Hannah’s mercy mission from Harpenden to Haiti

THE HEALING hands of a Harpenden woman are helping some of the victims of the devastating Haiti earthquake rebuild their shattered lives.

Hannah Steadman is currently working as a physiotherapist in Haiti while she’s on an eight-month career break from her full-time job for Tower Hamlets Primary Care Trust and while the experience is bringing with it more than its fair share of challenges, the rewards are all too clear for Hannah to see.

Since arriving in Haiti in September, Hannah has seen first-hand the destruction and desolation that has dominated the life of Haitians since the impoverished country was hit by an earthquake on January 12 this year.

Currently Hannah is working with Cap Haitien Health Network, an American organisation that coordinates the distribution of supplies and volunteers throughout the country, as they seek to deal with the cholera epidemic which has gripped the poverty-stricken country in the wake of the earthquake.

Previously she had worked with the Haiti Hospital Appeal, a Christian organisation which had, amongst other things, set up a spinal injury unit. Hannah’s experience of working as a neurological physiotherapist with similar patients back in the UK meant she was able to bring plenty of experience to the unit when she first arrived in Haiti.

Hannah said the spinal unit has provided her with some of the most rewarding moments of her experience, which has also seen her weather violent protests and curfews. She said: “Seeing the patients being discharged one by one and seeing the delight in their faces that they are about to start the rest of their lives is so rewarding.

“But I am also in a rewarding position to be able to be having a direct impact on improving the distribution of aid and volunteers that come through. When you hand over a truck-load of supplies to a pastor or doctor desperately in need of IV fluid and chlorine, and you know you are part of a team that will be directly saving patient’s lives, that is very rewarding.”

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The 26 year old who attended St Albans Girls School is writing a blog about her experiences and her recent entry documents a very painful episode when the cholera epidemic directly affected a friend’s father. The man had lived in a remote fishing village only accessible by water taxi and although he got to the treatment centre eventually, his body was too weak to survive and Hannah cared for him in the hours before he died.

She said: “It was a personal and emotional experience which gave me a much more vivid perspective of what hundred of thousands of Haitian family members are going through.”

Prior to leaving for Haiti, Hannah raised �13,000 with the help of her local church in Highbury, London, and St Mary’s in Harpenden, which raised �1,000 with a series of events. She also organised a sponsored cycling event at a London gym, and many raffles and events at work. Her original fundraising target – which Hannah was not required to raise but set as a personal target – was �10,000.

To follow Hannah’s journey, visit http://www.do-it.org.uk/doitblog/overseas/category/Hannah