Following Injury, a Student Illuminates Darkness in Post-Hurricane Haiti

Charlisena Lubin in her wheelchair next to her mother
Charlisena Lubin with her mother
Marc Lee Steed for USAID
How Charlisena Lubin learned to move beyond limitation
“Do not be discouraged!”

August 2018 — Charlisena Lubin is a shy 15-year-old student who lives in the coastal town of Les Anglais in Haiti. In 2016, she was injured by a falling tree while attempting to escape Hurricane Matthew. She is now paralyzed from the waist down.

At first, she did not want to be the only person in a wheelchair in this small village, so she decided that once she was back home, she would stay in her room. However, after nine months of physical therapy and psychological support from the St. Boniface Hospital Foundation in Fond-des-Blancs, Charlisena's outlook began to change. She came to terms with her condition and, last year, decided to return to her hometown and resume school. 

To people who are in the same condition, she has one message: “Do not be discouraged!”

Since the beginning of the spinal cord injury program at the hospital in 2010, patients like Charlisena have received care ranging from surgery to emergency services. Thanks to the generous contribution of the American people, to date over 150 people have benefitted from the program financed by USAID.

Charlisena is an example of Haitian determination. This motivated eighth grade student has a 45-minute commute to school every day and enjoys her classwork. A good student, she would like to be a nurse and provide for her mother and herself in the future.

This summer, Charlisena is spending her school break like any girl her age — hanging out with her cousins and friends as well as helping with household chores.

While Charlisena has returned home, she has not been forgotten by the hospital. Once every quarter, St. Boniface conducts a house visit with a team that includes a physical therapist, a nurse, a social worker and a biomedical equipment technician. During this visit, Charlisena guides her wheelchair up the steep and gravel-covered incline to her mother’s home, with some assistance from her cousins.

Her physical therapist, Dr. Sophia Laine, climbs the hill with the family. She conducts an evaluation to improve Charlisena’s quality of life (see related story), and plans are made to install a ramp and widen the door to allow the wheelchair to pass through more easily. The technician also replaces the wheels of the chair, as they constantly wear down due to the condition of the road.

During these visits, Laine gives out literature, advice and any type of support needed. Because the St. Boniface Hospital Foundation's Spinal Cord Injury Center is supported by USAID, all services are provided free of charge.  

In Les Anglais, where the damages of Hurricane Matthew cannot be forgotten, Charlisena is the light of hope that anything is possible.

St. Boniface Hospital

USAID has a longstanding partnership with St. Boniface Hospital. In addition to providing comprehensive clinical and rehabilitative care for persons with spinal cord injuries, USAID support has included the construction and equipment of a new surgical center as well as activities under the Maternal and Child Survival Program and a training program for Haitian biomedical engineering technicians to fix and maintain life-saving equipment.

USAID's Office of American Hospitals and Schools Abroad

Since 1979, USAID’s Office of American Hospitals and Schools Abroad has provided over $21 million to support projects in Haiti. Recipients have included the St. Luke Foundation; Catholic Relief Services, for equipment at Hospital St. Francois de Sales; Albert Schweitzer Hospital; and International Child Care’s training center and inpatient child care unit.

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Last updated: September 11, 2018

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