Jordanie Joachin is from Ran Zorange, located in the commune of Cerca Carvajal, and is the youngest child of a family of seven. As a vivacious child, he enjoyed playing in the countryside and helping his mother around the house as well as accompanying her to the market. At the age of fifteen, he contracted typhoid fever which put him in the hospital for nearly a year. This illness was very likely due to unclean water that his family gathered from the local stream. In addition to typhoid fever, he contracted bone cancer. Doctors worked tirelessly to find treatments to cure the illness and prevent further injury. However, despite several surgeries he lost his right arm and leg and will spend his life confined to a wheelchair.
In the United States, an individual like Jordanie would certainly face challenges. However, there would also be laws and support systems in place to ensure that he would be able to pursue any aspiration of his choosing. In Haiti, on the other hand, a disability is seen very negatively. Often people view the disabled as “cursed,” and will openly look at them with disdain or make the sign of the cross as they pass by.
Between the discrimination, stigma and humiliation, Jordanie must make a superhuman effort to overcome the hurtful comments from his own friends in the community as well as complete strangers on the street. The weight of people’s looks in general, as he describes it, are downright offensive. “People look at me like it’s a curse to have a disability. Sometimes they ask me where I’m going, and why I don’t stay at home instead of bothering them in the street. Honestly, if I stayed at home my mental state would be disabled too.” He affirmed, “They may think that they are blessed, and I am cursed, but I see things differently. I almost laugh when people think my case is hopeless. Sure, I’ve gone through a lot, but I’ve also improved a great deal. Now, I feel good and I can get around with crutches or my wheelchair.”
It took him a while to view his life so positively. He shared, “I used to cry a lot because of my situation. Eventually, I realized that I had to learn to accept and live with it. I thought it was up to me to believe in myself, to believe in my values and my potential first, so that others could do the same. However, it’s very important for a person with a disability to have the support of their loved ones. But not everyone does have that.” Jordanie has permitted his challenges to make him a better man and seeks to give back to his community and others who live with disabilities.
Today, he wants to make his voice heard on behalf of people like him in his community. “The fight for the respect of our rights will not be possible without the solidarity and collaboration of all. We want above all a Haiti without discrimination ” says Mr. Joachin. Every morning he travels miles by wheelchair to go to the community well that has been built by Haiti Outreach. “It is with great pride that I am able to contribute to the various activities of my home despite my disability.”