Knights of Columbus to Host Project Medishare’s Haitian Amputee-Athletes at Vatican Conference Called by Pope Francis
Supreme Knight to address Vatican gathering that will mark five years since the Haitian earthquake
ROME — Three young men who exemplify the hope and healing that have been achieved against great odds since Haiti’s 2010 earthquake will attend a Vatican conference this week to mark five years since the tragic earthquake, courtesy of the Knights of Columbus (KOC).
In addition to attending the Vatican conference on Saturday, Jan. 10, the Haitian delegation will also offer a demonstration of amputee soccer at a KOC soccer field in Rome. Wilfrid Macena, Mackenson Pierre and Sandy J.L. Louiseme were aided by the program, a partnership that offered free prosthesis and rehabilitation to every child who lost a limb in the earthquake.
All three of the young men lost a leg in the earthquake that devastated Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010. They received prosthetic limbs through “Healing Haiti’s Children,” an extensive program sponsored by the KOC in collaboration with the University of Miami-affiliated Project Medishare. Medishare will also have representatives at the Vatican event. Attending will be Professor Robert Gailey, PhD, PT Department of Physical Therapy, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine had coordinate Project Medishare’s rehabilitation and prosthetics program in Haiti since the earthquake will be attending the conference along with the director of Rehabiliation, Jason Miller, PT and Director of Prosthetics, Adam Finnieston, CPO. Over the past five years the Project Medishare rehabilitation team has provided rehabilitation for 25,000 patients and fabricated over 2,000 prosthetic and orthotic devices.
While Project Medishare provided medical expertise and treatment, the KOC offered funding of $1.7 million, which effectively provided an estimated $12 million worth of aid by U.S. standards and created a sustainable program by hiring local Haitians to do much of the fabrication and rehabilitation work. To date, more than 1,000 children have received prosthetic limbs in the program, which has also trained Haitians to continue their work.
Some of the Haitian amputees also went on to become members of Team Zaryen the amputee soccer team composed of amputee athletes from Port au Prince and the neighboring villages.
The upcoming conference in Rome was called by Pope Francis to focus on the humanitarian catastrophe and its ongoing impact, and will affirm the Church’s closeness to the Haitian people. The meeting, organized by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum,” will include a presentation by KOC Supreme Knight Carl Anderson.
“The work of the dedicated medical staff and the unbreakable spirit of these Haitian young people, in circumstances most of us can’t imagine, are truly inspiring,” said Anderson. “After the earthquake, thousands of children and young people underwent emergency amputations in order to survive, and we are pleased to have been able to help many reclaim their lives despite terrible challenges.”
The amazing story of the program and the children it has served was captured in “Unbreakable: A Story of Hope and Healing in Haiti,” a documentary produced by the Knights.
Winner of the Most Inspirational Documentary Award at the DocMiami International Film Festival’s Florida Documentary Film Festival in September, the film also follows the story of the formation of an amputee soccer team named Zaryen (tarantula), named after the resilient spider known for becoming even more determined after losing a leg. The film is being aired by PBS affiliates in several markets this month.
For over 55 months the KC, “Healing Haiti’s Children” program at Project Medishare’s Hospital Bernard Mevs has been an overwhelming success by any measure. Over 2,000 prosthetic and orthotic devices and 25,000 patients have received rehabilitation treatment from our programs, been assessed, prescribed and treated to the highest standards possible. Our patients have been discharged with an increased ability to face the difficulties that remain in their lives and in their country.
Healing Haiti’s Children Program. Summary
Since the January 12, 2010 Earthquake in Haiti Project Medishare/Knights of Columbus has:
- treated over 250,000 patients with surgery, in-patient and outpatient care
- rehabilitation continues provide over 3,500 treatments per month at the hospital
- provided 325 prosthetic limbs for children with limb loss
- provided 510 orthotic braces for children
- provided 600 adult lower limb prosthetics
- provided 615 adults orthotics
- sent over 395 physical therapists and 35 prosthetists/orthotists.
- hired 6 full-time Haitian O&P and Rehabilitation technicians
- hired 2 full-tie PTs and 1 full-time CPO
- Monthly – 24 new prosthesis cases with 35 secondary repair and replacement cases
- Annually – over 200 new cases with an additional 1,250 repair and replacement cases
While many NGOs rallied during the first year after the earthquake most have departed Haiti. The Knights of Columbus and Project Medishare is one of the last rehabilitation and prosthetic programs still in existence in Haiti. Three Haitian technicians complete the Loma Linda University Rehabilitation technician program. We have met our goal of a fully sustainable and independent O&P/Rehab program operated by the Haitian people.
Integral to our mission to change the face and perception of disability in Haiti, Team Zaryen has lead the way becoming the most recognizable soccer team in all of Haiti. Team Zaryen has given the country as a whole, able-bodied and disabled a sense of hope. Many of the members of Zaryen played on the Haitian National Amputee Football Team that made it to the quarter finals at the 2014 World Cup in Mexico this past November