As I write this, it’s just days before Thanksgiving. Our team of 11 has just returned from eight days in Haiti at St. Vincent’s Center for Handicapped Children in Port-au-Prince. This Thursday in the US, 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.
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.
Like many others, The Red Thread Promise emphasizes thankfulness this week, and we are so thankful for all of the support we have received via your gifts through Global Giving. What we need now is to ensure that the children of St. Vincent’s get 3 meals a day. The meal of beans and rice they are getting now will keep them from starving; nothing more.
The cost for three meals a day is just $2.25 per child. As we approach this season of overabundance and joy in giving, we know that we can do this, that you can do this.
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 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.
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 (see our last report!) 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.
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!Thank you for your support of sisters Charlet and Laila!
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 (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 Nadia, 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 is just eighteen months old, has a smile that goes as high as can be on her little cheeks, and 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 and the developmental delays it is causing according to our partner and club foot specialist, Dr. Bheki Khumalo.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 Stephanie at CPR-3 for help; Stephanie 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. After an initial assessment, Dr. Bheki has determined that surgery is the best course of action. The prognosis for Wes is good due to her age and the amount of cartilage Dr. Bheki has to work with during the procedures. But changing Wes’s future comes with a price tag. While Dr. Bheki is donating all of his time and years of skills to perform her surgery, there is pre-surgical lab work, rental of a sterile surgical suite, anesthesia and follow-up care that need to be addressed before she is able to have the procedures. The cost for each foot to be corrected is $2,000 for a total of $4,000. Wes is slated for surgery in January 2015 during Dr. Bheki’s next trip to Haiti. The time is now to show Wes that we really do care. Donations from this project will pay for her surgery and post-op care. With your support, we can change the course of this little girl’s life forever.As we dream 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. Thank you for anything you are able to give!