St. Vincent's School for Handicapped Children in downtown Port-au-Prince, Haiti was founded in 1945 by Sister Joan Margaret of the Episcopal Sisters of St. Margaret in Boston, Massachusetts.
The original mission of St. Vincent's was to care for children with "a defined handicap". Historically, St. Vincent's served children with vision (blind), hearing (Deaf) and physical disabilities as well as some children with developmental disabilties. St. Vincent's is the only school for children who are blind in Haiti.
The school's mission has expanded over the years to include a broad array of education, health, vocational and prevention services and programs, including clinics to eradicate polio.
Before the earthquake, St. Vincent's served over 350 children each day in its school program .150 of these children lived in residence during the school year.
St. Vincent's main buildings were completely destroyed in the earthquake of January 2010. 7 children and 3 staff members were killed at that time.
IMPACT OF THE EARTHQUAKE
St Vincent's is an institution of the Episcopal Church of Haiti. The center provides education and medical care to children with disabilities aged 5-18.
Elementary and secondary education is available at St. Vincent's. There are currently about 350 students who attend school daily. The teaching staff consists of over 40 teachers and aides, some of whom were former students at St. Vincent's. All students learn basic skills: reading, writing, mathematics, history and geography of Haiti and English. Music and visual arts are also taught.
Blind students learn to read and write in Braille, learn life skills and work with music. The handbell choir, comprised of all blind studnts, is renowned for its past accomplishments. The Deaf students learn American Sign Llanguage and their classes are taught with both languages (ASL and French).
Music plays a large role in the education of the children, especially the blind. The school has a music room where the students have their lessons and study. Many of the older students have excelled in music and teach the younger children.
St. Vincent’s vision of a future for children and people with disabilities in Haiti is one in which they will receive the highest quality of care and access to mainstream opportunities both in school and work. Given the great need in Haiti to provide for children with disabilities in their own communities, the development of an expanded and dedicated workforce educated and skilled to work with people with disabilities will increase the ability to serve more children throughout Haiti. Therefore, St. Vincent’s mission will also include the training of staff working with people with disabilities in Haiti to ensure that the work of St. Vincent’s expands beyond its walls and the limited community it is currently able to serve.
St. Vincent's provides medical care to resident children as well as out-patient physical therapy, orthopaedic, dental and eye care services. Approximately 250 children visit the clinics each week.
Local physicians work in the clinics and volunteers come throughout the year to help and support the staff.
Future plans for St Vincent's is to develop an assistive technology program. This program will provide assistive devices to help the children with disabilities function better in their everyday lives.
Our clinics are supported by a brace shop. The Brace Shop at St. Vincent's is the only facility of its kind in Haiti and probably the only one in the world staffed entirely by deaf workers. The brace shop was first facility to fit and make prostheses and braces in Haiti. This facility was started in 1957 with two deaf boys who had graduated from St. Vincent's and were sent to the U.S. to learn basic skills in brace making and fitting.
Today, full-time workers make and repair prosthetics, orthopedic bracing, crutches, and other apparatus needed to correct many deformities. This facility provides services to adults in the community as well.