Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Haiti Happenings, Part 6 - RE-VISIONING ST. VINCENT'S

Another highlight of our trip was delivering a goody box to Fr. Sadoni. But not your typical goody box – no chocolates or school supplies or hearing aids. Instead, the box was full of materials donning St. Vincent’s crisp new logo. 

Following the earthquake, we suggested that St. Vincent’s develop a new visual identity; a fresh look for a new era in the life of St. Vincent’s Center for Handicapped Children. In a time of re-visioning and rebuilding, it seemed like the perfect time to make a change. 

Sonya, TRTP Vice President and graphic designer by trade, worked directly with Fr. Sadoni and the Episcopal Bishop to develop this new visual identity. The job posed several challenges:
  • To create a design that incorporates the institution’s Episcopal heritage
  • To ensure that the logo works in both French and English 
  • To select a color palette that complements St. Vincent’s signature blue buildings
In a bulging suitcase were boxes full of letterhead, business cards, envelopes, stamps and magnetic car signs, a different assortment of supplies than we are accustomed to providing our partners!
Receiving letterhead, business cards and envelopes
Car magnets donning the new logo

Best of all, thanks to donors in the design industry, we were able to give all printed materials to St. Vincent’s at no cost! THANK YOU to the photographers, designers, printers, public relations folks, and writers who supported this project. Every little bit helps.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Haiti Happenings, Part 5 - THE HAITI CONNECTION!

Haitian Minister of Foreign Affairs (left)
As much as we love working with the kids at St. Vincent’s, the primary purpose for our recent trip to Haiti was to participate in the Haiti Connection, a conference hosted by the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti for all partners involved in the organization's many programs. The Haitian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pierre-Richard Casimir, and The Rt. Revd Jean Zaché Duracin were among the esteemed speakers at the 3-day event focusing on the topic of building partnerships. 

Presenters for the St. Vincent's partnership 
Of course, our interest lies in St. Vincent’s Center for Handicapped Children. Six teams attended the conference to show their support of the rebuild of St. Vincent’s and share the work each is doing at the Center. We are humbled to be working with such wonderful organizations on behalf of the children:
  • Children’s Medical Mission Board
  • Children’s Medical Mission for Haiti
  • Friends of St. Vincent’s
  • Team Canada Healing Hands
  • West Tennessee Haiti Partnership
Sonya, TRTP Vice President
We were honored to be one of the guest speakers at the conference, talking about our partnership with St. Vincent’s and our relationship with other St. Vincent’s support groups. TRTP Vice President, Sonya Yencer, spoke on our behalf, sharing our recent and current work:
  • delivering a handicapped bus that seats 16 wheelchairs
  • providing 100 all terrain wheelchairs 
  • establishing a computer lab (estimated completion in 2013) 
  • hosting 3 Camp Jake summer programs for children with disabilities
Sonya stressed the importance of building long-term relationships, not only with St. Vincent’s (our direct partner), but also with other supporters of St. Vincent’s. It has been The Red Thread’s experience that we are stronger and more efficient when we work together with other non-profits, capitalizing on the strengths of each organization. When we work for the benefit of the whole—not our individual egos—we are able to accomplish much more than ever anticipated.

We made many wonderful contacts at the convention and are excited to see the progress made as St. Vincent is re-imagined and rebuilt. We are proud to be a part of the team and so glad for your ongoing support.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Haiti Happenings, Part 4 - HEARS for YEARS!

Sonya visiting with the kids
It was such a joy to visit St. Vincent’s last week. As soon as the kids saw us on campus, we savored hug after hug, kiss after kiss, and greetings in sign, Kreyol, English and French. After more than 2 years of work at St. Vincent’s, we can’t begin to express how wonderful it is that we now know these children so well that all of our faces light up when we see one another. We wouldn’t exchange those moments for the world! 
Danika and Sandee, 2 deaf students
Students donned new (to us) school uniforms, the latest trend in hair braids and proudly showed off their new digital hearing aids! Thanks to our partnership with Team Canada Healing Hands, many more students are reaping the benefits of better hearing. 
Little gifts of love
To date, The Red Thread Promise has purchased $21,000 worth of brand new digital hearing aids for hearing impaired students at St. Vincent’s. Team Canada purchases the aids at a deep discount and brings teams of audiologists to test the children in Haiti. Much like eye tests for prescription glasses, these specialized tests—performed in a sound-proof booth—help audiologists determine the exact type of hearing loss (i.e. high pitch vs. low pitch) for each individual child.
Kathy preparing for hearing testing in the sound-proof booth
Team Canada's Krystelle performing the testing
Learning about the inner ear
Following testing, if it has been determined that hearing aids will help the child, molds are made of their ear(s) for a custom fit. St. Vincent’s staff is working directly with the audiologists to learn the process of mold making, practicing every step of the way under the tutelage of Team Canada’s professionals. After the molds have set, the hearing aids are programmed specifically for each child’s individual hearing loss. The aids wrap around the ear and are fed through the mold directly into the ear. 
St. Vincent's staff taking a mold of a student's ear 
In the past, the children have received analog aids, which act simply as a volume amplifier, increasing all sounds like a remote control on a TV. Digital hearing aids will better serve the children’s individual needs. Each is customized to amplify only what needs to be amplified, maximizing the benefit of the hearing aid for each child. And, if treated with care, they should last 5 or more years!
Following hearing testing and fitting, ready to go back to class
Our goal is to ensure that EVERY hearing impaired student at St. Vincent’s receives aids as necessary. With new students coming through their gates on a regular basis, the need continues. Your support helps us realize this dream and for this we thank you! 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Haiti Happenings, Part 3 - SNACK ATTACK CHALLENGE!

Living in a developed (first world) country, few of us know daily, gut-wrenching hunger. How many times have we heard "I'm starving!" and known that it was just a dramatic expression with a shallow meaning? Rarely are we confronted with bare cupboards and completely empty refrigerators. We have experienced discomfort and growling stomachs but not a gnawing pain that doesn't recede. In the year 2013, it is foreign to us that our own children may some day be truly hungry. 

During last week's trip to Haiti, Fr. Sadoni shared a heart-wrenching story about a conversation he had in recent months with his mother. You see, his mother is one of the cooks at St. Vincent’s. She and a handful of other dedicated women are responsible for making mountains out of molehills, stretching the food budget as far as it can go to feed all 250 students, teaching staff and administrators at the school. (This has been especially challenging since September, 2012 when St. Vincent’s food donor ended all distributions in Haiti.)

In recent months, his mother came to him asking for money to prepare meals for the children. With tears in his eyes, Fr. Sadoni told her there simply was none. Two hundred and fifty young mouths to feed and his answer was none. It breaks our hearts to see our friends hurting. Those could be our children and, as in all our work, we treat them as such.

Thankfully, the food situation has improved. Students are currently receiving beans & rice twice a day. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays they receive a third portion. 

Food for residential students

The Red Thread Promise has committed to supplement this meal plan by providing weekly snacks to all children, teachers and administrators through the end of the school year. Snacks will be nutritious as possible and we will support the local economy by purchasing everything in Haiti. 

The weekly cost of snacks is $250 ($0.83 per person), less than one cup of coffee or an order of value-size French fries. We’re challenging you, our supporters, to provide a snack attack for these precious kids. This one small gift is the equivalent of a hug or an “I love you” they will feel on a weekly basis.

The total cost of the project is $2500, covering the last 10 weeks of the school year. Please prayerfully consider joining us in this most basic request. PayPal is always an option as is sending a check via mail. Visit our website for giving options and details.

Fresh bananas will be one of the fruits served as snacks
Thank you for helping to keep the students of St. Vincent’s nourished so they can learn and the staff nourished so they can continue to teach and run the school in the most productive manner possible.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Haiti Happenings, Part 2 - WATER!

What's new at St. Vincent's?

St. Vincent's new water purification system is up and running. It uses existing well water from St. Vincent's property. The 
water is pumped up from the ground and goes through the system, which cleans and purifies it. This new system provides clean water for St. Vincent's students 24 / 7. Extra water is sold to the community to help keep the purification system sustainable.

The purification system
One of the roof-top water collection barrels

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Haiti Happenings, Part 1 - BRACES!

What's new at St. Vincent's?


Sixty or more Haiti Connection participants were able to tour St. Vincent's school, clinic and  brace shop today. Our team popped in to the brace shop to take a quick look before going to St. Vincent's to work with the kids. It was wonderful to see the brace shop up and running in the new space: large rooms, durable shiny tile floors, fresh paint, ample storage, adequate plumbing. The talented workers at the brace shop fashion custom braces and prosthesis for St. Vincent's students as well as referrals from local hospitals. 

Expanded & remodeled facilities
Interesting architecture
Fresh paint
Father Sadoni giving a tour of the facility
Visitors to the brace shop

Journeymen brace shop workers practicing their trade;
one is deaf and one physically-handicapped
New equipment

The old space waiting to be cleared
The retired bus