My name is: Ruth Duggan
My relationship to Team Canada Healing Hands (an HHHI partner) is: TCHH team member and team leader
For how long: Since 2005
Describe what you do: I am an occupational therapist working in private practice in Halifax, Nova Scotia. My work involves providing community-based rehabilitation, education and consultation to individuals, lawyers, employers and insurers.
Describe your experience of the earthquake: I went to Haiti as part of the first rehabilitation team after the earthquake, through Handicap International, to assess the rehabilitation needs and begin providing rehabilitation support to the field hospitals. For me, it was not much different than what we have been used to seeing and doing in Haiti over the past 5 years, but exponentially more of everything. More buildings falling down, more patients, more bumpy roads, more places to visit, more volunteers from more countries than I have ever seen in one place, more sad and tragic stories from our friends and patients, more wonderful stories of survival, reuniting families and getting people moving again. Rather than our usual CVA and CP diagnoses, we saw mostly orthopaedic injuries and amputations, proportionately fewer SCI and BI, and a lot of psychosocial stress.
For me the biggest concern was for the psychosocial wellbeing of these people who have experienced the unimaginable: watching their house crumble, having their whole family die, being trapped in rubble for many days. The psychological stress on everyone is beyond imagination. Literally everyone I spoke with had themselves, or knew someone who had been injured, lost a home, a loved one or a job. Despite the overwhelming stress we watched the city slowly try to come back to life as people returned to their daily routines, marked out a space for their family on the street or in a tent city, set up shop in the market, clearing away the rubble, and start rebuilding their lives.
Unfortunately I was only there for two weeks to help get the ball rolling. I am happy to say that there are many other volunteers there now helping with the rehabilitation efforts.
What are your hopes for Haiti now? I hope that the international community will continue to support Haiti, as they have needed this attention long before the Earthquake. I hope that the rebuilding of the physical structures and social systems will help to make Haiti a stronger and more successful independent country for the future.
What are your future plans? I hope to return to Haiti in the next few months to continue to lend a hand in the rehabilitation efforts.