Wednesday, March 31, 2010

In the News

This was published in the Times Picayune in New Orleans. Click on the image below and it will open a new window that allows you to read it without a magnifying glass!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Haiti Team Member in the News

15 of our 26 team members from our Haiti trip.

From left to right: Karen (foreground), Kathy (behind Karen), Wade peeking out, Erin & Tom.

During our recent trip to Haiti, TRTP team members were privileged to meet Karen Henderson, a medical professional from Terre Haute, Indiana. She joined the team of doctors, nurses and physician assistants who had come to work in the clinic at Mountain Top Ministries (MTM) during MTM's first week of operations following the earthquake.

I (the author) met Karen at the airport in Port au Prince, where we frantically searched for our bags among the crowds and gathered close to Willem as he guided us swiftly through customs. She and I rode together in one of the trucks to Mountain Top Ministries. As we drove, Karen was video taping much of the material that you will see on the newscast from WTHItv 10.

She video taped throughout the week and, if you watch closely, you will see Kathy (TRTP President) and Erin (TRTP board member) working in the clinic.

Thank you, Karen, for your moving pictures of life in Haiti.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

CHINA :: ORPHAN UPDATE - Zheng Lu Yuan, part 2

Here is a little more information about Lu Yuan from Swallow's Nest. According to Pam "he has a happy smile and is very outgoing. He loves to hold hands with a little Down's syndrome girl named Jia Yu. They are so cute sitting in their bouncy chairs together! He eats well and sleeps through the night."

Wt. 7.4 kg
Ht. 65 cm
Chest 45 cm
Waist 48 cm
Foot 8 cm
2 teeth

If you are interested in learning more about this beautiful baby, please contact CCAI.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


We are excited to learn that Lu Yuan's orphanage has asked Swallow's Nest to prepare his paperwork for adoption! Thanks to all of our supporters for helping this child to receive the surgery necessary to bring him to a better state of health. His name is finally being added to the list of children available for adoption in China. He is being treated for a chronic yeast infection, but is otherwise in good health.

Our work together does indeed make a difference!

Please let us know if you or anyone you know is interested in more information about Zheng Lu Yuan. He is beginning his search for his forever family.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

CHINA :: The Chinese Spina Bifida Project

We are delighted to announce that Global Giving has accepted two of our new projects into its fundraising website! Tomorrow (Tuesday, March 16th) happens to be 30% MATCH Day at Global Giving, so your donation will work extra hard.

Swallow's Nest: The Chinese Spina Bifida Project: or type in "Project 5025" at the Global Giving site. A Chinese orphanage run by an American woman expects six spina bifida patients this year. Two prior patients have already been featured on our Red Thread Promise blog. There is absolutely no money for the surgery that these children need. For $5000, each child can have life-altering surgery. Again, tomorrow (March 16), Global Giving will MATCH 30% of the donations we collect.

The Haiti Wheelchair Project

We are delighted to announce that Global Giving has accepted two of our new projects into its fundraising website! Tomorrow (Tuesday, March 16th) happens to be 30% MATCH Day at Global Giving, so your donation will work extra hard.

The Haiti Wheelchair Project: or type in "Project 5030" at the Global Giving site. The Red Thread Promise is working to get specialized all-terrian wheelchairs into Haiti. We are honored that a generous donor has offered to match us, wheelchair for wheelchair, up to 50, through the end of May. He will also pay the shipping costs, which are considerable (we're sending a shipping container). Between the 30% match (tomorrow only at the Global Giving site) and the donor match, your donation will be worth 260% of what you donate!

Travelers log - Day 7 in Haiti - 2 orphanges

At MTM's Children's Home, enjoying pizza and a Creole song.

The balcony of Children's Home.

Rivers of Hope's infant room.

Two of the toddlers at Rivers of Hope.

Kim holding Levinsky, an infant looking for a forever family.

Following our emotionally exhausting tour of Port au Prince, we had lunch at a Haitian American restaurant that was heavily guarded, following which we drove to the top of a mountain where we had a view of the entire city of Port au Prince. The city stretches for miles and miles along the coast. Huge ships were visible near the ports, with cranes lifting containers of supply onto the land. If it weren't for the destruction, it would have marked a beautiful spot.

The highlight of the day was visiting 2 orphanages. First we went to MTM's newest project, a children's home for children 6+. We met the 12 children living there, shared pizza with them, and they blessed us with a beautiful song in Creole. All of the children housed at the orphanage receive an education at MTM's Gramothe school. There is much work to be done at this new facility and we look forward to seeing the progress made there.

After the Children's Home, we drove to Rivers of Hope orphanage. We were again able to visit the babies and toddlers there, play with them, and do a quick tour for those who had not yet been there. The children were a bit overwhelmed by our large group but warmed up to us quickly.

Being with the beautiful babies, toddlers, pre-teens and teens helped to curb our overwhelming experience earlier in the day. It's always amazing how children have that effect on you. A smile or laugh can transform your spirit. We are so thankful that we can be involved with Mountain Top Ministries, Rivers of Hope and all of the children they serve, helping them live in a secure environment in the midst of great turmoil, providing them with an education, better health care, and aiding them in finding permanent homes with loving families.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Travelers log - Day 8 in Haiti - the last day

Mother and child, Stephenson (1 years old) waiting at Rivers of Hope.

Mother and child (3 years old) waiting at Rivers of Hope.

Rachoul and the supplies we brought.

(from left to right) Rachoul (Rivers of Hope Director), Kathy (TRTP President),
Erin (TRTP Child Advocate), Sonya (TRTP Vice President and Communications Manager
who was having an allergic reaction to the malaria medicine!)

Port au Prince Airport

Our last day in Haiti was filled with packing bags, trying to find a set of clean clothes for the flight home, and one last trip to Rivers of Hope.

It was a heart-wrenching experience when we arrived to find 4 new little boys, ages 1, 2, 3 and 4 waiting outside the orphanage. When we began greeting the new children, holding them and playing with them, we thought they were being observed by Rivers of Hope's nannies. We couldn't have been more wrong. Rachoul explained to us that the women outside with the boys were not employed by Rivers of Hope, but were the mothers of the boys, coming to drop the children off at the orphanage.

What a shock to realize that when we scooped the children up, we were taking them out of their own mother's arms. The faces of the mothers were hard to read: sometimes a bit frightened, then complacent, sad, and relieved. One of the mothers even brought her (approximately) 9 year old daughter along. It is haunting to imagine what that child may have thought of her mother giving away her brother.

Regardless, we played with the children and gave them lots of love and attention. Then Rachoul proudly showed us the shelves full of supplies that we had brought on the trip. It was great to see that we were making a difference in the lives of these little ones.

We were able to enjoy a bite to eat with the children: small peanut butter sandwiches. (Author's note: Haitian peanut butter is interesting - try adding some cayenne pepper to your favorite brand of natural peanut butter and let us know what you think!)

The time went by too quickly and it was time say goodbye to the children and Rachoul and hurry back to MTM. When we got there, everyone had packed the trucks and was waiting for us to leave for the airport. We said quick goodbyes to Beth, the boys and the house staff, added our luggage to the trucks, and set out for Port au Prince one last time. We took in the final drive and vowed not to forget about the Haitian people.

Willem helped us navigate customs and immigration one final time and then we waited for our Boeing 767 to take us to Miami. We all swallowed de-worming medicine at the airport like candy. Security getting out of Haiti was the exact opposite of getting in the country - we went through 3 security checkpoints and they were very strict about our carry on luggage contents. Some of us were searched at every point!

The flight home was bittersweet. We exchanged photographs and contact information and tried to debrief a bit. Sleep wouldn't come for any of us. Our minds were racing and we were emotionally exhausted.

Immigration and customs on the US end was an uneventful but painfully long process with long lines, following which we said our goodbyes and headed toward our different gates for final flights home. Some of our planes were caught in the east coast weather complications, delaying flights, but it is our understanding that everyone made it home. Home sweet home.

Travelers log - Day 7 in Haiti - water

Water is a dumping ground for trash, human and animal waste as well as a open air bath tub for the people.

People waiting to fill water containers for their families.

Woman filling her jug at a water station.

Travelers log - Day 7 in Haiti - food distribution

Food distribution area. Bags of rice stacked inside the fenced building.

A food recipient.

Family picking up grains of rice off the street from their broken bag.
They picked out the stones and filled the woman's hat with what they could salvage.
[Photographer's note: The boy, lower left (only part of his head is showing)
looked up at me when I took this photo. The look of desperation
on his face kept me from clicking the shutter again.I just couldn't do it.]

Travelers log - Day 7 in Haiti - tent cities

Driving through a "nice" tent city.

One of the tent cities we passed, but didn't go through. Very near the slums.

One of the large tents.

One of the thousands of home-made tents.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Travelers log - Day 7 in Haiti - slum

Haitians living in the slums and tin cities, making do with whatever they can find.

A voodoo procession through the slums.




Travelers log - Day 7 in Haiti - military

United Nations presence in the slums and tent cities.

Military presence near the airport.

Travelers log - Day 7 in Haiti - buildings

The remnants of the Presidential palace.

Ruined buildings.

People living amidst the rubble.

Shot from the bed of a pickup truck looking down the hill from where we came.

Stairway to nowhere.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Rivers of Hope Matching Gift

The Red Thread Promise maintains a project to benefit the Rivers of Hope orphanage in Haiti on Global Giving. The Global Giving site helps us attract the attention of generous donors who might not otherwise know we exist, and we've had wonderful success there. This Tuesday, March 16, Global Giving is offering a 30% match for all donations received through its site. This is a great way to maximize your donation to get more money to the orphans of Haiti. Donations are, as always, fully tax-deductible.

Travelers log - Day 7 in Haiti - a lesson in flexibility

Driving through Port au Prince.

Man sleeping in his bed. Willem woke him up and gave him a bit of money for food.

Women in a broken down truck in the slums.

Child who begged us for a hot pink string bracelet worn by one of our team members.

No caption necessary.

Well, our week is rapidly coming to an end and we have learned so many things about Haiti, Haitian culture and the earthquake.

One of the most important lessons learned is that Haitians do not work on US time. They may be on Eastern Standard time, but it still isn't our time. They do not schedule their days like we do and show little sense of urgency about being anywhere at any particular time. This is why Beth printed "BE FLEXIBLE" on the white board next to our Creole lesson of the day. We have experienced this so many times this week, and, as Americans it can be difficult to accept. For example, if a Haitian says "hey, it's time to go", that could mean we are literally walk out the door, open the gate, and leave the property. Or it could mean go outside, wait for 1 hour baking in the sun, until it is really time to go.

Which leads us to what we did today. Even though we planned to work at the clinic for the morning and then do inventory, the plans changed and we went on an extended tour of Port au Prince and surrounding areas instead. So we practiced our new-found flexibility. We piled 24 people into 3 vehicles and began our drive into the city.

The farther down the mountain and closer to Port au Prince we got, the more evident the earthquake damage became. Buildings showed more and more damage and the deteriorating attitude of the people was evident. The closer we got to ground zero, the more desperate people became, tent cities started popping up and indescribable destruction surrounded us.

Buildings reduced to rubble. People looking dejected and catatonic. Multiple story buildings flattened like stacks of concrete and rebar pancakes. Amputees in slings, on crutches and in wheelchairs. The Presidential palace crumbled to the ground. Children pounding on cars, begging for money and food. Tent cities stretching for blocks on any piece of flat land. People sleeping in wheelbarrows, basins, curled up on the streets. Tents made of anything people can find: sheets, tarps, blankets, plastic wrap, towels, table clothes, etc. UN trucks, tanks and soldiers packing AK-47s. People living in squalor, unimaginable poverty in scrap tin shacks. Rice donation stations handing out sacks or rice. A family picking up individual grains of rice off the street after their bag tore, sifting out the rocks and trash so that they can have something to eat. Schools and hospitals that no longer exist, demolished. Private security guards with huge billy clubs at private businesses and residences. Children making toys cars out of empty plastic milk jugs. Mountains of rubble, trash and human waste along the roads. Naked malnourished children, immobile, staring at us. Police packing shotguns with pistol grips. A thief splayed out in the street in a pool of his own blood with about 30 people staring at him, shot for stealing. Hospitals set up in outdoor tents treating patients with minimal supplies, no sterile spaces, no ventilation and no overhead light.

Those are just some of the things we witnessed first-hand. We could fill pages, but this is sufficient to begin to paint a picture of the conditions in the capital, and further strengthens our commitment to the children, especially orphans, in this country.

Travelers log - Day 6 in Haiti - lifestyle

A typical doorway in a mountain village.

This can was probably used for water collection.

Typical laundry lines. As an alternative many people just lay
their wet laundry out on top of bushes to dry.

A family; the girl was eating a bowl of seasoned rice.

A path through the village. The blue barrel on the left is a
water cistern to collect rain water draining off the roof.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Travelers log - Day 6 in Haiti - Gramothe

Street vendors come every day the clinic is open to sell food and drinks to the patients waiting in line. Deep fried meat or vegetable pies (like large empanadas), some sort of meat that I was afraid to ask someone to identify, bags of popcorn and other snacks are available. These self-proclaimed "business women" bring their own portable "stove", charcoal, and everything needed to prepare everything onsite. The pies and meat are fried in hot oil over an open flame.

This little girl was selling leftover fried pies that her mother had been selling in front of the clinic.

The lady in the fuchsia skirt specifically asked me to take a
photo of her family. She was so proud of them!

Some of the children of Gramothe that desperately wanted "photo, photo".
The little girl on the right was hysterical! The loved looking at the digital screen
of themselves after each photograph was taken.

This is one of my favorite photos. She came to the clinic every day.
Only once to be seen. The remaining times to socialize with friends.
She was wonderfully friendly and gracious to us.

This man was a chatterbox! He talked to all of us in Creole,
greeting us with a firm handshake and a hearty "Bon soir" (good evening).