Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hands-On at the Jacob Beachy Sensory Trail

Since 2008, Jacob's Fund, the U.S. program of The Red Thread Promise, has been giving disabled kids hippotherapy at McKenna Farms in Dallas, Georgia. Now, on our first mission trip to the farm, we'll get physical with our efforts. Individuals and families will travel from several states to the farm in Georgia to work the weekend of November 4, 5, and 6.

The original farmhouse, which normally houses McKenna Farm's offices and therapy rooms, will be transformed again, this time into temporary sleeping quarters for the individuals and families who'll mend broken fences and care for the Jacob Beachy Sensory Trail.

Part of the sensory trail

This sensory trail consists of multiple stations, each of which stimulates one of the child's senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. Children ride their therapy horses from one station to the next around the circuit, interacting with brightly colored shapes, chimes, natural textures, and other stimuli.

During our visit, we'll begin planning a future mission blitz: erecting a viewing room along one end of the covered arena. The viewing room will be equipped with a one-way window that will allow parents to observe their child while undergoing hippotherapy, avoiding any distractions that may interfere with the child's session. The Red Thread Promise recently donated the funds so that the foundation for the room can be poured in preparation for the building project. McKenna Farms is actively raising the additional capital needed to purchase the supplies that our team will need to complete the structure, which is targeted for spring 2012.

Monday, October 24, 2011

CHINA :: Ready for winter!

With winter just around the corner, we are ramping up our fundraising efforts so we are ready to support our next special needs child in China as soon as he or she "walks" through that proverbial door.
Why is winter such a concern? Hand-in-hand with the harsh temperatures of November through March often comes pneumonia, one of the greatest health concerns for these already at-risk infants. The little ones that we serve already have severly compromised health when they are brought to our attention and become "Red Thread kids".

Babies with serious birth defects such as myelomeningocele (the most severe form of spina bifida when the spinal cord is exposed through an opening in the spine) and other critical conditions need surgery within days of birth. These procedures leave their tiny bodies weakened and extremely susceptible to pneumonia and other secondary complications that are often as life-threatening as the original abnormality.
We take winters in China seriously and make every effort to have the funds available so that when a child needs swift intervention, they can get the treatment necessary and are in an environment that keeps them warm and safe, thus reducing their risk of complications. When even one baby dies from a birth defect or complications from surgery, it is one too many.
With your help, we can and will be ready to tackle winter head-on and make a difference in as many children's lives as possible. Thank you for your support.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Providing fresh water

During our many visits to Haiti since 2009, we have taken a long, hard look at some basic necessities that, while abundant in many parts of the world, are at a premium in Haiti. One of those critical necessities is potable water.

Potable water is pure enough to drink with a low risk of harm, both immediate and long-term. In Haiti, thousands upon thousands of people have inadequate access to potable water. Water sources are often severly contaminated, as most recently demonstrated in the cholera outbreak which plagues the country to this day. (For the latest in the cholera epidemic, please see this article published yesterday.)

A similar water filtration system in Haiti

The Red Thread Promise is working with several other agencies to install a large water filtration system at St. Vincent's Center for Handicapped Children in downtown Port-au-Prince. Those agencies include Episcopal Diocese of Olympia, Friends of St. Vincent's, Rotary Club of Lunenburg and West Tennessee Haiti Partnership. As you know from our many posts, St. Vincent's serves children with a variety of disabilities (including hearing impairment, sight impairment, loss of limbs, etc), providing an education, medical services and home for students and orphans in their care. During the months at the height of the cholera epidemic, the Center's Director had to make critical choices with St. Vincent's limited funds: provide a meal or fresh water for the students. Naturally, water was the choice. Students went with little to no food for some time as funds were constantly being used to purchase expensive clean water.

Working together, our team is currently fundraising and planning for the installation of a water filtration system so that the Center's Director no longer has to make this critical choice. Once in place, a constant source of potable water will be available for the Center, staff and students. Extra water will be sold to the public for a nominal fee in order to generate enough income for the filtration system to be self-sustaining. Routine maintenance will keep the filtration system in operating condition constantly so no child has to go without water.

Thank you for your supporting The Red Thread's efforts to provide clean drinking water to orphans and students at St. Vincent's as well as the people in the surrounding area.

Monday, October 10, 2011

First ATW to Nicaragua!

Yes, you read the title correctly. We have sent our first wheelchair to Nicaragua.

Juan, a librarian in El Lagartillo, Nicaragua

In the community of El Lagartillo, Achuapa, lives a 42 year old man named Juan, who spends his days in a wheelchair as a result of a congenital birth defect. He has overcome many challenges in his life. He lives in a rustic mountain community with no paved roads, a challenge even for those with two strong legs. The majority of transportation is by foot, horse, ox cart, bicycle and rural bus one half mile away. Community members share a single truck for special events and emergencies.

Old ...

... and new!

Juan sporting his new ATW

An attack by contras in 1984 killed six people in his village, including his uncle, cousin and two school friends. Juan survived the brutal onslaught hidden in a trench, and many others were able to escape thanks to the bravery of the villagers who stayed to defend the community.

Juan is a member of a local community association, Hijos del Maiz, and recently became a librarian in El Lagartillo. He is considered an oral historian of the community due to his remarkable ability to remember events and conversations with accuracy and great detail. He keeps up with international news and listens to daily radio broadcasts.

Test driving the chair in daily living spaces

The Red Thread Promise is proud to partner with a small non-profit—Acción Esperanza / Partnership for Hope (based in Ashland, Oregon)—to provide Juan with a hearty wheelchair that could navigate the rugged dirt roads and paths, replacing the mountain of hand-me-down wheelchairs that he has received in the past.

A single ATW was hand-carried from the states to Nicaragua by representatives from Partnership for Hope who have known and worked with Juan and his community for the past 25 years. We were thrilled to see the smile on his face and hope that this chair serves him well for years to come.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

New All Terrain Wheelchair video

Remember those beautiful bright red All Terrain Wheelchairs that we delivered in June / July, 2011? We've put together a video that tells a bit of the story and shows some of the distribution.

For more details about the assembly and distribution of the chairs, check out:

Please share this link with friends and family and let them know what The Red Thread Promise is doing in Haiti and other countries!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Camp Jake approaching fast!

“Fast and furious” adequately sums up Camp Jake Director Tom’s trip to Haiti last week. Not unlike our wheelchair assembly and distribution in June / July 2011, he arrived on Saturday afternoon and left on Tuesday morning, packing in numerous meetings in and around Port-au-Prince. Considering the first and last days were exclusively for travel, in the remaining two days Tom was able to finalize many details in preparation for the first session of Camp Jake and we'd like to share some of the highlights with you.

One day was spent visiting Kaliko Beach, the location for the first camp. The hotel has managed to capture some of the former beauty of Haiti, known as the “Pearl of the Carribbean” in the 15th and 16th centuries. Beautiful rocky beaches, blue water, and palm trees create an ambiance that one would think impossible only 1.5 hours away from the dusty, trash-strewn streets of the capital city. What a beautiful change this will be for the students!

The view from the hotel where Camp Jake will be held

At the hotel, Tom secured the sleeping quarters for all campers, counselors and St. Vincent’s staff as well as the other facilities that we will be utilizing for our programs. He evaluated areas for wheelchair accessibility and ensured that the grounds are well secured. Different areas of the facility were mapped out to house various activities for the campers based on their individual abilities and strengths.

St. Vincent’s Center for Handicapped Children
Many hours were spent with Fr. Sadoni, Director of St. Vincent’s, discussing the list of attending children and their physical challenges, transportation to and from the beach and other logistics. Conversation covered camp activities, that will include sports, creative arts and social experiences. We are thrilled that Fr. Sadoni shares The Red Thread’s excitement for the camp. He has been most gracious to us, giving us his time and any assistance we need in cementing the final plans for Camp Jake.

Physicians for Peace
Tom was also able to meet with Mary K from Physicians for Peace who was also in Haiti visiting St. Vincent’s at the same time (small world!). They spoke at length about the upcoming camp as well as The Red Thread’s long-term vision for Camp Jake, which includes extending the camp’s reach beyond fun and recreation to incorporate vocational training into the programming. We look forward to years of partnering with this great organization!

Last, but not least, Tom was able to spend time with Mike, a long-time friend of St. Vincent’s and veteran of providing assistance in Haiti. They reviewed preliminary drawings for the rebuilding of St. Vincent’s and discussed the challenges of the project, including utilizing better quality materials as well as providing a more accessible space to better accommodate the children and their various physical handicaps. We are blessed to be a part of this process.

All-in-all, it was a great trip, successful on so many levels. We are excited to offer these exceptional students a new experience in another part of their home country. January 2012 is right around the corner!