Friday, May 31, 2013

JACOB'S FUND: Expansion dreams come true!

Glenna greeting Amazzing, one of the therapy horses

That’s right.You read the title correctly. 
The Red Thread Promise is standing on the threshold of a brand-new relationship with a PATH certified hippotherapy center in southwestern Ohio! While we will continue working with the kids and staff of McKenna Farms, our long-term partners in Georgia, The Red Thread team has longed to provide hippotherapy and therapeutic riding to children in other areas. Now, we are making that dream a reality.

Recently, Glenna (Jacob’s Fund Director) and Sonya (TRTP VP) traveled to Hilltop Equestrian Center in beautiful rural Ohio. Less than an hour’s drive from many of the more populated cities and towns in the area, Hilltop is staffed with AHA certified therapists who are ready to work with our children. During our conversation, we quickly established that both organizations share many common goals and basic principles, agreeing that:
  • Hippotherapy and therapeutic riding opens the door to new worlds for youngsters with disabilities; and
  • A family’s economic circumstance should not prevent a child from receiving therapy. 
It was the start of something beautiful.

One wing of Hilltop's stables

Glenna, Jacob's Fund Director, and the Hilltop staff
Jim Hazelwood, Program and Events Director at Hilltop, and Amy Day, Master of Physical Therapy, guided the tour through the facility as we discussed practical matters such as: 
  • how often hippotherapy is offered
  • how many children receive therapy
  • how many therapy horses are in use
  • how long sessions are and associated costs
  • their therapist qualifications; and  
  • the certifications of the facility.
One of Hilltops littlest riders during hippotherapy
The indoor arena
As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, providing services like this goes far beyond the technical aspects. We were eager to hear what Hilltop does for families as a whole. With a goal of enriching all family members’ lives, a pre-screening consultation is required for entry into any Hilltop program so that staff can get to know not only the child receiving therapy, but the family also. Hilltop also provides numerous programs for other family members including adults, teens and typically developing siblings in addition to therapy services. 

When we left, Hilltop welcomed The Red Thread Promise to visit, observe, take photos and interview staff, children, and families anytime.  

Learning horsemanship

This was music to our ears as we do our best to share the progress of the children we support with you. In an upcoming post, you’ll meet Kyle, the first child Jacob's Fund will be sponsoring at Hilltop. Stay tuned and be prepared to fall in love with this precious little boy!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

JACOB'S FUND: From a Jacob's Fund mom

Cameron and Landon, Jacob's Fund kids
Only a week ago we honored our mothers on Mother’s Day. Since Jacob’s Fund’s work not only affects the children receiving therapy, but also their entire families, we thought you’d like to from a Jacob’s Fund mom.

Cameron and Landon received riderships from Jacob’s Fund earlier this year so they could continue their hippotherapy at McKenna Farms. Here’s what their mother, Melissa, has to say about their progress:

Cameron is not the same boy he was last year. His speech defect was downgraded from severe to mild in all areas!

What a joy it is to be able to have a conversation with my son! I have gotten to know him on a much deeper level since his therapy began. Now he can tell me “I like that” or “I don’t like that.” He no longer screams bloody murder when we brush his teeth or hair or try to put lotion on him. He does these things on his own!

At the beginning of August 2012 he wouldn’t even attempt to play with other children. If you could only see him now! I have to make Cameron leave when he is interacting with other kids. We rejoice over the tiniest victories because each one demonstrates the progress he is making.

Landon has also made great strides. He can communicate basic needs now. His teacher even videotaped him singing with his class the other day. We recently took him back to a developmental pediatrician who prescribed new medication for him. Within a short time he was playing with toys again for the first time in a week. Small victories!

I thank God for lighting my path last year. At a friend’s barb-b-que I met Shelly who told me of McKenna Farms and hippotherapy. I met Jesse, director of the farm, who introduced me to Jacob’s Fund. Through the help of all these angels, we are getting to see our real sons shine through.

Please continue to pray for our family. Every day is a new journey and we take leaps of faith along... but I know God will supply our needs. He has thus far. Thank you so much for the opportunities Jacob’s Fund has given my children, for helping to restore a broken family who is enjoying getting to know their very special sons.

We will continue to keep you updated on the twins’ progress. Your support continues to help make this possible through either one-time or continuing gifts.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

CAMP JAKE - Wish list

Jean enjoying some free time at camp in Jan 2012
People continue to ask how they can support Camp Jake 2013. Here is another opportunity! Below is a list of items that are needed for camp that will be re-used year after year. Items still needed are in red.

70 – pairs swim shoes - DONATED - THANK YOU!
70 – backpacks - DONATED - THANK YOU!
70 – 100% cotton beach towels - DONATED - THANK YOU!

Claurrician working on a masterpiece!
30 – bottles Deco Art Americana 2 oz. acrylic paint -
various colors of your choice
10 – digital cameras
sewing machine needles - DONATED - THANK YOU!
10 – sets Crayola markers - DONATED - THANK YOU!

Older campers always enjoy playing cards
3 – THE GAME OF SET cards
3 – sets pick up sticks
2 – sets of Checkers / boards - DONATED - THANK YOU!
2 - sets wooden blocks - DONATED - THANK YOU!
2 – sets braille dominoes - DONATED - THANK YOU!
3 – playing cards - DONATED - THANK YOU!
3 – UNO cards - DONATED - THANK YOU!
3 – sets dice - DONATED - THANK YOU!
3 – sets jacks - DONATED - THANK YOU!

Moise loves everything and anything that has to do with a ball
3 – durable high quality single jump ropes
3 – durable high quality double-dutch jump ropes
3 – inflatable basket balls - DONATED - THANK YOU!
3 – inflatable soccer balls - DONATED - THANK YOU!
3 – inflatable volley balls - DONATED - THANK YOU!
3 – inflatable red rubber balls - DONATED - THANK YOU!

One of the many jam sessions from Camp Jake July 2012
11 – earbuds (standard peg style jacks)
any type of musical instrument that can be hand-carried

appropriate for dark skin tones - DONATED - THANK YOU!

travel size laundry pods or packages

If you or an organization you know is interested in donating any of the items listed, please email Kathy to specify what you'd like to donate and the quantity. Kathy will supply a shipping address for these items. Please do not ship to our Havertown address. We will be dividing up the supplies among our counselors from across the states who will be hand-carrying everything into Haiti for camp in July. Thank you for your continued support.

CAMP JAKE - Camper gift list

Mackenson receiving his backpack full of supplies from Camp Jake / July 2012

For those who have asked how they can support Camp Jake 2013—a summer camp experience for Haitians with disabilities—here is the perfect opportunity! Below is a list of items that will be gifts to the campers for use at camp and beyond:

70 – athletic exercise shorts - adult & child size - 20 received; 50 needed

70 – pairs ankle socks: adult & child size - DONATED - THANK YOU!
70 – containers of shea / cocoa butter - DONATED - THANK YOU!
70 – stainless steel water bottles - DONATED - THANK YOU!
70 – toothbrushes - DONATED - THANK YOU!
70 – tooth paste - DONATED - THANK YOU!
70 – small toiletry bags - DONATED - THANK YOU!
35 – digital wrist watches
35 – bottles of sunscreen - DONATED - THANK YOU!
30 – deodorant sticks - DONATED - THANK YOU!
30 – compact mirrors 
15 – braille wrist watches - DONATED - THANK YOU!

If you or an organization you know is interested in donating any of the items listed, please email Kathy to specify what you'd like to donate and the quantity. Kathy will supply a shipping address for these items. Please do not ship to our Havertown address. We will be dividing up the supplies among our counselors from across the states who will be hand-carrying everything into Haiti for camp in July. Thank you for your continued support.

CAMP JAKE - Invaluable partnerships

Mary, from Physicians for Peace, feeding Yolen, one of our campers
from St. Vincent's Center for Handicapped Children during the
first session of Camp Jake (Jan 2012). We are hopeful that representatives
from Physicians for Peace will join us again this summer for the 3rd session!
Thank you Physicians for Peace for once again teaming with The Red Thread Promise to bring a meaningful, educational and therapeutic experience to St. Vincent's students through Camp Jake 2013! Your generous donation of time, talents and resources will help the TRTP team bring more medical professionals to camp, additional camper support, and help purchase much needed supplies. We value your partnership!

Monday, May 6, 2013

EDITORIAL: Reconciling my inner turmoil


How much is enough?
What we have? A little more? A lot more?
Can we even define it? 
Do we care?
Should we care?

In my mind, ENOUGH means:
  • Enough fresh water.
  • Enough food.
  • Enough shelter.
  • Enough education.
Just plain enough. Enough of the essentials to sustain life AND to flourish.

Speaking for myself, I can’t even remember not having enough. I’ve always had clean water to quench my thirst, food to fill my belly, a roof over my head and a respectable school. I was even fortunate enough to earn a degree after high school.

Sure, I’ve endured “tough times” like:
  • Being teased at school for my hand-sewn clothing 
  • Boxed mac-n-cheese with SPAM or squirrel pie (honest!) for countless dinners 
  • Drafty windows that made the house—especially my bedroom—very cold
  • Riding the bus to school instead of driving a car
  • Struggling over bills and credit card payments
Looking back, I am still thankful …
  • Thankful for the fabric and buttons that held my clothes together and for the hands that made them (even if not high fashion)
  • Thankful for the simple groceries that filled our pantry and the hands that prepared meals every day (even if not steak and lobster)
  • Thankful to live in a house and for the income that paid the mortgage (even if not a new house)
  • Thankful my education (even if not from an Ivy League college)
For those of you who have traveled to developing countries, my guess is that you can relate to the inner turmoil I feel after every trip there and home again.

I hold a firm belief that the world has enough resources for everyone. What I think is lacking is our distribution of it.

“Enough,” as I see it, is wrapped up in “more” and “I deserve this” and “I earned this.” For many of us, “enough” lacks compassion and forethought to walk in someone else’s shoes.

Oh, sure, “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” is great—in theory. But for those trying to break the cycle of generational poverty, “trying harder” usually isn’t enough to make a change—and perhaps never will be.

So what is our obligation to others? 
To our fellow human beings? 
Do we simply relish in our “we are so blessed” feelings?
Or, dare I say it, do we work together to make a real and lasting difference?

This is one of the reasons that I got involved with The Red Thread Promise: the desire to make a difference. Whether it's fundraising for a Chinese baby's surgery, working hands-on in Haiti at Camp Jake, or volunteering at a hippotherapy farm, I pray everyday that in some tiny way, I can be a part of positive change in the world.

~ Sonya, Vice President, The Red Thread Promise

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Haiti Happenings, Part 8 - HOLY TRINITY & ST. VINCENT'S

Holy Trinity Symphony

Only blocks away from the empty palace grounds are what remain of Holy Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. Our team and others from the Haiti Connection conference toured their large temporary sanctuary and school that take up all of the usable property. Both the music school and classes continue for students. 
Holy Trinity students listening to the symphony

We were fortunate enough to arrive when Les Petite Chanteaurs (Boys Choir) and Holy Trinity Symphony Orchestra were practicing for an upcoming event. What a treat it was to enjoy their music! 

Sadly, a HUGE cathedral bell—one of the only remaining artifacts from the original cathedral—was recently stolen. How the thieves were able to move such a massive bell is unimaginable. The bells have now been walled in with cement to prevent further theft until the cathedral is rebuilt in years to come. 
The bells from Holy Trinity (photo from 2011)
Last, but certainly not least, St. Vincent’s is steadily showing signs of rebirth:
  • St. Vincent’s now has its very own library which is slowly being stocked with books
  • Kathy tested out the new sound-proof audiology booth that is set up in a dedicated space to serve the deaf children
  • The storage room that we cleaned out and organized two years ago has been converted to a music room that will soon be shared with computer lab The Red Thread is helping to establish
  • The water purification system is up and running 

      Claurrician, a student at St. Vincent's operating St. Vincent's new gift shop,
      and John, a friend from West Tennessee Haiti Partnership.
      The shop sell's student's work, including jewelry, artwork and handbags
      Journeyman working in the new brace shop
      The brace shop
      The brace shop shares space with the new clinic
      The building will house an expanded pharmacy and multiple clinic rooms
      As soon as these areas are furnished and stocked, it will be open for business,
      serving St. Vincent's students, staff and the community
      The new facility will house both permanent and visiting medical teams year round
      Looking into a clinic room
      The view from inside the clinic looking out
      And, to our delight, the children are growing up! They are each a year older and happy. New faces abound as well. The school is now running at full capacity for the current space. And yet there are still children waiting to get in the doors of this very special place in the heart of Port-au-Prince.

      Wednesday, May 1, 2013

      Haiti Happenings, part 7 - CHANGE IS GOOD!

      Colorful Haitian public transportation vehicles
      called TapTaps bustling through the city
      Take a quick look at the progress we observed in Port-au-Prince in April 2013. Change may not be at the rate we are accustomed to, but it was wonderful to finally see some notable progress.

      Setting foot on the ground at the Toussaint Louverture Airport was a pleasant surprise:
      • After deplaning, we were guided into an air conditioned (!!!) walkway on the 2nd level that is now complete with well-lit immigration stations, a big step up from the dark, dingy wooden booths of previous trips 
      • The bathroom facilities were modern, a refreshing change from years past when we warned every Red Thread traveler to use the bathroom on the plane BEFORE deplaning (amusingly enough, a red-eyed Sonya walked right into the men’s room!)
      • The baggage area held the most profound changes, now boasting not 1... not 2... but 3 fully-functioning baggage carousels in a clean air conditioned space
      Old immigration stations
      (and irritated-looking immigration officers!)
      Previously, baggage was tossed in a heap on the concrete
      in a dark warehouse area where everyone sifted through the pile
       in sweaty pursuit of their personal belongings
      The new and much improved baggage claim area
      Three carousels! 
      The crisp clean duty free shop

      Outside the airport were other significant changes:
      • There were open spaces that were previously filled with 1,000s of tents and 10s of 1,000s of people and lines of port-a-johns; there wasn’t a tent to be found
      • Fences have been erected to keep people from creating new encampments
      • We saw sculptures and artwork that had previously been hidden behind temporary structures, tent cities and scores of displaced people
      • There were more open shops 
      • Less people asked for handouts on the streets
      • Two recognizable landmarks—the Presidential Palace and Ministry of Finance—have been leveled and cleared, preparing for rebuilding
      Tall cranes and other large equipment dotted the downtown area,
      showing signs of rebuilding efforts
      Life in Port-au-Prince
      Cleaner streets with fewer piles of burning trash
      and fewer animals sifting through the rubbish
      The road to St. Vincent's Center for Handicapped Children

      The once stunning Catholic Cathedral still stands behind tall fences;
      all of the stained glass has been removed and we assume
      they are preparing to demolish what remains of the structure
      (photo reposted from BBC News) 
      We are encouraged by these signs of progress in the city. We are hopeful that the Haitian people will renew themselves as well.