Sinead wain 1

Irish aid mom takes stumble in her stride

Leitrim mother of two, Sinead Wain, started work with the Irish aid agency GOAL in the stricken Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince just a few weeks ago but wasn't long on the job before she was stricken herself.

Wain fell while working in one of the many camps dotted around the hills of the city that are still home to hundreds of thousands of survivors of last year's devastating earthquake.

After spending time recovering in hospital in Miami, Wain has returned to her job, but admits that she still needs plenty of help to get around the home she shares with husband John and her two young sons, Reuben (3) and Louie (1).

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"My husband has taken over a lot of the household and childcare duties and he has been fantastic, as have my children. Reuben helps by picking up the crutches every time they fall. I can't lift the children or do much for them, so it's a real nuisance and very frustrating," she admitted.

A health advisor with GOAL, Wain works closely with the organization's water and sanitation team to help control the spread of cholera in the 38 temporary camps under GOAL's care, this by helping to ensure that the people have access to clean water and sanitation facilities. It was during a trip to one of these camps that the accident happened.

"Although I wasn't long in the job, I had really been enjoying my role and was so annoyed with myself when I fell," Wain explained.

"Port-au-Prince is a very mountainous city and the camp where I was carrying out an assessment happens to be perched precariously on the side of a very large hill.

"I was walking on very rough terrain when I slipped. I knew immediately that I had broken my ankle, as, apart from the very audible snap, it was totally out of alignment with the rest of my body.

"Given my surroundings, I had no idea as to how I was going to get back to the GOAL vehicle, but after 20 minutes or so, four residents from the camp came with a stretcher. I couldn't believe it as these people have absolutely nothing yet they managed to get this for me.

"We eventually got down and that was when the pain kicked in. Luckily the hospital was close by and I was able to see an orthopedic consultant who X-rayed my ankle. It was a bad break; two bones fractured, and in three places.

"GOAL was fantastic during the whole incident. They flew me out to Miami for surgery and it went well. I will be on crutches for six weeks in total, which is difficult in a country with such uneven surfaces and a house with a lot of stairs."

Despite her predicament, Sinead is back to work and is managing to look after her two boys, albeit with the aforementioned help.

"I work with GOAL on a part-time basis, so I can pick up Reuben from the local playschool while Louie is cared for at home by a lovely Haitian lady called Rosee. Thanks to her and John, we are getting by."

Meanwhile, although both boys are no stranger to foreign lands, having been born in Colombo in Sri Lanka, where Sinead and John lived and worked for four-and-a-half years in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami (John was country director there for GOAL) she admits that it is taking some time for her and the children to adjust to Haiti, particularly the lack of freedom, and the language barrier.

"The local language is Creole and although many people speak French, my few words come from my time in secondary school, which is some time ago. I'm managing, but it is not a pretty sound listening to me trying to communicate in French.

"Reuben has found it hard too. His playschool is very big, with more than 200 students and, as he is the only European and the only English-speaking child, that is hard for him as everything is conducted in French.

"Everyone keeps telling me that children are sponges and pick up languages very quickly, but all I have heard is 'bonjour' and 'mange Louie.' I hope he will pick up some soon. Thankfully, he has settled into school and seems happy."

In the meantime, Sinead is finding her feet again with regard to her work, literally. GOAL, aside from its choleraprevention program, is building 2,000 transitional shelters and several hundred latrines and wash blocks to re-house and improve the living standards of the beleaguered population.

"Life here is really just work, home to my children, and domestic chores - it is far from exciting, but at least we are all together and that is the most important thing for us. I have a comfortable house, two healthy children and a great husband, so I know I am one of the lucky ones here in Haiti."