NPH Haiti Gives Sanctuary and Support to Those with Special Needs
Nurse Naika Dorilas describes the joys and challenges of working at our special needs home at NPH Haiti.
March 5, 2020 - Haiti
“What a beautiful home!”
These were the first words that crossed the mind of nurse Naika Dorilas when the 25-year-old walked through the doors of Kay Christine at Nos Petits Frères et Soeurs (NPFS, also known as NPH Haiti), which provides 24-hour care to 37 individuals with disabilities ranging from mild to severe.
“And I still believe it,” confirms Naika, “I really enjoy it.”
Naika, who studied nursing at Université Notre Dame d'Haïti in Port-au-Prince, originally came to NPH Haiti to provide 24/7 care to a child who had been hospitalized. As Naika was available much of the time and Kay Christine was in need of a nurse, Gena Heraty, who founded the special needs program May 1993, saw what a great job Naika was doing asked if she wanted to continue working at the home.
“I said ’yes’,” recounted the nurse, who has been working full-time for the past 18 months.
Nurse Dorilas is from Canapé-Vert, a district in Port-au-Prince about 12 kilometers from Kenscoff where Kay Christine is located. She works an eight-day shift then spends eight days with her own family, taking public transport called a tap tap to get to work which can take two to three hours.
The days are long for nurses at Kay Christine. Usually Naika begins her shift at 5:30 p.m. by taking the temperature of each child before they shower. Afterward, she goes upstairs to take blood pressure readings for hypertensive patients. She then gives them medicine and water as a few children suffer from urinary tract infections. At 7:00 p.m. she feeds them dinner, tucks them in, and the children sleep until 8:00 a.m. the next day.
The following day Naika takes a break from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. When she returns, she helps feed the children in the common area and then has her own lunch. Right after break, she checks the temperatures of the children taking their afternoon nap. The therapy program runs from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., where Naika might support children using wheelchairs or administer chronic constipation massages and gently rub their stomach to relieve the pain. Finally, at 7:00 p.m., she is done.
Naika loves her job, but it comes with its challenges. “The biggest challenge working with children with special needs is they can be wonderful all day,” she says, “and then suddenly one of them has a spell and cries out for attention. It can really raise your stress level, but I take a deep breath and apply my professional training to help comfort the child.”
“My favorite part of the job is when I am doing therapy with the kids. We smile together. The interaction between the children and me is so wonderful. It’s a moment of intimacy. You feel so close to the children,” adds Naika.
Kay Christine provides respiratory, physical, muscle, and speech therapies, depending on the individual needs of the children. For example, children with secretion disabilities receive respiratory, not physical, therapy; children with chronic constipation receive abdominal massage and muscle therapy; and children who are unable to talk have speech therapy.
Kay Christine has witnessed a few miracles over time, but not without the hard work of a committed staff. Two of those miracle stories are Binjanie and Mid Jerry. Neither of them could walk or speak from birth until the age nine. Today they can both be seen getting around the home and communicating with staff.
In Haiti, the most severely disabled children are left abandoned. This is not due to being unwanted, but because of the very few services available to families with children with disabilities. Due to the success of the Kay Christine program, NPH Haiti expanded it to reach out to communities throughout Port-au-Prince to provide support to other families.
In 2008, NPH developed Kay Germaine: the only special needs school in Haiti. And now there is Kay Gabriel to provide specialized education services and ongoing rehabilitation to children with special needs. We are also unique in that our skilled expat volunteers train local therapists and thereby create a greater degree of sustainability and self-sufficiency for the program into the future. Kay Germaine has nine classrooms, a sensory room, five rehabilitation rooms, and a swimming pool for aquatic therapy. It offers physical/muscular therapy and speech/language therapy services to children with neurological disabilities, serving an average of 40 children a day. It also provides meals and support to 50 stroke patients a week.
Reaching out to local communities hasn’t been easy in light of ongoing political crisis throughout Haiti during the past year. Civil unrest, demonstrations, and roadblocks disrupted the work routines of many employees, including Nurse Dorilas. The threat of violence and lack of transport meant she was unable to visit her family. Instead, she was obliged to continue working not only to cover the shifts of those who couldn’t make it to work, but also to care for the children, who in Haiti are the most vulnerable of all.
“It has been a difficult time. In fact, it is seeing the children smile that keeps us going at NPH. As I said, it is a very beautiful home, in many ways,” beams Naika.
What motivates Naika most in her role, she says, “is that the work I do improves the health of our children.”
And she returns to her duties.
Children’s names have been changed to protect their privacy.
Interested in supporting our special needs programs in Haiti? Visit our donations page to see how you can help today.
Communication Officer, NPH Haiti