Saturday, November 29, 2014

HAITI :: So close to walking; Wes's last obstacle to receive her first life-changing surgery

Nadine and little Wes
It’s hot this Tuesday afternoon in Port-au-Prince when our driver, Jonas, picks Jaden and me up for the drive to Bercy, some sixteen miles to the northwest. But then again, it’s always hot in Haiti.  

Bercy is Wes’ home. This is our first meeting with the sweet-faced eighteen-month-old we’ve only seen in photos. It’s important for The Red Thread that this meeting goes well, not just with Wes, but also with her teenage mom. While our immediate goal is to get Wes clubfoot surgeries on both of her little feet, our ongoing goal is to establish a long-term relationship with this little girl and her mother.  

Wes will need care and follow-up after her surgeries for the best possible outcome. This is The Red Thread’s way. We make every effort to meet and build a relationship with parents or caregivers of the children we help so we can better understand the child’s needs and meet them as a team. Each little one is precious to us, just like our own children, and we seek the best possible care for them.  

In return, all we ask for is the parent or caregiver’s consent to treatment, open communication throughout the process, and the family’s active participation in the child’s care.  

As we turn onto National Route 1, we are amazed at how quickly the urban concrete cityscape of Port-au-Prince slips away, revealing open spaces and banana, palm, and beautiful flowering trees. Goats, rams, and the occasional cow or donkey dot the landscape around us. We drive through Canaan, an area that formerly housed a mountainside of tents housing displace people following the earthquake.

Passing through several small villages we get our first glimpses of the Haitian coast and the stunning blue waters beyond, places that would surely lure tourists if it were not for the surrounding poverty. Addresses are not always easy to find in Haiti, but after carefully searching, we find the driveway for CPR-3, turn down the dirt road and into the compound.  Here, we’re warmly greeted by Amanda, one of the CPR-3 team coordinators, holding her infant daughter.

After a brief tour of the facility, Amanda and I get to the heart of the matter while we wait for Wes and her mother, Nadine, to arrive: what are our two organizations—The Red Thread Promise and CPR-3—going to do for little Wes? What will our intervention on her behalf look like? How will this partnership work to afford this child full use of her feet? How will the expenses—$4,000 for both feet to be repaired—be covered? 

Soon Nadine arrives with little Wes in her arms. This little one is just as adorable in person as she is in the photos we’ve seen! Sweet eyes, chubby cheeks, and a tiny tongue that likes to peek out from between her lips makes Wes extra huggable! Nadine, on the other hand, is apprehensive and reserved, donning the typical emotionally-barren face so common among Haitians when dealing with strangers. 

Nadine, Wes, Sonya, Amanda and baby Adilyn
So we do what we do best - we begin to build a relationship with Nadine. As I ask questions and get to know Nadine, Jonas and Amanda gently put the young mother at ease. Before long, Nadine begins to share bits and pieces of her personal life: Wes’s near drowning, her current living situation (bouncing from family member to family member), Wes’s absent father, and Nadine’s own concerns about her daughter’s development. We listen and, in turn, share our hearts for the betterment of this young family.

I stress how much we care about both MOTHER and her child - our intervention is to help this young family as a unit, not just Wes, so they can both thrive in their own country. If Wes’s feet are corrected, it will lift a burden off both Nadine (as caregiver) and Wes as a community member. I explain that our goal is to help Wes develop into an independent child, capable of eventually living on her own. If we are able to correct her feet so she can walk normally, her future will be vastly improved, allowing her mobility that she may not otherwise have. I tell Nadine that we want her active involvement in her daughter’s care; that she will not be a bystander, but rather a partner in all appointments, surgeries, follow ups and physical therapy. And I encourage her to stay close to CPR-3 as they are her main support system on the ground.

Nadine and Wes leading Sonya, Jaden and Jonas to her aunt's home in Bercy
Nadine listens attentively, answering all of my questions, and even agrees to take us to the home where she is living, with her aunt and many cousins. When we approach the small cinderblock home, her family brings out the few mismatched chairs they have so we can be comfortable. We settle into this warm display of hospitality, playing with the children and talking.


We are so grateful for our meeting with Nadine and for the opportunity to be a part of Wes’s care. We are also thankful for the opportunity to partner with CPR-3 in meeting this young family’s medical and spiritual needs.

Wes’s 1st surgery is scheduled for January 2015. Her last obstacle is to raise $2,000 for her first club foot repair. Dr. Bheki Khumalo (West TN Haiti Partnership) has graciously committed to performing the surgery FREE OF CHARGE! However, The Red Thread Promise must cover fees for her pre-op tests, anesthesia, the rental of a sterile surgical suite, the nursing and surgical staff, and Wes’s follow up care all of which are unavoidable.

We can change Wes’ life now and create a future in which she can live independently and care for herself; this is doable. Think of it: if a single church with a congregation of 2,000 people each gave $2, BOTH of Wes’s feet could be repaired, changing the course of this child’s life forever. 

CPR-3 and The Red Thread Promise need your help today to proceed with Wes’s treatment plan. So far, $300 of the $2000 needed for her first clubfoot surgery has been raised for her care. We need to secure the remaining $1700 by December 31, 2014 to ensure that Wes can receive this life-changing surgery in January. An additional $2000 will be needed to correct her other foot later in 2015.

Now is the time to show Wes that we really do care. Donations in her name can be made to The Red Thread Promise via PayPal (button on sidebar) 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.

Wes's adorable little feet

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

HAITI :: Love, not pity; St. Vincent's food update

It is Thanksgiving eve. 
Our team of 11 has just returned from eight days in Haiti at St. Vincent’s Center for Handicapped Children in Port-au-Prince. In the USA, tomorrow we’ll sit down to a table groaning with more food than we can possibly eat, a rich bounty of flavors shared among family.
Yet my heartstrings continue to be tugged by the children we saw last week at St. Vincent’s.
We had arrived to welcoming greetings in sign language, Kreyol, English and a multitude of hugs. Our team is well known to these children and the staff who care for them. We’ve made countless trips here to help these special kids who are blind, deaf, missing limbs, unable to walk, some unable to even hold up their own head. With these smallest of gestures, these gentle little ones healed our hearts that had been broken for them time and time again.
The purpose of our visit last week was to conduct both a medical and dental clinic, which we completed during the course of our stay. However, as always, our favorite moments were spent talking, playing, singing, dancing, and creating art with the kids. We love them like our own—they are extensions of our family.
But when mealtime came, our healed hearts broke all over again. While the food situation has improved slightly, it is still abysmal compared to what it should be. Some mornings, they receive a bit of bread and butter or some gruel. Thankfully, every day around 3:00 p.m. everyone receives a bowl of beans and rice. These photos were taken on Sunday, the day where they get a tomato-based sauce to go over the meal and even a morsel of meat.
Sunday's meat sauce
At first the kitchen staff was apprehensive about us taking photos. Their frowns turned to welcoming smiles when they realized that we were there to HELP bring awareness to their plight, their need, their hunger – and that our desire for that awareness is based on love, not pity.
Genie in the kitchen
We are thankful but the need is great.
Like many others, The Red Thread Promise emphasizes thankfulness this week. We are so thankful for all of the support we have received via your gifts. You have given $3,961 to date. This provides 5,281 meals to the children!
What we need now is to ensure that the children of St. Vincent’s get 3 meals a day. The beans and rice they are currently receiving will keep them from starving; but nothing more. 
The cost for three meals is just $2.25 per child per day. For less than the cost of an average latte, a child can eat for an entire day! As we approach this season of overabundance and joy in giving, we know that we can do this, that you can do this.

Donations to feed the children can be made to The Red Thread Promise via PayPal (button on sidebar) or check (address in upper right). Please write "SV food" 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.
Taking steps toward self-sufficiency.
For food for the future, The Red Thread Promise has become part of a project to bring both aeroponic and aquaponic gardening to St. Vincent’s. We estimate that this project will begin in 2015 and are excited to help set the groundwork for St. Vincent’s to become self-sufficient. In the meantime, we need to continue to feed the children. Your gifts make this possible. Thank you for everything you are able to share with these children.
~ Sonya Yencer & Glenna Fisher

Friday, November 21, 2014

HAITI :: Saying No

Port-au-Prince street vendor

From the moment you step out of the Touissant L’overture airport, poverty slaps you across the face. You smell it in the trash along the street and on the sweat-drenched bodies; you taste it in the dry dusty air; you see it on the cinder block walls and tin shacks; you know it when you see the look of anguish on people’s faces. 

When a thin child with thread-bare clothing and holed-shoes walks up to you, rubbing his stomach and saying “hungry” (possibly his only English word), how do you say no?

That’s what happened when we went to St. Christof. It is a sacred place, where 1,000s of bodies were buried in mass graves following the earthquake in 2010. The morgues were overflowing and the decay so great in Port-au-Prince that bodies were disposed in the only way possible. Soon after the area was covered in small black crosses remembering those who lost their lives. 

St. Christof after the earthquake (2011)
St. Christof today (2014)
Our team always makes a point of stopping at St. Christof with both seasoned and new team members. It’s a time for remberence and reflection. This trip was no different…but for the child.

THIS child, walking up to the team, saying “hungry” was too much. Our hearts too weary from the week and everything we had witnessed. The goodbyes from St. Vincent’s were still fresh on our tongues. 

We all *know* about the poverty in Haiti. We’ve read the statistics. We’ve seen the pictures on TV. We’ve even watched the masses pass us by us first-hand when we drive to and from St. Vincent’s. But when a single child lumbers up to you with his hand rubbing his stomach, it’s enough to bring our team into a sobbing mess.

As we ushered everyone back into the van, the tears turned to anger. WHY can’t we give him a dollar? Just a dollar? Or a lollipop? I’m so MAD!

We are GLAD you are mad! It’s NOT right. It’s NOT just. But it is the reality in Haiti and our good intentions are often misguided. 

Long-term effects

Giving that single dollar or lollipop only perpetuates deeply rooted problems already present in Haiti:
  • first and foremost it makes it dangerous for the child - our generosity would put him at great risk - if someone sees him with a gift from us, he will likely become a target and possibly a victim of violence - on previous trips, team members have witnessed scuffles among the Haitians as the team drove away, fighting over the tiniest of gifts
  • it discourages independence - we don’t want to give the message “all good things come from white people” 
  • it is undignified, casting us in the role of rich benefactors and the recipients in the role of charity cases
  • it makes it that much harder for the next team - if there was one child this time, there will be 10 next time and 50 the next, each asking for more and more - the original intent of paying respect to the deceased at the memorial is lost in a frenzy of misguided giving
Perhaps the most wisdom came from the youngest member of our team, 13-year-old, Jaden: “The fact that we are already here [working in Haiti] acknowledges that we care. I don’t think we should stop here [at St. Christof] - it makes us sad and cry. We can’t help people if we are sad and crying.”

by Sonya Yencer

The plan for the St. Christof memorial