Unexpected Gifts from Haiti

October 2011

(Reprinted with permission from the Fall 2011 Stuttering Foundation Newsletter | Direct Link)

In late April and early May, 2011, I spent 8 days with a medical team helping treat Haitian children and adults in a primary care medical clinic in the village of Gramothe, Haiti, about 15 miles south of Port Au Prince. I was invited by a pediatrician friend and wound up working under close medical supervision as a pharmacy assistant. I felt called to go but secretly was praying for a chance to use my speech-language pathology skills. That seemed doubtful. I mean, speech therapy is very low on the list of needs of people who walk up to 12 hours to get to the doctor, right? And, even if there was a need, I don’t speak Haitian Creole, right?

Well….. At the airport in Port Au Prince I was singled out to have my luggage searched. From out of nowhere appeared a Haitian woman who reassured me in English that she would stay with me. With her help, I made it though the inspection and discovered she was the director of the orphanage associated with the organization I was going to help (Mountain Top Ministries). She discovered I was an SLP and, stopping dead in her tracks, told me she had a 26 year old son who stuttered and that he would be at the clinic all week when I was there because he worked with the medical teams as an interpreter and that he spoke English and that he really wanted to work on his speech.

Amazing. So, every lunch hour for five days this young man and I gobbled our Haitian rice and beans and worked on his speech. As we know, there is no cure for stuttering; the treatment approach I use is to teach tools for managing the stuttering so that communication can be enhanced, and to help the person, if needed, move toward a more positive attitude about communication. This young man was ravenous to learn. He practiced thirty minutes or more each night and showed significant improvement at the end of the week. He needs to practice daily to help make his tools more automatic. I am in e-mail contact with him and at my request the Stuttering Foundation has donated books and a DVD to this young man.

At the end of our week together, he said to me, “You came from out of nowhere. You must be from God.” I could have said the same to him.

© 2011 Glenn Weybright. All rights reserved.

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