Turning Interest Into Action
FONHARE was created to make a difference, to bring hope where despair is in full swing. This life changing venture was born from Dr. Ivens Louius, a Haitian physical therapist and occupational therapist, and his wife Leslie Solage, a Haitian physical therapist as well. He was working in the Dominican Republic and it was during this time that he felt a strong desire to help his people back in Haiti. In 2008, a Haitian family had traveled from Cap Haitian, in the north of Haiti, to Santo Domingo, in the southern part of the Dominican Republic, to receive rehabilitation services for their son and were required to stay one month for intensive rehab. Thinking about the hardships they had to endure to ensure their son got the help he needed, Dr. Ivens said, what about the impoverished Haitians who don´t have even a birth certificate to make a passport? In 2009 he started making trips to the north of Haiti to see patients twice each month free of charges, while he organized meetings to educate people about the importance of rehab services. At the time, people living with any kind of disability were cast-offs in Haiti. They had no value or purpose in a society with a survival mentality. They were not employable and were viewed as a burden and a shameful curse, often left at home or abandoned, with no contact with the outside world. Attitudes toward any disability were that of ignorance and suspicion. FONHARE was founded with the express purpose of integrating persons with disabilities into society. Dr Ivens saw that what the disabled needed was both a medical approach that maximized their ability to function and advocacy that gave them a position in their society.
The earthquake of 2010 exacerbated the need of rehab services in the entire country with all classes of people struggling with debility due to the injuries received from the earthquake. Thus, to address the challenge in December of 2011 Dr. Ivens gave up his income and home, and moved to Ouanaminthe, Haiti to formally organize FONHARE and begin serving Haitians, regardless of their ability to pay. In the first year, he was able to arrange to treat patients in a very small room (2m x 3m) borrowed by SNERROSE POLYCLINIQUE owns by Dr. Presner Louis who is Ivens brother. Within the next year, FONHARE grew, building their own free-standing clinic next to the medical clinic with the financial support of Cindy PT Cochran and Eric Fly MDA, and moving, a year later to a larger, more expanded facility. FONHARE staff has increased from one to twenty to date, serving over 750 patients monthly in the clinic sitting and 30 patients at homes. FONHARE quickly became the voice of public education on disability and the rights of people with disabilities, promoting awareness through a weekly call-in radio program, local campaigns and promotions, and public speaking events.
In 2013, Ivens created an extension of FONHARE in the USA with the support of Cindy Cochran, Eric Fly, Dustin Mitchell, Jennifer Whitney, Vorbes Aleger and Sandra Barton; recognizing Eric Fly and Cindy Cochran as co-funder of the USA extension board of directors of FONHARE. And FONHARE became a 501(c3) tax exempt Non-for-profit organization in the United States in 2015.
FONHARE is a grassroots humanitarian organization that is now well-established and respected in Haiti, in the USA, and around the world. FONHARE sees all people, regardless of ability to pay. We have proven success and hold great value in the communities we serve. We are positioned to grow exponentially in the coming years and look forward to expanding our programs that serve to facilitate full and active participation in society for people living with disabilities.