Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Prayer from Willem

This prayer was recorded by Willem in the summer of 2009 when he and his family visited Chicago and met The Red Thread Promise. It was released just before the devastating earthquake. Please, say a prayer for Haiti.

It's A Small World After All...

Yes, that song is humming through my mind right now. As I am still trying to catch up on emails, I ran across links sent to me a few days ago to 2 different news articles that I'd like to share with you.

North Shore Medical Team in Haiti Pressed into Action (Chicago Tribune)

Both are about the amazing 23 person medical team from Chicago that was serving at Mountain Top Ministries while Kathy was there teaching ESL classes. She was blessed to meet all of the members of the group since their trips overlapped by several days and they were sharing the same space. The energetic team remained in Haiti after Kathy wrapped up the first week of English classes and returned to the US. Little did the team members know how much their services would be needed in the coming days.

The group was led by Sue Walsh, a dynamic lady that The Red Thread Promise was privileged to meet in July 2009. She was hosting a fundraiser for (drumroll please...) Mountain Top Ministries. The event happened to be over the same weekend that TRTP was having a board meeting in Chicago. At the fundraiser, the TRTP board met Willem, his wife Beth and their sons in person for the first time. [Pictured from left to right: Sonja (TRTP), Jen (TRTP), Laney (TRTP), Willem (MTM), Kathy (TRTP), Doug (TRTP)] Their energy was infectious and their passion for Willem's home country, Haiti, was overwhelming. It was an evening to remember and so I did tonight, over 6 months later.

I find these kind of coincidences and ironies comforting in a way. It reinforces in my mind that there truly is a red thread of destiny connecting us all. If only we are willing to grasp it and keep an open mind as to where it may lead. That same red thread is pulling us to help our brothers and sisters in Haiti. If you feel the tug of the unseen thread, please consider contributing to our Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund. Our mailing address, Global Giving and PayPal buttons are on the right in the sidebar. Mark your donation with "earthquake" in the subject line and 100% of the donation will go directly to Haiti.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Meeting Evenson

(Author's note: My apologies that several days have passed since we have posted. We are playing catch up with hundreds of email regarding The Red Thread Promise, some of them going back to early January and the wrap up of our first week of teaching English in Haiti. Of course, as soon as the earthquake hit, information about the conditions in Haiti took priority over the ESL posts and all of the other great work TRTP is doing. While our focus is still on earthquake relief, we wanted to share some final thoughts on our first week teaching English as well as some information about Jacob's Fund. That being said, some of these posts are not in chronological order for which I apologize in advance.)

While Kathy was in Haiti the week prior to the earthquake, she had the opportunity to meet Evenson in person, the adorable little boy that we are raising surgical funds for in Haiti. He is a student at Mountain Top Ministries (MTM) school so she was able to meet him during one of her trips there to teach.

Evenson is a lively 9-year-old boy who lives with his family. At birth, it was noted that he had an unusual appendage growing from his chest (shown in the bottom photo). Until now, limited access to health care resources made it unclear whether surgical removal of the mass could be easily done in his home country or if he would need to travel to the U.S. for treatment.

Through the efforts and partnership of The Red Thread Promise and Mountain Top Ministries, Evenson recently had xrays and CT scans performed that shows there is no significant internal organ involvement. He will be able to have surgery to remove the mass. The only thing that prevents Evenson from receiving his long-awaited medical treatment is the cost of the procedure, estimated at $3,000.

Kathy had the privilege of giving Evenson and his family a basket full of food (oatmeal, cookies, milk, black beans, rice, fish, peanut butter, fortified salt, Itala spaghetti, etc.) from The Red Thread Promise. We wanted him to know that we hadn't forgotten our promise to provide him with this surgery and were working toward that goal. (Little did we know how meaningful that basket would become for his family with the impending earthquake just days away.)

We are excited to share that an energetic team of med students and residents at Tulane and University hospitals in New Orleans have teamed to raise the funds necessary for Evenson's surgery. They are an ambitious group and have also volunteered to raise funds for Christopher's travel and other necessities when he comes to the US for evaluation of his sickle cell anemia. We are blessed to have such a great group dedicated to helping these two boys. This help is even more critical since the earthquake has made medical care in Haiti difficult to say the least.

If you would like to assist The Red Thread Promise in our treatment of Evenson or Christopher, please consider giving a tax-deductible donation via the PayPal link on the right or sending a check to our New Orleans office.

If you are associated with either Tulane or University hospital and would like to help, please contact TRTP board member, Jennifer Avegno at 504.301.5058.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

St. Paul's Prayer Vigil

St. Paul's Episcopal Church has partnered with The Red Thread Promise to provide relief in Haiti. The photo above is from their prayer vigil on Friday. Father Scott shares his thoughts about the dedication of the people of New Orleans to help Haitians:

"The people of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in New Orleans are a people who, when we think of our sisters and brothers in Haiti at this time of crisis and tragedy, truly do know what it means. After Hurricane Katrina, the hearts and hands of people across America joined together in compassion and cooperation to help us and stand by us, even to this very day. Having received so much that we could never pay back, we committed ourselves to honoring the gift of God working through others by paying those gifts forward. We cannot help but see ourselves in the people of Haiti. We believe the Spirit of God is moving us to stand by the people of Haiti in any way we can. And we are committed to doing this, to walking with the people of Haiti on this long journey ahead as their companions, for however long that journey takes and to wherever it leads."

~Father Scott Albergate, Rector of St. Paul's Church

Saturday, January 16, 2010

New Orleans Church Reaches Out

St. Paul's Episcopal church grasped the red thread of destiny on Friday when the church agreed to partner with TRTP to raise funds for relief in the devastated country of Haiti. Over 1,000 parishioners and the media were invited to join in a prayer vigil to praise God and petition for comfort and healing for our brothers and sisters abroad.

With the church's campaign, Haiti: New Orleans Stands By You, St. Paul's encourages parishioners to get involved and do whatever they can for the Haitian people. Their appeal includes supporting the efforts of The Red Thread Promise. TRTP was brought to the attention of St. Paul's by TRTP Co-founder and President, Kathy Korge Albergate, who also serves as the church's Director of Global Missions.

WWL-TV in Louisiana has recognized both St. Paul's and The Red Thread Promise on their website promoting local groups that are actively involved in relief efforts.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune has some good advice for finding a reputable charity through which to donate. In response to their criteria, The Red Thread Promise fits the bill:

Yes, we have an onground presence in Haiti. We are operating an ESL program at Mountain Top Ministries. We volunteer at and provide medical care to special needs orphans at Rivers of Hope orphanage. We have our airplane tickets (that were purchased prior to the earthquake) and are scheduled to go to Haiti January 30 - February 3, 2010 assuming we are not blocked by either the US or the Haitian government.

TRTP has been in existence since 2001. We are currently incorporated in the state of Pennsylvania and Louisiana and are a certified 501(c)(3) organization.

We always ask that people write checks to The Red Thread Promise and we promptly provide a tax receipt. All donations are tax deductible to the full extent of the law.

At the heart of the organization is a dedicated group of volunteers and donors who value the lives of children, regardless of nationality or religion.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Light in the Darkness

With all of the news of the devastation in Haiti, there is a bit of light in the darkness. A group of 14 seventh and eighth graders in a small Montessori school in Ohio decided to help.

After hearing the news on Tuesday, I asked for permission to do a presentation at my children's school on Wednesday afternoon to suggest a community service project for the children. As always, they welcomed me into the class during their community meeting at the end of the school day.

You see, I was already Haiti-bound prior to the earthquake. Plans had been made and tickets had been purchased for me to accompany Kathy on the next ESL trip Jan 30 - Feb 5. We were organizing a supply collection of items that are expensive to purchase in Haiti to take along for the orphanage. I was tasked with 2T and 3T toddler pull-ups as well as children's chewable vitamins. Following the news of the earthquake, it seemed like it was even more important that we gather as much as American Airlines will allow us to carry in our suitcases!

So, I met with the kids. We sat in the small ampi-theater and they listened to me tell about my involvement with The Red Thread. We discussed the earthquake, the Richter magnitude scale, the island of Hispanola, the unemployment and poverty of Haiti, Rivers of Hope orphanage and Mountain Top Ministries. They asked thoughtful questions such as:
  • Why is the unemployment level so high?
  • Are there not enough jobs?
  • Do people not want the jobs?
  • How can people live on so little?
  • How many people are hurt?
  • Do you know how many died?
Then we talked about ways they could help. I told them about the pull-ups and the vitamins. But they wanted to know what else was on the list since it wasn't enough just to collect those items. Then one of them suggested doing a pizza fundraiser for the entire elementary school and everyone readily agreed. They even decided to write an article for the school newspaper and made fliers for the fundraiser (which were in the parent mailboxes today!).

As students were picked up by their parents, they told them excitedly about the items they "have to go buy". For them, helping wasn't something to think about doing—it was what they were going to do and they had already begun! When I left the classroom, my heart was ready to burst. These kids were on fire and so willing to help people that they will probably never meet.

We can learn something from these children. Even at 11, 12, 13 and 14 years old, we can join these young adults and be compassion in action. I can't wait to see what these kids accomplish. Regardless of the amount of money or supplies, it will be something to be remembered.

Today's News from Haiti

Well, there hasn't been much news today from our contacts in Haiti.

This morning, Willem said: "Singing on the mountain again tonight. No internet all day—absolutely no communications today (nerve racking!). Had a hard tremor at about 4:00. We have 13 children (15 counting Stephen & David) on our living room floor sleeping tonight. The children became frightened after the tremor & the nanny needed to find out about her own family. We have food, water & are safe. Please continue to pray."

Later this afternoon he stated that people are literally sleeping in the streets because they are so afraid of the tremors. More patients made the long trek to Mountain Top Ministries' gates today in search of medical treatment. It is heartbreaking that the hospitals are turning people away because they have no supplies.

According to NPR news, there will be a series of health aftershocks in Haiti. Experts expect that many more people will die from untreated injuries and complications from injuries. There may be a second wave of deaths caused by lack of clean water, housing and sanitation. Finally, another wave will ensue when food runs out. (For the full story, visit NPR.)

Please pray that necessities like clean water, food and medical supplies are provided to those in need. Thankfully, our contacts are okay, but thousands of people are not. If you would like to make a difference and help get those supplies to the Haitian people, please make a donation to our Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund. As always, the mailing address, Global Giving and PayPal buttons are on the right in the sidebar. Mark your donation with "earthquake" in the subject line and the funds will go directly to Haiti.

And, most importantly, keep Haiti in your thoughts and prayers.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

FaceBook & Twitter Challenge

Let’s get the word out about how folks can directly affect the lives of the Haitian people through The Red Thread Promise.

Today, we are asking all of our supporters to invite 3 others to become our FaceBook friends, follow us on Twitter (Twitter name: trtpromise) and read our blog. Through this grassroots campaign, we can make an even bigger difference—no overhead, no politics—just people helping others in need.

Again, we encourage you to consider donating to our Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund today.

Earthquake Update

It is Wednesday morning and we have more news from Willem:

1:00 am

After shocks stopped for a while but they're starting back up again. The church in Gramothe is all lit up & the whole village must be there praising the Lord! Talk about a city on a hill!

4:20 am

The team returned at about 2AM, exhausted physically & emotionally. They were able to help at least 100 people w/severe trauma injuries. We are grateful for your prayers, please do not stop. Morning will bring more for us to face.

The Red Thread Promise has set up a Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund. We will send any contributions marked "earthquake" directly to Mountain Top Ministries and Rivers of Hope Orphanage. While we may not be there to physically to help, we can certainly make a difference by allowing both organizations to purchase food and supplies for those in need. Our mailing address and PayPal button are on the right. All donations are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law.

Get the latest at NPR News. There is a photo gallery there of some of the devastation (image above is from NPR). Viewer discretion is advised.

Please continue to keep Haiti, it's people—its' visitors, its' government, its' orphans—in your thoughts and prayers.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Earthquake in Haiti

As you all know, Kathy just returned from Haiti on Friday from a week of teaching English at the Mountain Top Ministries School. The plan for tonight's post was to give a summary of the week. But that post will have to wait since the more pressing issue at hand is the tremendous earthquake that hit Haiti this afternoon.

At 5:40 I received a call from a TRTP supporter alerting us of the breaking news in Haiti. Since we were on our way to celebrate my son's 9th birthday, my husband's iPhone became an even hotter commodity than usual as we kept checking NRP for more details. My phone was ringing off the hook from concerned supporters throughout the meal and the drive home.

"Have you heard from Rivers of Hope and Mountain Top Ministries?"
"Is everyone okay?"
"Do you know any details about the hospital that collapsed?"

Thankfully, the second we reached home there were many emails from Kathy. Although the phone lines to Haiti were constantly busy, she was able to get email through to Rachoul (Rivers of Hope).

1/12/10 @ 6:09 pm
Thank GOD everything is ok at the orphanage. I didn't want to leave them [the children] here, so I am still there [at the orphanage]. The problem is we still feel the earthquake [tremors] every 5 minutes. It never stopped. I think it the 20th one we feel. I don't know what is happening but it's something frightening. We don't know what can happen.

I heard that lots of building were damage. But we are in good shape. The children are playing. Dayana and Xavier just left the hospital today finally.

Willem and Beth are ok.the team is ok. Now they are helping people from Gramothe, because their houses are damaged.

Thank you for your concern.


I then checked FaceBook and Willem (Mountain Top Ministries) has been posted. Thank God for technology!

1/12/10 @ 7:51pm

Pray for Haiti tonight. Our family & guests are fine. Our structures are fine. The med team has been mobilized to help at the Bap. Mission hospital. It will be a long night for them. Please pray for their stamina & ability to endure what is before them. Phone lines are down, no communication except for those crying for their dead. Thank you all in advance for your prayers.

1/12/10 @ 8:00pm

Phone lines seem to be opening, but not fully. Have had 2 light tremors over the last hour. It may be a while before any new news.There is much that will be revealed in the morning light. Right now it's dark but people are still crying out in the night.

1/12/10 @ 9:00pm

The Gramothe church is open & there is singing up there. Another local church is having a singing service. Praise God! The tremors still continue.

Please keep all of the people from Haiti in your prayers. There is much work to be done in the coming days and months.

You can find the latest on the earthquake from NPR News.

Friday, January 8, 2010

DAY 5 IN HAITI: Kindergarten

Kathy's in the midst of a swirl of activity at Mountain Top Ministries/Rivers of Hope. A 24-person medical team arrived Wednesday evening and began work early this morning at the clinic.

Kathy began teaching at 8:00 a.m. Kindergartners, first graders and four teachers poured into the classroom and sang "Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes." After naming more body parts, Kathy expanded the vocabulary lesson to include clothing and furniture and other objects in the classroom.

Tomorrow she'll review these words and add the words for eating utensils. In February she'll begin work with these words, flash cards, and items on the computer.

Once classroom work was finished, Kathy joined the children and the medical team at the clinic. She helped the children make potholders while they waited in the reception area. Soon adults joined the children, and potholder making continued throughout the day.

Kathy's taken some photos of the new hospital under construction (pictured above). Work is at a standstill now, waiting until funds can be raised to complete the building. Once the hospital is operational, it will provide maternity care, house overnight patients and allow doctors to perform surgeries. An on-site lab and pharmacy will cut down on the time patients must wait for diagnoses and medications.

Another large medical team will arrive March 4 and stay through the March 13. The team needs an RN or physician to run a station: seeing patients, assisting with patients, and serving as the primary contact for patients. Kathy will be in Haiti March 6-12 and is hoping that the RN or physician can accompany her.

If this is something you are interested in (and it may well be a life-changing experience), let us know and we'll get started making the arrangements. Costs are $450-$800 plane fare and $55 per night for lodging, which includes bed, tub, two meals and a beautiful view.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


This morning, Willem woke Kathy to say that Rachoul would pick her up at 7:00 a.m. Dora, Diana, and Christopher (pictured above) were ill and had to be taken to the hospital.

At the hospital, Kathy and Rachoul checked on Xavier, who is doing very well-eating, sitting up-soon he'll come home, she thinks.

Kathy spent some time alone caring for Dora, Diana and Christopher while Rachoul and the nanny were busy with other things at the hospital. She sang to them, and although they could not understand the words, their big beautiful eyes watched her face intently.

Dora is matched with her forever family, while Christopher and Diana are waiting to be discovered by their families.

Five hours later they left the hospital (they'd had to wait for the doctor to arrive) with prescriptions for all three children. Thankfully no one had to be admitted. In Haiti, all care must be paid for up front for each trip to the doctor or hospital. With several sick children, funds are quickly depleted.

After a stop at the pharmacy to fill the prescriptions and a trip to a bakery for Haitian treats, they returned to the orphanage where the children could rest.

It was late in the day when Kathy returned to Mountain Top Ministries, and needless to say, ESL classes were cancelled. When children are sick, as mothers know, the best-laid plans are set aside.

Classes are scheduled for tomorrow with the kindergarten class, going over the words for objects in the classroom.

This is only the beginning of the English language program for these children. It's a task that will take several years for the children to become fluent, and thereby employable for good jobs in Haiti that will lift them out of the cycle of poverty.

It's rewarding work and TRTP is looking for volunteers to join in this effort for the 2010-11 school year. It's a week that you'll carry forever in your mind and heart. We also need continued funding for this year ($5400) and funding for next year.

Please let us know if this is something that touches your heart.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

DAY 3 IN HAITI - Second day of the ESL program

The second day of the ESL class was as busy as the first. About 40 students arrived to review words from Monday's class as well as new words like window, wall, fort, flag, balloon, gift, chalkboard, floor and many others. The children sang "Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes" to learn parts of the body including nose, eye, ear, arm, leg, stomach, spine, etc. Kathy enjoyed the company of Robert, a new translator for the day whose English is very good. He will accompany Kathy on Wednesday as well.

Following the class, Kathy met Rachoul, director of Rivers of Hope Orphanage, and 1-year-old Xavier (pictured at top) on their way to the hospital. Xavier began the day vomiting and has a case of diarrhea. Rachoul called the doctor that morning who suggested she take him to the hospital to avoid dehydration. Three hours later, after paying all hospital fees up front, Xavier was admitted for a 48 hour stay. Rachoul then purchased all of his medicine and carried it to his room to be administered by hospital staff.

After making sure Xavier was comfortable, Kathy enjoyed her first meal at a Haitian restaurant with Rachoul. Per Kathy, "Yummy is a good word for lunch. The lemon drink was fresh squeezed." Then they called the nanny staying with Xavier to learn that he was finally sleeping.

To cap off the day, Kathy ran errands. Mountain Top Ministries needed two mattresses purchased, Rivers of Hope needed medicine for another of the 15 children in their charge, and then finally the trip back to Mountain Top Ministries to rest and catch up on TRTP paperwork.

(Author's note: I think Rachoul has a second calling as a photographer. If I understood Kathy correctly, Rachoul took this photo of Xavier. How adorable!)

Monday, January 4, 2010

DAY 2 IN HAITI - First day of the ESL program

Kathy began The Red Thread's ESL program at Mountain Top Ministries today, working with approximately 40 students ranging in age from 2 - 10 years old. Students practiced the basics, such as "My name is ___", "What's your name?" an d learned the names of common objects from their own environment including chair, desk, shirt, jacket, cap, dress, shoe, boy, and girl. Each child had the opportunity to practice the names of the items out loud for their classmates, following which they went to another room to play games with all instructions given in English.

Willem and Beth's sons, Stephen (13) and David (9) served as the camera crew while Kathy taught the class. They also had the fun of passing out candy at the end of class, a rare treat for these little ones. According to Kathy "What a wild group when they saw the candy!"

(Author's note: Kathy's little comment about the children's reaction to the candy impressed on me how I take so many things for granted in my own life. I can't remember the last time I got "wild" over something so simple. It reminded me of how little these children have and how abundant my own life is. We are so blessed to work with these children. While we are giving them something, we get so much in return! I look forward to sharing these stories with you from my own perspective after my upcoming trip to Haiti Jan 30 - Feb 5.)

DAY 1 IN HAITI - Riding to church in style

Here is Kathy on her way to church with her "chauffer", Stephen (son of MTM's director, Willem). According to Willem and Beth, he is "a very capable driver"!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

CHINA :: Zheng Qiu Hao - UPDATE

Our prayers have been answered for Zheng Qiu Hao, the baby girl with hydrocephalus from our post on December 10, 2009. We received word from Pam @ Swallow's Nest Children's Home (China) that a generous donor has contributed the funds for the procedure to put in Qiu Hao's shunt!

Although we don't know the date of the procedure, please keep this little one in your prayers through her time of hospitalization and recovery. We will keep you updated as we receive additional information about Qiu Hao's progress.


We heard from Kathy today via email at about noon EST.

This morning she traveled on the back of a 4-wheeler(!) to attend her first church service at Mountain Top Ministries (MTM). (Beth, Willem's wife, took a snapshot while Kathy was riding on the back - I am looking forward to seeing this one and posting when I receive it.)

Although Kathy understood very little of the service, she said it was beautiful. She spoke to the congregation through her translator, Willem, director of MTM. She explained that she would be a familiar face at MTM over the next 5 months and spoke enthusiastically about the ESL program beginning tomorrow. Willem shared that each kindergardener will receive a certificate at the end of the 5 months stating that they completed the first portion of the ESL class. Kathy will hand out the certificates in May.

Willem shared with us that students attending MTM School are required to go to MTM's church service each month. Due to the large number of students and their families, they can not all go to church at the same time because the building can not hold them all simultaneously. What a blessing to have these resources available for people in this region!

We are hopeful to hear more from Kathy throughout the week. However, her last statement in the email was that her power cord may be going out on her laptop and she has no hope of getting a new one where she is in Haiti. Cross your fingers and toes that the cord lasts until the end of the week!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

ESL program starts in Haiti

What an exciting day for TRTP! Kathy is on a plane bound for Miami and then she is off to Haiti to begin our English as a Second Language (ESL) program at Mountain Top Ministries (MTM) School.

The children of Gramothe, Haiti and surrounding areas are some of the most impoverished children The Red Thread Promise has pledged to help. With Haiti’s 80% unemployment level, it is unlikely that these young ones will find work as adults. We want to change that statistic.

We have the opportunity to teach English to these children who are eager to end the cycle of poverty in their home country. Laying down a strong educational foundation will give them priceless communication skills, opening doors for them into Haiti’s workforce and beyond.

Through this program, we can show these children that we care about them and reinforce the fact that they are each valuable human beings. So valuable that volunteers are traveling from other parts of the world to improve their education in their home country.

Kathy, TRTP co-founder, will travel for one week each month, January through May 2010, laying down the ground work for this program. She will begin work this Monday with two kindergarten classes at MTM School. The program will be fun and energizing for children and adults as they jump, spin, hop, color, all the while learning English. Children will begin by learning the names for objects they see and touch each day in their own environment. If they can see it, they can learn it! Together, we will be giving a precious gift that even poverty can not take away.

Your support is critical to the success of this program. We are in need of $5,400 to complete the classes through May 2010, the largest portion being airfare ($3,000). We appreciate the airline miles and funds that were donated in the last days of 2009 - what a great way to ring in the new decade! We’d like to keep the momentum going. Please consider starting 2010 on a positive note with a charitable donation or airline miles toward our ESL program. Our contact information is on the right as well as a convenient PayPay button.

The Red Thread Promise is also looking for volunteers to travel to Haiti during the 2010/11 school year to continue the program. Interested individuals or groups may contact Kathy at for more information.