My name is Navdha Malhotra and I work for HelpAge International. Working in the development sector, I get to interact with inspiring people everyday but one that has stood out for me recently is a sixty year old woman named Louise, from Haiti.
At 60 years old, a time in life when perhaps she should be taking it a bit easier, she is the sole provider for her three grandchildren: Samuel, 4, Michel, 3, and Christina, 11 months and her three daughters who do not work.
Their rented home collapsed in the January 2010 earthquake and they slept in the street for three days before moving to, what is now, Camp Tabarre in Port-au-Prince.
In July 2010, Louise became a home carer for HelpAge International and now visits 46 older people in her camp.
She said: “I visit my older people every day. I talk to them, braid their hair and see what they need. Sometimes I take them to the hospital and wait with them while they see a doctor. I like doing the work. It makes me feel useful and I love older people as I grew up surrounded by them. They used to give me advice all the time."
Louise is so strong and very proud of what she does. She genuinely cares for the older people that she visits. Living with her entire family in a tent, she is in the same situation as everyone else in the camp, yet she supports not only her own family, but helps 46 others as well.
One of the women she visits is 76-year-old Renette who is caring for her two young grandsons. Renette said: “Louise doesn’t live far from me and she visits often. She sees if I need anything, or if I need anything I can go to her. It makes me feel secure. I am so glad HelpAge carers came. I was waiting for them.”
Louise also advocates for those in her care, telling me passionately how older people needed more food. She said: “The main problem I see in my work is that older people are not getting enough to eat. Sometimes I even give them some of my money so they can get something. It gives me a pain in my heart when I visit them and I see they haven’t eaten for two or three days. They need more money to buy food."
HelpAge International has trained 209 carers who work in 93 camps in Haiti. The carers are all older people and they are paid a monthly salary to visit other older people to promote hygiene and cholera awareness and help them access the emergency health services in their communities. Collectively they reach around 4,000 older people.
I hope to be as strong as Louise when I am older. Her positive attitude, determination and spirit in the hardest of times make her my hero!
You can read more about HelpAge International's work in Haiti and with older people at www.helpage.orgInternational Women's Day 2011: A Call for Heroes