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!
The Red Thread’s mission experiences are about work. This weekend‘s Jacob’s Fund trip is no different; our muscles clearly tell us we’re doing that, and it’s satisfying. But our joy is meeting with the children we support and their families.
When Melissa and Russell arrive with Landon and Cameron, we pull off our work gloves and make a beeline for them.The twins are taller, their toddler faces changing to little boy features, but they are still virtually indistinguishable to us at first. We rely on the difference in their shirt patterns to help us for a few minutes, but soon we get their names right almost every time.
Besides, Landon is wearing BIG headphones. Disney tunes, maybe?
Melissa enlightens us. Landon’s started a new therapy: Therapeutic Listening. We’re unfamiliar with this therapeutic approach, so she and Landon’s therapist explain the therapy and what it can do for children with sensory integration difficulties.
Therapeutic Listening helps kids who have difficulty with sensory processing dysfunction, listening, attention, and communication.
Since the auditory system has connections to many parts of the brain, sound is a powerful way to access the nervous system and affect changes at all levels. The music in Therapeutic Listening albums gives the child unique and precisely controlled sensory information. The music is e3lectronically modified to highlight the parts of the sound spectrum that naturally trigger attention and activate body movement.
Landon listens to specifically recorded and enhanced music through his headphones both at McKenna Farms and at home. His music program was designed by his therapist for his unique needs. Therapeutic listening stimulates not only the auditory system but the entire brain. The main idea is to integrate the auditory and vestibular systems. Children using this listening program are often compelled to move and explore the environment in new ways because the benefits of Listening Therapy include improved:
. alertness, attention, and focus . receptive and expressive language, including articulation . balance and motor planning . affect and emotional responsivity . self-motivation . awareness of the environment . postural security . spatial awareness . initiation of play behavior . initiation of verbal interaction . stability
Landon does indeed listen to music, but it is music that has been custom designed and enhanced for him. The design is based on clues Landon gives his therapist. From there, she works out the program he needs. The headphones and CD player have special features.
And who knew that we listen not only with our ears, but with our whole body? Upon reflection, that makes perfect sense.
Just before Landon joins his therapist for more of this mind-bending therapy, Melissa offers us the headphones. We hear music, of course, and we recognize some of the pieces, but there are points of emphasis and enhancement. We return to our work amazed at the array of therapy tools and methods that the staff at McKenna Farms employs to help these children experience their lives and their world more fully.
We’re grateful to have a partner so dedicated. And we are grateful to our Global Giving donors who support our efforts to make these therapies available to more children.
It is always a joy to bring new people along on our trips as they offer us fresh perspectives on both our work and our partners. They take in everything for the first time, and their impressions are often poignant. Today we share those impressions with you, first from Laura, a supporter and horse-lover from Ohio. Then, we'll hear from our President, Kathy, as she shares the changes she's observed over the years.
Laura Ramsey :: I am a full-time in-home clinical social worker for children and families. I have had the privilege of working in many settings from hospice to foster care during my career. Never in my professional life have I seen anything quite like McKenna Farms; I was truly in awe as I took it all in. We arrived to a see white picket-fenced farm, the parking lot full of cars, the entire area buzzing with children and therapists. McKenna Farms has an ease and a feeling of home coupled with the murmur of evidence-based therapy and change. McKenna Farms seamlessly joins physical therapy, occupational therapy, therapeutic riding, and hippotherapy, all in one place. The staff, licensed professionals, talented horse handlers, and dedicated volunteers work together seamlessly to create an environment in which therapy is delivered to 350 kids per week.
At McKenna Farms, I see and hear passion everywhere. I see it in the faces of both clients and parents. I hear it in the voices of those who talk about their experience and those who are delivering therapy.
Jessie, founder and director, has dedicated her professional career to creating a unique farm that has managed to overcome the financial barriers that stand in the way of those who wish to join multi-disciplines together. Jessie’s passion spills over when she speaks of the future, which includes a pool where water therapy can be delivered on site. My visit to McKenna farms made me clearly understand why The Red Thread Promise has chosen to support the children there. The Farm is forward thinking and capitalizes on the talents of many to impact the lives of children at a crucial moment in time. McKenna Farms is truly a one-of-a-kind agency that I look forward to returning to in the future.
Kathy Korge Albergate :: Our September, 2014 visit to McKenna Farms was my first in three years and it’s obvious that I’d been away too long. Way too long. So much has happened in that time. Laura, a friend of The Red Thread Promise, and Sonya, Vice-President of The Red Thread Promise, joined me on this trip. Though Sonya has made the trip several times in those three years, and her last visit was less than four months ago, she was astounded to see the changes made over the summer. The outdoor riding arena has been rotated 90 degrees and moved closer to the fence bordering the pony corral. The remaining space where the area used to be has been readied for a future pool in which the children will take water therapy. The entrance to the Jacob Beachy Sensory Trail is now a pleasantly curved trail. The stations have been revitalized and a new one completed. In some areas the woods have been cleared and the trail extended toward the creek on the property. Only passion for these kids and their ability to grow and become more independent could fuel the constant improvements Jessie and her team continue to make at McKenna Farms. And only her complete professionalism and eagerness to employ every therapy avenue that will help these children could bring those improvements to fruition. As a Jacob’s Fund partner, McKenna Farms embodies the spirit of The Red Thread Promise, enabling children to live the richest, fullest, most independent lives possible.
Have you visited a hippotherapy center? We’d love to hear your thoughts about hippotherapy and how farms like McKenna Farms and Hilltop Equestrian Center are working to enable children who are disabled. Email Glenna Fisher, Glenna@redthreadpromise.org