Second Mile Haiti

Welcome to our blog! This is a place for us to keep friends and supporters up-to-date with the latest 'Second Mile' happenings! Check in often. Things are moving fast!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

What a ride

It's a tough task to compose a post that depicts the progression of Second Mile Haiti in our first five months this side of the Atlantic. But what the heck, why start only there when we could take it all the way back to the beginning.

Hold on tight. This'll be a quick recap of what's happened since our inception., that's an intense word. But really, if you haven't been following along then you've stumbled across a gem today. This post will bring you up to speed.

Jenn and I had each been serving in Haiti for 9 months (+ a previous 2 month trip) and 18 months respectively. We were both volunteering at a creche at the time, taking care of babies that had been given up by their families due to illness or poverty, some for just a short time and some permanently. As we worked side by side to rehabilitate these infants we became great friends and coincidently discovered that we were passionate about the same thing: keeping families together. While we loved the babies, we couldn't stop thinking about that people that had given them up in hopes of a better life.

We couldn't get their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles out of our heads and off of our hearts. What about them? Surely there must be a way to empower them instead of taking from them. It became the sole focus of our attention as we began to constantly brainstorm ideas for what 'keeping families together' might look like in the area where we lived.

We quickly came to the conclusion that there's no better time than the present to pursue the calling that God had placed on both of our hearts. So, in October 2011, we headed back to the good old US of A to start a non-profit. We gave it the name Second Mile Ministries. We planned to go the extra mile to make sure that families were equipped with not just medicine and not simply money, but the knowledge, the skills, the tools, and the courage to do it on their own.

We knew we were going to focus on mothers with severely ill and malnourished children. We knew we wanted to offer a haven of hope for these families during their time of crisis. We also knew that we weren't going to be content with just offering food and medical care alone. We needed the caregivers, mother or otherwise, to understand concepts of infection, disease prevention, water purification, nutrition, and first aid. We couldn't wait to give parents of children with special needs like Down's syndrome, cerebral palsy, HIV, and heart defects a chance to understand how to adapt to these conditions and help their children reach their full potential.

Our excitement grew as we made plans to offer mothers not only the opportunity to gain health-related knowledge but also a chance to flourish in the realms of agriculture and business. We knew that the only real way to prevent malnutrition from recurring would be to equip families with a way to earn money. Thereby allowing them to put food in their children's bellies, pay for them to be seen at the hospital when ill, and maybe just maybe put them through school.

So...we created a vision that matched these ideas and away we went. Our first month in the States was spent visiting friends and getting them caught up. Conversations started something like this: "you might think we are crazy but...." Usually we were able to convince people that they should feel privileged to be among the first to hear about God's great plan for our futures in Haiti. Even if they did think we were a little bit nuts they at least all acted supportive.

Between October and the end of December we visited 8 different states, spoke in a couple of churches, and managed to fundraise a little bit of money doing desperate things like hold garage sales...daily. We even tried to make and sell burritos. Considering that a.) neither of us had any cooking experience and b.) we only managed to rack up about 15 orders, I'd say the Great Burrito Sale was a bit of a flop.

In fact, I'd like to take this time to thank those who ordered burritos and apologize to those who actually ate them. I am getting better at cooking though and would love the opportunity to try again, free of charge. :)

In those three months and with the help of angels, a.k.a new friends that came out the wood works just when we needed them, we were able to submit an application to become a 501c3 non-profit and create a website.

Racing to the post office just before closing to send off the finished application
December 2011

Then, although many voiced their doubts that we would actually make it back to Haiti after the holidays, we pushed ahead. We found ourselves sitting in the Cap Haitien airport (with no place to go) on January 7th, 2012. If you want to read those details then please dig back in the archives. The general gist of it is: God's been GOOD, faithful, present, and so gracious to let us be a part of his divine plan to change the lives of women, specifically moms, in Haiti.

We don't even know these women yet, but we pray for them daily.

Between then and now, with your help (and because God's resources are limitless), we've been able to get a few things done.

  • we bought a truck
  • found land
  • i got a job, which gave us a place to stay and extra money for the project
  • we became permanent residents of Haiti
  • got Haitian driver's licenses
  • celebrated our 24th and 25th birthdays
  • hired two full-time employees
  • Jenn became project manager and dug a well
  • built a clinic 
  • built a wall, with a gate 
  • and started to forge some sweet relationships with people in the community. 
the land before the wall

Thank you for your donations! 

Today we put up the gate. 

It's a bit of a statement really.. A good place to step back and thank God for how He has directed and provided and put up with our antics up until this point. It's a good place to stop and thank him for what he is going to do, for how he will continue to heal and restore and transform. It's a good place to pause and regroup. What perfect timing really. We both had friends getting married in America this month (in the same weekend actually) and we had planned to be there for their big days. 

Jenn just arrived in the States a few hours ago and I'm due to head there on Friday. We will be away from Haiti for two weeks, enjoying the company of our friends, family, and Second Mile Haiti supporters. 

Please join us in thanking God for all that He's done. And please pray for this time. Much good can come from these trips "stateside." And much good can happen on the other side of that gate when we come back. 

Guess what else! We get to come back to an official guard puppy. ;) 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Pick a tune, any tune

It's amazing what a little praise and worship does for the soul. 

Sometimes people ask us what we miss about the States. Sometimes my answer is church. Or more specifically, worship. I miss standing in a huge auditorium with hundreds or thousands of people, arms raised and voices loud. I miss being in a body of people just as moved and in love with Jesus as I am and the way that makes me want to praise my Father even more. It puts a smile on my face and a peace on my heart just thinking about it. 

I went to a fairly charismatic church back in Tucson. They sure did like to dance. The band would adapt songs by Hillsong, Jesus Culture, and Planetshakers (see even the name of the band tells you they were up to something). ;) Needless to say when I hear those songs it puts me back in a place where Jesus met me over and over again. We're headed to America in just a few days and we can't wait for the opportunity to sing familiar songs and to worship with other people who speak English!  

Don't get me wrong, Haitian Christians love to sing. And there are plenty of aspects of the Haitian worship culture that I adore. 

I love that almost all of Haiti uses the same song book. These books don't correspond with sheet music like you see in an English hymnal. This means that when you pick a song you also have to pick a tune... any tune. You'll here fast versions, slow versions, and many one-of-a-kind versions. 

I love that when these songs come on the radio you'll find that 4 out of 5 people are singing along. This happens in waiting rooms, in grocery stories, in Tap-Taps, and on street corners. 

I love that a Haitian church might not have a full stage of instruments but that people manage to raise the roof with their voices alone. No holding back.  

I love that within churches and communities you find an unlimited number of devoted singing groups. The young and the old, the men and the women have all formed their cliques. Its a tradition so important that godmothers and godfathers are appointed over the groups and each are assigned special Sundays in which to perform their well-rehearsed songs. 

I love that prayer is practically synonymous with singing, and that when asked to pray before a meal kids rise and sing a song of thanks before saying a few words of grace. 

I loved what I experienced today at the hospital. 

Kelinise, the 17 year old that stayed with us for a weekend about a month ago, has been going through some up and downs lately. On the upside of things she has settled into life at the orphanage where she also attends church and school. To our pleasant surprise she was enrolled in school even though the school year is coming to a close. On the downside, she's been having to battle some unfortunate, yet common, complications of diabetes: high blood pressure, damage to the blood vessels in her eyes, and skin infection.  High blood pressure means she has to take extra medicine each day in addition to her insulin. Vision difficulties means she has to fight twice as hard with her school work. And her increased  susceptibility to infection means she just spent three full days at the hospital due to a leg abscess.

On Wednesday Jenn randomly decided to take a little detour at the orphanage. She had gone in to check on Kelinise when she noticed the abscess. Thursday I took her to see her doctor at the diabetic clinic at the local hospital. She was referred to the hospital's best and only surgeon who decided to incise and drain the abscess in the operating room under general anesthesia. We stayed late into the evening. Jenn brought her in the next day to change the dressing (which we only wish could have also been done under general anesthesia). Our little friend was in excruciating pain aggravated by someone's unwelcome play by play description of gory details, and a glimpse of the gaping hole in her leg. Jenn filled me in when I came to switch places with her yesterday afternoon. Again Kelinise was held late into the evening because of high blood sugar and the unavailability of a physician to sign discharge orders. 

I got to experience the agony of it myself when I was present for this morning's dressing change. While the doctor removed the bandages, flushed the wound, and shoved gauze through one giant whole in her leg an out another, our little friend yelled the Creole equivalent of "Help me, Oh God, I'm dying, and Doctor, you have no heart." Ouch. 

In her defense, the leg looks brutal. :(

After her dressing change, they decided to admit her to the adult medical-surgical unit. Her blood sugar was 600 at the time despite having given herself insulin that morning. ...It makes us wonder whether the lack of 24/7 electricity at the orphanage has resulted in the deactivation of yet another bottle of insulin... Either way she was advised to stay in the hospital until it normalized. They prepared a bed for her which she almost refused to take. But again I don't exactly blame her. After the trauma of the dressing change and what with this being her 8th hospitalization... but we managed to talk her into staying. 

Kelinise fell asleep almost the moment the IV fluids started flowing and Jenn had already left the hospital to meet with Dadou and check on the progress of our gate. I settled in to pass the time with some people watching. It was a hot day and the unit had virtually no air circulation. I had to drink about a liter of water an hour to avoid being admitted myself.  But the heat didn't seem to keep the student nurses from hustling about their tasks and it definitely didn't stop the visitors from visiting. 

One by one and three by three they came.  Sometimes an occasional group of four or five would slip by  the security guard and disappear into one of the unit's back rooms. For 5 hours I watched a steady stream of faithful church goers coming to pray for the sick. 

Sometimes the groups knew the patients they were praying for personally. They marched directly to said patient's bed and prayed fervently. Others were just firm believers in God's healing power and had come the one place they'd be sure to find a few people who needed it. These visitors would stand in the center of the unit and sing comforting songs to the sick and those caring for them. They would then choose a handful of patients and head to their beds to pour out more requests for healing.  The common denominator with every group was song. At one time I heard three separate prayer melodies coming from different corners of the unit. 

Some sung from books, others sung with their eyes tightly shut, others sang in harmony, and others merely hummed but everyone used song to enter into the presence of God and bring the needs of the sick along with them. Would I see the same scenes in the States? I don't know that I would. I think I got to experience a special piece of Haitian culture on a hot but quiet Saturday. 

Kelinise's blood sugar behaved itself for the most part. Later, Jenn arrived with Kelinise's mother-figure from the orphanage, and the doctor decided she was good enough to go. We could have been upset that that we'd been told to purchase enough medicine and IV fluids for a full 48 hours of hospitalization and now weren't going to have to use it, but we were just happy Kelinise was well enough to leave. To add to our already high spirits we heard probably my top two favorite Haitian praise songs coming from a radio in a nearby room. Naturally the four of us and 50% of the people in ear shot sang along. 

Then the nurse ripped out Kelinise's IV in what promised to be her last painful experience of the day and we headed for home. 

Here's hoping our next blog post speaks only of safe arrivals in America and nothing of further hospitalizations. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

#Twitter #Jesus

Today we stayed in all day. We did what we call “computer work.” It’s the thing that seems to be completely contraindicative to “being a missionary” which we aren’t really sure we are anyway, yet seems to be absolutely mandatory for the other thing we call “starting an organization.” I wonder how long we get to use the verb “starting” and when we’ll switch to the more definitive “running” to describe whatever it is we’re doing here.

Sometimes it just feels confusing like that. Where oh, oh where, do we draw the line between intentional, proactive networking, and borderline begging for people to pay attention?

You know it's bad when the day's most exciting photo is:
 Cooking During a Power Outage

We wrote facebook statuses, made changes to the website, and Jenn even tried her hand at Twitter. We replied to emails, messaged friends, and contacted the people participating in our fundraisers. We skyped with a potential “partner” and read blogs with titles like How to Get More ‘Likes’ on Facebook. We watched the winds come, the leaves fall, the sky change, the rain pour. And we were still inside when the whole cycle repeated itself. Hashtag, fun.

And if you don’t have a clear enough picture of our day I’m offering a sneak peak at Jenn’s most recent online searches.

Yolo (You Only Live Once, we hear that’s a popular thing to say these days)
Facebook group post ideas
How to kill germs on meat (…dinner)
Facebook marketing
Becoming a nutritionist online (I’m interested…)
Tarantulas (There a medium sized one taking respite from the rain just inside our doorway…estimating its degree of poisonousness perhaps?)

Sometimes at the end of a day like today you wonder the value of it all. Most of it is quite necessary actually. Those helping us would feel quite abandoned if we never dropped them an email to check in. And you don’t want your web visitors to stumble across out-of-date information. Total, internet faux pas. And the attainment of funds never ceases to vie for our attention. But might God possibly do just as much with a ministry that has only 200 followers as one that has thousands? The answer is of course yes. His resources are endless, His ways are mysterious, and His plans are marvelous. So maybe the answer to this paradoxical dilemma is to pray more, listen more, and practice a few moments of Be still before that to-do list becomes 10 hours long.

The reality is that He put the vision in our hearts. It’s his ministry and He has all power in heaven and on earth to make it happen how and when he wants. Phew… that takes the pressure off a little bit.

I'll go tell Jenn she can give this Twitter business a rest. :)

 “And you can be sure that God will take care of everything you need , his generosity exceeding even yours in the glory that pours from Jesus.” – Philippians 4:19 (The Message)

"Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." -  Psalm 46:10

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What does that even mean?

The other day Dadou asked if I could help him out. I said "sure, what do you need?” He asked if I would drive to the local hospital to pick up his mother-in-law. His mother-in-law just recently had a stroke and now is unable to walk. I told him, “pa gen problem.” No problem. I headed to the hospital and when I arrived I was told by the family that it was going to take awhile before they released her. I was fine with waiting because there is always something to do at the hospital. While I was waiting I was able to hunt down more insulin syringes and lancets for Kelinise. After that I was able to figure out when the hospital was going to receive their next shipment of insulin. Then, I proceeded to find a nurse to write Kelinise a prescription for insulin so that I could be there the minute the shipment arrived. After all of this I decided to head up to the adult unit to check on Dadou’s mother-in-law. In the main area surrounding the nurses station there must have been 12 people lying in their hospital beds with their IV poles and everything, out in the open. It reminded me of a scene of Grey’s Anatomy after there had just been some sort of disaster and all the patients with missing limbs etc, had to wait in the halls until they could put them in rooms. It was quite similar, minus the disaster part. This was just a normal day. I passed by a doctor who was bent over a patient performing a spinal tap. This made me cringe. Not because the procedure made me uneasy but because I once felt that same pain.

I’m not writing this blog post to talk about what it was like to have meningitis or to tell about the time I spent in the hospital, although it was interesting to say the least. But instead share what must have been my mother’s perspective.

My mother was scared to death as any mother would be. 
What caused Jenn to have meningitis? she wondered.

At first I was isolated because it was still yet to be determined if I had bacterial or viral meningitis. 
What is the difference between viral and bacterial meningitis?

Everyone who visited me in the hospital for the first couple days had to wear a mask.
Why do we have to wear a mask?

After a week and a half in the hospital I was ready to head home.
Can she get meningitis again?
How long will it take for her to recover?
When do you think she can return to school?
Do you recommend Tylenol or Advil for her head aches?

I would say these were valid questions for a mom who has never had a child sick with meningitis. Wouldn't you want to know everything about the disease and answers to all of your why questions? It’s normal. It’s to be expected, especially when you are facing a chance that your child may not survive. You need to know everything. You want to know everything. If you don’t understand stand everything the doctor said to you then you go home and research it yourself. You reach out to anyone that might have gone through something similar.

Now imagine your questions not being answered.

Imagine not having anyone to reach out to because your neighbor next to you didn’t understand either. Their questions also went unanswered.

This is life here. It’s not because the doctors here are bad doctors. They're not. They are excellent, just overwhelmed with patients at times. To be fair there are only about eight doctors for every 72,000 inhabitants. That doesn't leave a whole lot of time for patient teaching.

This is what feeds our passion. We want everyone to understand why their special needs child may not be walking. Why the child with a heart condition can’t stop coughing. Why their HIV+ child is always sick.

We especially want these “educated” moms to be able to turn to other mothers in the village and answer all of their pressing questions. When this happens its beautiful. This my friends is our passion. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012


Jenn and I hadn't gotten out of the house yet this weekend so we both woke up feeling like today was the day. We should. We should make something of the weekend. We should do something. The trouble is if your looking for something to do, for the mere pleasure of doing there's not a whole lot to work with.

We looked at eachother today, feeling like 13 year old girls, desperate for someone to magically appear for our entertainment, or some grand plan to rescue us from boredom. We tried, maybe 3 or 4 times to resurrect enough weekend zest to get ourselves out of the apartment. Tried 3 times and failed. Each time at least one of us found a reason to veto said plan. 

In America there are loads of options for varying budgets, coffee shops, movies, parks, friends with pools, friends with movies, friends with food, a new restaurant for everyday of the month, or year in some parts.... but here we have considerably less options. We do have some options though. So what was our deal?? 

We had a great conversation while trying to sort out this minor, (very minor), dilemma.
We had decided against the beach since we went last week and it felt wrong indulging in that lovliness two weekends in a row. It seems unfair to have this privilege when so many of our Haitian friends don't. We had reservations about going out to eat because we've just established a great little envelope system for keeping our food spending in check and we didn't want to abort the plan so soon...
We didn't want to drive anywhere too particularly far in order to be good stewards of our vehicle and its perpetual need for diesel. It's living this lifestyle where we seek to spend less and serve more, that we run into these conflicting thoughts. Today was another perfect example.

Jenn's been talking about getting a blender non-stop for two weeks. Especially now that it's mango season and the yellow fruit is piled high in the streets, she's been borderline obsessed with acquiring this appliance. I tried to tell her that fruit is still fruit whether blended or not blended, but I know how much this girl loves smoothies so I agreed that it should be become part of the plan. Finding a blender and some mangoes actually sounded like a pretty good afternoon adventure. We went straight to a street where we've seen rows of blenders lined up inside and outside of people's homes. If Cap Haitien were Costco, we were in the blender aisle. However just as soon as Jenn heard the asking price, let's just say she changed her mind about wanting a blender...real quick.

It was after 3 pm when we left the house, but we still made it out. And since Haiti is practicing daylight savings this year we enjoyed a solid 4 hours of afternoon beauty. We ditched the truck and were immediately happy with that decision. Walking gets us up close and personal with the people and places that make Haiti unique. We tried to snap a few pictures of the city to share.

Drive North on this road and it takes you straight into the heart of Cap Haitien. Just days ago this area was impossibly pitted with potholes and only negotiable in first gear. Still buses and construction trucks tear through the area which creates a ton of dust. When you go through the worst of it, it's almost like clockwork the way people bring their hands up to cover their noses or pull rags from their purses that have been brought along specifically for this purpose.

A few weeks back this was the site of some road blocks that were set up in protest of the bad conditions. The signs literally read: we are tired of dust. But this week the road was completely leveled which means, just maybe, it might also be paved. We hope so! Quality of life for the people in this zone would improve significantly.

The streets of Cap Haitien.
Taken after the blender incident.

We decided to fill up on lunch/dinner at the bakery in town. 
Not buying a blender saved us money, right? 
The portions are perfect. We can always get by with sharing. 

We decided to keep walking towards the town square. Coincidently, or maybe not, Jenn pointed out an empty bench directly across from her regular smoothie stop. 
We sat and waited for it to get dark enough for the city power to kick on. 


The waiting was no problem at all. It fact it was a pleasure to sit and people watch, to be surprised when the shop owner's son unbolted the doors, and delighted when a motorcycle pulled up to deposit a chest of ice.

We enjoyed seeing the shop owner's husband carefully prepare for an evening of sales. He swept the outside stairs and mopped inside and out. Then he and his son, systematically and without words, carefully put everything in it's place. Jenn did get a little impatient eventually though, and went up to check if the electricity had been turned on yet.

Behind us, the square was buzzing with activity. Parents sitting with their kids, and each other. A few unaccompanied young ones had managed to duck out of a nearby church service and were causing mischief in their Sunday best. We saw several young girls in elaborate communion dresses and a cake fit for a wedding. Oh to be young and in a puffy white dress. I'm fairly certain I would have hated such a day. But in a culture that prides itself on looking your best, these girls were soaking up the attention. They were all smiles as they headed off to celebrate with entourages of adoring relatives. In fact, everyone in the park looked good and almost everyone seemed to be at ease. Their trips to the park were intentional; a reason to put on a fresh outfit, to do their hair, to gather up their family members. Clearly, they had the right idea. 

Eventually Jenn got her smoothie and we headed home. 
We might have to do this more often. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

So Much Love.

May 13th is Mother's day. The day holds a special significance here at Second Mile Haiti. Not only are we passionate about moms, we exist because of them. Our goal is to empower moms with the tools needed to care for the babies they love so much. We wanted to honor the children in Haiti who have to fight so hard for a healthy life and their mothers who would give anything to change that. And...we wanted to make some money for our ministry so with the help of our most creative friend, we made this t-shirt.  Thanks to the help of another sweet friend they are for-sale, ready and available to ship to you at a moments notice. 

It says, "I love my Mom," which is sure to make any mom smile.

So if you're looking for a creative way to love on the moms in your life this year
I think we've got the perfect thing...


Max and Emily you two look amazing. Thanks for being so cool and fun and for taking these pics. 
Arizona looks beautiful in the background.

Truth is, we hadn't even seen the shirt in person until our friend Dana came to visit in Haiti last month. I was immediately jealous of how comfortable she looked wearing the t-shirt. Combine it's sublime softness with the image of Haiti and you've got something special. 

If you'd like to order one, just click the T-shirts to get to our website and follow the instructions at the bottom of the page. 

Adult sizes available in Teal and Magenta: S, M, L, XL, XXL
Youth sizes available in Teal: S, M, L.

For what it's worth, the youth shirts are 100% organic cotton. 
Maybe that makes them extra extra soft. Lucky kids. :)