UN support for North Otago Haiti project

Project Hearts and Hands for Haiti co-ordinator Robyn Couper (left) and United Nations...
Project Hearts and Hands for Haiti co-ordinator Robyn Couper (left) and United Nations Development Programme administrator Helen Clark discusses plans for future help for Haiti at a reception in Oamaru last night. Photo by David Bruce.
A North Otago-driven initiative to provide long-term help to Haiti, still recovering from last year's earthquake, has received support from one of the highest-ranked United Nations administrators - former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark.

Last night, Miss Clark made a special trip to Oamaru for a mayoral reception and public presentation by Project Hearts and Hands for Haiti (HHH) on its plans to establish a physiotherapy training programme in Cap Haitien under the direction of Oamaru woman Robyn Couper, who has been a missionary serving in Haiti for more than 40 years.

Miss Couper's association with Oamaru led last year to the formation of Project HHH, initially to provide medical support in Cap Haitien and then long-term assistance.

It was that community-driven support and particularly long-term assistance that attracted the attention of Miss Clark in her role as United Nations Development Programme administrator, and her support last night.

Miss Clark gave a UN perspective on development programmes that provided the best solutions for genuine aid and recovery from disasters around the world.

The mayoral reception, hosted by Waitaki Mayor and Mayoress, Alex and Heather Familton, was held to mark Miss Clark's visit to speak at a public presentation on behalf of Project HHH last night.

At the reception, Miss Clark met members of medical teams sent to Haiti last year and this year through the fundraising efforts of Project HHH.

At the public presentation, Miss Couper outlined plans for a physiotherapy training programme associated with existing health services in Haiti and supervised by an independent health body.

It would train nurses and help develop a limited physiotherapy service at Cap Haitien Justinian Hospital.

The training and service would be modelled on New Zealand practices, with Miss Couper using her knowledge to promote and implement it.

Former Waitaki Mayor Alan McLay had travelled to Cap Haitien and assessed a business case for the unit on a suitable site and using existing buildings.

So far, project HHH has raised more than $180,000 in North Otago, which has been added to by church and community groups across New Zealand.

Miss Clark will address senior pupils from Oamaru's three high schools at Waitaki Boys' High School this morning.



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