Glenna, Jacob’s Fund Director, and Sonya, TRTP VP, drove to a quiet Cincinnati suburb a few weeks ago to meet Kyle, the newest recipient of a Jacob’s Fund ridership (aka a hippotherapy scholarship). Kyle has been diagnosed with three challenging conditions: Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), epilepsy and hypotonia. At this point he is non-verbal and not toilet trained. His life—and that of his family—is a daily challenge.
We were deeply impressed as Kelli (Kyle's mother) shared her tireless work seeking out specialists, treatments and any form of help that she and her husband can provide for Kyle. A grant from the Cincinnati Inquirer provided a special changing table and stroller for him. Another grant secured a supply of Kyle's special diapers; due to his age and size, he falls into a gap between readily available toddler and adult diapers. He is also on a Ketogenic diet, drinking special formula to help his body produce ketones which help to suppress the epilepsy, thus decreasing the volume of seizure medications he has to take.
One of the family's biggest challenges is communication with their 7-year-old son. Kyle—who is currently non-verbal—is being evaluated to identify a form of communication that will be successful for both him and his parents. The family has explored ASL (American Sign Language), which requires fine motor skills that he hasn't yet mastered, and PECS (picture exchange communication) with little success. Not being able to understand one another is a source of frustration not only for Kyle, but also his parents, sister, teachers and anyone else he comes in contact with on a daily basis.
This is one of the main reasons The Red Thread Promise has offered Kyle a hippotherapy ridership. We have observed such profound progress with non-verbal children receiving therapy on the back of a horse! Hippotherapy has been documented time and time again to be an aid to opening lines of communication previously undiscovered. We are all extremely hopeful that this doctor-prescribed therapy will help Kyle develop his own form of communication, opening many doors into this special child's world.
This July, Kyle will begin hippotherapy at nearby Hilltop Equestrian Center. He and his family have already completed the pre-screening process and are anxious to begin his treatment in Hilltop's summer session. During their tour of the facility, Kyle impressed everyone with his acceptance of the horses, showing little fear or apprehension. We hope that these characteristics will provide Kyle's smooth transition from the ground to horseback where therapy begins.
After Kyle has been in therapy for a few consecutive weeks, the Jacob's Fund team will visit Hilltop to observe Kyle's riding, speak with his therapists and provide an update. Thank you so much for helping us put this boy in the saddle!
Recently, we were approached by GOOD Magazine to be featured in their publication dedicated to mobility issues. The article below about our International Mobility Program—providing all terrain wheelchairs to people in need—just hit the internet earlier this week. Below is the article that was published.
Empowering People With Disabilities
Robert was an accomplished welder and farmer in Gramothe, Haiti before 2010. He is married and has two sons, one of which hopes to become an engineer. However, Robert has a progressive condition that is causing him to lose the ability to use his legs. He has been immobile for quite some time and the doctor has not given him a prognosis.
In Haiti, the streets are uneven and bumpy, rendering “hospital-style” wheelchairs virtually useless. In the mountains, where Robert and the majority of Haitians live, dirt roads and rocky footpaths are common. However, The Red Thread Promise makes it possible for people like Robert to become more independent by providing them with all terrain wheelchairs through our International Mobility Program (IMP). In fact, Robert is hopeful to return to welding since receiving his new wheelchair.
During our first trip to Haiti in 2009, we had no intention of starting IMP. But when we observed that hospital-style wheelchairs were not meeting the needs of those using them, it compelled us to seek out the best all terrain wheelchairs available. We worked directly with a manufacturer to keep costs low while providing quality chairs specifically designed and built to traverse rugged terrain. Our chairs feature strong frames, flexible suspension, and wide front wheels especially for sand, rock and uneven surfaces.
In June 2011, we delivered a full shipment of 100 wheelchairs to St. Vincent’s Center for Handicapped Children in Port-au-Prince. Our team worked directly with the center to identify candidates for distribution, assemble the chairs, and provide maintenance training to our Haitian partners. Now, The Red Thread Promise is working to bring mobility to 100 additional people in and around Port-au-Prince as well as local businesses and hotels that are not accessible.
These gifts of mobility give people with disabilities (PWDs) more opportunities to fully engage in life. They promote better self and family care, and help recipients actively participate in educational and economic opportunities. Children can attend school with their peers, acquiring life skills that help them become independent adults. Teens and adults are better able to engage in meaningful work, providing financial stability to their families. Independence increases each individual’s sense of self-worth and self-respect in their home countries.
Ultimately, our goal is to bring communities together, where everyone is viewed with dignity. We not only provide wheelchairs for individuals in need, but also model respectful and inclusive behavior toward people with disabilities. The Red Thread Promise actively discusses discrimination issues with Haitian businesses, governmental entities and other NGOs working in Haiti, encouraging the implementation of anti-discrimination strategies in Haitian society since 2009. Fortunately, on March 13, 2012, the Haitian Senate passed the Law on the Integration of Disabled Persons, which was the first of its kind in the country.
In July 2013, we will be bringing 50 PWDs to a beach resort in Montrious, Haiti for summer camp. Our team has been working with hotel management to build wheelchair ramps and widen doorways for wheelchair access into all areas of the resort. Management has even requested several of our all terrain wheelchairs for use with future guests.
We will continue to work in Haiti and other countries providing mobility for years to come. However, in order to offer a long-term impact, especially to our current program in Haiti, we’d love your support. Help us empower PWDs by giving them the opportunity to be more mobile and independent.
During our most recent trip to Haiti (May 2013), Tom and Doug brought the ingredients for a traditional New Orleans gumbo to St. Vincent's Center for Handicapped Children. Students and residents of all ages joined the pair in St. Vincent's kitchen prepping chicken, sausage and okra for a dish completely foreign to the kids—one they had never tasted or even heard of. (40 lbs of rice and 35 lbs of meat make for some serious gumbo!) As the gumbo's boil roared, students looked on inquisitively wondering if the rice would be mixed in with the gumbo and, in true Haitian form, speculating if there were enough spices in it!
Following 4+ hours in the kitchen where temperatures soared to well over 100 degrees F, the gumbo was ready. Thinking their work was complete and they could escape to the cooler air outdoors, Tom and Doug realized they still had to serve 70+ hungry residents, far more than originally anticipated.
Again, the students came to his aide and an assembly line quickly formed. First, the bowls were filled with a heap of rice. Second, each was smothered in piping hot gumbo and sprinkled with filé. Lastly, sliced baguette and butter dollops were added to complete the dish. The finishing touch: ice-cold Tang® and a bit of candy for everyone.
Outside the kitchen, a long line of hungry residents had already formed. Within minutes of being served, the bowls were emptied and the residents returned for more until every bit was devoured.
The old saying, "too many cooks in the kitchen" was given a new meaning during the gumbo cookout. We welcomed each and every helper and were grateful for their assistance in preparing the meal. Every chef was instrumental in the meal's success!
One of our many goals is to help St. Vincent's become self-sustainable so there is sufficient food for everyone all the time. Currently, staff and students receive beans and rice twice a day; on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays they receive a third portion. This reinforces our efforts to explore sustainable farming initiatives so no student is hungry again.
In the meantime, we will continue to provide meals throughout the year thanks to your generous support.