Wednesday, November 20, 2013

CHINA :: A home for DXX!

A new family is born
Great news brings huge smiles to our faces. Today held news like this. 

Remember little DXX from China? She was officially adopted on Monday! Here she is with her forever family (she is in pink). Aren't they beautiful? 

This is EXACTLY why we fund medical care for orphans in China - so they can enjoy improved health for the rest of their lives AND have a better chance of adoption. 

We wish DXX and her family a lifetime of happiness. Thank you all for your support of this precious child.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

HAITI :: Hippotherapy in Port-au-Prince

One of the beauties at Pascado
Imagine the impact we could make 
on more children's lives if Jacob's Fund transformed from a domestic program 
into an international one.

The possibilities give The Red Thread team goosebumps!

Nestled behind one of the thousands of concrete walls in Port-au-Prince, you'll have to look carefully to find Pascado Athletic Club Centre Equestre (Pascado), a large equestrian farm in Cité Militaire. Sonya had the opportunity to visit Pascado during our trip this November and was excited to note the similarities between the Center and our partner farms in the states. 

Pascado showcased some typical Haitian qualities—such as stables made of concrete and gravel "paving"—but the main elements of all three farms were the same: lots of horses, stables and tack, riding arenas and TREES! Yes, those green leafy things so foreign to Port-au-Prince are beautiful green trees, adding to the serenity of the property, a true oasis in the heart of the bustling city.

The main viewing area
Small arena where most therapy begins
Julia, a rider at Pascado and our too-kind tour guide, led us around the property, showing us the different areas, arenas and stables. She also introduced us to one of the two therapists at the farm, Milo, who has been treating people since 1998. Like in the USA, trained therapists work with doctors to better understand the patient's condition and map out a strategic hippotherapy plan to maximize its effectiveness. With the help of eight therapy horses, therapists treats children and adults with various physical and neurological conditions, including deafness, hearing impairment, mutism and autism to name a few. 

Sound familiar?!

We look forward to continued conversations with Pascado to see if hippotherapy might be a good option for children at St. Vincent's and other places. 

The large arena
Hay and feed barn

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Kyle and sister Kaylie
As a charitable organization, The Red Thread Promise works hard to let others know exactly what we do: helping needy children with disabilities in the United States through Jacob’s Fund. We do our best to explain hippotherapy – a new term to many – and how therapy delivered on a horse opens new worlds for children, far beyond the limits of therapy in a clinical setting. We often speak of the bond between the child and the horse.

Today we’d like to focus on our deepest reason for why we do what we do: small victories.  We rejoice in the milestones of physical development that each child reaches; we’re brought to tears when a child speaks for the first time; and we whoop with joy when a wheelchair-bound kid takes steps on his own.

Kyle, a Jacob’s Fund ridership recipient, loves his horse and his hippotherapy sessions. His excitement is palpable when he steps out of the car at Hilltop Equestrian Center and heads straight for the barn. His vocalization has improved, and he’s able to stay on task longer during hippotherapy sessions. These are some of the physical, observable changes. Kyle’s accomplishments come close to the heart of why we do what we do at Jacob’s Fund.  

But outward signs don’t tell the whole story.  

The real story is told inside families, in the everyday events with moms and dads and brothers and sisters whose lives are entwined with these special children, children like Kyle.  

We think these photos says more than any words we could write. They give a tiny glimpse into Kyle’s world with his family and underline why we all work together to bring hope and healing to kids like him.  

Kyle's family
Kyle’s parents shared this photo and message with us:
Occasionally Kaylie asks to sleep with her bubby as she did tonight, and this is how I found them sleeping. So precious! She is at times saddened, of course, with Kyle's disabilities, but I'm so proud of her. She's wise beyond her years and cares for him almost like a mother.
Here, in the heart of a family, we are reminded of a scrap of scripture: that they may have life, and they may have it more abundantly.

Helping children have a more abundant life – yes, that’s what Jacob’s Fund is all about.

HAITI :: Beans, rice & everything nice

Blanda, Bousiquat, Sonya, Danika and a snippet of Sandee!
Coordinating a meal for 77 people is challenging in the states, but even more so in Haiti. Our team met that challenge last week, bringing another nutritious meal for the permanent residents and staff of St. Vincent’s: all 70 of them, plus our 7 person team.

What a feast the talented cooks from our guesthouse prepared! Riz national (Haiti’s national dish of savory beans and rice), crispy chicken, sos ti malice (a delicious tomato and onion sauce), banan peze (fried plantains) and a medley of root vegetables graced the menu. We were ready to break bread with the kids!

The usual bumps in the road slowed the process to a crawl: our driver got caught up in the airport chaos, a new driver and vehicle had to be secured, and the Port-au-Prince traffic was typical – slow and rough! But our desire to introduce this new team of folks to St. Vincent’s kids prevailed and we were soon knocking on the gate.

What fun it was to be mobbed by dozens of beautiful smiling faces. Like much anticipated family members after a long absence, hugs abounded for Sonya and Hana as they introduced the new group to St. Vincent’s. The food was brought in and everyone assembled in one of the classrooms. Our team was both humbled and honored to serve the meal. 

As the food supply diminished, the concern on our faces grew. Would there be enough for everyone? A quick head count determined that there were at least 10 more people than expected. When every morsel was served, we found that we had just enough—every child and staff member had eaten—but not a scrap remained for our team. We had skipped lunch in anticipation of the feast with the children, but instead, were left with growling stomachs.

So we went without. 

We pushed our hunger and disappointment aside and enjoyed every minute with the kids, getting to know them, sharing stories, painting nails, playing games, doing artwork, and taking 100s of photos!

Camera? Did you say camera?

Silmithe, Rose, Dieumene, Samantha

Going home hungry

As dusk quickly set in, our driver anxiously asked us to wrap up so we could return to the guesthouse before dark as it is not always safe going through the city at night. 

It was a humbling experience, going back to the guesthouse with growling stomachs, parched lips and growing headaches. We felt for a short time what many Haitians feel on a regular basis – gnawing hunger and exhaustion. We passed countless soaking wet street vendors selling mangos, avacados and other food as well as small bodegas on every corner. We even passed two substantial grocery stores and multiple glitzy restaurants that cater to the Haitian and NGO elite. 

But we didn't stop. 

We imagined what it was like knowing that food was right in front of us yet there was insufficient money to purchase it and quench the rumblings in our stomachs. We lived it, even if only for a short time.

The driving rain and dark streets made the drive worse than expected. Waves of muddy water pushed trash swiftly down the steep streets. People walking on top of garbage heaps to stay out of the rushing water. Women wore plastic bags on their heads to keep their hair dry. Compact fluorescent flashlights replaced many of the oil lamps traditionally used in the evening.

Drenched people stared in at us, sitting comfortably in our van with ample space, covered from the rain, on our way to a safe, dry environment where food would be waiting the next morning. Through the open window, someone tried to grab a team member’s phone right out of his hand, a brush with the crime we hear about on the news. 

Understanding, empathy and compassion

That evening the group talked about our hunger pains, the people on the street in the rain, and the man trying to steal the phone. These circumstances brought us greater understanding, empathy and compassion for those who live this life daily. 
We went to bed asking ourselves 
“what would we do if we lived in their shoes?” 

Monday, November 11, 2013

HAITI :: A glimmer of hope

The ophthalmologist's office
When The Red Thread team sees the faintest glimmer of hope to improve the life of a child with a disability, we JUMP! Each child is treated as if they are our own. And, like any loving parent, we explore every option imaginable, even if it means coming to Haiti to accompany two blind boys to the ophthalmologist. So that’s just what we did.

The four-hour doctor visit

This past Thursday, Sonya took two St. Vincent’s students—Frenel and Geraldo—to see Dr. Reginald Taverne, one of the most highly regarded ophthalmologists in Haiti. In true Haitian style, the waiting room was hot and already brimming with patients. Thankfully, we were ushered into Dr. Taverne’s office right on time. As we completed paperwork and waited for the boy’s extensive eye tests to begin, we passed the time with stories, jokes, Kreyol lessons and drawings. 

Genie, Geraldo, and Frenel
Geraldo is quite a character! A sweet young man of 17 years, he is very passionate about life and optimistic about his future. He is also incredibly funny, joking around non-stop, eliciting giggles from everyone. At one point, he shared that at the age of 29 he was going to get married and begin to “multiply” the earth with many, many children. Great laughter ensued at the prospect, especially when it was established that he didn’t yet have a girlfriend!

During our wait, Frenel put out his hand toward the sound of Sonya’s voice. She touched his hand and he pulled hers into his soft grasp. His nimble fingers explored every nook and cranny of her fingers, hand and arm until his hand landed firmly in hers. It was almost as if he, this boy of 12, was reassuring her that all would be fine.

Which news do you want first?

The testing process was fascinating! Through these procedures, Dr. Taverne was able to see the tiniest details of each boy’s eyes to determine if either would be eligible for further treatment to restore any bit of sight.

Geraldo's test
Geraldo's eyes
Geraldo, having been blinded within the past two years due to head trauma, sustained detaching of both retinas. Dr. Taverne was able to drain the blood from the front of the eyes to more clearly view the retinas and assess the damage. The amazingly detailed photos showed the scar tissue and irreparable folding of the retina. The conclusion: there is nothing more that can be done. Not the news we had hoped to hear.


However, the news with Frenel was quite different. An illness at the tender age of three took away the majority of his sight, leaving him only the ability to distinguish color and light sources. After a sonogram on his eye, Dr. Taverne offered a glimmer of hope for this child. While his left eye is completely lost from the sickness he sustained, his right eye may be operable. 

Dr. Taverne explained two very different procedures that might be an option for Frenel, following the results of one additional test that will be performed at a later date. Both surgeries present serious risk factors that need to be considered before any course of action is decided upon, discussions that will involve the surgeon, Frenel’s mother, St. Vincent’s, and The Red Thread.

A smile and a handshake

At the conclusion of the appointment, Sonya had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Taverne about The Red Thread’s care for these boys. She explained that we treat each child as though they are our own flesh and blood, doing everything we can to improve their health and wellbeing. She clarified that we would seek specialists in Haiti to perform any recommended procedures, and, only when all in-country options have been exhausted, would we put a child through the potential trauma international travel for treatment. 

With this reassurance, he smiled broadly, and shook Sonya’s hand. It was the start of another new relationship.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

HAITI :: Making connections

In the Duplan church
How is it possible to be so moved by a nearly 3 hour church service in a language you don't understand? This is the question that we've been mulling over the past day since our visit to the Duplan Methodist Church, Haiti. 

Picture this: the church sits near the top of a steep mountain, surrounded by a clinic and pharmacy, an elementary and secondary school, parsonage and neighborhood of houses tucked away among the brush and trees. Beautiful tile and gates lead into the sanctuary. Humble wooden pews are lined up to the left and right. Brightly colored balloons greet the community both at the doors and the front of the sanctuary. A balcony spans the front of the church and holds a piano, keyboard, drum set, and enough space for a 60 person choir!
The Duplan church
The clinic and pharmacy
The school
Sixty beautiful, energetic voices make up the Duplan Children's Choir. And our team was there to enjoy their 1-year anniversary. Their voices pieced the warm air, blending with the swaying bodies, electric guitar riffs and keyboard melodies. What a blessing to be a part of the community's celebration! 

So, how do we connect with people we've never met (and don't even share a language)? 
  • We smile or wink at a child.
  • We shake hands with an adult while looking them straight in the eye.
  • We hug and plant kisses on complete stranger's cheeks.
Hana and her new buddies
For Hana, it meant playing hand games with children across the backs of pews. Almost silently, she connected with child after child, eliciting tiny giggles and happy smiles by being present with them and playing silly games.

Making friends in Duplan
For Sonya, it meant inviting a small girl from a crowded children's pew to sit next to her in a much emptier pew. The child shyly slid into the seat between two "blancs" and held her tiny purse tightly. Every few minutes she would shuffle through the contents until finally she found what she wanted: a purple lollipop. When she couldn't open it, Sonya gently took it, peeled off the paper (which had melted to the candy) and handed it back to the child. An almost instant bond was formed! The child snuggled up to Sonya and enjoyed the candy through the service. Periodically, she got up and found her mother a few pews behind, but always came back. Following communion, she even grabbed Sonya's hand and led her back to her seat where they could sit together.
No grand gestures. 
No hand-outs. 
No material gifts. 
No "things". 

These are the ways we connect. These are the ways we begin to build relationships. This is what The Red Thread Promise is all about. 

Child reading the tiniest Bible we've ever seen!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

HAITI :: A home run for partnerships!

The Red Thread team is humbled to see that one of our programs—Camp Jake—was featured on the FRONT cover of Physicians For Peace's 2013 third quarter report! To see little Oxilus' 
smiling face as he learned how to play baseball warms our hearts, remembering the good times we shared at Camp Jake. It makes us look forward to seeing him again this Wednesday. (pics to come!)

We are most thankful for our partnership with Physicians For Peace and look forward to working with the wonderful contacts we've made there for years to come. Here's an excerpt from the report:
"The life changing camp (a program of The Red Thread Promise) was made possible by the investments of individual donors, Physicians for Peace and a generous grant from the Major League Baseball Players Trust."
Read the full story on page 6-7 in Physicians For Peace's report.  

HAITI :: Trash or Treasure

The piece of paper that started it all 
Where one sees trash, 
another sees treasure.

Today, a small piece of discarded paper laid the foundation for a budding relationship between our team and the Haitian people.

Our day began with seven of us gathered in bone-chilling Ohio and ended in the tropics, quite a contrast from morning until evening! As it was a holiday in Haiti, the often chaotic roar of Port-au-Prince streets was a mere growl. Our commute from the airport to Petionville was short and in no time we were knocking on the Methodist guesthouse gates.

After dropping our bags in the dormitory, the Fabulous Five (all of our girls) went off to explore the grounds – all 11 acres! During our unguided tour past the guesthouse, new living quarters and dormitories, multi-purpose sports field, pastor’s residences and offices, we discovered a single teenage boy jumping across a large hopscotch board painted on the concrete in one of the school’s many courtyards.

There, in the nearly deserted area between two school buildings, the magic happened. Our girls began hopping across the board with him. A friendly competition ensued, bringing laughter and camaraderie that crossed our language barrier. 

Hana, MK and Kenzie giving it a shot
Our first competitor!
MK, Kenzie and Hana inviting others to play!
As we took turns playing, more and more kids showed up. Players ranged from 4ish to 20-somethings. In the midst of a game, one of the younger boys walked away and began searching for an unknown object. Interestingly enough, he passed by hundreds of small pieces of concrete and opted for this particular bit of trash to be our hopscotch rock! 

Back and forth, the kids played, American beside Haitian. Few words were exchanged other than exclamations of BRAVO! and many laughs. It was the ice-breaker we all needed for this team of mostly newbies to begin feeling comfortable in this foreign land.

Hana demonstrating her hops with Maggie and Kenzie looking on

Saturday, November 2, 2013

HAITI :: Serving Needy and Orphaned Children

The Red Thread Promise is a non-profit organization whose vision parallels that of women everywhere: to unite women by bringing peace and healing to the world. For The Red Thread, this means serving needy and orphaned children in Haiti, Uganda, China and the U.S. Our programs improve the quality of life for disabled children and battered girls by providing medical care, nutrition, mobility, and education so they can live independently with dignity and improved health. Through this critical work, we strive to cultivate passionate followers who advocate for the rights of disadvantaged children around the world.

It is this shared vision that compels us to reach out to the women of your community for help. While we can do much as individuals, we can accomplish so much more as partners. The Red Thread team asks for both your prayers and financial support as we strive to expand our programs and serve more children—children like Christina in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

An otherwise completely healthy infant, Christina was born with a birth defect that caused clubbing in both of her feet. Following multiple unsuccessful surgeries and castings to correct her condition, she was no closer to walking than she was the day she was born.

But we are here to offer her hope! Through our partnership with a clubfoot specialist from Memphis and surgeon from Port-au-Prince, we celebrate the completion of Christina's first successful surgery on her right foot in August 2013. The surgical team performed a tendon release, bone and soft tissue correction, and finally a foot rotation, all at a cost of only $1800. Christina's second surgery is scheduled for spring of 2014 and her prognosis is excellent!

Our goals are two-fold: first, for her be able to put both feet flat on the ground, something her condition has never allowed her to do; and second, for her to be able to walk independently, leaving her wheelchair behind.

Being wheelchair-bound is a huge obstacle for Christina. Only 12 out of 1,000 Haitians own a car and the phrase “wheelchair accessible” is a virtually unknown in the country. Rough, unpaved streets as well as lack of sidewalks and smooth surfaces make wheelchair use nearly impossible. These conditions often isolate the individual from their community and prevent them from gainful employment and independence, thus deepening the existing social stigma against handicapped people.

Christina is a bright, energetic girl who can and will lead a relatively normal life when both feet are corrected. We invite your group to be a part of this life-transforming process, helping kids like Christina, kids whose biggest obstacle in life was being born into poverty where adequate medical care isn't an option as their families struggle to put food on the table.

There are many more success stories like Christina’s shared on our Facebook, website and blog. Our team is available via phone or email to answer any questions you may have about how we serve impoverished children with disabilities. We invite you to join us in making a difference in these children’s lives. Financial support can be sent via our website, PayPal or check. Thank you for caring.

UGANDA :: Welcoming Jackie into the Shelter

Update from Missy, Women’s Advocacy Coordinator and Director, Refuge and Hope International - Uganda

Recently, we welcomed Jackie into the shelter. Jackie is a fifteen-year-old girl from the Democratic Republic of Congo. At the age of seven, she woke up one evening to find her father murdered and her mother and siblings missing. Rebel soldiers had ransacked their home and she was the only person remaining. Margaret, A neighbor who was fleeing to Uganda invited Jackie to come with her and her family. Unfortunately, Jackie was not treated as a child in the home, but immediately forced to work inside of the home. While the woman’s other children attended school, Jackie was forced to work from morning to night- cooking and cleaning for the woman and her family. Meanwhile, she deeply missed her family and dreamed of being in school, like other children her age.

When Jackie turned 14, the family moved next to a bar. Within the first few weeks of the family’s move, Margaret pressured Jackie to prostitute herself at the bar in order to earn her keep within their home. Jackie refused. She was beaten, forced to sleep outside and food was withheld. Over the next few months, Margaret continued to do these things in order to pressure Jackie. She refused.
One morning, Jackie woke up to find that she was alone in the house. Margaret and her family abandoned her. Within a few hours the landlord came to collect rent and immediately threw Jackie out of the house. At the age of 15, she was homeless and without a place to go. In Kampala, the trafficking and exploitation of young refugee girls like Jackie is all too common.
Tonight, however, Jackie is sleeping soundly in a safe and loving environment. She is getting the counseling, education, vocational training and housing that she needs. Additionally, thanks to Red Thread's partnership with Refuge and Hope Int’l, Jackie is able to access desperately needed medical care which she has not been able to access since leaving her country in 2006. This medical care is a pivotal part of her healing and empowerment. 
Thank you, Red Thread Promise for your partnership in assisting girls like Jackie within our community who have experienced violence and exploitation. Your support is making a BIG difference in their lives!