Joshua Alexander, director of pediatric rehabilitation at the North Carolina Children’s Hospital and associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at UNC School of Medicine, spent a week in May 2013 helping to care for children with disabilities at the Zanmi Beni Children’s Home in Haiti. UNC resident physician Nicole Forsyth assisted him with his work.
The Zanmi Beni Children’s Home, operated by Partners in Health, serves physically and mentally disabled orphans who were displaced by the January 2010 earthquake. Alexander first heard about the children’s home through the University of North Carolina School of the Arts’ Global Arts Program, which was planning a trip there for UNCSA students, including Alexander’s daughter.
“When I found out that this children’s home was founded to serve children with disabilities, I felt called to help,” he said.
During his week-long trip to Haiti, Alexander discussed care, nursing and therapy issues with the home’s staff and, in conjunction with the non-profit Operation Blessing, he held a clinic for children brought from distant villages. He also helped the students traveling with him in Haiti to become comfortable feeding and playing with children with disabilities. Additionally, he delivered a lecture on the treatment of children with cerebral palsy to therapists, nurses and other care providers from across the country and, separately, toured Partners in Health’s new hospital in Mirebelais, Haiti.
Alexander hopes to return to Zanmi Beni with more specialized equipment and a larger group of care providers including medical residents, feeding experts, physical therapists and occupational therapists. He envisions developing care plans for the disabled children there and throughout Haiti.
“As a big supporter of telemedicine and tele-health, I’d also love to have funding to support the development of an online knowledge transfer program to keep providers in Haiti connected with those in the States and vice versa,” he said. He has tentatively set a fundraising goal of $10,000 towards this goal and to help fund his next trip.
Traveling to Haiti enriched Alexander’s perspective on health and wealth both here and abroad. “In Haiti, I saw so many examples of people living in poor conditions. I saw streets that had potholes the size of a small car, houses made of three crumbling walls and a broken tin roof and unsanitary food and water. But despite these poor conditions, none of the people seemed angry or resentful. I saw more smiles in Haiti during the week I was there than I see back here in the States in perhaps half a year,” he said. “It made me so much more appreciative of all that we have here in the States while making me reconsider what it means to be truly wealthy.”
Tax-deductible charitable gifts made to the N.C. Children’s Promise enabled Alexander and Forsyth to make the trip and bring the needed supplies and equipment.
To help support Alexander’s future endeavors caring for disabled children in Haiti, visit the N.C. Children’s Promise’s secure giving page. Select “Children’s Promise Fund (3427)” from the dropdown menu, enter your gift amount, and then type “Haiti13” into the appeal code box under “Gift Details.”
For more information about the May 2013 trip, visit Alexander’s blog.