Wednesday, May 23, 2012

SCH Website Launched, Blog Moving

This blog has been a labor of love for four years, and I'm so thankful to everyone who has joined us for the journey. I've loved having you with us celebrating our children's lives and milestones and crying with us through difficult times when a child has a setback. I've met so many wonderful people through this blog and the kids have found their voices and gotten the prayer and other support they've needed through it.

There are more exciting times ahead, though! And because we've grown so much, we need and better ways to keep you updated.

Thanks to long-term volunteer staffers Eric and Tisra Fadely, we recently launched a website (schindia.com) that brings everything together:  

We love you and the children need you. Please spread the word about our new site!

We've also opened new email accounts. Here are a few ways to reach us:

info@schindia.com
volunteer@schindia.com
sarah@schindia.com

Let's stay in touch!

God bless,

Sarah Rebbavarapu, Director
Sarah's Covenant Homes, India


Monday, December 12, 2011

SCH 2011 Special Olympics

For the fourth year in a row, SCH has been invited to participate in the World Disabled Day Games (similar to Special Olympics). Two dozen children and young adults represented SCH this year and competed against students from Uma Manovikas School (for students with intellectual disabilities), Mother Theresa School for the Blind, and the local government School for the Deaf. Our kids had an awesome time!

 Our SCH kids also placed in several events and took home lots of prizes, including the following:

Senior Boys & Girls Musical Chairs: Levi (first) and Daniel (third)
Junior Boys & Girls Musical Chairs: Hannah (second) and Isaac (third)
Senior Boys Running: Daniel (second)
Junior Boys Running: Jason (third)
Junior Girls Running: Honor (first), Nora (second), Hannah (third)
Junior Boys Shotput: Santosh (third)
Senior Boys & Girls Long Jump: Daniel (first)
Junior Boys & Girls Long Jump: Jason (first) and Amanda (third)
Senior Boys & Girls Caroms: Wendy (first)
Junior Boys & Girls Caroms: Christopher (second)
Junior Boys & Girls Ball in the Bucket: Christina (first) and Judah (second)
Senior Boys & Girls Ball Throw: Levi (first)

Proud of everyone for giving it their very best!



Junior boys' division running. SCH kiddos in this heat: Jason, Judah, Christopher, Santosh, Isaac
Junior boys again a few seconds later. Jason's in the lead.

Junior girls' division running. SCH girls in this heat: Honor, Christina, Hannah, Nora, Alesa

Rachel being interviewed by a local TV channel
Senior boys getting ready for their running race. SCH boys in this lineup: Daniel, Jared, Jeremiah, Levi, Stephen
Levi competing at caroms!


Jared laughed and clapped for himself after every shot, regardless of the result. He had a great time.

Junior musical chairs. Our kiddos in this competition: Christopher, Nora, Hannah, Isaac





Wednesday, December 7, 2011

GRAPHIC! Baby Emma Finally Got Her Shunt







As in the first post about Emma, the photos in this one will make you want to cry. It's been almost eleven weeks since baby Emma joined us at SCH--a wasted, frail, very dirty, neglected little baby with an open myelomeningocele, marasmus, club feet and severe, unshunted hydrocephalus. We got her via the government Child Welfare department--she was found outside a government hospital by a sweeper and was admitted and "managed conservatively" there until either they or the Child Welfare department decided she should be transferred to us. The shock of seeing her condition brought sobs to my throat, and I took her that night eight hours to Hyderabad to get better help for her. Unfortunately, she was too weak to clear for surgery, and after a few days of inpatient care to stabilize her, they discharged us and told us that she had to gain weight before she could get her shunt.

As hard as we tried, we couldn't get Emma to gain much weight back in Ongole. The pressure in her head caused her to vomit, and then she would aspirate. She never smiled, just cried weakly.  Meanwhile her head circumference grew and grew. When she was about 3kg, we took her back and got her admitted for surgery, but after a few days the anesthesiologist refused to clear her for surgery and she was discharged and we were sent home to await her death.

We didn't give up, though, and because of your prayers and God's goodness, Emma found favor with a neurosurgeon and anesthesiologist at another hospital. While they agreed that she wasn't yet ready for surgery, the neurosurgeon did CSF taps every 72 hours, drawing off around 60 ml of fluid from her brain each time until she was fit for surgery to help manage the pressure. It was discovered that Emma had chronic meningitis, and the NS and pediatrician fought that with antibiotics. The lab reports also indicated that Emma has tuberculosis, so they started her on a treatment program for that. This hospital has fought for her intensely, and it has brought us so much relief. Emma wants to live--she has fought so hard for so long!
Manikyam, the caregiver who has stayed with Emma for the past month, prays over her.
Emma about 3 weeks ago

Yesterday the doctors decided that Emma was well enough to withstand shunt surgery, but also told us that they couldn't guarantee she would not need ventilation afterward. Emma had her operation this morning, and she came through it well, not needing a ventilator or other significant intervention. Below are two pictures of Emma taken post-op...



Emma just out of shunt surgery. It took over a month of ICU treatment to get her well enough to clear for surgery.


Poor, sweet baby...
I'm relieved that she's come through as well as she has, but sad that her head has grown so much since we received her. Relieved that her meningitis and tuberculosis were diagnosed and are being treated, but sad that her little body has been fighting two horrible illnesses for so long.

If this shunt functions as it should without blockage or infection, her head circumference should decrease some and she should begin to feel better. Please pray with us against infections and complications, and that the skin covering the tubing will remain intact. Also pray that she would put on weight and get strong.

This isn't the last surgery Emma will need. Her meningomyelocele lesion will need to be operated on and her spinal cord detethered (released from the tissue to which it has adhered). A friend whose daughter has spina bifida told me that the way Emma holds her neck may help to give some slack to her spinal cord and relieve the tension. After the next surgery, when her cord is freed, she may not feel the need to arch her neck and hold her head the way she does.

This is such a difficult time in this child's life, but by God's grace and with patient, loving care over the next few years, Emma could begin to thrive. It's been SO hard to watch her suffer--we all just want to see this baby laugh and smile...

Thanks so much to all who love Emma!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Rasool's Progress

Recently someone asked me about how Rasool is doing now.

I haven't done a good job of keeping this blog updated, but I have shared the events of his story on facebook. If you haven't yet "liked" our facebook page (http://facebook.com/schindia),  consider doing so, because I post so many more updates there for the sake of time.

Rasool, a man about 30 years of age, was brought to us in February 2011 via the Disabled Welfare department by a poor woman, a sweeper at a college. She had found him six months prior sitting in a catatonic state, cross-legged in front of a temple, unable to feed himself, get to a bathroom, or respond verbally or otherwise to anyone who talked to him. No one knew who he was or where he'd come from. Her heart went out to him and she fed him for several months. Since the college where she lived and worked would not let her bring him on campus to care for him and she knew he needed more care than she could provide, she asked her educated son to help her find a place for Rasool. Her son emailed me, and I said we'd be willing to take in Rasool.

On the day we received him, representatives from the newspaper were there and wanted to photograph him for a missing-person story. Just a day or two after the story appeared in the paper, Rasool's relatives came to identify him. Turns out he is a father of two and a former military man who lost his lower leg in a train accident. He had left home because of an extended-family argument and had been missing for two years.

Because he was in such an invalid state, though, neither his wife nor his mother wanted to take him home with them, instead signing over medical decision-making rights to us. His wife has come now and then to work on getting his military benefits sent to her (of which she has never offered us anything for his care).

 
 
We took him to Hyderabad to see a psychiatrist I really respect. He ran some tests, like the EEG above, and then recommended a series of ECT (shock) treatments under general anesthesia.

I took some time to research, soul-search, and pray, and in the meantime we got him on antidepressants and had a prosthetic leg made for him. His spirits seemed to lift as soon as he got his leg.
Finally, in the spring, I decided to get him admitted and have the ECT treatments done for him. The treatments began working right away--he started to get up to go to the bathroom and no longer needed to wear diapers. He also began feeding himself.
After Rasool had undergone less than half the ECT treatments, on Easter morning I took a shift with him so that his caregiver could go to church. Someone from the kitchen came and brought him breakfast. I asked Rasool, "Aren't you going to eat your breakfast?" He said, "You can have it, madam." He continued to talk politely to me all morning, telling me he didn't wish to eat if I had nothing to eat. (I finally ordered myself a plate of breakfast just so he'd eat his own.)  Since that breakthrough, he has been communicating verbally (and always politely) whenever addressed. He isn't one to initiate conversation, but will answer questions he is asked.

Rasool was discharged on antidepressants and he returned to Ongole. He stays with our young men (who used to live at Angel Home, but have been in town at Victory since their house parents moved away a year ago). Besides the schoolboys, Rasool's the only verbal or literate person in that room. He's so cooperative, though--going along with them to class, doing whatever the others are doing (bumping a volleyball, using Montessori items, making newspaper envelopes...) and never complaining. We enrolled several of our older boys and Rasool in a local vocational training program, but pulled them out when, after a few months, they hadn't taught the boys anything but instead had sat them down and had them trace Telugu letters (which is far below Rasool's level and above our other young men's).

Rasool's on the far right in this photo
Once in awhile Rasool looks depressed. I have asked him if he would like a job with us as either a watchman or an office assistant, but he tells me he doesn't feel like there's anything he can do well. Theresa's philosophy (and I think she's right) is that he's not yet psychologically ready to handle the responsibility of adult life, and he feels safe and comfortable having his needs looked after. She said we should give him some time to just be, before we pressure him to rejoin the world of the doers. So we do let him be. And he's pretty undemanding, takes care of himself, is good to the children... He fits in well and is fairly content. He's also gained weight and is in good health. Rasool has expressed often that he does not wish to leave and return to his family, and we've told him he's welcome to stay as long as he'd like.


This week his wife returned with a letter from the District Collector (one of the highest government officials in the area). She had petitioned to take him home and had a letter from them requesting that we hand Rasool over. Rasool has expressed strongly that he's not willing to go with them, so we told the relatives it wasn't possible to take him at this time. I talked to his psychiatrist about what rights Rasool has vs. those of his family, and what would be the best situation for his mental health. He said that Rasool can't be coerced to leave with relatives without a court order. I'm trying to request that we be allowed to take him back to Hyderabad for an evaluation alone with his psychiatrist so that he can express his opinions without either us or his family present, and the psychiatrist can determine whether he is competent to decide these things for himself. (I'm pretty sure he'll decide that Rasool's capable.)  [Psychiatrist says that the evaluation would need to be done by a government psychiatrist of a certain rank, so I guess we may just have to request that the government get him evaluated by the appropriate doctor.]

My personal feeling is that if he were to stay another six months, he may be ready to begin looking for a job, and within a year or eighteen months could  be ready to leave and support himself--and even to rejoin his family, not as a dependant but as the head of the household.

Anyway, after getting him evaluated, I think our next step would be to request a meeting with all parties concerned (Rasool, his family, reps from SCH,  and the government Disabled Welfare department), presenting his psychiatrist's recommendation letter, so that a decision can be made that is most respectful of his wishes, rights, and best interests. Of course, we could be denied this meeting and simply forced to hand him over. Please pray with us that justice would be done for Rasool and that the case would not be overly stressful for him.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Update on New Children

Super sick kiddos

In the past month we have received 26 new children--21 via the state government, one through the local government, and four from a nearby district government home. Three of them you haven't officially met yet--a sweet brother and sister in their teens with cerebral palsy, Jake and Bella (Bella is very weak and in a septic state in the hospital right now and needs your prayers), and a 3-year-old rambunctious kiddo called Timothy who has intellectual disability and epilepsy. Will try to post pictures soon.

The children all stay in one room--we always try to keep new children isolated from the others because of their poor health.

Really, "poor health" is a gross understatement. Ever since they arrived, there have been daily hospital runs and admissions into local hospitals. The kids are anemic (3 have needed transfusions) and have very little health margin, and they spread illnesses and infections back and forth. There are severe feeding issues--reflux, refusal or inability to swallow, vomiting, aspiration, fungal throat infections... We'll definitely want to have some MicKey buttons for feeding put in for a few children. There have been strange rashes we have never seen before, one I think may be called Staphylococcus Scalded Skin Syndrome. It's been horrible.

One child, Evan, arrived on tuberculosis treatment, prompting us to get the whole group tested, and Ruthie tested positive. TB and HIV are diseases for which the government hospitals provide the best care right now thanks to support from entities like the Gates Foundation. But there's a lot of red tape in getting a child going in one of those two programs, and it has taken us until last week to get Ruthie on the meds she needs (and in the meantime, we've all been at risk, because Ruthie's a social child who likes to climb on people and is impossible to isolate.) We did manage to get the rest of the new children vaccinated with an anti-TB vaccine called BCG, so they should be ok, along with our "old" children, whom we had already vaxed against TB.

We lost Jonathan, Tessa's brother. He slipped away to heaven one morning in a sudden episode of seizures (He had no seizure history in his record and was not on meds for seizures, but he may have had an illness that caused them.) We had a service for him and buried him that same day. It was hard on all of us--there's nothing more miserable than burying a little one. The new kids have all been so sick, though, and there have been so many close calls, that each day that we don't lose a child, we're grateful. I'm amazed and thankful that we haven't lost any more. Chelsea, Eleanor, Margaret, Emma, Valor, Elodie, Alina, and now Bella have all been inches from death, some of them more than once.

What we're doing about it:

Praying and recruiting prayer.  A team of three Bible teachers came to visit, and we held a service and dedicated our new kids to the Lord. These three ladies and a visiting high school team poured their hearts out in prayer for the kiddos. We've also posted updates on our personal and SCH facebook pages and have had many people respond to say they're praying. I believe God sent us these kiddos for a reason, and I know He's with us, helping us do all we can and doing all that we can't.

Investigating. We've invited the local lab in to take samples and had complete blood pictures and blood grouping done, and had everyone tested for HIV/HepB/TB.  We've had CT scans done for those we suspect have hydrocephalus, and ultrasounds and x-rays done for those suspected to have other issues. Thankfully we've had medical volunteers such as a trauma nurse, an occupational therapist, and two paramedics who have been a blessing in helping us sort out which children have needed which investigations done when. We're starting to get an understanding of what these children have and what they need. But daily we discover something else that needs investigating: for example, Elodie has what looks like a dermal sinus in her scalp...

Doctor consults. Every day we send kids to local doctors. Sometimes they admit them, sometimes they give medications for us to give the kids on an outpatient basis. We also took a group of children to Hyderabad to set up surgeries to address major issues.

WHO Program. Since February 2009, whenever we get a large group of children, we take them through the World Health Organization's Guide for the Inpatient Treatment of Severely Malnourished Children. The program consists of one week of small, round-the-clock feedings (which are still often too much for our kids), supplements such as potassium, zinc, folic acid, and magnesium, antibiotics and other anti-microbials, etc. We also add a decolonizing element for staph--mupirocin in the nostrils twice daily for two weeks. The program takes a lot of work to figure out for us medical laypeople, and it's exhausting! (God bless Erin and Cassie, who are running it now while Theresa is on leave and I am in Hyderabad for medical reasons,) As hard  and expensive as it is to do the program, it tends to be a turning point, and the children do tend to get better more quickly afterward, reducing our hospital runs. Running this program for 25 children is costing us $1320 in pharmacy bills--can you help?



Mercies

While we look around and are tempted to feel hopeless and overwhelmed sometimes, when we look up and see what God is doing behind the scenes to raise up support for us, we feel like crying with gratitude. Let me tell you about some of them!

--A team arrived carrying medical supplies donated by a doctor.
--Ben, who just finished running in a 100-mile race to benefit SCH, raised $3000! He recently came to India with his father on a short-term trip to serve with our ministry.
--Leslie organized an online auction and raised around $1500 for SCH.
--JulieC is raising funds for SCH through a fun-run she initiated called the Pomegranate Run.
--Awonderful woman took on the project of supplying SCH with new pillows, and has recently finished fundraising for those.
--Eric, Tisra, and family are awaiting visas (pray them through!) and then will come on as full-time SCH volunteers in an administrative capacity.
--Tisra, Katie, and Kody designed an SCH calendar, and Tisra is coordinating sales of that. You can purchase one here: http://tinyurl.com/sch-2012-calendar .
--A lady who came to teach Bible at some of our schools got inspired to extend her stay and help our schoolgirls improve their English. A friend of hers will be joining her in a few months!
--Several more children have been sponsored, and a volunteer is coming to help us improve our sponsorship program and update all of our profiles.
--Niki's children's church raised $500 for SCH!
--About weekly, we receive a package with items such as baby clothing, aids for those with visual impairments, and other necessities.

There are others, and I'm so sorry if I missed acknowledging your contribution.

I want you to know that we feel so supported. We feel so loved. We feel like you care. It matters a whole lot to us. Thank you so much!

In the next blog post, I'm planning to update you on some of the individual children that some people have been asking about!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Order SCH 2012 Calendars!

PRE-ORDER NOW! (and enter to win a free calendar!)

For several years, I've been wanting to pull together a great SCH calendar, and this year, some creative volunteers have designed a wonderful calendar for us to offer you!

(Image is just an example of how a page may look.)
Sarah’s Covenant Homes 2012 wall calendars are available for pre-order now! High quality and professionally printed. We will only send the order for printing when we receive all the pre-orders. You don’t want to miss out on seeing our cute kiddos on your wall all year round! Order by the deadline to reserve your calendar(s).

Order by: November 18, 2011
Price: $18.99 ea.
FREE SHIPPING in the continental U.S. (delivered by mid-December)

Purchase here using paypal:

(Short address of order form is http://tinyurl.com/sch-2012-calendar ; long one is
https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=4WGYH3WQUPX88 )
All profits go toward the loving care of children with special needs at Sarah’s Covenant Homes (SCH) in Ongole, India. For the past 4 years, SCH has been caring for abandoned babies, children and young adults who have physical and mental disabilities. At present, SCH gives life, love, and hope to 108 children, many with very severe medical and developmental challenges.


Calendar details:

  • Be inspired by photos of the children and young adults at SCH throughout 2012! 12 large monthly images + cover photos.
  • measures 11” x 17” flat
  • full color throughout
  • 80lb. gloss cover with 100lb. gloss text inside
  • saddle-stitch binding, and hole for hanging
How many do you need for:
  • home use?
  • staff appreciation?
  • teacher gifts?
  • women’s retreat door prizes?
  • church visitor gifts?
  • neighbors?
  • New Year’s Eve party favors?


Receive your calendars in time for Christmas gift-giving!

Share the Love. Spread the Message. Be a voice!

-----------------------------

Want a chance to win a FREE calendar?

1) Post the link to this blog post to Facebook, and tag Sarah’s Covenant Homes, India (our facebook page--you need to "like" it if you haven't) to receive one entry in the drawing (names randomly pulled November 18th). Then please leave a quick comment on our facebook page to let us know you shared, as sometimes FB tags don't show up on our page.

2) Write a blog entry posting all the ordering details, leaving your blog post link in the comments, to receive another entry.

“Enter” as many times as you post! Thank you for spreading the word and making our first SCH calendar fundraiser a success!

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