairs immediately following Haiti’s 2010 earthquake when healthcare facilities across the country were scrambling to respond to the immense needs. And as we opened our Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Rehabilitation Center in the South, they opened a rehab center in the North. Our two organizations, along with other nonprofits and Haitian government entities, were both active in the national SCI Working Group—a forum for exchanging information and coordinating advocacy for the social inclusion of persons with disabilities. This group met for several years following the earthquake.

Then, when Hurricane Matthew struck southern Haiti in 2016, Hope Health Action supported our response with water treatment tablets and generous funding for cholera prevention work and mobile clinics in the hardest-hit areas. They’ve been there for us when we needed them. And of course, we’ve been proud to support them as well. We were delighted to help them secure a donation of water filtration units for their hospital.

Most recently, Hope Health Action donated 55 wheelchairs to our SCI Program. With these assistive devices, we can give the gift of greater independence to more people with disabilities in southern Haiti.

In a large, bright room, three Haitians wearing scrubs attach wheels to a wheelchair with a light-blue frame.

Rose-Milord Celestin, Jean Ricot Buissereth, and Niorlyne Démosthène work together to assemble one of the new wheelchairs at our rehab center.

Close-up of a Haitian woman tightening a bolt on a section of wheelchair marked Free Wheelchair Mission. She wears scrubs, simple jewelry, and braids.

HHA’s wheelchair distribution program is in partnership with Walkabout Foundation and Free Wheelchair Mission.

After assembling the wheelchairs, members of our SCI team delivered several of them to program participants at their homes in communities across the region. At each stop, they checked in with the patient and their family members, fitted the wheelchair appropriately, and reviewed wheelchair safety and maintenance. Walnes and Elisabelle are two recipients of new wheelchairs.

¾ portrait of an older Haitian man sitting in a blue wheelchair, looking into the distance. He is lean and wiry, with a close-cropped white beard.

Walnes, age 66, lives with family members in Torbeck. He was sheltering at home with his wife during Hurricane Matthew when a tree crushed their house, killing his wife and leaving him with a severe SCI.

Walnes frequently visits his daughter at her home nearby to talk and tell jokes. He can get there on his own in a wheelchair, but his old one got to a point where it could no longer roll. While he was fortunately able to borrow one from a friend, Walnes wanted—and needed—a new wheelchair all his own. With the delivery of this brand-new assistive device, Walnes is happy to be able to return his friend’s wheelchair to him and keep doing the activities he loves.

Portrait of a Haitian woman and toddler gazing at the camera. The woman wears a yellow T-shirt and sits in a wheelchair, and the toddler stands close, resting his hand on her leg.

Elisabelle shares a home with her sister, her cousin, and her toddler. She suffered complications during childbirth that left her paralyzed, but she doesn’t dwell on her misfortune. Instead, she contributes to the housework and enjoys playing with her little boy.

Her old wheelchair had problems with its wheels, steering, and cushioning.  It constantly needed maintenance, and sometimes her relatives had to carry her from place to place.

Elisabelle is now more independent, thanks to her new wheelchair. It is easier to maneuver and rolls more smoothly—two important factors for chasing an active toddler!

Wheelchairs improve quality of life. That’s why they’re such an important part of our comprehensive rehabilitation and community reintegration program for people with SCIs. With critical support from Hope Health Action, we are helping more people with disabilities in Haiti lead the dignified, independent lives they deserve.