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From Haiti to TOH: inspiration through education


Nadia Pereira (left) travelled to Haiti following the earthquake in 2013 to educate local health-care staff about spinal cord injuries and therapy practices.

A seven-year-old boy came to see Nadia Pereira, Occupational Therapist, at the end of a seminar she and her team gave in Les Cayes, Haiti, about spinal cord injury therapy practices.

“He came with the worst shoulder injury (subluxation) I have ever seen,” recalled Pereira. “He had no money to go see a real doctor and had gone to see the local healer who had pulled on his arm and made it worse. He was in pain but was very stoic about it.”

Taping his shoulder in place for a little relief, the team couldn’t do much more for the little boy.

“He and his mother were thankful for what we did but you could read the despair in their eyes that nothing else could be done. They could not afford to go to the capital for proper medical care,” said Pereira. “He made me realize, even more, how precious access to health care is and how lucky we are in Canada where access is much more available than these countries.”

Pereira joined Team Canada Healing Hands to provide education on spinal cord injuries in Haiti after the earthquake in November 2013. Having gone for only one week, Pereira had the type of experience that inspired her to do more international work in the future.

“I did this to learn about therapy practices around the world, to expand my horizons and learn about myself,” she said. “I do this to reflect on my own practice and understand what is absolutely essential to clients when they have to function with the bare minimum.”

JE Oct 28 Nadia Pereira #2 group

Nadia Pereira joined Team Canada Healing Hands, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing rehabilitative education and training in areas of need.

Pereira has learned the importance of providing essential health care and is not intimidated by ongoing cuts and changes to our own health-care system. She has been inspired by the persistence of continuing to provide care with extremely limited resources.

“We will have to zoom in more to the essentials the way these countries do,” she said.

Pereira’s experience has helped her improve her care for her patients back at home.

“I try to be more practical and make sure that my recommendations fit the reality of their world,” she said. “I try to make therapy more about my clients and really focus on what will make a difference in their lives.”


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