Thursday, February 27, 2014

JACOB'S FUND :: The benefits of equine therapy

Cameron and Landon
Over the years, we’ve witnessed some pretty amazing things. Time and time again, the silken red thread has brought people from all walks of life together to help children in need. We love sharing these stories with you, but no story is quite as good as being there in person, to better understand something to the fullest.

That’s why we’ve created a new video about hippotherapy: to help our supporters better understand how life-changing equine therapy can be for children. If a picture is worth 1,000 words, a video must be worth at least 1,000,000. 

In the video, you'll hear Cameron and Landon's mother, Melissa, share her boys progress since they began hippo therapy. Recently, she also sent this update: 
Both boys are now potty trained! Cameron is learning to read and write this year. He is almost completely independent and thriving. Landon has recently learned to answer questions and understands yes and no. I am very close to having a conversation with him. The other day he brought me some play food and asked me if I was hungry. I almost fell off the couch! It was the best play food I have ever eaten and a moment I will hold dear to my heart. He has learned to read his name first and last and is singing about 5 songs. We are forever blessed to have had help along this journey and are eternally grateful to The Red Thread Promise. To God be the Glory! ~ Melissa

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

HAITI :: The red thread of destiny meets Widline

(Photo courtesy of New Life For Haiti / Todd Pierson)
What does our name mean? Over the past 10 years we've answered this question dozens of times, but our recent encounter with Widline, a 14-year-old Haitian girl, explains it beautifully. We'd like to share her story with you.

The Red Thread Promise's name is rooted in an ancient Chinese proverb that speaks of a silken red thread of destiny that connects us all. It is said that this thread may tangle or stretch, yet never break. People who are destined to connect will do so, regardless of location or circumstance. When we feel the tug of the red thread from a child in need, it is our promise to help.

Over the past few months, Widline began tugging. And it's through an unlikely set of circumstances that we met her.

(Photo courtesy of New Life For Haiti / Todd Pierson)
In the summer of 2012, in a small village on the far west peninsula of Haiti, Widline was with friends, doing what they usually do when the intense Haiti heat reaches the brutal point; they were taking turns jumping off a ridge into the Grande Anse River. Childhood fun turned to tragedy when Widline made her final jump. As she began the plunge into the cool river, she struck a submerged tree limb, sustaining serious injuries that left her in severe pain.

Doctors are rare in her isolated community. She hurt constantly for four months before she was able to be seen. The initial diagnosis: a spinal injury for which she received a brace and crutches. But her young body had already begun to heal incorrectly, leaving her with a permanent limp and pain, unable to navigate the dirt paths safely in her community, go to school or help around the house. Her life was turned upside-down in a single moment.

Volunteers from New Life For Haiti working in her village came to know Widline and her family. Touched by her circumstances, they wanted to help this little girl. The red thread became visible as their team began the lengthy process to secure her a passport and raise funds for corrective surgery in Chicago (USA).

X-ray of Widline's pelvis
(Photo courtesy of New Life For Haiti / Todd Pierson)
Knowing that it may take the better part of a year for Widline to make it to the states, mutual friends of both organizations asked if The Red Thread could help. A storm of emails and conference calls ensued, making the red thread visible again, as we connected Widline to our partner, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Bheki Khumalo (TN). Dr. Khumalo agreed to see Widline during his visit to Haiti the next week. Following a series of x-rays and a full evaluation, it was determined that she did not have a spinal injury, but rather a fractured hip. Dr. Khumalo proposed a comprehensive plan for her treatment in Haiti, saving thousands of dollars and avoiding the tremendous culture shock that a child from a remote village would likely sustain in urban Chicago.

Dr. Khumalo
(Photo courtesy of West Tennessee Haiti Partnership)
The red thread wove its silken way through this child’s journey: from a remote village to a team of American volunteers to the Red Thread Promise, and finally to Dr. Khumalo. Each of us felt its tug, urging us to work together for this ONE child’s health and wellbeing. Sometimes it takes money; sometimes a volunteer willing to go the extra mile; and sometimes it takes phone calls and emails to make a lasting difference in a child’s life.

That’s what The Red Thread Promise is all about: advocating for needy children to provide the best medical care available to kids like Widline who have no access to the treatment they need to lead healthy, productive lives. That’s her story and our story, connected by the red thread of destiny. That’s who we are. And we’re glad you’re a part of it.

Widline's home and family
(Photo courtesy of New Life For Haiti / Todd Pierson)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What's in a name?

Ever wonder why we use names for some of the children we support and initials or pseudonyms for others? Well, let us explain.

In the US and Haiti, we are able to secure permission to use children's names by either the family, guardian or the orphanage. In China, the government has strict regulations about what information we are able to disclose regarding orphans (including names, birth dates, birth cities, etc), thus the use of initials and limited details about the child. In Uganda, we change the names to provide security for the girls who come from abusive environments where their safety is paramount. 

And there you have it, friends.

JACOB'S FUND :: Talking at Last!

While most children utter their first word when they’re around a year old, Christopher’s first words came when he was eleven: "horse, trot fast". Not your typical first words, but his mother, Felicia, was ecstatic to hear them!

Felicia, Christopher, and his brother, ready for therapy
Christopher’s severely autistic. He’s thirteen now, and he has been dealing with his diagnosis since he was a toddler.

His symptoms became apparent before his third birthday, and Felicia immediately began searching for help for him. Fortunately, she found Babies Can’t Wait, a Georgia Department of Health program for infants up to three years old with special needs. Thus began their journey on the road that is so familiar to thousands of families: the constant search for help for a child.

For families like Christopher’s, life assumes a new rhythm with the diagnosis: therapy several times each week, frequent and multiple doctors’ appointments.

While therapy may look simple to a typically developing person, it is hard work for children. Kids with disabilities often spend hours each week making their bodies develop new skills, skills that do not come naturally to them. For many children, therapy is temporary. Within a few months, or perhaps a couple of years, the problem is resolved and the child is back on track developmentally. For kids like Christopher, therapy becomes part of life and continues for many years, on into adulthood.

Hippotherapy requires riding backward too
Thankfully, resources and services for young special needs kids can be quite good. However, just like many other parents in this same situation, Felicia found out that as her son grew older, those resources dwindle dramatically. She found herself as a single mom dealing with two boys, facing the challenges of a special needs child and footing devastating medical expenses on her own.

After eight years of clinical therapy, Christopher’s doctor decided to take a new approach, and prescribed hippotherapy for this budding teenager. Felicia found McKenna Farms and Christopher began equine therapy.

And he began to talk.

What a milestone for a family whose child has never spoken a word! Their world changed in an instant. Now, when Christopher wants to go out, he can say “shoes.” If he needs a shower, he says “wash-wash.” When it’s time to go the bathroom, he can tell his mom “flush toilet.”

After two successful years of hippotherapy, Christopher has graduated to therapeutic riding, which will help him maintain and improve flexibility, balance, and muscle strength. In order to maintain continuous progress, consistent weekly therapy is vital. Felicia is able to pay for one therapeutic riding session a month. Jacob’s Fund underwrites the other three sessions each month to ensure uninterrupted therapy for Christopher, to maximize his potential.

Christopher and his brother with Stephanie, his therapist
Christopher’s speech triumph and the amazing and sometimes unexpected accomplishments of kids like him are what drive Jacob’s Fund‘s efforts. Your support makes it possible. We simply could not do this without you. 

Thank you.

Monday, February 3, 2014

CHINA :: Club foot & pneumonia - not a winning combination

Pneumonia is a serious threat 
to the children we support. 
This treatable infectious disease is one of the leading causes of death in China: it is the number one cause in rural areas; in urban areas, fourth. Data suggests that there are approximately 2.5 million documented cases of pneumonia in China annually. Of those cases, 125,000 (5%) people die of pneumonia-related illness. (US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.)

Most disturbing to us is this: childhood pneumonia accounts for an estimated 17% of all child deaths in China. The Red Thread Promise takes pneumonia seriously, especially when it involves infants and toddlers who have other medical conditions that may compromise their immune system further and do not have anyone to advocate for them.
WZX - January 2013
In January 2013, The Red Thread met Baby WZX. He came to Swallows Nest (our partner foster home in China) unable to sit or stand due to club feet. After extensive evaluation, doctors decided to treat him with a non-surgical method that involves serial manipulation and casting, taping, physical therapy, splinting, and continuous passive motion. We have been funding his care ever since with hopes of this little man walking independently in the near future.
WZX - June 2013
WZX - August 2013
One year later, WZX has made great progress in his club foot regimen. But this isn't his biggest hurdle. He was recently diagnosed with pneumonia and hospitalized. Thankfully, he is on the mend and back at Swallows Nest, on the road to recovery. Your donations helped provide his care at the hospital and we are so thankful for your support of this critical intervention. 

WZX (left) playing beside a friend at Swallow's Nest
Unfortunately, the little girl in the photo above (next to him in the black dress) is now in the hospital for the same reason: pneumonia. She has been there for over three weeks. With your contributions to this project, we can help her and others as well. 

As always, thank you for everything you are able to give. If you'd like to help, please send your tax-deductible donation (memo line: China) via PayPal or check to:

The Red Thread Promise
249 N Belfield Ave
Havertown, PA 19083
Attn: Kathy Korge Albergate

HAITI :: Food goal almost reached!

Monday mornings are the best when they begin with good news! 

In just 7 weeks, YOU have helped us raise $11,122 to feed the kids at St. Vincent's. That's 13,346 meals, friends! 

Only $878 to reach our goal which provides 2 solid months of food for the kids. In case you missed the story about St. Vincent's, here's the blog post about it. Please share with anyone willing to help. With your continued support, we can reach our goal this week.

If you'd like to help, please send your tax-deductible donation (memo line: food) via PayPal or check to:

The Red Thread Promise
249 N Belfield Ave
Havertown, PA 19083
Attn: Kathy Korge Albergate