Wednesday, October 15, 2014

CHINA :: Surprise, surprise, surprise!


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. 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.

Charlet (left) and Laila with their braces
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!
Charlet (left) and Laila

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

JACOB'S FUND :: Our US program featured in International Innovations Healthcare magazine

Meet Andrew, a young rider from McKenna Farms
Andrew giving his horse a hug after riding

by Glenna Fisher, Jacob's Fund Director

The Red Thread Promise is a volunteer organization. No fancy high-rise offices. No big salaries. No big-budget fundraising. 

We’re in this for the kids. 
Always. Has. Been. Always. Will. Be.

But we’re human. We like it when people say they like our work. 

So imagine our delight when we opened an email from Global Giving (a crowd-funding site that helps us raise programming funds), and read this:
We have an ongoing relationship with a magazine called International Innovations Healthcare… they publish an article featuring a different Global Giving project every issue. For their next issue, they'd like to feature The Red Thread Promise's project "Give Equine Therapy to Children With Disabilities," which we think is great! 
We’ve been bursting to share the news, and now that the article is published, we can! We hope you’ll like this fact-filled, science-based feature on Jacob’s Fund’s support for hippotherapy and the kids for whom it’s prescribed. Click on the image below to enlarge and read the entire article. Or you can view the original at International Innovation Healthcare

Jacob's Fund's article in International Innovations 
Healthcare magazine (click on image to enlarge) 
Around the indoor arena

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

JACOB'S FUND :: New perspectives

Laura meeting Spirit
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 enjoying one of the therapy horses

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.

Vice President, Sonya Yencer

Saturday, September 6, 2014

HAITI :: Hunger - the single gravest threat for St. Vincent's

In 2014, no one should go hungry. Especially kids.

One of our best friends grew up in a poor family in the Appalachian Mountains. He is able to laugh now as he recalls his mom cooking white beans on Monday, pinto beans on Tuesday, and on Wednesday combining the two for their evening meal. Cereal at breakfast and bologna sandwiches for lunch rounded out their days.

The majority of Americans haven’t known that level of poverty. But for the children at St. Vincent’s Center for Handicapped Children in Haiti, three meals a day of any kind is a luxury that is out of reach.

Beans are a staple at St. Vincent’s just as it was for our friend’s family. Rice stretches the protein to fill the children’s stomachs. Yet today, this simple meal is served “infrequently,” and when it is available, Father Sadoni tells us there just isn’t enough. In desperation, he has resorted to sending every child who has a family back home because he is unable to feed them regularly. Only the orphans remain.

Living with hunger.

It’s difficult to fall asleep when hunger haunts your mind and gnaws at your stomach. Until, of course, your body is weakened from lack of food over a long period of time. Hunger is painful; malnutrition causes our eyes to fail, our skin to develop lesions, our muscles to weaken and shrink, our bones to stop growing, our immune system to fail.

Lack of adequate food destroys the cognitive processes, resulting in reduced intelligence and learning, stunting not only the body but the mind of a child.*

Meeting their needs TOGETHER. 

Love and care: Fr. Sadoni and the staff at St. Vincent’s provide this in abundance on a daily basis. Their very presence in these children’s lives provides emotional nourishment and assuages the thirst for meaningful human contact.

We can show this same love and care to St. Vincent’s children by providing the basics—food and water—during this vulnerable time in their lives. Most of us reading this post have an adequate supply of both. Even our Appalachian friend’s mother was able to fill these needs for her sons. Our poverty is richness when compared to the plight of these children.

Join us in giving the life-sustaining gift of food. With your help, The Red Thread Promise is committing to supplying three months of food for the kids at St. Vincent’s. $2.25 feeds each child for a full day. That’s $6,090 per month, $18,270 total. This is a real, attainable goal. The need is urgent. Children are going hungry every day. These kids’ deprivation compels us to have funds available for the first month’s food in the next ten days -- by September 16.   

We can do it with your help.

Genesis 12:2 tells us: 
“I will bless you . . . 
and you will be a blessing to others.” 

YOU are that blessing for these children, and so are your family, friends, civic groups and churches. It takes a village.... Please share the story of St. Vincent’s kids and their current dire need in your circles. Let’s reach our goal quickly. 

Donations can be made via PayPal through our website or via check. 

Checks may be sent to:
The Red Thread Promise
249 N Belfield Ave
Havertown, PA 19083
Attn: Kathy Korge Albergate


Monday, September 1, 2014

JACOB'S FUND :: McKenna Farms Mission Experience, Late Spring 2014 part 2 - Many hands make light work

A football team, a bathroom and a shed – the makings of a busy mission experience!

Our job this weekend is to clear out brush that has grown along the fence between the corral and the trail, plant shrubs and flowers, replace two of the stations, paint and make repairs, and weed and mulch.

Football players removing a huge tree

It’s a tall order, but we’re about to get some major reinforcement. Nearby Harrison High School has just delivered a busload of students who are pouring onto the parking lot, eager to start work. They are divided into work teams and quickly dispatched to locations around the barn, farmhouse, and the riding arenas.

Soon more than a dozen young men from the football team join us and begin removing small trees and brush from along the fence line and some larger trees that have fallen along the trail to the creek. The speed and efficiency with which they do this is astounding.

Members of Christ United Methodist working on the Sensory Trail
Now the Jacob Beachy Sensory Trail is thrumming with activity. As the young men of Harrison High haul brush and trees away, two members of our team remove old whiteboard and chalkboard, making way for the new, weather-resistant Plexiglas boards. Two more are busily wielding cans of spray paint, applying a fresh coat of primary colors to the shape sorter and hanging tubes and even a bit to themselves. And still a surprising number of us are hunched over, attacking weeds with unusual vigor. Even Jacob’s baby sister and brother get into the act, helping position the posthole digger and planting flowers.

Jacob's sister Elyse (left) & friend repainting the shape sorter

The sun climbs higher and it’s hot! We’ve been working for more than three hours. It’s time for the high school students to depart, and they quickly assemble and board the bus, then disappear around the bend in the road.

The trail is quieter now, with only the occasional metallic thud of the posthole digger, the regular buzz of carpenter bees and the thwacking and sucking sound of Jacob’s younger siblings’ shoes in the mud hole they’ve discovered. 
An old saying pops into our heads: many hands make light work. With the help of the high school students, we’ve accomplished much of our work on the trail.

Jacob's brother Max helping out

After lunch, we’re ready for more chores. Sonya, The Red Thread Promise’s Vice-President, tackles painting one of the bathrooms. She’ll have to do this alone, since there’s no space for another person inside the bathroom once she gets the ladder up.

The rest of us head to the tool shed. This is more than a clearing out and reorganizing mission. You may recall that Jessie Moore, Director of McKenna Farms, lost Will, her husband and father of her two young sons, to a massive heart attack in December 2012.

Will and McKenna Farms were inextricably entwined. So much of the daily life of the farm depended on Will, and Will’s toolshed has remained pretty much untouched since his death.

We gently consult Jessie as to what should be done with each item. Sarah, Jacob’s mom, is known for her organizing skills, so once the piles are sorted, she directs us in reorganizing the shed.

Before and after - beautiful!

We head back to the farmhouse for a cool drink of water, and to admire Sonya’s handiwork. The bland off-white has been replaced with a first coat in an inviting shade of green.

Sweat trickles down our backs and faces. We are dirty and red-faced and we smile, thinking of the children who will be back to ride the trail Monday morning, breathing in the scent of sage and rosemary, tossing frogs into squares and circles and stars, playing the chimes, and talking about the pink and purple and yellow blossoms.

They’ll notice the freshly painted bathroom – kids love color. And although they won’t peer into the toolshed, the new farm manager will, and his job will be a little easier. In our mind’s eye we see the faces of those children, and our thoughts return to the conversations we’ve had with them and their families.

Exciting things are happening, and we’ll share those with you soon.

Looking for fresh faces for an upcoming trip!

Do thoughts of the children you’re helping support bring a smile to your face? We hope so. You’re an important part of what we do, and thoughts of you, too, makes us smile.

Would you like to join us on our next trip to McKenna Farms in Dallas, GA, or visit our other partnering therapy center, Hilltop Equestrian Center in West Alexandria, Ohio? If so, please let us know. Email Glenna or call 513-423-0108.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

HAITI :: A week of surgeries

Dr. Bheki performing an evaluation on a previous trip
Dr. Bheki and his team from West Tennessee Haiti Partnership arrived safely in Port-au-Prince yesterday. He and Dr. Beauvoir, a Haitian surgeon, will begin seeing children at St. Vincent's tomorrow morning, including little Wes (who you heard about earlier this week on FB) as well as Jonathan, another little boy that the silken red thread of destiny connected us to. 

Please keep Dr. Bheki in your thoughts and prayers as they provide love and care to many children throughout the week. 

So thankful for our wonderful partnerships! We can't do this work alone.

Having some fun mixing smelly scabies ointment!

CHINA :: 2-years-old and ready to take on the world with your help!

Meet our newest little friend from China! 

WXR is an adorable 2-year-old with a sweet personality - she's a charmer for sure with that smile! Thankfully, she has already received surgery for spina bifida and serial casting of her club foot and is doing well in the hands of our partners at Swallows Nest! Sadly, it appears that she may be incontinent as she came back from Shanghai with a horrible irritated bottom. The Red Thread has sent funding for her medicine as well as her follow up care. 

Please help us support WXR by making a donation in her honor to our China program (click on the PayPal button - donations are accepted via PayPal but you don't need a PayPal account). We hope and pray that she finds her forever home quickly. 

Who wouldn't want to hug on this baby for years and years?