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!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Christmas miracles

I think it has been over 3 months since I have last written. That's intense.
But that doesn't mean I haven't had anything worth saying.. actually it's the opposite.
By the way I have not been able to talk for the last two days so I guess that's a sign saying I should write instead of trying to talk when nothing comes out.

I spent a good 9 days in the States this month. It was a quick but very effective trip. Might I add that it was freezing cold? I actually experienced a 100 degree temperature difference in one day. Yep, that's how cold it was. 
I met some amazing people and businesses while on my trip. It's always overwhelming for me to meet people who are interested in this story.. a story that takes place several thousand miles away. It's overwhelming when they are touched by people the people we are helping (or trying to help) that they don't even known and that likely they will never know on a personal level. One thing comes to mind… the body of Christ.

People kept saying to me, "you are his hands and feet" but over and over I kept thinking, "no, you are his hands and feet." You are making it possible for this ministry to exist and for us to serve people in Haiti even though you have no idea where we live or who we are serving. When you break it down that way… how awesome. How beautiful is the "body of Christ." Jesus said we must become disciples and extend our reach to all ends of the world. In order to extend love to all ends of the world we need people in every corner, people like the people I met in Wisconsin and Minnesota. 

My first-ever visit to a "real" Christmas tree farm.

I got back to Haiti last Tuesday afternoon. Boy, was I excited. While I was gone I caught a mean Minnesotean cold (which I wasn't too excited about). So I took the rest of Tuesday off out of consideration for the staff members and the moms. It just wouldn't have been good to show up to the land after traveling a day and a half. I can be a bit grouchy and gross (not having showered in a while). During this half-day off Amy and I took the opportunity to decorate a Christmas tree and make our apartment seem like we are in the Holiday spirit. We finally made the decision, just the day before, that it would be beneficial to the organization and us if we didn't leave for the holidays. We have too much going on with the moms, some possible surgeries, end of the year stuff, and just preparing for the New Year.

Don't worry about us. We have a list of Christmas movies that need to be watched before the 25th. I promise we won't skimp on any of the holiday festivities. We already kicked the movie-marathon off last night with The Christmas Story! We plan to be pretty traditional and I decided that we each get not one stocking, but two. We will have our own cookie decorating party with some of our friends here and we will have an awesome Staff party at the land. Oh, and this past weekend we met a couple "new friends" that all happen to be staying over the Holiday season as well. Be jealous... well don't be jealous but you can pretend you're jealous. 

Wednesday was the day. It was the day to see how Dadou (Haitian Director) did while I was gone. Dadou took over all my responsibilities which include finances, employment oversight, checking to see if mom/babies have everything they need, looking after all sustainable projects, and taking care of anything and everything that pops up.

He did well. He did really well. It's amazing to see how much Dadou has grown in 2 years time.
So good to know.. I can leave.

Amy was overwhelmed however with the amount of stuff she had on her plate the last week and a half. We had a decent amount of sick kids and two pregnant mommas to worry about on top of that. Our community health worker and Amy worked extra long hours. I think it's a perfect time to say how thankful I am for Amy and how our organization would be nothing if we didn't have her. I guess you can say we are a real team.

Amy and I decided on Thursday she would take the day off. A day off she very much deserved. It was one of those times where if she didn't have a day off she might crack. We do that every once a while but we are working on getting to the point of resting before the cracking begins.

Thursday was a unique day. A day I have never experienced before. I received a call early in the morning saying that one of the moms was in labor, and was asked what should we do. We have been thinking about this for awhile and had plans A, B, and C. Plan A was to have her give birth at the hospital where she has regular appointments (45 minutes away). Plan B was to have her give birth at the closest hospital and Plan C was to have the village birthing attendant deliver her baby at the land. We didn't have our truck (it was in shop) which was going to make Plan A and B difficult and we knew that the birth was going to happen extremely fast (this was her 8th delivery). We also knew that it was the mom's preference to give birth right there in her room with a traditional midwife assisting. She had had all of her other children at home. So I had them call the local birth attendant and let them know that I was heading out the door. Luckily I have my motorcycle so it took me only 10 mins to get to the land.

When I got to the facility, all the moms pointed to the room and made it clear that I should get in there fast! It was clear the baby was coming very very soon. Kerline (community health worker) and I ran all over the place finding blankets, bedding, gloves, alcohol, and anything else the birth attendant needed. 

It was happening fast. One of the other moms was holding and massaging the pregnant mom. She was telling her things like how to breathe and shooting up a couple prayers. I have never heard a prayer come out of this mom's mouth before nor did I ever expect this mom to be the one in the room helping with the delivery. It was part of what made the whole experience so remarkable.

Since I've never seen a baby born before you'll have to excuse me while I share my thoughts and emotions. Pretty much as soon as I arrived, I was told "it was happening." I grabbed the moms hand and continued to pray. It all happened so fast. I saw a head, and a whole lot of other stuff come out. I was maybe grossed out for 10 seconds but as soon as the rest of the body started to make it's way out I became overwhelmed with many emotions and all the grossness wasn't gross anymore.  I begin yelling wow, wow, wow. And "Merci Jezi." The baby was out.
I also remember saying, "this is AWESOME." I don't think I cried. But it's possible. 
It was all done in a matter of 5 mins.. All there was left to do was to examine the baby and cut the umbilical cord. I with leave out the rest of the details. But you can imagine that the birthing process looks a lot different here. 

The mom was tired. I heard cheering coming from the outside of the room. I heard Staff members yell "thank you Jezi." Everyone's first thought was to thank God. That too, made the experience beautiful.

Then all the moms went to work..  like they were on the same team and everyone knew what to do. One mom started to wash all the dirty sheets and clothes. Another mom started to mop and clean where the pregnancy took place. Another mom brought in water for the mom to drink. We wanted to send this mom to the hospital quick so everyone pitched in to help this mom and baby get prepared for the hospital. It was very beautiful. This picture of all the moms supporting each other was exactly what we envisioned when we dreamed up this place two years ago. It might be working out even better than we hoped for. Of course we weren't planning to have a mom give birth at our place, it's definitely not in our mission statement, but it was good to know that in this mom's moment of need each one of the other women cared for her and each other like they were on the same team, like they were sisters. It was clear that day that we were one big family/community. The rest of the day the moms watched her 2 year old daughter Jiselle, who is still on a 'round the clock feeding schedule.
Acts 2 anyone?

We care for each other no matter what condition a mom has or how little her baby is or even how difficult/rough her life is… no one is judged. We are all the same. That day I was feeling a overwhelmed amount of thankfulness. A thankfulness for life. A thankfulness for God giving us a vision and us being able to be a part of this very "awesome" story. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The things you sometimes hear when your car breaks down.

I'm sort of good at procrastination. And by that I mean that I am extremely good at being wildly productive while doing tasks of very low priority in order to avoid doing something less-enjoyable of significantly greater priority.

Sweeping, sorting photos in Dropbox "for the organization," and writing blog posts are a few of my go-to tricks when I want to avoid doing something. Oh and if you ever need a tutorial on "how to discover pure musical genius on You-Tube," I can help you out there too. It's another one of my hidden talents.

Tonight, I'm not writing an overdue paper for a class I may or may not regret having signed up for in the first place. Please don't tell the professor. (Just kidding, it's a great class!)

And with that I bring you a story about a mom and a girl that are sort of inseparable.

I want to write about this mom today. We call her Lovelie. 

Her daughter Loudjina is 17 months old. 

She’s been doing this every day for 17 months. And we’ve seen her everyday for almost 2. If she ever gets tired of holding, feeding, loving, and kissing her daughter I've never seen the evidence. 

Each and every movement means something. Their day together is like dance. They are incredibly in sync.

Loudjina is exceptionally communicative. And her mom can elicit a response with ease. She can calm Loudjina in seconds. Loudjina might be upset about not having Tampico... or milk... and mom can distract her by talking about her dad. Or laying next to her and joking with her about how she won’t let her momma off the hook, not even for a second. Her mother's words calm her. Her expression turns peaceful. She is still. She is content. Her mom's presence causes her to forget about whatever was hurting her or making her upset. 

It's sort of incredible to watch actually. It’s not like your average 18-month old who finds comfort by being scooped up in a soothing embrace, only to wriggle free after a few moments and waddle back to the play place. Although, I don’t deny that Loudjina definitely finds comfort in mom's arms. This is most evident in the way she lies silently in her mom's lap, while balanced awkwardly on the side of her head, a process necessary so that her wounds can be cleaned, assessed, and re-dressed. It's awkward, but she doesn't cry and she sometimes sleeps. She trusts that her mom won’t let her fall. 

But more than just being held, Loudjina’s relationship with her mom is very much a face-to-face one. She cries and mom is there. Mom talks to her. She squirms. She waves her hands. She rubs her head. She knocks on the bed where her bottle is located. She taps on her tummy when she is hungry.

 And when all her other needs are met and all she needs is mom, she puts her hand by her lips. I think that means, “mom, can you just come close to me?” 

On Tuesday... Loudjina’s mom had an appointment at the local hospital. She is 8 months pregnant and was getting some lab tests done. We expected Lovelie to be gone from 7 am - 3 pm so her mother, Loudjina's grandma came to stay with her while she was away. Loudjina wasn’t a happy camper. Well, things started out okay at first. Since it was Loudjina's dad that drove Grandma to our facility on a moto she got to spend some face-to-face time with her papa; there's no a better way to start the day! But after dad left, she started missing mom. She wasn't making it easy on Grandma. I decided to go ahead and do her dressing changes. When I finished, Grandma offered to keep Loudjina resting on her side for awhile to relieve pressure on the sores. This is an important part of wound care, I was totally on board. Loudjina was not. 

This is the part where I would like to stop and tell you a million reasons why I love and respect Loudjina's grandmother. But talking about her would likely extend this post far beyond an acceptable length so I will limit myself to just one reason. Let's just say, she cares about the people in her family, a whole lot. Her newest grandchild is a 6 week old baby boy. She personally takes him to the hospital once a week for casting appointments. The baby was born with bilateral club feet. Routine casting is the prescribed course of action; first weekly, then bi-weekly, and finally monthly. She went to three hospitals before arriving at one that could do the casting. It takes almost an hour to get to this hospital and it costs an arm and a leg to get there. But, I'm pretty sure she would stop at nothing to make sure this baby gets a chance to walk. She's tenacious. She cares. 

Unfortunately, Loudjina didn’t really see or appreciate her Grandma’s patience and sincere desire to help her heal. She was just upset about lying on her side. 

Apparently, when mom came back from the hospital Loudjina straight up "told on" on Grandma. She brought her arms to the sides of her head to indicate that Grandma had "forced" her to lie on the sides of her head. Oh the drama! When Dad came to pick up his mother-in-law, they all laughed about it. Whenever Dad, Mom, and Grandma are together all they do is talk about Loudjina.

So Loudjina missed her mom.  But something tells me that Lovelie missed Loudjina just as much. 

All day today she kept saying, “I can’t leave you, can I?” “Not even for a day.” 

She would follow this with: “I’m going to have to make you forget me, aren’t I?” 

But of course she doesn't really intend to make good on her threat. She says this with her faced smashed as close to Loudjina’s as is physically possible. 


I shared an interesting moment with this mom on our way to the land on Monday. Our truck had a bit of a malfunction just after I picked the pair up from their house. We hadn’t made it more than a hundred yards, but the car was no longer drive-able. 

Before long a swarm of people engulfed the car. First one, than 20. And they weren’t interested in me. 
There were a few comments about my foreign-ness. And a few helpful suggestions, like “go buy gas, blan!” 

Which was funny... I don't know much but I do know how to tell whether a car needs gas, And that was not the problem.

But I didn’t respond to the 'blan' comments because the real reason they were peering into the windows and then running off to tell their friends had nothing to do with me. Most of the people knew Lovelie. They had even seen Loudjina before, when she and her head were both much smaller. But others had simply never seen a child like Loudjina.

In fact the majority of comments revolved around the fact that Loudjina appeared to be so much like a "normal child" in so many ways.

“Oh my, she has beautiful hands!” 
“She has such long hair!” 
“Her body is so normal, it’s not even small!” 
“It’s just her head that’s big!” 
"She's a beautiful child!"

But then the comments started to get a little too "up close and personal" for Lovely’s taste. 
She started giving some responses that made Loudjina seem like quite the little miracle. 

“I thought she was boy! She’s a girl Love?” ...”She’s always been a girl.”  True  
“She holds a bottle?” “yes, by herself.”  True
“She eats???” “yes, totally by herself.”  Mmm... not totally true
“Can she sit?” “yes, I help her sit.” A bit of a stretch. 
“Does she talk?” “yes, she says Mama and Papa.” Nope. Not true at all! 

I turned around and winked at her when I heard that one. Loudjina doesn’t talk. (However, she does enjoy her food quite loudly, which in terms of volume is much the equivalent of talking). But these neighbors, mutually uninterested and too interested, didn’t need to know that. So, maybe she told a few un-truths. Frankly, I’m kind of glad she did. These people were asking what felt to her like annoying questions about a child, her child, whom she sees as nothing but normal. She painted a perfectly "normal" picture of her daughter, a picture she sees daily, for people who wouldn't understand her value by any other definition. 

I’m afraid the chatter didn’t stop there. We were waiting for at least 30 minutes before my “help” arrived. 

A few of the remarks were simply unhelpful, and rude.  
Like, “you should go the hospital with her.” Brilliant! 
Or,  “why didn’t you just throw her away in the city?” Awful. 

Yes. Someone really did say that. 

And mom’s reply was sassy and pointed. “Why, because she’s a problem for me?”

The people surrounding our car were some of Cap-Haiten’s poorest. People move to this particular area when they cannot afford any other place to live. And our car broke down directly between “the Project,” a block of one-room homes that were been built by a charity organization, and a garbage pile the size of a swimming pool. This area is known for flooding and there is substantial rainfall this time of year. Navigating the dirt paths and the deep puddles is challenging. Let’s just say that wasn’t my first time being “stuck” near Lovelie's house. I'm almost convinced that the nasty mud pits are precisely why the garbage trucks which normally patrol the city wisely avoid this area.  Getting stuck just wouldn’t be worth it. Many generations of poverty were present in the crowd. Grandmothers, standing next to teenagers; both, with babies on their hips. It was nine o'clock in the morning and our car was surrounded. Neither work, nor school, compelled them to be elsewhere. 

So...not overly surprisingly, in this setting it may be more than a fleeting thought for some people, I suppose, to dispose of a child that everyone is telling you won't live anyway. Especially, when the future they speak of would most assuredly be more of a strain on you and your living family members that anything you could possibly imagine surviving. And you've survived a lot. So there's that. And not to mention, the enormous pressure you feel by people who are likewise stressed and traumatized by life's hard knocks. They are telling you that you will not, and should not have to, survive mothering this child. It will be too hard, they say. 

To be fair, the guy who made that final comment was a sarcastic teen, not more than 20. But these same messages can come from dads, grandparents, older sisters, noisy neighbors, and family members who expect to be heard and heeded...

Loudjina and Lovelie have been staying with us during the weekdays for 8 weeks.
Loudjina is growing. Her wounds are slowly changing and healing. We are pursuing surgery.
If the thought of giving up has ever crossed mom's mind, it hasn't shown.

One woman (one of the first to come over to the car) left her spot in front of Loudjina's window to give others a better view. She moved to the driver's side and was standing quite close to me. I could hear her clearly. “This life...” she said shaking her head, simultaneously burdened by and thankful for it in the same breath. 

“God gave me two healthy kids," she acknowledged. "It could have been another way...” 

It was as if seeing her neighbor, pregnant, and seated with a visibly heavy, disabled child lying across her lap and drinking from a bottle with two "beautiful hands" had brought her face-to-face with the uncertainty of motherhood and of life itself. Metaphorically, it was heavy. Of all the comments I heard that morning, I was probably most touched by hers. 



Today...four days after the incident, Lovelie brought it up again. 

“Did you know that those people we saw on Monday, were the same people that told me to throw her away?” 

"...I would never."

Saturday, November 23, 2013

She is his mom now.

It’s Friday. I am exhausted. But this blog is not about me! It is about THESE AMAZING WOMEN! 

a few of the current moms
While I may have experienced extreme stress and sheer panic this week, our first with 8 moms (as of last week our average was only 4), looking at this picture I feel nothing but pure joy. Hopefully that stress and panic thing is only momentary because this is exactly what Jenn and I envisioned when we dreamed up this place. God is certainly good. It is humbling indeed. We have seen many success stories. The problems we hoped to avoid have been avoided... We don't always know how, but we are thankful! And we are swinging. And by that I mean Second Mile Haiti is in full-swing. 

We are now officially, a recovery center for malnourished infants and young children.

We are a center of empowerment for moms (and dads).

We are keeping families together. 

We are just a puppy of an organization. So a baby step, like having 8 moms (9 kids) sleeping at our place all at the same time, is a really big deal. 

speaking of puppies... we have one! meet "dog," the newest addition to the farm
I want to talk a little bit about what "recovery" is like for the moms. Then I want to share a story. 

Fridays we take pictures. We weigh the babies everyday but on Friday we measure them, check their arm circumference and take progress photos. It is a time of pride and anticipation for the moms especially after the child has entered the rehabilitation phase. This means that they are eating well and gaining weight steadily. Morning weights are so exciting for the moms. When the weight has registered and it's time to take the baby off the scale it's not uncommon to see a little love-fest between mother and child. 

Last Friday, after two days of consecutive weight gain one mom grabbed her son off the scale lifted him up in the air and smothered him with kisses. "Mickey, I love you!" she said. "Two days in a row you have made me love you!" The babies are kissed, showered with compliments, and paraded around the room. Yes, there is sometimes happy dancing. 

Sometimes the children arrive with no appetite. Not only do some children not want to eat, they fight food like its poison. One mom said this of her daughter's distaste for mamba. "She would rather vomit that have that stuff in her stomach." So there's that... 

It takes time and effort on the mother’s part to rehydrate the child (if it has been experiencing vomiting or diarrhea) and then to gradually feed the child with a special milk formula until the child gets to a point where he or she wants to eat. For some children their poor appetite may stem from an infestation of worms. Very gross indeed.  The vermin make their bellies feel full and painful. Other children suffer from infections of the mouth and throat which make it painful to eat or swallow. Still others may be under treatment for other conditions and have to take nausea-inducing medications several times each day. Others are simply too weak and tired to eat. Whatever the case, I bet you can imagine the mother’s relief when she no longer has to coax and coerce the child to drink. When a child starts to take feeds voluntarily, even asks for them...we all celebrate! 

Moms are probably most in tune to these changes, even when they themselves don’t realize it. Just imagine this scenario with me. Your child has been sick for months. They have missed many developmental milestones. At this age they should almost certainly be sitting, even walking. Yet you've only known your child to be sad and in pain, lethargic and grumpy, lacking the energy needed to play and unable interact. This may have been your situation for weeks, months. And now over the course of a few days things begin to change. They now smile and babble.

Walking with their kids through these milestones is a significant bonding period especially if the mom had already begun to fear a worse outcome. 

 friday morning, not so happy about photos but smiling for mom

We get to watch the stress fall from the moms shoulders as they ease into this new reality. Once their child is “out of the woods” they become a new person. They play with their kids almost constantly. They brag about their kids and how much they eat. They talk about their kids to the new moms as though they are little princes and princessess, demanding the utmost attention and care. 

The change we see in the moms is almost more drastic than the change we see in the kids. Their demeanor changes entirely. We see confidence. We see agency. They can. They did. They were the agents of their child’s recovery. They gave them those feeds. They battled through the days where their baby didn’t want to eat, they were persistent. 

Giving a feed during a gardening class

With each step forward, the moms become more confident. 
It happens quickly. 


                           our newest mom. feeding her baby on Day 3 and smiling about his progress on Day 4!

Meanwhile, they are learning new things. Each day in health education class the women are empowered with useful information regarding health, disease prevention, nutrition, and hygiene. They are inspired to be “sharers” of their knowledge in their families and communities. You might ask... Really? Will they really share what they’ve learned?

Yes. Oh yes, they will. 

Some moms are more assertive than others, but I can definitely say that we’ve watched this phenomenon play out when moms who have been with us for 3 or 4 weeks interact with fresh meat. It can be quite funny. 

These new arrivals get quite the ear-load from the more "experienced” mothers. Haitian culture permits these lectures. What you have is a society where educated people are given the benefit of the doubt and over 60% of adults are illiterate. Most people rely on oral tradition to transmit information. These factors create a culture where individuals are ready and willing to be told something useful. And naturally, once they themselves become a vessel of that useful information, their sense of self-worth increases each and every time they are able to share. 

And the new moms listen. Wouldn’t you? Imagine you have a very sick child and now you've come to a place where several other women appear to have been in much the same situation as you and they are giving you all sorts of advice. Their words are comforting. 

They tell you things like “feed him the milk every two hours and you will be out of here before you know it!” or “all you have to do is never forget to give the medicine and force the baby to eat even if it doesn’t want to and it will be better.” While that sounds kind of harsh, these mini-lectures are meant as encouragement, from a deep place of solidarity from someone who has already seen the light at the end of the tunnel. The new moms take heed. 

In a way... this knowledge sharing makes things easy for us. On a mom-to-mom level is it they that run this ship. And they run a clean, tight ship. They are vigilant! Old moms berate new moms who forget to wash their hands or leave a bowl of food uncovered and open to attack by flies or worse! But it all comes from a place of love and sincerity. And it doesn't take long before a new mom becomes an old mom for someone who is newer still. The old moms know that the new moms want nothing but health and happiness for their own children. They are simply advising and encouraging, in an “i’ve been there” sort of way.

hand-washing station
It’s hilarious and sweet to hear the mothers interact with one another and to watch them change from week to week.

Dieula is an excellent example. I will close this blog post with her story. It is a sequel to the expert I wrote in this blog. I called that portion, An Aunt and a Dad. 

That’s what was left for baby Ederlie when his mother passed away two weeks after he was born, an aunt and a dad. 
And I will argue that that is enough. It is with this argument that I wish to convey that before a child has to call an orphanage his home, so much more can be done to help families become care-givers. Just because a mother dies doesn't mean there aren't a handful of capable and compassionate family members already filling the void as only they know how. 

For Ederlie, his aunt Dieula and his father Kado were his life-line of support. 

This is Dieula.

She totally inhabits the meaning of her name, "God is here." Dieula did for Ederlie what God does for us pretty much all the time. Holds us. Loves us.

I don’t know that she was initially planning to be his mom. Staying at Second Mile with her nephew was just a favor for her brother. But things changed. And for the rest of this blog post I will call him her son.

They went home today after spending 5 days a week, for 5 weeks, with us. Ederlie weighed 7.4 lbs when they arrived. He now weighs 10.5 lbs. He is now 3 months old and he looks good. And so does Dieula's two year old daughter Wilnise. She stayed with her mom as well.


We didn’t really do all that much for this family. We provided infant formula and a place of support and “recovery” when this family of siblings felt the shock of a motherless newborn under their already full roof. Ederlie’s dad lives with Dieula and one other sister. Combined, they have 8 kids. When Ederlie’s mom died the family absorbed a fragile newborn who might not have made it past his two month birthday having to tolerate ingestion of the only food the family could afford to feed him. We put Dieula through the same healthcare education classes that all the moms go through. She watched videos about what it means to “eat well” and how troublesome little germs can be for young babies. In one way or another, in her 5 weeks at Second Mile she became a super-mom able to feed and care for a newborn with the utmost diligence. She became an expert. So efficient in her care for Ederlie and her 2 year old (she has 3 other children at home) that she had plenty of extra time during the day to help new moms. She was the first to pick up a crying child if another mom was busy. She was the first to take a baby into her room if a mom was out for a few hours. She was the first to mop up a mess that didn’t have an owner or take on a task that didn’t have a “doer.” 

And oh, was she proud of Ederlie! It only took her a few days to see the correlation between frequent feedings and healthy weight gain. When she first arrived Ederlie would cry out in hunger and she would ceremoniously sooth him and put him right back to sleep. Eventually she began to feed him at those signs of hunger and he became a solid and developmentally on track 3 month old. We are so happy that she is so happy. 

Let’s not forget about Ederlie’s dad. He is still very much in the picture and we believe he will continue to play his fatherly role in Ederlie’s life. 


These pictures were taken last Friday when dad, Kado, arrived early to pick take Ederlie to an appointment at the University Hospital. Ederlie had been hospitalized after his mom died. Lab tests were done and treatment was started but the family took an early discharge because they couldn't afford to stay. The dad felt like he should take the baby back for an appointment to have him checked out and to tie up any lose ends. We couldn't agree more. One of the things we hope to help families with is ensuring they have a good plan of action for future medical care and emergencies. We want to demystify the healthcare system and one of the best ways to do that is to actually have the parent take the child for an appointment or a vaccination. This way they become familiar with the hospital and they have a good idea about what it costs to receive care. By going through the motions once, they're empowered to do it again. And, they know that the child has both a hospital card and a file at the facility. Dad did it. He totally took initiative and navigated the clinic, the lab, and the pharmacy with no problems. Ederlie received a clean bill of health.

So what's the plan for this family? Well, business of course. Early on we began inviting Kado twice a week to participate in business education classes alongside Dieula. It only made sense that bringing both caregivers into the fold, to work together, would give this business a chance to be doubly successful. 

a family business endeavor

Ederlie's well-being really was a group effort. When they went home for the weekend's Kado took charge of the feeding. While Dieula was at Second Mile he watched out for her older kids and made sure that they were fed. Meanwhile, Diuela invested sleepless nights caring for and nurturing this sweet bundle of life, he became her own pride and joy. 

showing off Ederlie's progressive weight gain! 

She is his mom now, I am certain. 

They left today. We know it will be hard at home. At Second Mile the mothers receive three meals a day and the food and formula needed for their child’s recovery is provided for. At home, they will need to buy milk and prepare food to see the same results. Health comes at a price. But that is why we invest in their businesses and continue to follow up. We want step-in mothers like Dieula to know that they are not alone. She is brave. She is bold. She is beautiful. She is Haitian. 

a before and after

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

for those of us who don't have a PhD

Is it just me, or do the days of the week never feel like the actual day of the week? Today sure doesn't feel like a Tuesday! But then again I'm not entirely sure how one is supposed to pick a Tuesday out from the crowd. The days of the week? They blur.

Mondays however, well Mondays are easy. Mondays are equal parts dread and excitement. Weekends are glorious. We get to exercise. Sleep. Be productive. Work on things like the website, blog, emails, and proposals. Jenn networks, sometimes. And we socialize, sometimes. And rest and run and read. Did I say sleep? And we catch up on errands and I clean. Cleaning is therapy. I've even been known to keep my phone on silent the entire weekend.

So while the weekends have their perks, we are prepared for Monday and we look forward to seeing everyone at the land. We love what we do.

On Mondays, we arrange for all the moms to come back to Second Mile. The past several weeks we have had an average of 4 moms sleeping at our facility on any given night. We pay transportation via taxi moto for some. Sometimes, the child's dad will bring his wife and kids. Most of the time, we send our trusty employees to do the pick-up or, we arrange a rendevous place and time for the remaining mothers to come in the truck.

We also try our best to plan for any potential cases to be evaluated for admission on Mondays. Of course, it doesn't always work out that way but often it does. Jenn is like Super-Planner Extraordinaire so Monday's aren't stressful. But they are busy. By the time Tuesday rolls around it feels like Thursday. 

I have two new women to introduce to you. 

This is Widerlie. 

We introduced you all to Mickey, her 9 month old son, last week. This week marks their third week at our facility. When Mickey arrived two weeks ago he weighed 8.8 lbs. He weighs exactly 10 lbs now. He is progressing gradually. We are doing our best to really spend a lot of time with this mom. She learns best via repetition and practice. Last week our health educator, Miss Kerline, taught Widerlie how to give Mickey a bath. I set goals for her; showing her how much mamba must be given by 8 am...12 pm... and 4 pm... and how much milk to finish before morning. She cannot read or recognize numbers so it is difficult to have her follow a schedule or use a thermometer. But I will never forget what she said to me sometime around day #2. She said, "I'm listening. I will do everything you say so that my baby can become better." And that's what I like to hear! She may not hold a PhD but she is a mother and she loves her son. The highlight of my day was when I gave her a pop-quiz and she aced it! "Winderlie?" I asked.  "Do you remember how much Paracetamol (tylenol) to give Sandley if he is hot (fever) tonight?" I handed her the medicine cup and she pointed to the correct line. My spirits rose.


I go through a similar run down with each mom before I leave the facility each evening. "Do you remember what to do, if...." is usually how the conversation starts. Because we don't have health care staff during the night the moms are taught, quickly, the signs of emergency. We monitor the kids closely during the day and if something isn't right we ask, rather than tell, the moms if they think their baby needs to go to the hospital. This keeps the agency with the moms. We want them to be empowered to make these sorts of decisions both when they are home, and while they with us. 

So far, this plan has worked well. 

This family went home on Thursday! dun dun dun...

These twins and their baby sister (and mother) spent 4 weeks at Second Mile. They left in tip-top health
Rosenie and 3 (of her 7) children spent a total of four weeks with us. They left us last Thursday with the beginnings of a business. Mom will sell soap and oil in order to make ends meet. Director Dadou and Miss Kerline will visit them tomorrow to see how they are fairing at home. 

We also have a new mom. She arrived today.

First day at Second Mile
Her name is Suzette. She is 31 years old and has 3 children. We met her husband today as well. She lives about an hour and a half from our property. Through her connections with a partner organization she was given a free moto ride to our facility. She will stay with us as long as is necessary. Her baby Lovelie is 14 months old. She weighs less than 9 lbs; a weight most infants attain at least by the time they are two months old. Lovelie does not smile. She does not want to eat. But she does breastfeed. That is her saving grace.

lovelie, 14 months old, 8.5 lb.
We began rehydrating her and we will slowly feed her until her appetite returns. When this occurs she can begin eating mamba (see our gift catalog for more info). We will keep the blog posted with updates and in the meantime we ask that you keep these two in your prayers and/or support to help families like these.

I am also acutely aware that we need to post a Marie Ange  update. Marie Ange was our first case! We believe that God shed some serious grace and provision on us the day our paths crossed. Marie Ange stayed with us for two months and then later required a second admission. During her second admission she gained weight rapidly and stayed stable. Marie Ange and her mom left us in late October. Since then she has had 3 follow up visits; one at 4 days post-discharge, then again at 10 days and again at 17 days post discharge.

She is well. Praise the Lord.

Here are a few before and after pictures. I'm sure that one day soon we will post more of her story.

Before and After on the "Marie Ange Chair" painted blue by her momma
Before and After (toutouni) - from 9.6 lbs to 17.6 lbs! 

Marie-Ange's mom has been with her through it all. The hand.. enough said.
And I leave you with this. 

The "land"

Every evening Verdieu and Joslin bring the cows and goats in from their pasture. Lately it's been getting dark by 5:15 pm. That is, out. of. control. and way too early if you ask me. Regardless, I snapped this photo as the sun began it's descent today. Peace and beauty?

We are surrounded. :)

Don't forget to visit our holiday gift catalog if you are interested in packing an end-of-the-year charitable donation to Second Mile Haiti.  

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

New moms, new stories

I've written my fair share of long-over-due posts but this one takes the cake.

It's 10 p.m. on a Tuesday and it already feels like 1 a.m. on a Friday but we simply can't put this off any longer.

Here are some updates.

Probably our biggest update, aside from all the new cases, is the restructuring of our program to allow the moms to go home on Fridays and return on Mondays. It makes so much sense that we wonder why we didn't think of it before... but that's the beauty of being able to change things as we go. We now arrange transportation for the moms and babies to go home on the weekends. It gives them time to be with their other children. Most of the moms don't have cell phones and they are relying on neighbors or other relatives to keep an eye on their older kids. This new weekend thing, helps keep their worries at bay knowing they will be back in just 5 days. It also gives them time to do household chores and check in with their friends/family. Let's face it, as cool as we are, most people don't want to be away from "home" for long stretches of time so this breaks things up nicely. We are even experimenting with business practicums on the weekend. For example, a mom might take home a few cartons of eggs to sell between Friday and Monday. This way she gets to test her market and we get to see how she does applying the lessons learned in the official "School of Business."

Friday morning

Now for the moms.

This is Lovelie and her daughter, Loudjina. Meet the wisest and most patient 20 year old  person, I know.

Her daughter Loudjina is 15 months old and is living with a condition called hydrocephalus. Hydrocephalus is a common neurological condition that is usually swiftly repaired upon diagnosis anywhere you can find an operating room and a brain surgeon. Hydrocephalus, an accumulation of fluid in the brain, is more common than brain tumors and more surgeries are performed to correct hydrocephalus than any other form of neurosurgery. The presence of hydrocephalus is often identified at birth, but it can even be identified antenatally. As far as brain surgeries are concerned (since I'm pretending to be such an expert) correcting hydrocephalus is a simple procedure. A shunt is placed between the brain cavity and the abdomen to drain the excess fluid. Unfortunately, for Loudjina and others like her, in Haiti, these surgeries are offered only a few times a year when US-based surgeons come to a hospital in Port-au-Prince.

Loudjina did have this surgery when she was 3 months old but she was supposed to have a second surgery a few months later. Because the family didn't have enough money to travel all the way to Port au Prince (the bus ride takes 6 hours and costs $30 round trip + the cost of food), she was never able to attend that appointment. We are now waiting for the next surgical team to travel to Haiti to see what they have to say. In the meantime I am working on several pressure ulcers that have developed on the back of Loudjina's head. Because these wounds can take several hours to dress, and because transportation is difficult, it makes sense for Lovelie and Loudjina to spend their weekdays at Second Mile. This mom is awesome. I've gotten to know her pretty well over the past three weeks by spending so much quality wound care time with her and in driving them to and from their home twice a week. If you asked me to think of someone who blesses me, just because they are who they are, I'd choose this mom (and Loudjina's pretty awesome too).

In case you didn't notice, Lovelie is expecting. After she decided to stay at our facility we sent her to her first prenatal visit. She thought that she was maybe 3 months pregnant but learned that she is actually due in December! We're happy that she's getting some prenatal care, good prenatal nutrition, and some extra help with her daughter during her final months of pregnancy.

This is Loudjina's fourth week at Second Mile. We don't really know how many more she will stay. Mom is doing all the business, health, and gardening classes with the other women.

Two sassy girls and a breastfeeding baby that won't gain weight! 

We also have four lovely Roses staying with us. This is Rosenie and her 3 month old daughter, Roselourdes. Her twin daughters, Roseline and Roselore, will be 3 years old in December.

Day 1 @ Second Mile

This Mom is kind of famous right now. She has a lot of people invested in her well-being. She was referred to us by a small clinic in a "slum" area of Cap Haitien. Meds and Foods for Kids, the organization in Cap Haitien that produces Medika Mamba (a.k.a Plumpy 'Nut), has been working closely with that clinic to provide them with their products. They provide both Plumpy 'Nut, for severely malnourished children and Plumpy Supp' for moderate malnutrition and pregnant and breastfeeding women. While Rosenie was pregnant with Roselourdes, she was enrolled in a pilot Plumpy Supp' program at the clinic. The idea behind the pilot is that pregnant women in this particular area aren't getting enough nutrients during their pregnancies. As a result, they are giving birth to low-birthweight babies who are born on a path towards malnutrition. The program is designed to test whether giving the pregnant women a Plumpy Supp' (a peanut butter-based paste supplement, packed with vitamins and mineral) will lead to better outcomes both for the women and for their children. The women in the pilot continue to receive Plumpy 'Supp for 6 months following delivery (while breastfeeding).

Rosenie's story is not unique. Before her most recent pregnancy, she was a single mom with 6 children to feed, clothe, and send to school. Then when she became pregnant with #7 it became even more difficult for her to feed her kids. The clinic director, who would sometimes help the family from his own pocket, decided to share her story and reach out to some of the local organizations for help. That's when Meds and Foods for Kids decided to refer Rosenie to Second Mile. At the time both she and the newborn weren't gaining weight as expected. Our main focus has been trying to determine why mom and newborn aren't gaining weight despite so many extra calories. We've ruled out a few possible problems and are looking into others. Our second biggest focus is getting Rosenie set up with business.

"life course" in the education center
In the 3 weeks they have been with us, we've seen the most improvement in these two little balls of fire. Check out their before and after pictures.


After - Sass! 
When they were admitted, the girls met the criteria for Moderate Acute Malnutrition. But not anymore! These girls have gained about four pounds in three weeks. We even had to privilege of saying "orevwa" to two very large tapeworms that Roseline (the taller twin) pooped out a few days after receiving de-worming medication. You'll have to excuse the poop-talk. We just get very excited about these types of things. 

An Aunt and a Dad

Rosenie, the mom above, had a neighbor. When Rosenie went home after her first week at Second Mile she learned that the neighbor had passed away. The woman who died was 2 months post-partum. When Rosenie returned the following Monday she suggested we might need to help the deceased's sister-in-law who was now looking after the baby, in addition to her own children. The baby had been hospitalized, but because the family didn't have money to pay for the hospitalization, and because the sister-in-law had her own children who needed her at home, they took the baby out of the hospital prematurely. Unable to afford infant formula they began feeding the baby. **I think I've got my facts straight now.. The babies mother actually died 8 days after delivery, not 2 months. 

Our health worker met with the aunt, who decided to come to Second Mile with both the baby and her own 18 month old daughter. While the 2 month old is technically "severely malnourished" according to criteria, its possible that it was born prematurely. Or maybe, his mother is an example of a woman who, lacking prenatal care and proper nutrition during pregnancy, gave birth to a tiny baby (as was noted with so many woman that live in that area) and then succumbed to a obstetrical complication. Whatever the case, we felt that our best bet for helping the family with a longer term solution would be to give the aunt a chance to go through all of the health, gardening, and business programs while providing infant formula for the baby. The aunt agreed, provided that the baby's dad, her brother, would ensure that her own kids were being fed. We met the baby's father on Day 1. We learned that he and his sister live in the same house along with one other sister. Combined, the three siblings have 8 children. They all live together under 1 roof. 

Day 1 @ Second Mile

The aunt seemed pretty close to leaving us on Day 2 not because she didn't want to be there, but because she learned from her sister that her brother hadn't brought home any money that day. Her children hadn't eaten yet and that was the deal; she would stay with her brother's baby if he would make sure that her kids didn't go hungry. But they stayed. And went home on Friday with the rest of the moms. 

The Dad had the baby during the weekend. He did his best to formula-feed the baby and record how much he drank. Some of the math is a little bit off, but I must say I was impressed by his efforts. When the aunt returned on Monday, I learned that the she had been summoned by another relative to travel to a town about an hour away. While there, she was hospitalized for a stomach ache and dehydration. 
...Just another example of how life can be brutally challenging for these individuals. 

We have one more case, a 9month old that weighs 4 kg (8.8 lbs), but I will save his story for another blog post. He just arrived yesterday and we are still getting to know him and his mom.

In summary, things are really busy in a good and challenging way. We just had solar panels installed (see newsletter), our gardens are doing really well (also, featured in newsletter), and today our cows got registered with little tags in their ears. That may seem random, but I think it's cool. And totally relevant.  We always need support so feel free to check the newsletter and/or recent facebook posts for our biggest needs. And please do pray for these moms, dads, grandparents, aunts, and kids.