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Charity from the ground up

Foot first: Bonnie Ward helps clean and care for a St. Kitts woman with severe swelling and infections in her feet.  - Photo contributed
Foot first: Bonnie Ward helps clean and care for a St. Kitts woman with severe swelling and infections in her feet.
— image credit: Photo contributed

When Canadians think of the island of St. Kitts, images of sandy beaches and tropical cocktails come to mind.

But behind the tourism resorts is a general population filled with poverty and poor nutrition, which contribute to significant health issues, especially when it comes to feet.

Bonnie Ward, owner of Bonnie’s Skin Care and Esthetics, is currently studying at the North American School of Pedology and participated in a charity mission to the island to help with a myriad of foot problems including diabetic foot care, poor circulation and swelling.

Armed with the knowledge that many of the poor island residents have chronic foot issues from not being able to afford shoes, Ward also organized a shoe drive in November and transported two hockey bags full of donated shoes to the island nation.

“The poverty levels are so high and the medical care so inaccessible, people literally walk around for years with open sores, ulcerations and fungal infections. We even saw a homeless man who walked with nothing more than strings on his feet and had glass and rock literally embedded in his soles,” says Ward.

The team included three doctors and 32 students, who were assisted by the Rotary Club of Liamigua.

The team saw 864 patients in three-and-a-half days, dealing with cleaning and treating foot sores, teaching proper foot care and referring people to have orthotics or be fitted with donated shoes.

Ward says despite the poverty, diabetes is a huge problem on the island because nearly all food must be imported and is highly processed. Teaching foot care is critical for those with diabetes, because without care and treatment, amputation is common.

“They are looking at a 63 per cent amputation rate,” says Ward. “And when these people are poor already, an amputation means they often can’t work and have no way to support themselves or their families.”

An especially touching moment for Ward was when she was treating a woman who worked in the kitchen of the hospital. In her examination, Ward noticed an unusual mole and referred the woman to one of the doctors. It turned out to be a cancerous lesion, and Ward is hopeful the issue was caught and will receive treatment before it becomes a fatal diagnosis.

“The things these people just learn to live with is something you just don’t understand when you come from a place like Canada.”

Ward plans to make a return trip next year and expresses gratitude to all those who donated shoes, as well as to the SilverBacks organization, which loaned her the hockey bags for transporting them.

 

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