Monday, October 27, 2014

HAITI :: Dreaming BIG for LITTLE Wes

Meet 18-month-old Westhalineda
Connections… a vital word in the 11 year history of The Red Thread Promise (TRTP); the same word that will carry us forward into 2015. Our name fulfills a Chinese proverb, one that speaks of a silken red thread of destiny connecting every person who will be part of our lives from birth. We have evidence that the red thread does more than just connect us; it brings us close when the time is right, binding us together, evoking a responsibility to the health and well-being of others to which we respond together. This is again one of those times where we need your help to meet the needs of one child - one precious soul in Haiti.

Through a web of networking among friends and strangers too complex to explain in a few words, we find ourselves looking into the eyes of a spunky Haitian toddler named Westhalineda. Stephanie, from CPR-3 (Coatsville, PA, another amazing group working in Haiti), knocked on TRTP’s doors asking for help for little Wes. Of course, we opened the door and said yes.

Stephanie recalls seeing Wes—our nickname for her—for the first time, lying in a washbasin at the tender age of 3 months. Wes and her young mother, Nadine, were to be Stephanie’s new neighbors in Bercy, Haiti. Over time, an unbreakable bond between Nadine, Wes and Stephanie developed and Stephanie has the privilege of witnessing this young mother’s transformation from hardened unwed teenager to loving doting mother.

Wes and mother, Nadine
Wes is just eighteen months old, has a smile that goes as high as can be on her little cheeks, whose face lights up with laughter when you interact with her. That charming smile belies the fact that she suffers in silence from club foot as well as the developmental delays it is causing according to our partner and club foot specialist, Dr. Bheki Khumalo of West Tennessee Haiti Partnership (Memphis, TN).

Dr. Bheki Khumalo, club foot specialist, conducting an examination of Wes
Born to a teenage mom in rural Haiti outside of Port-au-Prince, Wes appeared doomed to a life of hardship and perhaps little love. Her mother, Nadine—alone in the world since her mother died during childbirth and her father’s subsequent abandonment—was chided by her community for not being able to provide for her daughter. Early on, Stephanie recalls Nadine joking about throwing her daughter away. Life had hardened the young mom, leaving her with a flippant, defensive attitude.

Soon, with Stephanie’s mentoring and persistent modeling of unconditional love, the barriers between mother and daughter broke down. Now, Nadine is her daughter’s fierce protector, head-over-heels in love with her child. This radical transformation over the past year and a half has clearly softened her heart. It is Nadine’s persistence in seeking care for her baby girl that led her to CPR-3 for help; CPR-3 to TRTP to utilize our experience treating children with disabilities; TRTP to Dr. Bheki for diagnosis and a sound treatment plan; and finally TRTP to you to provide financial support for Wes’s surgery and care.

Growing up in Haiti’s animistic culture—meaning that the physical and spiritual world are believed to be interacting—Wes will likely face challenges that others will not. Culturally, a disability is often regarded as punishment or a mark from the spiritual world. This wide-spread belief leads to misunderstanding, isolation, neglect and even abuse of people with disabilities. By treating Wes’s condition, we will not only change her physical life, giving her the opportunity to walk normally, but also give her a solid place in her own society, free of stigma.  

Hugs from Aunt Christella after the consultation
After an initial assessment, Dr. Bheki has determined that surgery (coalition resection and stabilization of the feet) is the best course of action. The prognosis for Wes is good due to her age and the amount of cartilage he has to work with during the procedures. We are greatly thankful for CPR-3 staff, Amanda and Jordan, for taking the responsibility to get Wes to her first of many appointments with Dr. Bheki and for being our eyes and ears on the ground in Haiti.

But changing Wes’s future comes with a price tag. While Dr. Bheki (who has been working extensively in Haiti as a volunteer surgeon over the past 10 years) is donating all of his time and expertise to perform her surgeries and follow-up care, there are still costs that need to be addressed before she is able to have the procedures. Dr. Bheki has done his best to negotiate the lowest price possible for the things we can not get donated in Haiti, including pre-surgical lab work the week prior to surgery, rental of a sterile surgical suite from a reputable hospital, anesthesiologist and anesthesia for the surgery, as well as Wes's follow-up care (medication, bandages, etc). The estimated cost for each foot to be corrected is $2,000, for a total of $4,000. Wes is slated for her first surgery in January 2015. 

The time is now to show Wes that we really do care. Donations in her name can be made to The Red Thread Promise via PayPal, credit card or check (address in upper right). Please write "Wes" in the subject line when possible. If there is no subject line, please email Kathy and let us know how you want your donation specified. With your support, we can change the course of this little girl’s life.

As we dream and pray about Wes’ future, our sense of responsibility grows; our lives and stories become intertwined. With a loving mother, CPR-3 just down the street where American neighbors are willing to advocate for her, and Dr. Bheki working with The Red Thread Promise to provide the surgeries needed to give her a disability-free life, we see a much brighter future for Wes. 

YOU can be an active part of her life. Please give now.

Such a sweet little girl

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

CHINA :: Surprise, surprise, surprise!


Surprises are so much fun! 

Little did we know that the silken red thread of destiny would surprise our team by re-connecting us with a beautiful little girl that we had supported during her foster care in China. Little DXX—who isn't so little anymore—is now settled in with a loving family in the United States who affectionately calls her Charlet

What's more? Charlet is sister to Laila, the little one that we recently helped get a micro-wheelchair. Coincidence? We think not! It's just that red thread doing it's business in our lives.

Here's an update on Charlet from her mom, Joslynn. We couldn't be happier that she is with this amazing family and growing up quickly.

Charlet (left) and Laila with their braces
Since bringing her home in December of 2013, we have watched Charlet blossom into a happy-go-lucky, spunky little girl. Charlet has been through many “base-line” tests to mark her medical status and the doctors have been amazed at her health and mobility as a child who suffers from spina bifida. When we tell the doctors of her spine and shunt placement surgery at one month old, they are speechless to explain how she could have survived, as most doctors in the U.S. do these two surgeries separately and at an age much more than one month. There are many things medically that “should” be wrong with Charlet, but they just simply don’t exist. She attends physical therapy once a week to strengthen her body and to help her walk. When we brought her home at 2 years old, she could “cruise” but not walk and she could not stand for long periods. Charlet also recently received braces for her legs to help straighten her gait and keep her joints safe from improper movement. She is now walking independently and her strength and endurance are improving everyday. 
Our greatest efforts for Charlet have been emotional. Charlet was abandoned at one day old, and though she was in a very loving group foster home, she has simply never experienced bonding with a mother and an unchanging family. She quickly accepted Jason as her big Papa Bear. She loves to cuddle with him and be carried around everywhere. You don’t realize when you adopt the things you will have to “teach” this child that simply come as a natural part of development when you are raising your biological children. We had to teach Charlet how to enjoy and not fear play, especially outdoors. Grass and swings were things of great torment in her early months, but it is such a sweet sound to hear her adorable belly laugh now as she swings. When indoors, and if left to her own devices, for many months she would simply sit and stare at us as we moved around a room, with no idea how to “play” by herself. She required our engagement, and even then, she often didn’t know how to interact. Charlet actually really enjoys her solitary time now and I love watching her sing and play with her dolls peacefully with no fear or painful stares in my direction.  
Charlet loves her big sister, Laila (3.5), and her really big brother, Steven (14). Laila and Charlet were adopted on the same day and they bonded quickly. They easily fall into their respective big sister/little sister roles. Charlet is a wonderful helper to her immobile big sister, often bringing her toys or helping her get things that are too heavy. Charlet and Laila are the predictably ornery little sisters who love to bug their big brother. But there is nothing more beautiful than seeing all three of my children cuddling on the couch or playing together on the floor. Charlet’s addition to our family has been an amazing blessing. Her early transition has been quite difficult for our whole family, but she is finally settling in, trusting the family she has been given, and knowing that we are hers forever!
Charlet (left) and Laila

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

JACOB'S FUND :: Our US program featured in International Innovations Healthcare magazine

Meet Andrew, a young rider from McKenna Farms
Andrew giving his horse a hug after riding

by Glenna Fisher, Jacob's Fund Director

The Red Thread Promise is a volunteer organization. No fancy high-rise offices. No big salaries. No big-budget fundraising. 

We’re in this for the kids. 
Always. Has. Been. Always. Will. Be.

But we’re human. We like it when people say they like our work. 

So imagine our delight when we opened an email from Global Giving (a crowd-funding site that helps us raise programming funds), and read this:
We have an ongoing relationship with a magazine called International Innovations Healthcare… they publish an article featuring a different Global Giving project every issue. For their next issue, they'd like to feature The Red Thread Promise's project "Give Equine Therapy to Children With Disabilities," which we think is great! 
We’ve been bursting to share the news, and now that the article is published, we can! We hope you’ll like this fact-filled, science-based feature on Jacob’s Fund’s support for hippotherapy and the kids for whom it’s prescribed. Click on the image below to enlarge and read the entire article. Or you can view the original at International Innovation Healthcare

Jacob's Fund's article in International Innovations 
Healthcare magazine (click on image to enlarge) 
Around the indoor arena