Proudly Representing Haiti at the Special Olympics
Children from our Special Needs Program in Haiti recently traveled to the U.S. for riding competitions.
Reported by Jacinta McGuane
Associate Manager, NPH Haiti Special Needs Program
February 14, 2018
The social development of our children on trips abroad is one of the most lasting and important aspects of a trip. Our children learn to adapt quickly to the local “norms” and customs when visiting the U.S. – for example, learning how to greet each other by presenting the right hand for a hand-shake, which is very different to the Haitian greeting of a kiss on each cheek, or adapting to eating with knives and forks versus a spoon. New cultural norms are practiced, with assistance if necessary, at every opportunity. Adapting to a variety of new foods and drinks can often be a challenge.
Darline* and Estime* were great models for Anderson* – three children who participated in the journey – who learn best by watching and practicing. They were polite to all they met in all situations. Thankfulness and kindness were traits which shone brightly throughout the trip. They were always there to guide and to care for Anderson. During training sessions, they were advising and encouraging him, and all of the other children too. Especially Gracie,* who they have known for many years, and a Haitian boy whose mother is ill in the hospital. They were encouraging him all through his events and clapped the loudest when he was presented with his ribbons.
Anderson* woke every morning to tell us that “he loved us all and that we were beautiful” – a wonderful way to start the day. He loved every minute of the trip, giving the best hugs and smiles while learning polite phrases in English, such as “Thank you,” and “excuse me please.” He learned to climb and descend the stairs better and better each day. In Tabarre, where he lives, stairs are few, making this a relatively new challenge. He progressively became more independent day after day. Estime and Darline were always there to help, guide and support him – the highlight of the trip for me.
This is only the second time in which Darline and Estime have competed at a dressage – horse riding – competition. It was a great challenge which they were both willing to try. They trained hard and studied their maps at every spare moment to ensure that they would do their best in the competition. Thanks to the help they received, they were well prepared. Anderson too learned new skills: “deux-point,” or two-point riding. We learned that handbag straps can be useful to practice the positioning of the hands when needed.
We are indebted to Romy Tshudi and her team, who help us every year with the necessary fundraising, donations of equipment, and their time. A big “Thank You” to all on behalf of the NPH Special Needs Program’s Riding Program, catering to 80 young riders per week. And finally, a great big thank you to Carmelle Devil, who has been leading the trip for the past 13 years, and for her dedication to all of the special needs children.
*Names changed to protect privacy
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Photo above: Estime*, Anderson* and Darline* accompanied by a supporter; Photos below: Our youths with disabilities represented the Special Needs Program at the competition