It’s hot this Tuesday afternoon in Port-au-Prince when our driver, Jonas, picks Jaden and me up for the drive to Bercy, some sixteen miles to the northwest. But then again, it’s always hot in Haiti.
Bercy is Wes’ home. This is our first meeting with the sweet-faced eighteen-month-old we’ve only seen in photos. It’s important for The Red Thread that this meeting goes well, not just with Wes, but also with her teenage mom. While our immediate goal is to get Wes clubfoot surgeries on both of her little feet, our ongoing goal is to establish a long-term relationship with this little girl and her mother.
Wes will need care and follow-up after her surgeries for the best possible outcome. This is The Red Thread’s way. We make every effort to meet and build a relationship with parents or caregivers of the children we help so we can better understand the child’s needs and meet them as a team. Each little one is precious to us, just like our own children, and we seek the best possible care for them.
In return, all we ask for is the parent or caregiver’s consent to treatment, open communication throughout the process, and the family’s active participation in the child’s care.
As we turn onto National Route 1, we are amazed at how quickly the urban concrete cityscape of Port-au-Prince slips away, revealing open spaces and banana, palm, and beautiful flowering trees. Goats, rams, and the occasional cow or donkey dot the landscape around us. We drive through Canaan, an area that formerly housed a mountainside of tents housing displace people following the earthquake.
Passing through several small villages we get our first glimpses of the Haitian coast and the stunning blue waters beyond, places that would surely lure tourists if it were not for the surrounding poverty. Addresses are not always easy to find in Haiti, but after carefully searching, we find the driveway for CPR-3, turn down the dirt road and into the compound. Here, we’re warmly greeted by Amanda, one of the CPR-3 team coordinators, holding her infant daughter.
After a brief tour of the facility, Amanda and I get to the heart of the matter while we wait for Wes and her mother, Nadine, to arrive: what are our two organizations—The Red Thread Promise and CPR-3—going to do for little Wes? What will our intervention on her behalf look like? How will this partnership work to afford this child full use of her feet? How will the expenses—$4,000 for both feet to be repaired—be covered?
Soon Nadine arrives with little Wes in her arms. This little one is just as adorable in person as she is in the photos we’ve seen! Sweet eyes, chubby cheeks, and a tiny tongue that likes to peek out from between her lips makes Wes extra huggable! Nadine, on the other hand, is apprehensive and reserved, donning the typical emotionally-barren face so common among Haitians when dealing with strangers.
So we do what we do best - we begin to build a relationship with Nadine. As I ask questions and get to know Nadine, Jonas and Amanda gently put the young mother at ease. Before long, Nadine begins to share bits and pieces of her personal life: Wes’s near drowning, her current living situation (bouncing from family member to family member), Wes’s absent father, and Nadine’s own concerns about her daughter’s development. We listen and, in turn, share our hearts for the betterment of this young family.
I stress how much we care about both MOTHER and her child - our intervention is to help this young family as a unit, not just Wes, so they can both thrive in their own country. If Wes’s feet are corrected, it will lift a burden off both Nadine (as caregiver) and Wes as a community member. I explain that our goal is to help Wes develop into an independent child, capable of eventually living on her own. If we are able to correct her feet so she can walk normally, her future will be vastly improved, allowing her mobility that she may not otherwise have. I tell Nadine that we want her active involvement in her daughter’s care; that she will not be a bystander, but rather a partner in all appointments, surgeries, follow ups and physical therapy. And I encourage her to stay close to CPR-3 as they are her main support system on the ground.
Nadine listens attentively, answering all of my questions, and even agrees to take us to the home where she is living, with her aunt and many cousins. When we approach the small cinderblock home, her family brings out the few mismatched chairs they have so we can be comfortable. We settle into this warm display of hospitality, playing with the children and talking.
We are so grateful for our meeting with Nadine and for the opportunity to be a part of Wes’s care. We are also thankful for the opportunity to partner with CPR-3 in meeting this young family’s medical and spiritual needs.
Wes’s 1st surgery is scheduled for January 2015. Her single biggest need at this time is to raise $2,000 for her first club foot repair. Dr. Bheki Khumalo (West TN Haiti Partnership) has graciously committed to performing the surgery FREE OF CHARGE! However, The Red Thread Promise must cover fees for her pre-op tests, anesthesia, the rental of a sterile surgical suite, the nursing and surgical staff, and Wes’s follow up care that are unavoidable.
We can change Wes’ life now and create a future in which she can live independently and care for herself; this is doable. Think of it: if a single church with a congregation of 2,000 people each gave $2, BOTH of Wes’s feet could be repaired, changing the course of this child’s life forever.
CPR-3 and The Red Thread Promise need your help today to proceed with Wes’s treatment plan. So far, $300 of the $2000 needed for her first clubfoot surgery has been raised for her care. We need to secure the remaining $1700 by December 31, 2014 to ensure that Wes can receive this life-changing surgery in January.
Now is the time to show Wes that we really do care. Donations in her name can be made through this project on GlobalGiving. THANK YOU to everyone who has supported our work thus far. We hope you'll continue with your donation toward Wes's surgery.
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!
Christina is one of the many children we have connected with in Haiti over the years. Her story is nothing short of miraculous and, by supporting this project, YOU have been an integral part of her success.
An otherwise completely healthy infant, Christina was born with a birth defect that caused severe clubbing in both of her feet. Over the years she endured multiple unsuccessful surgeries and castings to correct her condition, after which she was no closer to walking than she was the day she was born.
In 2013, the tides began to change for Christina. No longer would she be resigned to life in a wheelchair, but rather to a newfound hope of planting both feet on the ground (something her condition never allowed her to do) and even walking independently!
Through our partnership with West Tennessee Haiti Partnership (WTHP), Dr. Bheki Khumalo (clubfoot specialist / Memphis, TN) and Dr. Georges Beauvoir (surgeon / Port-au-Prince, Haiti), Christina's first successful surgery was completed in August 2013. The skilled surgical team performed a tendon release, bone and soft tissue correction, and finally a foot rotation on her right.
After her foot healed, Christina's second surgery was completed in February 2014 on her left. When the stiches were removed, she was able to wear a boot and worked with a physical therapist to strengthen her legs.
In April came Christina’s miracle! Our partners from WTHP were conducting a clinic at Christina’s home, St. Vincent’s Center for Handicapped Children in Port-au-Prince. Dr. Jenn and Tiffany (visiting physical therapist and nurse respectively) began stretching Christina's legs and ankles, encouraging her to begin putting weight on her feet. Then it was time for Christina to stand up. With support of each arm, Christina put one foot in front of the other and took THE FIRST STEPS OF HER LIFE!
After 16 years of thinking walking was something unachievable, she was able to take her first steps and one of our partners from WTHP was able to capture it on video - see link below! The footage is raw but heartwarming. Christina is a bright, energetic girl who is well on her way to leading a more normal life now that both feet are corrected. She will continue to work with therapists to walk and become increasingly independent.
Christina may never have taken these steps without your support for which we are eternally grateful. We invite you to continue to be a part of this life-transforming process, helping kids like Christina, kids whose biggest obstacle in life was being born into poverty where adequate medical care isn't an option as their families struggle to put food on the table.
The cost of both surgeries - $3600!
The long-term effects - priceless.
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.
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.
American volunteers 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).
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.
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.
When The Red Thread team sees the faintest glimmer of hope to improve the life of a child with a disability, we JUMP! Each child is treated as if they are our own. We explore every option imaginable, even if it means coming to Haiti to accompany two blind boys to the ophthalmologist.
So that’s just what we did. This past Thursday, Sonya took two St. Vincent’s students—Frenel and Geraldo—to see one of the most highly regarded ophthalmologists in Haiti.
The testing process was very thorough, allowing the doctor to see the tiniest details of each boy’s eyes to help determine if either would be eligible for further treatment to restore any bit of sight.
The doctor explained two very different procedures that might be an option for Frenel, following the results of one additional test that will be performed at a later date. Both surgeries present serious risk factors that need to be considered before any course of action is decided upon, discussions that will involve the surgeon, Frenel’s mother, St. Vincent’s, and The Red Thread.
At the conclusion of the appointment, Sonya had the opportunity to speak with the doctor about The Red Thread’s care for these boys. She explained that we treat each child as though they are our own flesh and blood, doing everything we can to improve their health and wellbeing. She clarified that we would seek specialists in Haiti to perform any recommended procedures, and, only when all in-country options have been exhausted, would we put a child through the potential trauma international travel for treatment.
With this reassurance, he smiled broadly, and shook Sonya’s hand.
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