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!

Monday, July 8, 2013

A Summary of the First 2 Months

What we've learned. This blog post is a joint effort. Jenn wrote the first draft and Amy came in with editing and expanded with some of her own thoughts. That's how we roll. Two heads are better than one. ;) 

On Friday, Amy is heading back to the States to visit her family, to do some Second Mile networking, and to attend two weddings (the Main Events!!!). Next Wednesday I will be heading back to the States to fundraise and attend two weddings as well. We have had this trip planned since last January and we are just amazed at the perfect timing of it. We knew all along that the trip would force us to stop and to evaluate the first two months of taking in moms and their children. We knew it would be good timing but still, you sometimes hate to leave, but now we are just extremely thankful that we get this time to pause, evaluate, and work on making things even better! These first 4 moms helped us to understand how our organization is running and they especially helped us see all the changes we would still like to make. Amy and I firmly believe we need to always be changing as the holy spirit continues to direct our paths and give us understanding about the different situations here in Haiti.

Here's a couple things we have learned the past two months:

Gardening…I have learned a lot about gardening. It blows my mind the stuff I didn't know before that I should have. It blows my mind that every time anyone sets foot on our back property the first thing they do is compliment our soil. It turns out we have extremely fertile soil. That's exciting huh?

The last two months I have been asked the question why aren't all Haitians growing and planting fruits, vegetables, beans, and corn if it's growing so well here at our place. The biggest conclusion I have come to is the lack of management structure. In Amy's last post you can learn a little about our workers and the things we are growing, but I firmly believe that what's working right now is the division of labor and the chain of command. We have nearly 2 acres of land in the back and we have even been able to plant on 3/4ths of that space in two months. What I've learned is that organization and management are extremely key to success of a garden of this size.  It's needing someone to invest in the planning, organization, and the management side of the gardens. I guess that's where Dadou and I come in the mix. We are solely invested every day in those aspects of the gardens. I am the person who figures out how much we need to make to cover our gardener's salaries. Dadou focuses on the planning of the work and gives the motivational speeches. And lastly Ama gets it done. Ama was put in charge 3 weeks ago by Dadou as the "head gardener." He sits down once a week and they discuss the things that need to happen and Ama agrees to get it done. Ama then turns around and has a sit down meeting with the two other gardeners, Joseph and Wesley. This system gives the team goals and direction each week.

When the black eyed peas were popping up everywhere that's when we really learned how to work our garden efficiently. We decided it wasn't efficient to have the gardeners pick the beans because it took time away from watering the land, creating more rows, and planting vegetables. So that's when we decided to get the moms involved with this process. The moms started to pick the beans and shell them. This opened our eyes to the kind of work we would like the moms to be involved in even more so in the future.

I'm not sure if you knew this but we always wanted to focus on giving the moms some chores around the facility so that it could feel like we are doing this together, not just "us" doing for "them." Their participation in the processes which make it possible for them to receive food, medication, and many other things their babies need during recovery just makes sense. But most importantly we want the moms to know that in their time at our facility they also help us, we are doing this together. They add to our project and in this way what they receive isn't just a "hand out." Hand-outs have been extremely damaging in Haiti's history and we really can't be a part of that any longer. Also there is no better way to remember what you've learned than through hands-on practice. At Second Mile moms have the opportunity to learn some valuable new things that we hope stay with them when they return to their own homes. 

Secondly, our two ladies who work for had also been involved in shelling the beans for all lunch time meals. Everyday they would sit there for an hour or more just prepping those beans. We finally relinquished this task to the moms so it would free the ladies up to do other tasks they needed to complete. 

Over the last couple days Dadou and I have been discussing even more jobs that future moms could be involved in during their stay. We've decided that they could be feeding and watering the chickens and grabbing the eggs from the chicken coops. They could also be in charge of bringing in the goats every night and taking them out in the mornings. They could also begin counting out the number of beans by the cup load that gets put into each sac before it is sold. 

That brings me to the "why?" Why does all of this matter so much? Good question. 

It gives us an opportunity to give each mom a loan to start commerce. This is what we will do with the last 3 moms. One of those moms left today and the other two will be heading to their homes before the end of the week. We can't expect their situation to just "miraculously" change. They didn't have the economic means before they came to spend 3 weeks (average) at our facility, what changes if we just send them back home with a healthy baby and nothing more? How long could we realistically expect that child to stay healthy? Children need food to grow and moms need to be supported in their efforts to provide for those needs. But, like I said before we don't believe in handing out money when they leave, especially if during their entire stay they had purely been watching us do for them. Our goal is to empower, it says it right their in our mission statement. :) So we are experimenting with a set amount of money we would like to invest in each mom. Each mom will benefit from a sum 5,000 gds which is roughly $110 USD. We have devised a list of items that can be purchased with that 5,000 gds that in turn the moms will be able to sell. Commerce in Haiti happens for most right in front of their living space. For example one family might have a sack of rice they sell to their neighbors  cup by cup. Another person may have a stand featuring candy and snack foods. And another person operates a cooler of cold drinks. For the moms, business can happen right in front of their homes, by walking through nearby villages with their merchandise, or by setting up in an open market nearby. Only they will know what works best for the area in which they live. We do the purchasing of the items in advance and keep the stuff in the depot until they are ready to leave. Dadou educates the ladies on the profit they will make from each of the items. He teaches them about tracking all transactions. Most importantly he gives them encouragement about their future in business. The items we purchase for the ladies are all items in bulk: rice, detergent, tomato paste, beans, soap, etc. Dadou encourages the ladies that as they begin to make a profit they can either a) turn around and purchase the same items or focus on items that are selling best or  b) branch out to other things they would be interested in selling. 

"Going Home"

This program in reality, was pulled together just in the last week and a half. Unlike our first mom who had a system for buying and reselling bananas. The second mom did not have a target item or a target market. When asked what she's done in the past for business her answer was "everything." She described herself as a business woman and began to list the different types of things she used to sell before she got sick. Being "sick" and having to take many trips to the hospital for both herself and her children wrecked her business in that she had to continue to spend and spend and spend until there was nothing left. We can't judge her past mishaps we have to simply offer her this fresh start. This is a program that Dadou, Amy and I all feel strongly about not just for this particular mom but for all of the mothers that come through. The reason that their children are so malnourished, for most of these woman, is a lack of income that limits their ability to buy nutritious foods for their babies. We found that when moms first got here they were ansy. They want to "do" something to improve their situation and help their kids. You can see the stress lines on their faces as they worry about it. We think that being able to orient each new mom to the facility by explaining the flow of the day including all the jobs and chores she can help with as well as the tasks she needs to complete by the time she leaves is a good place to start. Being able to work towards her "business loan" should help some with some of the "ansyness" and the worry lines we noticed in the first four moms. 

The goats…

We are still very encouraged about our goat program! (Read more about the goat program here.) But, in the last couple days we have been realizing that we would like to give the moms that goat a few weeks after their departure rather than on the day they leave. We would like to use the goat program as an incentive, a goal to achieve later... when their children are still gaining weight, their business is flourishing, and their kids are just plain healthy.

Our partnerships.

We are still continuing the strive to partner with the local hospitals and Children of the Promise. We have been referred 3 cases by the hospital in our area zone and 2 from Children of the Promise. Amy continues to be in contact withe the University hospital and a few other hospitals in town and we have already had some referrals from there as well. We have had representatives from all our partners visit our site (besides from the University hospital). When we return we will continue to grow these partnerships so we can continue to have children referred by doctors, nurses, directors, and community health agents.

Our criteria for admits. 

When we started out, the program was solely for moms and their ONE most severely malnourished and acutely ill child. But since opening, we have had our eyes opened to possibility of accepting dads as well, and also moms that have more than one young child.  In fact, we really don't know our exact criteria because we just know that God is bringing these families into our lives and we will take it one case at a time. We trust the He will bring to our attention those that need the most support and those that can benefit most from our facility. This might be our biggest lesson learned. So... there is no criteria for admits just lots of prayer involved.

Our Nurse. 

We have a new vision for the role of our Haitian nurse. These first 2 months with our first 4 moms were SO incredibly helpful in terms of designing the health education component of our program and also the role of our Haitian nurse. We came up with an entrance and an exit exam that lets us test the mom's understanding of some of the major health topics we cover during their stay (stuff like how to eat a balanced diet, how to protect your kids from things like diarrhea, malaria, and tuberculosis, and really basic technical stuff like handwashing, food preparation, medication administration, and how to make enriched milk and oral rehydration solution, etc). We are now going to focus on creating more hands on activities for these topics since most of the moms haven't been able to read or write. We are thinking about even adding some small tutoring sessions so that any mom who is interested can have a chance to learn these skills. Amy started about a week ago spending some one on one time with a few of the moms per their request. 


All of our first moms had the opportunity to learn how to use  a thermometer, detect a fever, and give the right dosage of their medications. They learned about the best foods for their kids and how to keep both themselves and their children in good health. They passed their exit exams. This, to us, is success. We don't think anything about the last two months wasn't successful because in reality it went better than we ever expected. God showed us quite often that he knew exactly what he was doing when he put this vision in our heads. This vision in our heads is starting to make more sense. We constantly have moments like "ah, yes" "that's why we were supposed to do this/that." We are here for a long time to serve families in Haiti (God-willling). The only way we will know how to serve more efficiently is if we don't get comfortable. We are focused on being better. 

After a visit to the hospital for an abscess,
Dieuson returned with 7 new prescriptions

Which leads me to the last thing... We learned a little more about rest. We have learned that when things are slow it's because God is preparing us for something big and we need to be rested for it. So these next three weeks we will be resting even though we will also be doing a tad bit (/lots) of fundraising. ;) By the way, if you are interested in connecting with us while we are in the States let us know! Our destinations are Arizona, California, and Seattle, Washington. We would love to meet you!

One last thing. For those of you that might be worried about what our employees will be up to while we are gone...don't worry! They will still be busy! We can only hope that the back property will be producing tons of vegetables and there's still more to be planted... but let's save that for another post. :) 

Thanks for reading, 
Jenn and Amy

Saturday, July 6, 2013

How Does Your Garden Grow?

 We don’t know a lot about agriculture. 

We can admit this unashamedly. If I think back to my childhood, I can however, visualize the raised beds my parents  insisted we implement in the area of our yard I felt would have been better utilized had it been turned into a swimming pool. Still, the only thing I can really remember about gardening are feelings of remorse over a broken sunflower and a warm fuzzy feeling I recall when I think about the delicious persimmon cookies my mom used to make. I suppose both of these memories have more to do with childhood shenanigans and eating than they do with growing food. 

But beside the fact that neither Jenn nor I have an ounce of gardening experience our humble project, just 21 months young, has a glorious garden. And we feel likes queens feasting on the abundance of God’s glory. Seriously. All glory goes to the one who created us in His image and started humanity in a garden of paradise. 

It all started with this. 
Jenn and the neighbors helping to clear the land, April 2012

Then we put buildings on it. 

Then when the buildings were complete we began acting on what was an essential part of the vision: sustainability. 

We wanted to last. We hate asking for money. We want to last without having to depend on a multitude of donors. We want to be organic, and wise, and incredibly faithful with the land God provided. We quickly developed the motto “why look at piece brown dirt when you could be looking at food..."

Our primary goal was to figure out how to feed all the mothers and children who spent time on at our facility. We wanted them to get to participate in the planting and harvesting. We wanted to invoke that "yes we can!" mentality through the act of digging in the dirt or cooking with foods you helped grow. We also believed we could have an impact on the local community through the introduction of vital nutrients and by selling produce at fair prices and close to home. We wanted to offer employment to some of the local people! But here's the real kicker, we wanted to always be able to ensure those salaries through the sale of goods produced.

I'll let you in on a little secret. Back in the early months, when these ideas were stills ideas, we didn't actually have a plan. And as I confessed earlier we had zero experience. But God did something He has continued to do through this entire process. He let us in on just one little morsel of his grand plan at a time. The first, came in the form of seed packets, tons and tons of seed packets thanks to a little farm in Wisconsin calling Threshing Tables. I’m not even sure we needed to ask for them. People simply got wind of our intentions and the donations arrived.

I’m sure the next step went something like this: Jenn and Dadou sit down at one of their many impromptu meetings and she says, “we need to start the gardens.” To which Dadou replies, “we need to till the land.” 

April 2013

I was included in the next impromptu meeting where they gave me list-making privileges. Yes, that's a real thing. I was invited to come up with a list of all the fruits and vegetables I desired to see on the land. I wasn’t shy with my requests. I wanted to see everything from papayas to pigeon peas. The list wasn’t short. Even so, just 3 months later we've planted all that and more.
In early April, Dadou invited people from the community to help us plant beans and corn.
Many people got to have a hand in the planting of our first crops and earn a day's wages while they were at it. They planted the corn and beans together, randomly. Only several weeks later did I learn that is a genius soil preservation strategy. The beans give beneficial Nitrogen to the soil and the corn sucks it right up! Just another reminder that the success of these gardens had very, very, very little to do with me. 

At this point we hadn’t yet selected the people who would become Second Mile Haiti’s official garden employees. 

But over the next several weeks the team sort of assembled itself, starting with Ama. Ama, our neighbor, is a respected community member who wears many hats. He’s a former school teacher, a current official on the community committee, a father, a grand-father, and an all-around great dude. We couldn’t have prayed for a better neighbor. Although, I know for a fact that we did pray for good neighbors. 

He brings with him years of food growing experience, as evidence by seven healthy adult children, a soccer team of grandchildren, and acres of flourishing crops and trees. We were pretty much sold when Director Dadou suggested he be hired as a garden worker.

Then came Joseph, a young dad and a very hard-worker. We were most impressed by the way he carried himself, seemingly able to pull off the star-employee thing with his eye’s closed. He’s a learner, with a genuine interest in and knack for agriculture. In order to produce the best yields for Second Mile Haiti, Joseph does research on his own time, contacting the local agriculture guru’s in the area and asking questions. We love to see this kind of initiative. 

And finally Wesly, a late edition. We were impressed by Wesly’s work ethic and patience. He worked on various construction projects during the building phase. We knew he desperately wanted employment but he wasn’t overt about it. He worked hard, often without pay, until he won himself a well-deserved spot on the gardening team. 

Joseph and Ama

What happens next is better described with pictures. Quite simply, these guys got to WORK. It's a struggle to choose pictures to adequately show off what they've accomplished on the back property. 

We were lucky to have a trained agronomist get the guys started. He began stopping by the property to lend his expertise and taught the guys, free of charge, how to create raised beds and a shaded nursery to start seedlings. Did I mention that this advice came free of charge!? It was a huge blessing. 

By the second week in April we had planted carrots, beets, tomatoes, lettuce, and onions. In addition to beans and corn. 

The last week in April we got our hiney’s kicked into second gear by a visit from my cousin, Sarah. She LOVES or should I say lives gardening and spent hours with the aforementioned guys teaching them a few tricks, like composting and mulching, and planting with them yet more vegetable varieties. They even spread out our gardening efforts to include a few rooftop plots. 

All of May was spent watering an acre of corn and beans (bucket by bucket, when the rains were slim), creating more raised beds, planting sweet potatoes, okra, more bean varieties, cabbage, eggplant, garlic, squash, and more... They composted, and weeded, and watered. We planted Moringa, Chaya, Malabar spinach, and some fun things like the Winged Bean and some edible Hibiscus. 

whose excited about composting?! we are!! 
Once we had our compost bins in place we were anxious to get them filled up with compostable goodness! So, we enlisted the help of our friends and the neighbors that live in our apartment complex. We also followed the goats around collecting their droppings. But that wasn't the most efficient of plans... What did work was a system with our friends where we provide the buckets and they provide the scraps! It's a great system. There are few things that make me happier than walking out on the front porch early in the morning to find there's been a compost delivery. Those heavy buckets of rotting material reek of potential. It's a good stink, and I love them. Friends that compost together, stay together! Or is that not how that goes? 

At the end of May we enjoyed the very first harvest, a little bean we like to call, pwa neg. 
The moms, babies, and employees have been eating from the land ever since. Our meals aren’t yet 100% home-grow but we’ve made a very respectable start. Every morning the moms and babies eat a nutritious soup. The greens in the soup come from the gardens. The beans in each lunch meal were grown at our land. Also, the plantains we sometimes serve come from our neighbor next door. All the milk comes from our cow. And everyone snacks all day long on Mangoes from the big tree. 

There is nothing quite like eating from the land and nothing quite like the realization of a dream, all-be-it the component of a dream.

Our dream is still a dream. We’ve not yet arrived at the part of the story where we suggest to a mom that her child may be suffering from Vitamin A deficiency, the part where she remembers what we've told her about carrots being an excellent source of Vitamin A and then she runs back to the property to gather carrots. She might even pluck a few limes from a lime tree on her way back up to recovery homes before she sets herself down to make carrot juice for her baby. 

Maybe that part comes in August. The point is, it’s a very probable scenario. It’s happening.

The corn and bean fields with sweet potatoes and okra against the back property margin

planting another round of vegetables, July 2013
Tomatoes, Peppers, Beets, Onions, Carrots, Garlic, Eggplant, Cabbage, and space to grow a second harvest

The AMAZING workers- Joseph, Ama, and Wesly- take a break from making new raised beds to pose for this picture
composting in action

and a few more plants :)
eggplant, chaya, spinach and Moringa

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A day in the life of Jenn

It’s come to my attention that we aren’t the best “updaters.” Without me processing through the last two weeks and trying to remember exactly what happened...I will just tell you about the last two days. This will help you guys out. I promise.

Monday morning. I wake up around 5 am. I am usually up around 5 am-6 am. I had a meeting at 10 with the UN, Haiti Hospital Appeal, Lakou Breda, and Carbon Roots International. Long story short...The UN supported a project for HHA, Lakou Breda, Second Mile with Carbon Roots International. We have been partnering with Carbon Roots International to receive training on bio-char and charcoal. This in shorthand is green charcoal. We are trying to make our own charcoal by going green. Everyone on board? By making our own green charcoal we hope to give the moms an opportunity to be able to sell this charcoal in the local markets as a means of commerce. Also, we can used the bio-char as compost for our gardens, and lastly we cook with this charcoal on our facility. Why is this green charcoal better then normal charcoal? We aren’t cutting down trees to make it. We are using a renewable resource, sugar cane. Luckily our village is filled with sugar cane. It’s better health wise. Did you know when an Haitian cooks an meal here using normal charcoal it’s the same thing as smoking three packs of cigrattes. Mind blown huh? 

Before this 10am meeting I drove out to the land on my moto. I had to make sure everything was in order... Did I mention I had a moto accident 3 weeks ago. 3 stitches in   the knee, black eye, and a nasty leg bruise that took 3 weeks to heal. Luckily, I live and work with a nurse that took excellent care of me. Oh, this particular nurse, Amy was  riding with me during this crash. Luckily she didn’t get hurt. I guess that’s what happens when you fall on the driver. Ok, I’m fine...back to my day. Dadou and I had an hour meeting at the land. For everyone that hasn’t been following us the last year and a half...Dadou is our Haitian Director. He is my right hand man. We talk daily...we probably talk close to 3 hours a day. We have become the same person. I haven’t decided if that’s a positive or negative thing, because we sure do have our mood swings. I pray that our mood swings don’t happen on the same day. Well, yesterday was payday. Yesterday’s payday had me in a little bit of a frenzy. I wanted to increase our employee’s salaries. I wanted to show them that I respected all their hard work, but the numbers from our gardens didn’t add up. Which means I wasn’t able to give them raises. I vented my frustration with Dadou. I said, “I’m selling milk and eggs everywhere I go. Why aren’t you helping me. We need to make more money from our garden sells and you know it.” He responded, “I am doing the best I can. I went after work on Saturday to find vendors. I ask everyone I know. I am doing the best I can too.” My temper calmed because he’s right. My “right hand man” works hard. He works just as hard as I do. We both apologized to each other. It usually goes like this... “ I’m sorry Dadou. Are you sorry?” and he usually responds with a reluctant “I’m sorry too.” I am taking the time to write this conversation between Dadou and I because this is exactly how we act together. After this little argument we put our heads together to make a plan. We decide we need to encourage the employees to help our project out more and that there would be a staff meeting today after lunch. Okay, my work is done at the land. Back on my moto. 

I head back to Breda (this is our apartment complex) to meet with the partners and Carbon Roots International. The meeting went well. There were even cokes and Prestiges (beer) that were passed around after the meeting ended. This is always a good sign of a very productive meeting.

Okay the best part. After the meeting I had another meeting with the Mayor of Cap Haitien. In case you don’t know...Cap Haitien is the second largest city in Haiti and it’s a city of over 2 million people. It’s a big deal to get the Mayor to come our to your project. He’s a very busy man. I originally met him the week before at a local restaurant. We hit it off. I think the conversation ended that I would personally be training him into better health and I would contract his next house. Not bad huh? Well the Mayor agreed to visit our site. I wanted him to visit our site so we could get a recommendation to become a registered NGO here in Haiti. When we become a registered NGO in Haiti we will receive on the ground funding and recognition that we are just plain legit in Haiti. 
So...the Mayor came to our site. He loved it, and purchased a carton of eggs on his way out. Success.

The second part of my day was revolved around payday. We are currently paying 13 employees...awesome huh? This means the project is growing.

Okay, staff meeting. It went well. All the employees agreed about helping out more. They are decided among themselves that they should be given a certain amount of beans to sell each month and if they didn’t sell the beans then the money would be taken out of their check. I never decided this or did I mention this. They did. I might be biased but I would say we have by far the 13 hardest workers in Haiti. Hands down.


My goal was to meet with the MPCE. The MPCE is going to help us with our paperwork for our registration. My meeting got pushed back to 1, so I headed out to the land instead. While heading to land I have a couple thoughts in mind.

Irrigation system, Solar panels, Cows, and lastly chickens.

We received funding for an irrigation system in the back! Big News. We started drilling the well today. Dadou and I talked about logistics of the pipes and all the electrical components of this irrigation system. Praise the Lord the guys don’t have to water two acres of land by hand anymore. It’s a win win situation.

Next, Solar Panels. We received funding for solar panels, and as of last week all the money has arrived! I sent out an email to my contact in the States to get the ball rolling. By the end of the week we will have the panels ordered and they will be on there way to Florida. This process will take a week and then from Florida they will be shipped to Cap Haitien. This process will take closer to a month. The timing is perfect because I leave for a fundraising trip in 2 weeks and will arrive back in Haiti in a month. The panels should be here when I arrive! This is exciting news people. Are jumping up and down with me? 

Cows. We need another cow. I have people threatening me if they don’t have milk tomorrow. Milk sales are that good. One more cow will allow us to make another $315/month. In the future I would love to have 4-5 more cows, but one cow at the moment will do. Plus, we only have funding for one more cow so it will just have to be one more cow. Did you know this....when you fund a certain project...Second Mile delivers. 

Chickens. Holy Cow, we have eggs. Sorta of funny sentence if you think about it. ;) All of our chickens our laying. Eggs are in demand. Haitian eggs are particular in demand since there was a recent case of the bird flu in the Dominican from the Dominican eggs. So people don’t want Dominican Eggs anymore. Did you know 85% of eggs in Haiti are from the DR. Second Mile is hoping to lower that statistic. One can dream? So I envisioned/dreamed with Dadou of building two more chicken coops and purchasing 60 more chickens before we leave. So...if you are interested each chicken will cost $15 and this includes part of the construction of chicken coops, vitamins, and chicken feed for two months. This girl loves to calculate. That was also my one and only fundraising pitch for this blog post. ;) Gotta always throw them in there. Just so we are clear that’s $900 before I leave to go back to the States. Ok I’m done.

Finally, the meeting with MPCE. It was a good and well informative meeting. There is hope that Amy and I will be able to pull off this registration.

Whew. This is about all I can write. My attention span can’t handle anymore blogging. Just insert airport mail runs, working out at the local hospital, Grey’s Anatomy, making gluten-free brownies, 2 other meetings, planning for our 4th of July party (Brits and Canadians are attending so it has to be good), washing vegetables, and we can call it a successful two days of work!