Thursday, September 30, 2010

CHINA :: The Spina Bifida Challenge

Lu Yuan, September, 2010

We are happy to share the latest photos of Lu Yuan from Swallow's Nest Children's Home in China. He is growing rapidly and developing well following the spina bifida surgery that The Red Thread Promise provided for him in fall of 2009.

As our chapter closes with Lu Yuan, a new chapter is revealed – another beautiful Chinese baby has grasped the red thread of destiny, bringing us together.

His name is Yin Xi (pronounced yin shi) and he is only 2 weeks old. He was brought to Swallows Nest Children's Home on September 30, 2010, weighs 4 kg and appears strong. He is a bit fussy and loud, which gives us hope that he is a fighter, a desirable trait in a child with this serious condition.

Yin Xi, September 28, 2010

Yin Xi also needs surgery to address his spina bifida, a birth defect where part of the spinal cord is outside the body in a sac. Spina bifida occurs at the end of the first month of pregnancy when the two sides of the embryo's spine fail to join together, leaving an open area. In some cases, the spinal cord or other membranes may push through this opening in the back. This condition ranges from little or no disability to full paralysis and inability to use the legs.

The surgery costs $5,000 USD. The Red Thread Promise has agreed to help provide this life-changing surgery for Yin Xi. Being in a better state of health is a gift that he will have for the rest of his life and will greatly increase his chances of being adopted.

Due to the fact that his sac is open and a source of infection, Swallows Nest would like to schedule the surgery in approximately 3 weeks. Thankfully, the caregivers at Swallows Nest have experience with spina bifida babies and we are confident in their ability to use universal precautions to prevent infection and other complications. In addition, they would like to get him to Shanghai for surgery before the cold weather sets in and there are increased chances of cold and flu which may result in pneumonia.

Our Challenge
In response to this short time frame, The Red Thread Promise will match up to $2,000 for any funds raised for Yin Xi between now and October 14th. That's two weeks to find others who share in our passion for the health of children who have no one to advocate for them.

If you would like to support Yin Xi and children like him, please click on the donate button on the right side or send a check to the address at the top. Please mark your donation spina bifida so we know which funds are being matched through the challenge.

Thank you for any support you are able to provide.

Wheelchair update

A representative of our Wheelchair Promise Program just returned from Haiti with a much anticipated update on the container of wheelchairs. As you may recall, our first shipment of 100 All Terrain Wheelchairs (ATWs) arrived in Port-au-Prince in June and we've been waiting (im)patiently for the completion of all paperwork and procedures so that the shipment will be allowed inside the country.

We recently found out that the arrival of our container in port directly coincided with the Haitian government's revision of all processes and paperwork concerning any shipments into the country.

Caleb (Hosean), our fearless contact on the ground, has gone to port three times with the appropriate paperwork over the past 10 weeks. With each trip, he was greeted with regulations that have changed, requiring additional documentation and legwork. Thus our long wait for the wheelchairs release.

Thankfully, there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel. There is one final requirement: we have to identify all 100 ATW recipients by name so that the government can verify that the chairs are being donated, not sold. This is not an easy task, but we have faith in our Haitian counterparts to provide this information by the end of this week so that we can finally move forward. If the names are not submitted, we start the process all over.

Please send positive thoughts and prayers to Caleb and Willem (MTM) as they gather this information and return it to the proper authorities by the governmental deadline of this Friday.

Following the release of the wheelchairs, several of us will be traveling to Haiti for a week to assemble and distribute them, as well as train Haitians to maintain and repair the chairs. Most importantly, it will give us the opportunity to meet those in need of mobility and offer them much deserved hope for a better future.

On a positive note: unless there are further changes in the process and/or paperwork, we now know what to expect when our second container ships. That container is already more than half way full, thanks to your generous donations. If you are interested in making a donation toward an ATW for a recipient in Haiti, please contact or call 817.320.6522.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

In the news, again!

Some of the deaf students from St. Vincent’s Center for Handicapped Children
School & Medical Facility prior to the earthquake on January 12, 2010

The partners: Randa El gayar, Sally Carlson, Sadoni Leon
(Director of St. Vincent’s), Tom Landry II, Kathy Korge Albergate, Scott Albergate,
Sonya Yencer at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church–Lakeview

St. Vincent's Center for Handicapped Children School & Medical Facility
before the earthquake on January 12, 2010

The same building after the earthquake on January 12, 2010

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We are excited to share this great news with our loyal friends, volunteers and donors. Late last week, the following press release went out to approximately 2,500 Episcopal churches across the United States as well as local media in Washington state and Louisiana.

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The Rev. Dr. Scott P. Albergate
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church-Lakeview

The Rt. Rev. Morris K. Thompson, Jr.
Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana

Kathy Korge Albergate, President
The Red Thread Promise

Date: Sept. 23, 2010


New Orleans, LA — It’s been nine months since the devastating earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. But the physical and psychological rubble left by the natural disaster lingers for some of the country’s most needy; namely the young people who rely on the St. Vincent’s Center for Handicapped Children School & Medical Facility.

To support the children and restore their hope and dignity, the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia, Seattle, the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana, New Orleans, and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church – Lakeview, New Orleans, announced a new partnership with The Red Thread Promise, a 501(c)(3) organization based in New Orleans.

Together with interior architects Tom Landry, II (New Orleans) and Randa El gayar (Montreal), who are experts in sustainable building practices, these organizations have combined their compassion for children with their talents and resources to rebuild the much-needed facility.

“St. Vincent’s is the center of these children’s lives,” says Kathy Korge Albergate, president of The Red Thread Promise. “It’s where they flourish and where they learn to take care of themselves, including acquiring skills to become productive members of society.”

Prior to the earthquake, St. Vincent’s served approximately 250 children with special needs, including the hearing- and sight-impaired. The former facility housed classrooms; general, dental, eye and audiology clinics; surgery and recovery rooms; a pharmacy; a prosthetic and orthotic workshop; kitchen; cafeteria; dormitories; administrative offices; and guest quarters.

Only three rooms of the original structure remain, so the team will work closely with the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti as well as St. Vincent’s engineers and architects to finalize plans for the new facility. Guided by best practices in accessibility, safety and sustainability, the new facility will be constructed to be both hurricane and earthquake resistant.

“Building a facility to help the children is our number one priority,” says The Rt. Rev. Morris K. Thompson of the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana, New Orleans, Louisiana. “But we also want to do it in a way that leverages the lessons we learned from Hurricane Katrina while also incorporating the latest in sustainability practices.”

The partners have been raising both funds and awareness for the rebuilding and refurnishing project. They’ve also funded a full shipping container of all-terrain wheelchairs and medical equipment, including scales, instrument sanitizers, canes, crutches, blood pressure cuffs, cast cutters, typewriters and other medical supplies needed for the new St. Vincent’s medical facility.

“St. Paul’s has been blessed by the friendship developed with the Diocese of Olympia over the past 5 years since Hurricane Katrina. This project is the ideal opportunity for St. Paul’s to continue nurturing this relationship while making a positive impact on the lives of these most vulnerable children in Haiti” states The Rev. Dr. Scott P. Albergate, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church-Lakeview, New Orleans, Louisiana.

Giving and other information can be found at or by emailing

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Monday, September 20, 2010

New Orleans, Day 1

Fr. Sadoni, Director of St. Vincent's,
with Kathy, President of The Red Thread Promise

Tuesday, 9/14 – Late in the afternoon, we all arrived safe and sound in The Big Easy: Sally from Washington state, Sonya from Ohio, Randa from Canada and Fr. Sadoni from Haiti. Tom and Kathy, our local counterparts, greeted us at the airport, exchanging hugs and kisses with friends old and new. The group gathered around a well-used wooden table at an airport cafĂ© for quite some time as we began drafting a press release announcing the partnership of the Episcopal Dioceses of Olympia and Louisiana, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church-Lakeview and The Red Thread Promise to support the children and rebuilding efforts of St. Vincent's Center for Handicapped Children School & Medical Facility.

Following some traffic meant to give us all a lesson it patience, we made it to our hotel where we unpacked and freshened up for dinner. Since Fr. Sadoni, director of St. Vincent’s, had never been to New Orleans, we made time for a super-condensed tour of New Orleans, driving through the French Quarter, Central Business, Warehouse and Garden Districts and Uptown, all in about 45 min! The architecture, or what we could see of it in the dark, was fantastic. Stories of Hurricane Katrina were shared as we looked on at the water lines still evident on many buildings. New Orleans has made great progress in the last 5 years, but so much still needs to be done to restore the city to its former glory.

The beautiful chandelier in the hotel's vestibule

Our work began again at dinner that evening, getting to know each other and building a personal relationship with Fr. Sadoni.

Born in Gramonde, Fr. Sadoni grew up in Port-au-Prince. He studied management at the Episcopal University (which was destroyed by the quake) and simultaneously went to seminary. Sadoni has worked in schools, hospitals and churches in different parts of Haiti since he completed his studies 5 years ago. Prior to the earthquake, he was appointed Priest in Charge of Ephiphanie Church and Director of St. Vincent’s Center for Handicapped Children School & Medical Facility.

The Center was founded in 1945 by Sister Joan Margaret to care for handicapped children, who were (and still are) treated as sub-human in Haitian society. The sisters traveled through Haiti and brought these little ones to St. Vincent’s for medical care and to receive an education, an innovative idea in Haiti.

Sixty-five years ago and to this day, there is little hope for anyone born with a disability in Haiti. Often neglected or abused by their families, handicapped children are literally left in a corner by themselves in their own homes, isolated from the rest of the family. The fortunate ones might receive an education after all other healthy siblings have been to school. It is also common practice for parents to abandon their special needs children, discarding them in bathrooms, on the streets, in front of buildings – so much that hospitals have a special area for abandoned babies. Some are even given to Voodoo priests so people can engage in sexual intercourse with them to bring good luck, according to Haitian belief.

Sadoni, a soft-spoken man of few but deliberate words, showed his passion for these children when he firmly stated that he “wants to change the children’s lives AND to change Haitian’s perception of people with disabilities.”

Our discussion then turned toward Voodoo, how it is an integral part of Haitian culture and is intermixed with nearly every other faith, especially Roman Catholicism. Interestingly enough, people of the Catholic denomination commonly practice Voodoo openly while those in other denominations tend to practice in secret.

New Orleans has an “underground” Voodoo subculture that boasts many similarities to that of its Haitian counterparts. Many practices are the same in both countries. However, there are some fundamental differences as well, including who practices the religion. In Haiti, Voodoo is primarily practiced by less educated people and there appears to be a direct correlation between level of education and the practice. In New Orleans, however, it is sometimes practiced by those who are very educated and is deemed more a cult than part of the culture.

We ended the evening on a positive note as we celebrated Sadoni’s upcoming wedding, wishing the couple good luck and a life of happiness together. As we rode back to the hotel, we considered the heavy agenda for Wednesday: gathering detailed information about St. Vincent’s needs since the earthquake; identifying and prioritizing their immediate needs; and fleshing out an action plan for the partnership to move forward and begin supporting the children of St. Vincent’s.

(Author's note: Exhausted after a day of traveling, meeting new people, and ending with a very long and late dinner, we had some comic relief at 11:00 pm that night when I was unable to view the MANY photos I had taken that afternoon and evening. Puzzled, I started examining the camera more closely and, after further investigation, realized that I had forgotten to put in the memory card. Thankfully we were all able to laugh it off, however we did ensure that the card was there every time I pulled the camera out the rest of the trip! So, the photos shown were actually taken on Wednesday, but I'm sure you won't tell anyone.)