Adventist Hospitals Offer Clubfoot Treatment in Rwanda

More than 100 children benefited from initiative of Denver-based church health-care institutions.

Courtney Hass, for Rocky Mountain Conference News
<strong>Adventist Hospitals Offer Clubfoot Treatment in Rwanda</strong>
People in Rwanda celebrated reaching 101 children treated through the clubfoot sponsorship program. All of them will enjoy a better future thanks to this initiative. [Photo: Rocky Mountain Adventist Healthcare Foundation]

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 health-care capacity at Mugonero 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 its services to include one of the most popular programs — the clubfoot sponsorship program.

Thanks to generous donors around the world, GHI shared that it has supported 101 children through the clubfoot sponsorship program. These children are now living 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 the child’s family 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 more.

Six of the 101 children in Rwanda who have so far benefited from the international program run by the Denver-based Global Health Initiatives, a partnership of Seventh-day Adventist health-care institutions. [Photo: Rocky Mountain Adventist Healthcare Foundation]

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 simply weren’t trained to recognize and address this issue early.

Responding to such a need, GHI has added 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 health-care 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 said. “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 who chose to support this program, and for those who have had the opportunity to travel through Rwanda, visit the facility, and return home to share their stories, clubfoot sponsorship program leaders said they are 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,” they said.The original version of this story was posted on the Rocky Mountain Conference news site.

Courtney Hass, for Rocky Mountain Conference News