Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Our motley crew

A little who’s who at Camp Jake.

Prior to meeting up in the Miami airport on Monday, many of our 10 counselors had never seen one another in person. Teleconferencing during the planning process was the closest they had ever come to a handshake. By the end of the week, we predict it will be bear hugs and tears for everyone!

The team represents all parts of the US with greatly varied backgrounds, but one common thread: a soft spot for handicapped children and willingness to do hand-on work.

So who are the people making this camp happen this week? We’d like you to make their acquaintance.

JABARI is a 26-year-old self-proclaimed global citizen originally from New Orleans and a motivational speaker by trade. With a personal mission to uplift and inspire lives across the globe, his experience includes working in Japan for 2 years teaching English as a participant in the JET Programme. A proud Alumni of Howard University, Jabari exudes energy and friendliness, always sporting a huge smile! He dreams of owning and hosting his own internationally-syndicated talk show, as well as traveling the world, the later of which he is well on his way to achieving: Haiti is the 15th country he has visited. He recently launched his “Jabari Inspires” website,, where he empowers others to step beyond their comfort zone to achieve their dreams.

MATT is a native Californian. He is 23 years old and a student in the Tropical Medicine Department and Peace Corps Master’s International program at Tulane’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. Most recently Matt has returned from Botswana after working in a vaccine development lab at the University of Botswana. He has also worked extensively at Bwindi Community Hospital in Uganda. To top it off, at the end of 2012 he will begin 27 months of service with the United States Peace Corps. He has a passion for medical care, hoping one day to work as a rural physician, and is glad to be a part of this diverse team.

KELLY is an art therapist and artist from Norfolk, Virginia. She came to The Red Thread through her affiliation with Physicians for Peace (PFP). Kelly is connected to disabilities in multiple ways. She is a below knee amputee herself, having generously donated both a foot and a leg prosthesis to people in Haiti shortly after the earthquake. Another connection is her 3-year-old nephew who was born with Hypoplastic Left Valve Syndrome. He was an active toddler until his 7th surgery that led to blindness and severe brain damage. She craves traveling and has spent time in over ten countries. Kelly is passionate about helping traumatized people through art therapy and has worked across the globe, including working with PFP in the Philippines and volunteering with Cooperative for Education in Guatemala. Kelly is excited about spearheading an art project with St. Vincent’s children this week that we hope turns into a dynamic fundraiser for future sessions of Camp Jake.

TIFFANY is a student at Tulane’s School of Public Health focusing on International Policy and Development and is Tom’s right-hand woman. Originally from Oklahoma, she feels called to open a culturally appropriate clinic in Haiti, focusing on HIV/AIDS and TB. She has been searching for an opportunity to serve in Haiti for several years and has found a perfect match with the Red Thread Promise’s Camp Jake. She was drawn to Haiti after studying medical anthropology and Caribbean cultures during post baccalaureate studies. The need in Haiti was so overwhelming that she felt compelled to do something. After researching Dr. Paul Farmer’s clinics, she knew she had to follow in his footsteps in her own way. We are pleased to offer her the opportunity to work with children in Haiti, taking her leaps and bounds closer to fulfilling her calling. At this time, she is considering taking the role of Assistant Camp Jake Director for the June 2012 session.

MAGGIE is a 32-year-old metal buyer from Tulsa. She is an avid volunteer in the United States. She grew up with Tiffany in Oklahoma and was heart broken by the Haitian earthquake in 2010. Maggie feels blessed to come to Haiti and give her time to the amazing children at this camp. Her sweet spirit is balanced by her “get ‘r done” attitude, a true asset to our group.

PETERA is an altruistic spirit originally from New Orleans. Since middle school, she has work tirelessly for marginalized populations in the US and abroad. Currently a student at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, she is pursuing a Masters of Public Health with a concentration in Community Health and Health Education. Petera has worked with Planned Parenthood, LSU Disease Management, volunteered with N.O. AIDS Task Force and traveled abroad to study the health care system of Taiwan and the country’s approach to managing communicable diseases. Beyond graduation, Petera plans to fulfill her innate calling of service to the global community. Volunteering with The Red Thread Promise has offered her the opportunity to develop skills that highlight her passion for community development, strengthening cultural competence, and health education.

BRANDON, a 25-year-old, from Texas is also an avid volunteer. He is a graduate from St. John’s University and currently attends Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. He is a second year Masters in Public Health candidate with a focus in Environmental Health: Health Policy, and has recently been accepted into the Masters in Health Administration program at Tulane University. He is Cowen Scholar for Tulane University working with O. Perry Walker in New Orleans to develop and enrich the Advanced Placement and college guidance process. Since high school, Brandon has been involved in work for disenfranchised populations; from the HOPE survey in New York City to the AVID program in his hometown of Austin. He has contributed his time to the enrichment of those in need and hopes that the impact goes further than just the time he spends volunteering.

SIENNA is a freshman at Tulane University, studying to become a doctor. She has been traveling to Haiti with a team of medical professionals from her native Tennessee (led by her mother who is also a doctor) since she was 16 years old. This being her 6th trip, she is very familiar with Haitian culture and knows the St. Vincent’s students intimately. Her grasp of the Kreyol language is a huge asset to our team as well as her gentle spirit that the children respond to so well. Sienna hopes to improve her language skills and connect with the students throughout the duration of Camp Jake.

SONYA is a 40-something mother of two who is proud to say that this is also her 6th trip to Haiti. She is the current Vice President of The Red Thread Promise and is responsible for all communications from the organization to all constituents. Her responsibilities are split this week; she will serve as part time counselor, part time photographer, part time social media guru and watchdog of the funds. Sonya adores the children at St. Vincent’s and jokes about moving to Haiti then visiting her family in Ohio on occasion!

TOM, our fearless leader, is the director of Camp Jake as well as the camp’s founder. The inspiration for Camp Jake came from his nephew, Jake, who has a rare form of muscular dystrophy. Uncle and nephew attended a muscular dystrophy camp together and Jake shared that his dream was that ALL handicapped kids could go to a camp like this for a week, regardless of their ability or socio-economic status. With Tom’s vision and guidance, The Red Thread has turned Jake’s dream into reality. And that’s why we are here this week.

In short, we have a dynamic, diverse team ready and eager to embrace the children. We’d like to suggest that ALL of the counselors—Jabari, Matt, Kelly, Maggie, Tiffany, Petera, Brandon, Sienna, Sonya and Tom—are global citizens and we are proud to work with each and every one.

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