Robyn has her heart in the right place

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After five years of hard work a physiotherapy school has been set up in Haiti with the help of people from North Otago.

Hearts and Hands for Haiti (HHH), a charitable trust set up to provide assistance after the January 12, 2010 earthquake, has opened a Physiotherapy School Teaching Programme in the city of Cap-Haïtien.

A team of physiotherapists and doctors will go for the fifth year in a row to help out.

This year, the team will be going back for three months to teach a component of the course at the new school.

HHH team leader Robyn Couper, who will be flying out of Christchurch tomorrow to get everything set up for the team, said after five years the school was finally opened in November with 42 students enrolled.

“I’m very proud of what has been accomplished.”

HHH wanted to concentrate on giving education and knowledge to the people rather than donations as it meant more for the community, she said.

“It is a service for Haitian people.”

It was very important to work with the people on the ground and it had to come from them, Miss Couper said.

“This is a Haitian initiative with Haitian perspective and Haitian ownership.

“It’s their school, their leadership, their decision.”

Miss Couper, who lived in Haiti for 33 years as a missionary, came home just before the earthquake in 2010.

“Had I not been here it would not have been possible to have organised this project.”

Having this training school will help hospitals and people in the community, she said.

“We just see physiotherapy as part of every hospital in New Zealand but what people don’t realise is Haitian hospitals do not have physiotherapy departments.”

Without physiotherapy many people with relatively minor injuries developed disabilities, Miss Couper said.

“Next year should be the last year we go in and then they can do it on their own.”

Since its creation in 2010, HHH has received more than $300,000 in donations, with a great deal of support from North Otago.

Visit www.haitiheartsnhands.co.nz for more information.

By RUBY HARFIELD