A Community Takes Responsibility For Its Elderly Poor

A House For The Elderly

The Savane Platte community, one of Thomassique’s outlying villages, includes two remote neighborhoods, Locianne and Loranette.

In 2014, a committee of elders (“Granmoun”) was formed in Locianne to address concerns of older people in the community. In rural communities like Locianne, when individuals lose their mobility due to injury or aging, there are few to no opportunities for medical attention. These individuals often end up bed-ridden and are obligated to rely on the support of their family for food and basic hygiene practice.

We (Medical Missionaries’ Global Health Fellows) visited almost a dozen houses on a visit in August, both in Loranette and Locianne, each with elderly individuals in varying degrees of immobility. One visit stood out to us in particular. SavanePlatteElderlyHome.jpgWalking along a small trail, we approached a house that appeared to be barely standing—tilted posts, crumbling mud walls, and a patchwork roof with gaping holes. The man living there, a paraplegic confined to a bed for the last eight years, was lying on blankets still wet from the previous day’s rainstorm. When we asked if he had family members to care for him, we were told that he was a “Kokobe,” an elderly member in the community who does not have any immediate family to support them.

We were also informed that the deteriorating shack where he was living was donated by the community. The space had a second room that we learned had been occupied by another Kokobe who recently passed away. While various neighbors and volunteers took turns bathing him and providing food, we were nevertheless discouraged by the situation and our limited capacity to assist the man in his current situation.

Almost a month later, we were approached by the Savane Platte Committee with a plan to provide much needed repairs to the house. The plan was formed in conjunction with the Granmoun Committee in Locianne and a newly chartered Granmoun Committee in Loranette. The community of Loranette organized and contributed much of the building materials and labor for the project, while the Savane Platte Health Committee supplied the nails and upgraded tin-roofing sheets using committee funds obtained from Mobile Clinics. The support for the repairs was provided under the condition that the refurbished house remain reserved for Kokobes both in the present and in the future. The designed upgrades were modest, but would ensure that these individuals remain protected from the rain and natural elements in the years to come.

SavanePlatteElderlyHomeReconstructioncopy.jpg

When we visited to check on the progress of the house a few weeks after the plans had been developed, we were pleasantly surprised to see that the committee was assembling an entirely new structure for the house. The Community Health Committee in Savane Platte continues to stand out as one of our most proactive, motivated, and involved health committees. It was inspiring to witness the organic collaboration of a number of partners at the community level to accomplish this project. 

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