Monday, January 23, 2012

Christopher is coming home!

You’ve seen this adorable face for the past two years in numerous blog and FaceBook posts, on our mailers and in our annual report. The Red Thread Promise has been supporting little Christopher over that time, providing medical care and hospitalization during the treatment of his sickle cell anemia since 2009.

Just this week, we received word that Christopher will be traveling to the United States to be united with his forever family at the end of January! But his care by The Red Thread Promise will continue. Christopher will spend about 5 weeks with his new family in Texas before he and his parents travel to New Orleans, LA to meet with a sickle cell specialist. This generous doctor has offered to help us continue his care, running the necessary tests, after which she will meet with Christopher's parents to discuss the test results, as well as a short- and long term treatment plan for his care.

Because of your generous donations, The Red Thread Promise can continue to support his medical care until after the doctor has met with the family and a clear plan of action is set in motion. We will send Christopher home knowing we have done the best we can so he can live a happy and healthy life with as few sickle cell episodes as possible.

A van for St. Vincent's!

The retired bus

After the devastating earthquake in January 2010, St. Vincent's bus got a real workout, far more than the norm. As the main source of transportation for all 350 kids, the bus carried students—trip after trip—from Port-au-Prince to Montrouis to sleep in tents when the smell of decay in the city became too much to bare. (Read more about how St. Vincent's weathered the earthquake.)

Upon the children's return to Port-au-Prince weeks later, the bus broke down one final time, too costly and extensive to repair. It sits on St. Vincent's destroyed property to this day, nearly 2 years later, a sad reminder of the outings the children used to enjoy before the earthquake and the brokenness of the country.

Since the demise of the bus, the children’s exposure to life beyond the walls of St. Vincent’s has been severely limited. Sadly, they have been forced to transport students in the back of open pickup trucks, which proved especially challenging to those in wheelchairs.

During our February 2011 trip to Haiti, we followed that red thread of destiny to a wonderful lady named Suzanne, chair of the Rhode Island Conference United Church of Christ Haiti Task Force (RICUCC HTF). Our paths crossed while she was touring St. Vincent’s Center for Handicapped Children. Tom introduced himself and struck up a conversation that would lead to a beautiful partnership.

Suzanne was in Haiti on a scouting expedition, looking at three organizations to determine which one would be the recipient of a 16 passenger wheelchair-accessible van with a hydraulic lift that her group wanted to donate. We jumped at the chance to tell her about the children at St. Vincent’s and how a van like this would provide fantastic opportunities to take the students beyond St. Vincent’s walls and experience new things. The Red Thread was already in the process of providing ATW wheelchairs so that students could become more independent. Having a van like this would enrich the children’s lives even more, allowing them further access into their own community.

We were thrilled to hear the news that RICUCC HTF chose St. Vincent’s for the van! And so the lengthy and complicated process of getting the van from Rhode Island to Port-au-Prince began.

The new van

The Red Thread Promise spearheaded this operation by providing critical logistics coordination between St. Vincent’s and RICUCC HTF. Arrangements were made to have the van accessed by mechanics, repairs made, and new tires installed prior to shipping.

Our team capitalized on the ongoing relationships that we have forged over the years to bring this project to fruition. We contacted Physicians for Peace and Childfund with whom we most recently partnered for an amazing week at Camp Jake. As has been our experience in the past, these two organizations understood the need and quickly stepped in with a generous donation to cover the repairs and parts, towing fees (from RI to NJ where the van would be loaded on a ship), export filing and title validation, shipping and port fees. St. James Episcopal (Eureka, AR) also contributed substantially toward the shipping.

Each of the partners played a critical role to complete this project. None of us could have done it without the others. The Red Thread Promise is thankful for RICUCC HTF for securing the van, choosing St. Vincent’s and buying new tires; we are grateful for the continued partnership and financial support of Physicians for Peace and Childfund; we also appreciate the financial assistance of St. James Episcopal in offsetting the shipping expenses. And finally, we are blessed to help provide additional mobility to the children of St. Vincent’s.

As of this post, the van has already docked in Haiti and the paperwork is being processed. The Red Thread Promise and its partners look forward to seeing the van in person during one of our next trips to Haiti.

CHINA :: Baby XX

Baby XX

In December 2011, another bundle of joy joined us on this earth, a baby girl named XX. A moment that should have brought great wonder, brought a dim future for this little one—she was born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus.

Hydrocephalus is a buildup of fluid inside the skull, leading to brain swelling. The name literally means "water on the brain." This buildup of fluid puts pressure on the brain, pushing the brain up against the skull and damaging or destroying brain tissues. Hydrocephalus may start while the baby is growing in the womb. It is commonly present with myelomeningocele (aka spina bifida), a birth defect involving incomplete closure of the spinal column.*

Thankfully, our partners in China are turning XX's once dim future into a bright one. We learned that she recently received her initial surgery, a great blessing. Her road to recovery is long—it holds numerous post operative medical appointments as well as a follow-up CT scan—but we have great hope for this little one. Thanks to Swallows Nest, she will be in the arms of people who love her and are trained in the care of children with such conditions.

The Red Thread Promise will be supporting Baby XX’s post surgery care until her adoption. It is estimated that she may be in foster care for two or more years due to the severity of her special needs.

Baby XX is still very young so we don’t know what other complications she may have. Please keep XX and her caregivers in your thoughts and prayers and consider helping The Red Thread Promise show this little one how much we care. Donations can be made through PayPal (upper right) or sent via check to the address at the top right.
* Excerpts from the U.S. National Library of Medicine

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Things we love about Camp Jake - Sports

Jean Leonard enjoying some quality air time with a beach ball.

Sports at Camp Jake took on some different forms than those found in a typical American camp, but they were no less fun! Games of soccer, frisbee golf and basketball popped up here and there. Campers learned how to fly kites in the breezes off the ocean. Blind and sighted kids alike played with a 60" inflatable ball that allowed them to really "feel" the game. This huge ball took 1.5 hours to inflate and could literally "bowl you over" if you weren't paying attention when it came your way. Rolling it back and forth in the sand turned into an all-body workout and the participants couldn't have been happier. Those in wheelchairs took turns volleying a smaller inflatable with just as much vigor as those using the oversized counterpart.

The blind students appreciated this very tactile experience.

Danika quickly made friends with the octopus kite!

Lovely honing her jump rope skills at twilight.

Olixus mastering frisbee golf.

Moise, Jeff & Sonya played basketball by moonlight one evening.
Who knows how long we stayed on the court, but we made sure we didn't
leave until Moise had made the basket that he so longed for.
The satisfaction on his face following that one shot made it worth every moment.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Things we love about Camp Jake - Playing games

Samantha making her move.

When the campers thought it was too cold to get in the pool (cleary the Haitian perspective, not the American!), rousing games of Jenga, checkers and cards popped up everywhere. Jenga was a new one for the campers and they took to it right away, squealing with delight whenever someone toppled the tower of blocks.

A fierce game of poolside Jenga.

Solomon strategizing his next move.

JoJo proved to be the reigning champ of checkers, although Sonya did beat him once. (She confided that she thought he "let" her win...) Even the youngest campers took a shot at it!

Jean Leonard setting up the game for the next match.

JoJo decided how to beat Brandon!

Solomon making his move.

Things we love about Camp Jake - Artwork with Diana

What a mess we had the day Diana was slated to participate in the art project. A slightly different approach was used that better fit her abilities - she got to paint with her feet! We slathered her toes with yellow and blue and let her happy feet "dance" their way across the canvas. By the time we finished, she was covered in paint (along with us, the floor, and anything else in a 10 ft perimeter!). But what fun she had and a beautiful piece or artwork produced. She is always a joy to work with, smiling, laughing, and, most recently, sticking out her long pink tongue.

Sienna prepping Diana for her painting gig.

Dancing, happy feet!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Things we love about Camp Jake - Artwork with Kenson and Moise

Icarus (Jazz) by Henri Matisse (1947)

Kenson was one of the older campers. Honestly, he was less than thrilled when asked to participate. However, by the end the afternoon, he was relaxed and proud of his accomplishment. As you can see, he preferred a very Matisse-inspired shade of blue and a much more graphic approach than most. The result is beautiful.

Jabari tracing Kenson.

Moise is quite the artist as well. Both he and Kenson are avid basketball players but their approach to painting couldn't be more different. Rather than hopping out of his wheelchair and painting on the floor, Moise opted to paint at the table in his chair. He chose a style that was a fusion of graphic and realistic, creating something uniquely his own. This young man always has a smile on his face and we a joy to be with all week long.

Moise beginning his painting journey.

Moise's masterpiece.

Things we love about Camp Jake - Artwork with Clairrisian

(left to right) Genie and Clairrisian

Clairrisian is one of 4 scholarship recipients from St. Vincent's who began university in 2011. Her English is great and we predict she is going to make something important of herself. This dynamic young woman dove right into the art project. She worked for several hours, perfecting her self-portrait right down to the very clothes she was sporting that day!

Her meticulous work began with the white top she was wearing.

Gold was the popular color for skin tone amongst this group of creative folks.

Every detail, even down to the lip and eye color was specifically chosen.
She worked and re-worked her eyes until they met her satisfaction.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Things we love about Camp Jake - Artwork with Auguste

Auguste during the outlining process, loving being out of his wheelchair.

Maggie working with Auguste to hold the paintbrush.

Auguste was obviously pleased with the final painting!
Our guess is that this is the first time he has ever painted in his life.

Things we love about Camp Jake - Art projects

Bousico embarking on his artistic adventure.

Art is one of the beautiful things in life that truly transcends language barriers. Our entire group of nearly 45 people embarked on an artful expedition during Camp Jake and the fact that 4 different languages were spoken didn't slow us down one bit. After much reflection, we shared an aha moment and determined that art is its own language, speaking to everyone in some way.

This past week, Kelly led a fantastic art project with all campers. Even those who adamantly opposed to working on it when the idea was presented were "drawn in" by the end of the week (and, yes, every pun intended!).

Picture this: Each camper had a life size piece of canvas on the floor. They laid down on it in any way they chose or were able and one of our team members traced their outline. Then the real fun began! Paints of all colors were set out and the campers were encouraged to paint whatever they wanted. Many chose a realistic approach, matching skin tones and clothing to what they were wearing that day. Some were more abstract, such as Kenson in his "blue period" who opted for a more simple execution. The paintings are as unique as those who created them.

It was a fantastic experience for everyone and we thank Kelly her tireless work with every camper throughout the week. Who knows? Some of these masterpieces may end up in an art gallery some day. Of course, we'll let you know when that happens.

Creativity in motion.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Things we love about Camp Jake - Making cards

There is something about art that brings everyone together.

Campers had the opportunity to make personalized name cards for their backpacks. We broke out some markers and crayons and watched the creativity spill over! Regardless of any perceived limitations, everyone picked up a writing utensil of their choice and got down to business. Whether they wrote with their hand, their mouth or their foot, each camper was able to make something uniquely their own.

Danika's vibrant personality was expressed through color.

Dieumene's creativity was channeled through her feet as she drew delicate pictures of birds.

Blanda's intense concentration was infectious!