Two area residents will be lending a hand in Haiti next month as part of an organization that brings rehabilitation medicine to the physically disabled in one of the poorest countries in the world. Karen McKenzie-Stepner and Eric Doubt, both of Georgetown, will be among several Canadians volunteering with Healing Hands for Haiti from April 17 to 24. Doubt a marketing consultant, who is making his second trip to the country with the organization, will be handling logistics and French translation for the team of volunteers there and McKenzie-Stepner, owner of Halton Hills Speech Centre, will be providing speech pathology to those in need, and instruction for health care providers in Haiti. The trip will cost each of them $1,900, which they must cover themselves or through fundraising. They are currently accepting donations from the community to help cover the cost. McKenzie-Stepner will be providing nursing assistants with information about swallowing and communication to be utilized with their stroke patients and also working in an orphanage with children who have swallowing problems. She explained many children in Haitian orphanages develop swallowing problems because they are not given solid foods at the right stage in their development. She said kids as old as four or five in the orphanages may still be eating only soft foods, when they should have been introduced to solids at six months. McKenzie-Stepner is looking forward to going to Haiti to help. "It's the chance of a lifetime, in terms of (helping) people who are less fortunate than we are, " said McKenzie-Stepner. "Going down to Haiti is one of those opportunities to give back." She will be one of two speech pathologists taking the trip and will be bringing two duffle bags full of speech pathology educational information to be used by health providers in Haiti when they work with their patients. She will be working in the hospital in Port au Prince and the orphanage in Jacmel. Doubt who made his first visit to the country last year was shocked that such extreme poverty conditions could exist in a country so close to home. "It's definitely Third World," said Doubt. "They have almost no infrastructure, and almost no medical resources." He said unemployment is around 70 per cent in Haiti, there is a high mortality rate and very low literacy level. He said strangely he felt very much at home there during his last visit. "It's because of the people, their resilience and how beautiful the country is." Neither he nor McKenzie-Stepner are concerned about their safety in a country where there is a lot of crime, gangs, and kidnapping of North Americans. "Healing Hands for Haiti is very securityconscious. They don't let people go if it's shaky," said Doubt. "When I go (there) I don't have any worries." Anyone interested in contributing to either area resident's trip should call Doubt at 905-702-9964 or McKenzie-Stepner at 905-873-8400 ext. 105.
Karen McKenzie-Stepner (right) and Eric Doubt, both of Georgetown, will be among several Canadians volunteering with Healing Hands for Haiti from April 17 to 24.