Plans to bring a Paralympic team from Haiti to compete in the 2012 Summer Paralympic Games were officially unveiled recently.
Titled “The Dream,” the more than $388,000 project (about 250,000 British pounds) involves BMSWorldMission, the HaitiHospitalAppeal, GlobalHand and property developer Hammersons, which hosted the launch in London.
British wheelchair basketball star Ade Adepitan, who has had a successful media career after his retirement, spoke in support of the initiative and offered to help train the Haitian Paralympians.
Another supporter is Sir Richard Branson, who described The Dream as “a fantastic and unique opportunity for individuals and groups within the U.K. to challenge disability rights globally and use London 2012 as a platform to bring long-term change.”
The Haiti Hospital Appeal was founded by Carwyn Hill and Jonnie Horner after they attended the Baptist World Conference in Birmingham in 2005 and were challenged to take issues of poverty and injustice seriously.
Speaking at the launch, Hill said that last year’s earthquake had dramatically increased the number of disabled people in the country. Around 300,000 were hurt, many of them suffering lifelong injuries.
However, there was no provision for rehabilitation, and many had suffered spinal cord injuries.
He said that the stigma of disability in Haiti was harrowing. Some patients who returned in wheelchairs found their families wanted nothing to do with them.
The stigma also leads to children being abandoned and left without care. “I have seen children with bald patches at the back of their heads, where they have been lying looking at the ceiling for the whole of their lives,” Hill said.
Hill spoke of one child with hydrocephalus, a buildup of fluid inside the skull that leads to brain swelling. Her mother was unable to sell produce in the market because of her condition. “I have seen a hundred people surrounding her, jeering at her,” he said.
One of the aims of The Dream is to promote sport for people with disabilities as a way of countering such stigma. A football match for paraplegics organized by the Swiss Paraplegic Association, for instance, had attracted 400 spectators.
“At the end of the 30-minute match, 400 mindsets had changed,” Hill said.
For more information go to: HaitiDream.org.