"Piti piti zwazo fe niche lipiti zwazo fe niche li."
Haitian proverb: Little by little, a bird makes its nest.
Haitian schools generally do not accept children with disabilities therefore their disabilities combined with a lack of education limit the ability of these children to become self-reliant adults. The PAZAPA model has shown, however, that many children with moderate disabilities benefit from academic and vocational education and can become productive members of their communities.
The PAZAPA School for children with cognitive and physical disabilities provides three levels of education. Early intervention (0-3 years) focuses on working with mothers and other family members to provide and to encourage the family to use stimulation, therapy, and socialization techniques in the children's development. Preschool (4-10 years) works on language and social skills as well as coping skills for children with physical disabilities. The senior class helps those children who can handle a regular primary school program to maximize their outside educational opportunities and helps those with more severe disabilities to acquire life skills.
Children with multiple and/or severe handicaps who cannot attend school are enrolled in the home visit program. PAZAPA has also organized ongoing education programs to promote the overall well-being of the families.
School for the Deaf
For many years, PAZAPA has subsidized boarding school education for children with visual and motor impairments at École St. Vincent in Port-au-Prince. In 2008, PAZAPA opened its own day school for children with hearing impairments which provides education to the national certification level. PAZAPA also provides varied vocational training programs for senior children.
"Mainstreaming" is the best and often the only choice for children who live with disabilities, particularly for those who live in rural districts. With support from community advocates, PAZAPA has successfully influenced government and private schools to accept children with disabilities. In order to counter stigmatization, PAZAPA organizes community meetings to exchange ideas and experiences concerning programming for students with disabilities.
Local and international medical volunteers provide clinical evaluation; orthopedic, plastic, and neurological surgery; and rehabilitation, physical therapy, and occupational therapy for children with physical disabilities. All treatment is provided at no cost to the children's families.
PAZAPA's therapist, overseen by pediatric orthopedic specialists from the U.S., provides serial casting for children with clubfoot. Children with hearing impairments are tested by professional audiologists at PAZAPA and those who may benefit receive custom-fitted hearing aids at no cost.
Undoubtedly, the vast majority of children with non-life threatening conditions (and even many with life-threatening conditions) would not have the chance for corrective surgery in a country where all health costs are borne by the families. To date, more than 700 children with physical disabilities have been treated through PAZAPA.
Health Care and Health Education
PAZAPA's staff nurse educates families about hygiene, family planning, HIV prevention, and immunizations, with emphasis on eliminating or reducing the endemic problems of malnutrition, parasitic infections, and diseases caused by unsanitary conditions. The staff nurse also oversees pre- and post-operative care, provides first aid treatment, and administers immunizations and medications for the treatment of epilepsy, arthritis, and infectious bone disease as prescribed by volunteer and local physicians. PAZAPA also provides guidance to families to encourage ongoing, effective home care.
PAZAPA extends its programs into the surrounding rural villages, where staff and volunteers hold screening clinics to identify children who live with disabilities and to help the families and community leaders design their own programs, utilizing resources available locally.
PAZAPA arranges for and funds surgical care and follow-up for children with physical disabilities in the outlying communities, encourages local schools to accept disabled children into the classroom, and facilitates the establishment of community centers where children with disabilities and their families can meet and to provide support for one another.
PAZAPA also facilitates meetings in Jacmel for parents to share ideas and experiences as well as weeklong seminars for representative mothers at a Port-au-Prince training center. These mothers are taught simple child development techniques which they then use to assist families in their rural areas.
The staff at PAZAPA firmly believes that health is related to economic status. Therefore, PAZAPA has facilitated small independent commercial ventures through "Ti Commerce" (small business) loans for parents of its children. Other adult programs have included a fruit-drying project, literacy classes, seminars on women's and children's rights, and courses in sewing and cooking.