Monday, April 25, 2011

Ringing BELLS in Haiti

At many times, we can feel that red thread of destiny that connects us all. The thread was very evident a few days ago when a musician / friend contacted us and shared a link to a song that he thought we'd be interested in. He was so right!

Brink is an amazing gospel country and bluegrass singer / composer / all around talented musical guy. He has had over 100 of his songs recorded and plays various instruments including guitar and piano. Brink has a way of getting in your head with his songs, making it personal to you, making you feel like you are living his lyrics. The messages of his songs are smart and the tunes hang out in your mind for a long time after the music is over.

Back in the '70s, Brink wrote a song called "BELLS". Originally, it was written as a statement of the terrible conditions in many large cities. He and his friend Dave used to sing it back in the day. Following the earthquake in Haiti, Dave adapted the song to the Haiti crisis. His unique combination of Brink's haunting tune and modified lyrics coupled with unsettling video footage from the media have created this very moving video.

The original chorus:
The sky is filled with smog and smoke from the factories.
the stench in the air from a million stray dogs and piles of dog feces.
A child plays on the floor with cockroaches and fleas.
A sign comes down to label man a very...endangered species.

The new chorus:
The sky is filled with the smoke from the bodies burning in a heap.
The stink in the air and a million homeless out in the street.
A child in the corner crawls on the floor with cockroaches and fleas.
A sign comes down to challenge man to save... endangered Haiti.

Sadly, the Port-au-Prince cityscape hasn't changed as much as we had hoped over the past 15 months since the quake. Crumbled buildings surround hundreds of thousands still living under sheets, tablecloths and tarps (labeled "tents" by the media), sleeping on pieces of cardboard on dirt floors, residing in filth and unsanitary conditions. Thousands upon thousands search for work, where there is little to be had, doing their best to provide for their families. People scrape by on a single meal of rice and beans every day. And, of course, let's not forget the countless needy and fragile children that we see on the streets. These images remind us of how fragile Haiti's children are and why we are committed to our work there.

We are committed to these children and PROMISE to create as much positive change as possible through our programs. And we thank you for your interest in our work.

(If you are interested in any of Brink's other songs, you can get more information and listen to clips on cdbaby.)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Easter challenge and beyond

Wade examining one of St. Vincent's students

When we visited St. Vincent's in mid March, 2011, many of the children complained of abdominal pain during their examination. It didn't take the physicians long to determine that they were not sick—but hungry. Many were very thin and underweight, although they didn't display some of the tell-tale signs of malnourishment, such as the tips of their hair being red instead of black. We trust that it is because of the arsenal of vitamins at St. Vincent's clinic being distributed on a daily basis that is helping in this manner. However, it is very disturbing to see these children suffering from something as vital as insufficient food.

As a result of the earthquake, essential funding for St. Vincent's program was lost. Unfortunately, this has come with a high price for the 185 children in their care, 90 of which live at St. Vincent's. Hard decisions have to be made, such as:
  • Do we buy water or food for the students today?
  • How many times can we afford to feed them all this week?
It is with this in mind that we have reached out to many of our large donors and organizations that have supported our programs in the past.

Recently, The Episcopal Diocese of Olympia (Washington state) has taken up this cause and partnered with us to feed St. Vincent's children. The Diocese of Olympia has challenged the Diocese of Louisiana to have every member of their respective organizations donate $10 to buy food for St. Vincent's.

Ten dollars can make a world of difference to these children. $10 will feed 1 child for 2 weeks, a minimum of 2 meals per day. Who would have thought that for the price of 2 or 3 gourmet coffees that you could feed a child in Haiti for 2 weeks. What a blessing to be able to give so little and make such a huge impact on a child!

Today, we challenge you to do the same.

We ask you to consider sponsoring one of these precious children for two weeks, a month or a year. For the price of a few runs through your favorite drive-thru, you can provide 2 or meals per day for a child for an extended period of time.
  • $10 - 2 weeks of food for a child
  • $20 - 1 month of food for a child
  • $240 - 1 year of food for a child
  • $3500 - 1 month of food for all 185 children
Please contact The Red Thread Promise to make your pledge today. You can use our PayPal link above for a one-time gift. If you are interested in sponsoring a child for an extended period of time, please contact Kathy by email at or call 817.320.6522.

Thank you!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Medical team in Haiti - The Club Foot Clinic

The "waiting room"

The central hallway that runs through the clinic building was lined with mothers holding babies, soothing crying children, nursing infants, shushing toddlers—all waiting for their turn at the club foot clinic. Parents came from miles around with their children, displaying an array of leg and foot abnormalities. The lucky ones were able to walk on their own or with limited assistance. But the majority were non-ambulatory, relying on a parent or relative to carry them.

The first patient of the day

It was on the first day of the clinic that Dr. Bheki, a podiatrist from Memphis (originally from South Africa), performed his first outpatient surgery of the week on the very first patient. In a small square room with light blue walls and a cement floor stood a single table covered in a white sheet. Surrounding that table was a talented medical team that would change the course of this child’s life forever.

She was an infant, no more than 1 year old—the sweetest little girl with smiles for everyone and tiny laughs. With a simple set of surgical tools and skilled hands, the tension was released on the child’s Achilles tendon, the foot carefully set in the proper position and finally casted.

Dr. Bheki preparing for surgery

Michele begins casting the child's leg following the procedure

When one leg was complete, they set to work on her other leg, casting it as well before the appointment was over. All the while, she cried little and we were amazed by her cheerful temperament. (Author’s note: I cannot imagine how incredibly hot and itchy her little legs must be in those plaster casts in the Haitian sun. But what a small price to pay to have the opportunity to walk someday. I had the honor of holding her after both casts were applied while her mother went to the pharmacy—one of the highlights of my day!)

One surgery and two casts later

Hour after hour, infants and toddlers came to have their feet and legs examined. The team consisted of Dr. Bheki, Nick (a physical therapist from Memphis) and Michele (a Haitian physical therapist who has been working at St. Vincent’s School for 10 years). Together, the team discussed each case in detail, determining how to best treat the child within the means of the clinic.

Piercing eyes wondered what the doctors were going to do

A group consultation to determine the best course of action

X-rays were studied through the light of a single small window on the only exterior wall. Debates ensued, weighing the pros and cons of each treatment plan (i.e. would putting a child in a brace for the right leg cause damage to the left hip). Many casts were applied and many referrals to hospitals and specialists were made. Each appointment was complex and lengthy, exhausting work in the heat.

Dr. Bheki and Nick reviewing x-rays

X-rays reveal the challenges ahead

As Dr. Eric surmised during our trip to St. Vincent’s in February, even though the clinic had few supplies, in the hands of properly trained people, small miracles could be performed. And that’s exactly what we witnessed day-after-day in St. Vincent’s clinic.

"The Great
Lekinsky", one of St. Vincent's students and, today, a patient

Children who may not ever have been treated were seen by a very talented and diverse group of physicians and medical providers. Each case was handled as if they were full paying clients. Every effort was made to provide the optimum care for a lifetime of results for every child, every family.

Imagine how much more can be done when the permanent clinic and surgical center are rebuilt on St. Vincent’s demolished property. No more referrals to specialists and hospitals. Everything can be done in-house. Top notch, turnkey care. The possibilities are endless. Let's help make it happen.

One of the tiny patients leaving the club foot clinic

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Medical team in Haiti - day 2

The March team
(back) Amy, Wes, Wade, Hannah, Drew, John, Sherye
(front) Sienna, Nick, Susan, Sonya, Bheki

3/16/2011 : : The excitement was buzzing around the guesthouse on our first full day in Haiti. The team woke up very early, too enthusiastic to sleep. We gathered the mountain of duffel bags and suitcases overflowing with medical supplies, filled our water bottles, stowed granola bars in our pockets, and prepared to leave. The bags were so overstuffed that it required three vehicles to carry the team and all our gear!

A small portion of the supplies we hand-carried

As we made our way to St. Vincent’s, we noted an increased UN presence around the airport. Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier had recently returned to Haiti and Jean-Bertrand Aristede was expected to arrive during our visit. (Aristede's house was only a few miles from the guesthouse.) The elections were less than one week away and tension was elevated in Port-au-Prince, the pre-election chaos from November still fresh in everyone’s mind.

Loads of hugs, kisses and “bon jours” abounded when we arrived at St. Vincent’s big red metal gate. Students seemed to materialize out of nowhere to greet us between classes. Camera shutters began clicking in every direction. Smiles spread across the children's faces and warmed our hearts.

Sherye, our interpreter for the deaf, hanging out with some of the students

Hearing impaired students

Following “the fun stuff”, we got down to business. Smaller teams split up to accomplish various tasks in preparation to see patients:
  • setting up the well-check clinic and physical therapy room
  • organizing and setting out casting supplies for the club foot clinic
  • preparing a overflow waiting room outside the clinic in what little shade was available
  • setting up an area to take weight, measure blood pressure and perform finger prick hemoglobin tests
  • unloading meds and stocking the pharmacy (perhaps the biggest job of all!)
Wes & St. Vincent's new pharmacist emptying suitcases of meds

The clinic wasn’t scheduled to open on the first day, but word travelled fast that we were there. When patients started arriving and spilling out of the waiting room, how could we say no? A valuable lesson that we learned ages ago about working in Haiti is BE FLEXIBLE—and that’s what we did.

So, St. Vincent’s clinic officially opened for business.