During the first week of January, 2012, The Red Thread Promise team was back in Port-au-Prince at St. Vincent's Center for Handicapped Children. Red Thread representatives had the opportunity to see multiple All Terrain Wheelchairs in use both on St. Vincent's grounds as well as on the coast at a camp the team hosted for 33 handicapped children.
After 6 months of use, the chairs were holding up well: the frames were in good shape; the tread on the wheels was intact; the casters in the front still rolling easily over the rugged surfaces; the brakes were strong. And, on a strictly visual note, the bright red fabric was a welcome relief to all of the gray and dust of the city.
While the chairs worked great in on the concrete at St. Vincent's, we are pleased to report that they also worked well at the coast. The beaches of Haiti are very rocky and rough, unlike the smooth sandy beaches of the US. The only wheelchair-bound people who were able to get directly on the beach were in our chairs. And what a great experience it was for them! Many had never been on a beach or even seen the ocean. The chairs allowed them to come within yards of the ocean and, in many cases, be lifted by one of our team members and brought into the water. Free from the confines of any wheelchair, they could move about fluidly and by their own will in the beautiful Carribbean sea. The children could experience the wonderful tehapeutic properties of water first-hand.
Our next step is to set up a maintenance center so that the wheelchairs are kept in top working condition at all times. We have identified a Haitian man with whom we have been working with for over a year that we plan to approach to conduct monthly maintenance on the chairs: from keeping air in the tubes, to adjusting the breaks, changing out seat pads as needed and everything in between, ensuring that the children continue to have mobility. This offers dual benefits, both to the people using our chairs and also to the man who will enjoy steady employment with a new found trade.
Because of your generous donations through GlobalGiving, we are able to pursue our repair and maintenance program in Haiti and begin expanding our All Terrain Wheelchair program to other developing countries. Thank you for your continued support of our work and people with handicaps in developing countries.
As you read in our last report, The Red Thread Promise team traveled to Haiti this summer (2011) to deliver 100 new all terrain wheelchairs to St. Vincent's Center for Handicapped Children in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Over the past weeks, we were able to put together a video about our wheelchairs, highlighting portions of the assembly and distribution. The video also shares a bit about our philosophy and why we provide assistance in Haiti.
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During our next trip in January 2012, we will visit St. Vincent's and re-assess the wheelchairs after months of use. We feel that the follow up on these chairs is critical, to ensure that we providing the best possible care for these beautiful children and are doing our due diligence to you, our donors, who have made these gifts of mobility possible.
While we continue to raise funds to deliver additional wheelchairs to Haiti, we are excited to share that our first wheelchair has made it to Nicaragua! The Red Thread Promise partnered with a small non-profit from Oregon to provide Juan, a 42 year old man from El Lagartillo, Achuapa, with the same hearty wheelchair that we have sent to Haiti—one that could navigate the rugged dirt roads and paths. Juan spends his days in a wheelchair as a result of a congenital birth defect and had never received a new wheelchair until now. A single ATW was hand-carried from the states to Nicaragua by representatives from Partnership for Hope who have known and worked with Juan and his community for the past 25 years. We were thrilled to see the smile on his face and hope that this chair serves him well for years to come. For the full story, please visit our blog: http://redthreadpromise.blogspot.com/2011/10/first-atw-to-nicaragua.html
Thank you for your continued support!
The Red Thread Promise team returned to Haiti June 30 - July 2, 2011 to deliver 100 bright red NEW All Terrain wheelchairs to St. Vincent's Center for Handicapped Children! With the assistance of three Haitian friends, Ronald, Beloge and Fedelin, the team organized the shipment in the storage space (located one block away from the National Palace) before assembly could begin.
The initial goal was to set up one of each of the four different size wheelchairs. Team members examined every facet of each chair for damage during shipping. They tightened the front casters, ensured that the wheels were “true” (straight), mounted the seat cushion and gave the entire wheelchair a thorough inspection before it received a “thumbs up”. The final action was to apply one of The Red Thread's stickers, honoring the those who donated toward the shipment.
In our best effort to practice responsible wheelchair provision, all recipients were brought to the courtyard at the school where the four different size wheelchairs were set up. Unlike many organizations, The Red Thread Promise does not believe in a “one size fits all” philosophy. The older children and young adults capable of making their own decisions were able to test multiple chairs to determine which one was the right fit and would best suit their individual needs. Ronald helped us select the proper size wheelchairs for the youngest children who were waiting for us in the dormitory.
As soon as each recipient was matched with the proper size, the team set out to the storage area to gather the appropriate chairs and wheel them back to St. Vincent's School. One by one, each person climbed into his or her new seat, some independently while others required assistance. A few were tentative, moving gingerly and slowly, testing out the brakes and the maneuverability of the mountain bike tires that are so different than the smooth hospital wheels they are accustomed to. Others were quickly trying to figure out how they could do tricks, pop wheelies and fly around the courtyard.
While their reactions varied greatly, audible thank you’s in Kreyol, English, French and sign language abounded.
We are happy to have provided these chairs to St. Vincent’s and look forward to returning on future visits to check how the chairs are serving the children. Because of your generous monetary donations we could also provide enough replacement parts and tools for months to come. Thank you again for your continued support of The Red Thread Promise.
For additional information about the wheelchairs and The Red Thread Promise's work in Haiti, China and the United States, please visit our website at www.redthreadpromise.org.
We have shipped our second container of chairs, although working with customs in Haiti continues to be a big challenge. We had begun our efforts before the January 2010 earthquake, and need for these chairs has only increased. We have expanded our focus past amputees to those with any sort of disability that requires a wheelchair. To see the difference you can make, look at Diana as she is placed in her chair for the first time! To see the video, go to http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=1753545092482
You might have heard about the problems all aid groups are having in getting supplies through customs. Our first container of wheelchairs is still in port but we are expecting progress any day now, and are sending a team down to Haiti in February to assist in distribution with the second container. The ATW program is not just about sending and distributing wheelchairs. It is about mobility for life, so we also set up programs to train and employ Haitians to assemble and repair the chairs, as well as bicycles and other small items, in order to keep the chairs in good-working order. Currently we are working directly with St Vincent’s Center for Handicapped Children in Port au Prince to deliver some wheelchairs.
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