Courtney Hass – Denver, Colorado … In 2006, Global Health Initiatives (GHI), an international outreach program supported by the five AdventHealth Denver-based hospitals—Avista, Castle Rock, Littleton, Parker, and Porter—began a partnership with Mugonero Adventist Hospital in Rwanda to extend the healing ministry of Christ. The objective was to advance healthcare capacity there by sending clinical and surgical teams several times a year, providing leadership training and educational opportunities, offering financial support for building projects, and much more.

After several years of project development and sending teams to Rwanda, GHI expanded their services to include one of our most popular programs—the clubfoot sponsorship program.

Thanks to generous donors around the world, GHI is excited to share that they have supported 101 children through the clubfoot sponsorship program! These children are now living life with fewer limitations and hope for a better future.

In Rwanda, some 500 babies are born each year with clubfoot. Geographical and resource constraints prevent many children with clubfoot from getting treatment, condemning them to a life of poverty and disability. Beginning in 2009 with a 13-year-old boy named Emmanuel, the clubfoot sponsorship program invited donors to sponsor a child in need of clubfoot surgery that they would otherwise be unable to afford. The sponsorship is in collaboration with Rilima Hospital, the leading pediatric orthopedic facility in Rwanda. It covers all costs associated with their medical care including surgery, rehabilitation, food, accommodations, check-up appointments, travel expenses for the families, and so much more.

One of the most common questions the GHI team receives when talking about the clubfoot sponsorship program is, “Why are there so many children with clubfoot in Rwanda?” The answer is simple, “There aren’t.” The medical professionals in Rwanda aren’t trained to recognize and address this issue early. Responding to such a need, GHI has also grown to include a training program called, Ponseti Method. This method addresses the need to treat clubfoot early through casting instead of surgery. Since 2012, the collaboration has trained more than 200 healthcare professionals, including physicians, physical therapists, and nurses to perform the serial casting, educate the parents, and follow up to ensure a successful outcome. Each trainee returns to their home district and sets up a clubfoot clinic to promote sustainability of the program.

“The clubfoot sponsorship program is a special extension of our partnerships in Rwanda,” GHI director Greg Hodgson shared. “These children go from living with a horrible stigma tied to their condition, to having their communities and families accept them. This program completely changes the trajectory of their lives and I feel so honored to have played a role in helping these 101 children—not to mention the children impacted by our Ponseti Method training—to have a more hopeful future.”

For the 101 patients already treated, for the staff at Rilima and GHI, for the donors that chose to support this program, and for those that have had the opportunity to travel through Rwanda, visit this facility, and return home to share their stories, the clubfoot sponsorship program is thankful. This program is life changing and we can’t wait to see how many lives we’re able to impact in the coming years!

—Courtney Hass is the Development Officer at Global Health Initiatives, Rocky Mountain Adventist Healthcare Foundation. Photographs supplied.