Thursday, October 22, 2009

Happy Belated Birthday, RTTP!

September 5th was the one-year anniversary of our Rehabilitation Technician Training Program (RTTP), which is perhaps the only program of its kind in Haiti. Ok, are you ready for all these acronyms? Let's see: RTTP was designed by the Friends of HAS Haiti (FHASH) as a way to professionalize Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti's (HAS) rehabilitation service with its limited resources. Health Volunteers Overseas (HVO) came on board as a partner, as HVO affiliated teachers had been seeking a site in Haiti to operate. This collaboration between FHASH, HAS, and HVO set a platform in place to allow each of the partners to achieve their goals.

That said, we'd like to introduce you to the individuals that have made this program into the fledgling success story that it is today!

Meet Shaun Cleaver –
Coordinator of Rehabilitation Services Development

Shaun Cleaver is a Canadian physical therapist who has spent more than a year in Haiti. Shaun moved back to the country in April 2008 to work as the Coordinator of Rehabilitation Services Development for the RTTP. In this role he was responsible for establishing the framework of the training program and the system for providing rehabilitation services.

Shaun fulfilled numerous roles for the RTTP. When the training program started in January, Shaun was first and foremost the onsite contact for the training program, orienting teachers to life in Deschapelles and being a consistent face for students amid the constant changes seen with the teacher rotation. This role also makes him the interface with the RTTP and other political and independent social institutions in Haiti, including HAS of course, but also the Haitian government and local Disabled Persons’ Organizations. Shaun also works with the HAS staff to improve the current provision of rehabilitation services and facilitates the expansion of services and hiring of new employees. This included traveling to outlying areas where he stays at and works out of small health centers, seeing patients and collaborating with local employees to integrate rehabilitation. Besides this field work, he also spent a good deal of time with his hands on the keyboard and eyes on the screen, communicating with RTTP stakeholders, drafting documents to help the program raise funds and planning budgets and schedules.

Focusing on immediate needs, though, Shaun’s biggest job at RTTP's inception was to select the students and the local translator. The RTTP searched for the best candidates in these roles and engaged in a rigorous process to identify these people. For Shaun, this was a new and interesting challenge that at the time required better knowledge of the Haitian education and labor systems.

Outside of work, Shaun is known locally for his morning 3 mile runs and Kreyol fluency, allowing for animated banter and joking with the area’s residents. He is also fluent in French and often fulfills ad-hoc translation duties in HAS. He enjoys gardening, hiking and the wide variety of personalities, both visitors and local, that frequent Deschapelles.

Shaun has stayed in Deschapelles for over a year at this point. While he is currently facilitating his own transition away from his position in Haiti, he has already put systems in place which have allowed this to happen on its own. Despite the challenges, RTTP is a success after one year, and you will be sure to hear of some of the trials & triumphs of this project both in real-time and retrospectively. Shaun plans to complete his PhD in order to seek an academic appointment integrating teaching, research and service. More generally, Shaun’s career focus is integrating rehabilitation therapy in resource-poor environments and across cultures. It is likely that he will return to South America or Sub-Saharan Africa where he has traveled, worked and lived previously. Nonetheless, with a record that includes substantial, and repetitive, time living in Haiti, it is likely he will stop by here again too…

Meet Denise English – Program Director

Haiti has been an important part of Denise’s life for over 12 years. She has fulfilled a variety of commitments in Port-au-Prince, Lacroix (near Gonaives), St-Louis du Nord and now Deschapelles. In her role as Program Director, Denise is responsible for all of the educational aspects of the RTTP. It was really through Denise's efforts that RTTP was founded as an official program of the Friends of HAS. Denise established the vision for the training program, led the curriculum development, recruited teachers and oriented them to the program and providing guidance for important decisions regarding student selection, evaluation and discipline.

Denise’s affiliation in the RTTP partnership is with Health Volunteers Overseas (HVO). HVO is based in Washington, DC, and its mission is to create opportunities for health professionals from high-income countries to build health and human resources in low-income countries. (Whoa – that’s a mouthful.) Now, what does this all really mean? At the most basic level, HVO programs are rooted in teaching. Professional volunteers from the United States and Canada travel to international sites to collaborate with locals to train health care workers. In this way, HVO’s work should serve to strengthen health care systems at their local program sites. All RTTP teachers are HVO volunteers with previous experience in Haiti.

HVO has a strong physical therapy component, currently with programs in Bhutan, India, Nicaragua, Peru, St. Lucia, Suriname and Vietnam. According to Denise, “Working with HVO provides us with a wealth of international expertise and important contacts.” Denise is in regular contact with the Program Directors from the other sites, enabling exchanges regarding experiences and lessons learned.

HVO is sponsored by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) and has a reputation among physical therapists as offering a very organized volunteer experiences. The RTTP is proud to have HVO as part of our team and excited about the opportunities this provides.

We are also lucky to have friends like Denise and Shaun on our side.

Read an Article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about Denise English and her work with the RTTP.

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