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!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

More Birthdays

26 and 27. Now I know what you are probably thinking. You girls are getting too old to be fussing over birthdays. Birthday fun is meant for 6- and 10-year olds. And really, if you insist on grown-up birthday fun, it should be reserved for the sacred years of 30, 40, and 50. Notice I left out the infamous 21st birthday? Yes, I may finally be old enough to recognize that twenty-one, is not a grown-up age.

Jokes aside. I want you to hang with me. All this fussing is for a good cause. 

I have a few things to tell you about birthdays. And you can get to know us a little, while we're at it.

Among the expats in Haiti, which Jenn and I belong to for obvious reasons, 'birthday' is less of a noun and more of an action verb. I think it might be because those participating in the birthday festivities are equal parts happy to have a reason to gather and cognizant of the fact that even though our friendships are young and our ties are loose, we are a rag-tag family for whatever length of time we will all be living in Haiti. And families need to celebrate each other's birthdays. 

There have been pancake breakfasts, midnight teas, and no shortage of dance parties. There was this one party where a Haitian party guest brought goat soup which I’m sure is typically delicious but on this night I was distracted by the goat’s skull that sat in the middle of the serving tray. Garnish, I suppose. It was a feast to remember! There was another time when our neighbor was presented with a hand-made Owl piñata at her surprise party. It was made by her crafty roommate in Papier Mâché, pronounced "papper mAh-chay," emphasis on the ‘Ah' (because the birthday girl was British). Classic, yet oh-so original. This party will be remembered for generations (which in expat terminology is roughly 2 years). 

We live in this weird community of people who are nothing alike yet have everything in common. It’s an apartment complex of sorts, unique in that, aside from a handful of Haitian exceptions, everyone who lives here hails from another place...Pakistan, Ghana, India, Sweden, Canada, Switzerland... and New York City. I’ve never experienced anything like it except college, which was much less diverse. It really is a great set-up for potlucks, networking, and birthday parties. It’s also perfect for community composting and borrowing each other’s baking dishes, but that’s not my point. 

So what will I do for my birthday? Well, if you and I do not know each other personally, then we best get this one thing out on the table. I, Amy Syres, am the epitome of introverted.  

It should be no surprise to you dear reader, that I have never had a birthday party in my adult life. Now, if we do know each other, than don’t you dare get any ideas; I intend to continue this trend so please, PLEASE do not throw me one. It would put a serious strain on our friendship. Plus, come party time, I would just retreat to my room lock the door and hide under my yoga mat, thoroughly embarrassing myself, and you. So don’t bother.

Instead I think we may go out to dinner on Friday and/or enjoy one of the several brunch spots in Cap Haitien on Saturday morning. We can pretend it’s like any other weekend and it will make me very happy to slip by this calendar day without too much fuss. 

I will however, shamelessly commemorate the advent of my 27th year with a trip to the Tourist Market. This wonderful place is the spot where we take visitors to buy metal lizards and braided yarn bracelets with ‘Haiti’ inscribed on their faces. There you will find no shortage of artisans and vendors pushing handmade dresses and painted wooden figurines from the mouths of their overflowing shops while saying things like “it’s free to look” and “come inside, very cheap price!” It’s also the place where you will find me at Christmas, and New Years, and Valentine’s Day and the first day of Summer, absolutely exploiting these “holidays” in order to justify a moderate offloading of cash and an excessive uploading of stuff.  I just love me some metal art and some carved trinkets! Really, I do. You should see our house. 

At least when it’s my birthday Jenn usually buys the items for me which makes me feel only slightly better about the splurge.

Jenn is my opposite. While I light up at the thought of a woven basket and a quiet brunch, Jenn likes to spend her special day surrounded by people (fun people); the more the merrier. 

April 1st 2014 will mark no less than three birthday taco nights for miss Jenn. 

No joke. ;)

Much like the April 1st of 2012 and the April 1st of 2013 there will be zesty margaritas and homemade salsa. Once something has been fun or tasty the first time, Jenn’s sure to look forward to the same places, people, and treats in subsequent years. She loves tradition. Like gluten free chocolate chip cookie cake for dessert. Which reminds me, dear neighbors, we best do our best to find some decorating icing-preferably blue and green-- because Jenn really loved her cookie cake last year…For Jenn, the closest we can get to a duplicate extravaganza, the better. 

She loves to be in the middle of a crowd...revving the conversation, serving the drinks, making sure people are fed. There’s a feast, but she forgets to eat. Girl loves her birthday. 

Now, I have been going on and on about birthdays for awhile now. I mean I’m generally pretty wordy but this has been down right excessive—on purpose. I wanted to make a point to convey that yes, although we will be turning an awkward 26 and 27 years old, Jenn and I really are making a deal, even if it isn’t a big deal, about our birthdays. And truth is, these two days won’t look very different than they did at 23, 24, and 25. Nonetheless, we commemorate. 

And I’m guessing that you do too.

While you read, I wanted you to think about your own birthday. And about how you help others celebrate theirs. Do you have a bad habit of spending too much on not-needed birthday gifts for people? Or like me, too much on yourself? Do you have kids? How do they like to celebrate? What are your traditions? 

I hoped you would think about how it feels to age and how it feels to celebrate the life of the people you love. 

It really is a big deal you know, a year in time. 

Marie Ange turned two while she and her mom were at our facility. I wonder how many people doubted that she would live to see that day. We didn’t do anything special on that day, not even a birthday crown or a piece of cake. Although we should have. I think we were just really busy. When Marie Ange turned two she wasn’t out of the woods yet. She still looked like this. 

a few days before her 2nd birthday - back down to 9 lbs - readmitted to Second Mile

Up until this point she had only looked as good as the photo below, taken 6 weeks earlier on the day that Marie Ange and her mom left for home, after their first 8 weeks of recovery at Second Mile. At 21 months old and 12 lbs she was still fragile. A few weeks later a nasty bout of diarrhea caused her to plummet back down to an emaciated 9 lbs. 

I wonder what was going through her mom’s mind on that day September 10th 2013, her 2nd birthday. If instead of rejoicing, she was thinking about all the ups and downs...the uncertainty. 

July, going home 2 months older and 3 lbs heavier.
Starting in September we did another 8 weeks of 'recovery and empowerment' and a second-chance business.
Now Marie Ange looks like this. 
Not bad, hey?

taken January 2014 - 2 month's after going home - a follow up visit
It's been 4 months since Marie Ange and her mom left Second Mile. She's made it halfway to her 3rd birthday. Her mom seems happy, appears healthy, and as has a successful business. She even has love in her life and a baby on the way, a planned and wanted pregnancy. I just get this feeling that she will be celebrating, actually celebrating Marie Ange’s 3rd birthday. In true Haitian tradition there will likely be a fancy new dress and a ‘#3' themed photo shoot. 

If there is, we will probably be given one of the prints. I will then ask mom if I can post the photo here, so that everyone who has been a part of Marie Ange’s story, everyone who has given to Second Mile, and to those of you who play a role in manufacturing Medika Mamba and to those who are donating it for this very reason, will be able to see your impact.

And now it’s time to talk about how we hope to make this birthday fundraiser about more birthdays. We are asking you to give to Second Mile Haiti so that moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles, can usher their children into each new year of life with an added measure of certainty. Of course nothing is certain, every day and every hour of life is a precious gift. There are just certain things, which I believe shouldn't have to be so uncertain. Tragic accidents and terminal illness aside, mothers everywhere should be able to rest in the security of daily food for her children, clean water for drinking, and the means to obtain medication when her children are sick. 

We see a lot of moms for whom this isn’t the reality…they don’t always have food, they can’t always afford clean drinking water, and they aren’t sure what to do about sickness because the hospital is far and the fees are too much. 

They aren't sure about much of anything, except that they love their kids. We are trying to change these uncertain parts for one family at a time, starting with one malnourished child at a time. 

On a personal level, we rally behind the groups and individuals who are championing causes and campaigns which aim to change the systems of inequality and injustice that collide to make it nearly impossible for impoverished Haitian women and the children of impoverished Haitian families to rise and stand. We hope for a breaking of these chains and a surge of employment and improved human rights for all. And while we are hoping and collaborating and advocating to these ends, our little organization- Second Mile Haiti- takes up a little space with a few women who are actually hurting now, whose children are actually on the brink of that first or second birthday. 

We are little, but we have big goals. We believe that in order for a child to remain successfully healthy families must 1) know how to keep their child healthy and 2) have the means and resources to do so. 

In Haiti approximately 77% of the population live on less than $2/day. 80% of the adult population are unemployed. And their children? 1 in 14 Haitian children will not live to see her 5th birthday. 

Our starting point is women who do not have a stable income, most of whom did not enjoy the privilege of secondary education (or even primary education in many cases) and most of whom did not have the luxury of choosing when and under what circumstances they became mothers. 

And as if that doesn't sound problematic enough, they have a sick baby and a handful of older children who will always be on the verge of illness unless their nutrition improves. 

What we do costs money. 
But it’s worth it. Don’t you think? 

Marie Ange (18 months) - May 2013 - First day at Second Mile
You can partner with us! Now, during our birthday weeks. In two weeks (starting today and ending April 2nd) we would like to raise at least $10,000 to support our efforts and get on good financial footing for the coming months. 

There's no magic number to give but we do have some [fun, because it's a fun-draiser after all] birthday related suggestions. 

Donate the cost of a birthday card, we don’t have a mailbox anyway. ;)  

Donate the amount of your age or your children’s ages.

Donate the year of your birthday ('88, '63, '54--the older you are, the cheaper it is!)

Donate what you would spend on yourself at your next birthday, 

or the cost of a party, or a fancy dinner.

Or just give- generously- because your gifts mean more birthdays for children in Haiti. 

Donate because you have birthday traditions. And they don’t yet. 

Donate because you tend to spend too much on the frivolous while parents in Haiti are borrowing money to bury their children because they didn’t have money for food. 

Remember the goal is more birthdays! We can make a difference for one family at a time. 

Donate now and often.
Online or by check.  
These families thank you. 

For more information about Second Mile please read some of the previous blog posts, or visit our website and have a look around. 

our mailing address:
Second Mile Ministries
5251 W. Desert Falcon Ln. 
Tucson, AZ

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

My Off Day

My "off day" also known as my day off. 

Late last night my father passed away, and I was here in Haiti. These last couple weeks/months have really put a toll on me. I have been tired and stressed. I have been overwhelmed, but mostly I'm tired.
Today I can't even describe how I feel. Maybe I feel all those emotions wrapped up in one, but I'm also feeling a little content.

Last week I took a short trip home to see my family. My Mimi (grandmother) and my dad have been really sick these last couple months. I figured it was a good time to jump on a plane while there were no visitors, projects, or any pressing grants I needed to write. My trip was a week long. It was spent spending as much time with my family as possible.

This week was the first and last time I have seen my dad. Well, it was the first time I have seen him in a very long time. I didn't necessarily have the "ideal" family life growing up. My dad wasn't the "ideal" dad. It is what it is. I think I now realize that most of my life I didn't know my dad, but instead knew of his addictions. His addictions caused him to lose a family. I don't think he ever wished that upon himself. In the last year or so I was contacted by my dad to make amends. I was asked to see and if I would forgive him. Unfortunately, my time to the States is always short and usually organization related. 

This time was different. I took time away from work. I didn't even try to raise funds, and if you know me well then you know it's not an easy thing. 

I saw my dad last Thursday in a hospital room. It was roughly 9 hours before I was supposed to board for my flight back to Haiti. I walked in the room and his look on his face was like an ghost just as I walked in. Everything felt normal. For an hour it felt like I had a dad. My dad was barely able to speak, very uncomfortable, and in a lot of pain. He asked me things about my work, relationships, and if I was happy. I fed him a turkey sandwich while he continued to apologize and stroke my hair. I'll never forget how Big Bang Theory played in the background and how he had a fohawk hair cut. (nurse gave it to him). The hour was one of the most peaceful hours I have had in a long time and it's when I realized he was absolutely beautiful. He was made in his image. I leaned over and I gave him a kiss goodbye, and said I'll be back soon. I knew as I was walking out of the room that it was the very last time I was going to see my dad.  

I don't for a second regret how I grew up or wish it was different. I wouldn't want to trade it in for anything in the world.

My dad makes me who I am today. I am 100% confident in this statement.
Our organization is based on loving people no matter what. Some of these cases are not easy.
I needed a break because it was getting hard to love over and over. It was getting hard to not get hurt or feel used.
We are lied to on a daily basis. We are lied to because they have never had people that have give them the chance and they aren't sure how to respond. Over time we see people stand on their own two feet. The lies disappear. Addictions disappear.
This all happens because they were loved, and they are loved over and over.
Sure it's hard on us mentally and physically, but everyone needs chances.
Not just one chance, but multiple.  

It took me a long time to realize it was the "addictions" and not the man. 
So in honor of my dad I will do my very best to look past the addictions and get
to the heart of these women we serve. I will understand how they were shaped and molded from their
previous life experiences. I will understand and be patient, and most of all I will keep on loving them.

And one night while having dinner with a glass of wine and feeling a little defeated over a particular day, I will give cheers to ones that are standing on their own feet because of an endless amount of love and a few second chances.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

happy day!

On Tuesday, after spending seven weeks at Second Mile, Daniel and Miselene went home! This post is about what his transformation looked like, how it happened, and well mostly what it was like to provide a mom with a few basic tools and watch how she used them to care for her kiddo. 
This mom was a favorite. Let’s put aside the fact that I probably shouldn’t be admitting that and just agree to tell it how it is. ;) We all enjoyed her. In fact, she probably stayed longer than she and her baby truly needed to simply because she was so great to have around. 

Miselene was extremely attentive in every class. I don’t know how she did it. She followed all the guidelines and didn’t complain. In fact, Miselene was the reason we started assigning a weekly chore to each mother... not that she needed to do more, but because she was doing so much and the others needed to share the load. 

She was eager and smart. Pleasant. Kind. Sweet and respectful. And there wasn’t the slightest bit of doubt that she cared about the well-being of both of her children. This must be true of all mothers- deep down- it’s just that not all moms manifest their concern in the same ways. Some moms are simply so beat down that the emotions and reactions you would expect to see aren’t the ones that surface. 

That’s probably why I enjoyed Miselene so much. Her emotions were so honest. I could tell when she wasn’t feeling good and when she was feeling confident. She felt genuine joy in the growth and improvement of her baby. When he wasn’t doing so well you could see how much it pained her. She talked to him, kissed him, loved on him. Because of his age, Daniel was drinking infant formula. We weren’t giving him Mamba. We weren’t giving him enriched cow’s milk. Simply formula. He responded very well and gained weight rapidly. He cried whenever he was hungry and his mom promptly made him a bottle. Miselene was extremely cautious about hygiene. She washed her hands. She made sure the bottle was clean. And Daniel was never sick with diarrhea or vomiting. We never doubted that he would gain weight at a steady, constant rate yet Miselene was excited every, single, day when he did.

She had this way of saying, “ohhhhh Daniellllll” surprised, yet not really surprised, the way you would continue to praise a toilet training toddler each and every time he did his business in the right place. She really was so happy to see Daniel improve even the slightest bit. She bonded with him over each and every bottle. And she kept track of every single ounce. 

Daily weights plotted by the nurse and a record of Daniel's milk intake written by Mom
Honestly, Daniel was a really easy case. We didn’t have to do much for him yet for this family that little bit made all the difference in the world. 

Daniel's shelf: meds, formula, treated water, and Mom's lunch bowl
Daniel was referred by Children of the Promise. His mom went to COTP because she heard that her baby could be helped there. She went to their gate and asked that Daniel be taken into their creche. When they told her he’d be better of with his mother, she got desperate, asking if their was another orphanage she could take him to. 

She felt she had reached the end of her capacity to care for him. She wanted help. Mostly she just wanted him to survive. COTP thought that Daniel and Miselene would do well at Second Mile. 

When they arrived Daniel weighed 3 kg. 6.6 lbs. He was exactly 3 months old. Maybe you're thinking... my kid weighed more than that when he was born! Yes.. 6.6 lbs is tiny for a 3 month old. Daniel had been drinking tea and drinking formula when his mother could procure it. 
6.6 lbs - Day 1 
Daniel’s mom had not been breast feeding. She said she didn’t have milk. And after assessment of her own nutritional status it wasn’t hard to see that that was likely the truth. Her health was part of the problem. At the time when Daniel and Miselene came to Second Mile, she had been battling a cough for many weeks. Her body looked worn. She seemed weak and tired and hadn’t yet gotten to the bottom of her symptoms. 

She had gone to a clinic relatively near her home and was seen by a doctor who wanted to rule out Tuberculosis by doing a sputum test. The test was free and if in fact she had Tuberculosis the medication would be free as well. But it was the cost of transportation to the clinic (and the fact that her son was also not well) that kept her from following through. For the sputum test, she had to bring a series of three samples on three separate days. Meaning, that she had to assemble enough money to travel not once, not twice, but three days in a row. 

When we met her she had submitted 2 of the 3 samples. We arranged for Miselene to finish the testing and then arranged for her to go again, her fifth visit to the clinic, for the results. The test concluded that she did not have tuberculosis. I was so relieved! But why did she still seem so disheartened? Aw, yes, a negative test result meant she still didn’t have answers and answers cost money. When they told her she didn’t have TB they also told her she should return to the clinic the next day so that she could be seen by the doctor. The doctor would likely prescribe more tests or if she was lucky, just write her a prescription to treat her symptoms. Only those tests and those medications would not be free. 
In Mislene's mind, a sixth visit was out of the question.

Thankfully, after a few days of rest and a few high-energy meals, and some OTC cough syrup Miselene did begin to feel  better. 

By the second week it was much easier to look at Daniel.. he wasn’t the fragile little skeleton he had been on the first day.   By week four he was actually filling up the scale. 

By their 5th week at Second Mile Daniel had gained 4 lbs and had earned himself the nickname, “ti bout patat.” 

Little sweet potato. 

He was doing well enough to go home. He was no longer severely malnourished and had even reached the growth chart median for a child of his length. Very impressive, indeed! But on the day we began preparing his mom to go home, Daniel developed respiratory distress. Instead of sending him home we gave him a breathing treatment and sent him to the hospital to be seen. 

The doctor prescribed nasal drops, vitamin C, and an antibiotic. The total cost of the consultation, the laboratory tests, and the medication was $12.24. Totally affordable, right? Yet $12.24 would have been an inhibitory sum for this mom. 
She came back from the clinic smiling, not because it wasn’t an exhausting day (she was at the hospital from 7 am - 3 pm), but because she had something tangible she could do for her son. She had both answers and a solution. 

Daniel stayed the following week so that we could monitor him as he recovered from his respiratory infection. Again, at the end of the week we were ready to send him home but  coincidently Miselene was under the weather. She had a fever with body aches and a headache and well the thought of packing everything up and leaving made her cry. They stayed another week. Miselene worked just as hard and was just as attentive in all the classes as if it were her first week, not her 7th. But after that, we simply didn’t have any reason to keep them any longer (although we did try to think of something). 

Miselene had been a part of all the business training classes and was ready to tackle the obstacles she would face doing “komes.” She was ready to take on the challenge of maintaining a small operation of her own. As her first attempt to achieve positive cash flow she would be selling clothes. Errod had already been to town to pick up a bale (literally) of used closed. Clothes vendors, as Miselene would aspire to be, typically buy these bundles of thrift-store surplus straight from shipping containers that have travelled from the United States to Haiti. They make their profit by selling each article of clothing, individually. You never know what you’re going to get in a bale, except that if you buy a bale of kid’s clothes, as Miselene’s requested, you should theoretically get kid’s clothes. 

Miselene was also a star pupil in health education. She asked questions. Paid attention. And when all was said and done she scored 100% on her health post test. Most of the health education sessions had been taught by Ms. Kerline but this week she's been at a training seminar, learning how to perform infant massage. 

In her place, Ms. Prestina, our nurse and the newest member of our team, gave Miselene her parting exam. The exam is done orally. Kerline, or in this case Prestina, asks the questions and writes the mother’s response. There are about 20 questions such as What causes malnutrition?, What is a balanced diet and can you give examples from each of the three food groups?, What can be done to prevent your child from getting diarrhea?, What are the benefits of pre-natal visits when you are pregnant? etc. etc. When I saw Prestina immediately after she gave Miselene her test, she was practically speechless. She managed to squeak out some accolade in fancy french. A simple "she did a great job" just wasn’t adequate. Magnifique. 

Most of the moms score between 20% - 60% on similar test given on their first or second day at Second Mile, before they complete any of the health education sessions.  Miselene scored a 59%. 

And after? 100%... We’ve never had another mom do quite so well. I felt like dancing inside. I told every person in my path and made a Facebook status when I finally got internet last night. It was 10 pm.. but the world needed to know! 

We grow to love these women and want so badly for them to do well. When something, anything, aligns in their favor it seems like an impossibly positive step forward. The likes of which, can happen so rarely for these women. 

Miselen, back center, and her daughter (3 years old)
On Tuesday Morning we did one final assessment to get Daniel's measurements recorded in his chart and to determine a good goal weight for his first follow-up visit (next week). Then we performed one last test. 

With a quick finger prick and a tiny drop of blood we can tell whether or not a child is anemic and the severity of it. Anemia and malnutrition march hand-in-hand wrecking havoc in little bodies, but some children are worse off than others. The hemoglobinnometer we funded through the Holiday Catalog is an amazing little machine that works in much the same way as those pocket-sized glucose monitors people use to check their blood sugar. On Day 1 Daniel’s hemoglobin level was so low it wouldn’t even register on the machine. After 7 weeks of infant formula and liquid supplemental iron, his hemoglobin had improved to a 9. Still low, but  on the rise. 

arm circumference indicates the severity of malnutrition
length lets us know where he falls on the growth chart and how much he has grown

"ti bout patat"
So what does this "recovery and empowerment" process come down to, exactly?  Each family's situation is of course unique to them. But the underlying issues are similar. Miselene and Daniel's story isn't all that unlike the rest. Lack of resources, limited economic opportunities, the inability to access healthcare, and competing demands for what little money the family may have... These things can tear families up and ultimately lead to more funerals than birthday parties. It's not quick and it's not easy but we'd like to think that in the grand scheme of things it really doesn't take that much [money] to keep a family together and to nudge a child in the right direction, that is, the one of more birthdays. Here's what it looked like in terms of time and resources spent directly on this family.

Total days at Second Mile: 41 (not including weekends spent at home)
Total weight gained: 5.4 lb
Total length gained: 6 cm
Total infant formula consumed: 22 cans of formula (each 400 g)
Total cost of infant formula:  $127.90 (at $5.80 per can) 
Total cost of transportation to and from Second Mile for 7 weeks: $16.20
Total cost of vitamins and medications + 1 visit to the clinic for Daniel and 2 visits to the clinic for mom:  $33
Cost of business (start-up):  $150 

Mom and baby together in time of crisis: Priceless

The "priceless" bit might have been a bit cheesy. Sorry about that. But I think you get my point. 
Which is: Thank you for supporting Second Mile because when you do 

you are helping mothers like Mislene, babies like Daniel,
 and their big sisters too.. 

if you too want to support this kind of thing financially, here's the link to our donation page

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Walking, smiling, growing.

Last week we posted a collage of garden pictures on Facebook with a status about how we were entering our biggest month in terms of garden produce.

The pictures we used had actually been taken the previous week, before the splendid 3 nights of rainfall we enjoyed last weekend. When Jenn was making the status I asked naively, "what do you mean the biggest month? Like "big" because all the crops are going to shoot up in all this rain?"

She looked at me like I was crazy and then informed me that this month will be our biggest harvest yet. Well, how 'bout that. Time flies. It seems like just yesterday that the garden workers had worked to clear the land and we hired a few extra hands from the community to get the seeds planted.

Truly it is about to be a "big" month as our garden is now 3 times the size of our last garden and at least 5 times the size of our very first attempt to grow things.

Our garden space spans not only the back two acres of "the land." But also an acre plot just to the right.
We will sell the produce, use it to make meals for the moms and babies, and this season we will make our first attempt to save some seeds.

I took a bunch of garden photos on Friday.

I thought I would give you a little tour of the garden, but I realize now that I completely forgot to photograph the tomoato plants and the carrots. You will have to use your imagination.

more cabbage
Cabbage close up... I think the cabbage is striking, and very deserving of 3 feature photos in this blog post.

Haitian "zepina" (spinach)

fields of spinach, okra, and potatoes 
corn and two types of beans

breadfruit tree, beets


green onions
and a bee
On Friday's I'm usually filled with all sorts of warm fuzzies about the week past. So much happens in just a week. We take a lot of pictures throughout the week but on Friday's I find myself snapping away without discrimination. Aside from the healthcare staff, everyone works on Saturday. That includes the gardeners, the cooks, the leadership...etc. But my week of working at the land ends, with the nurses, on Friday afternoon after the moms go home. I'm only going to be away from the land for two days, so why the obsessive picture-taking? I guess it's an attempt to capture everything at the project, as it stands, after another week down in the books. It can be very sentimental. :)

For example (as if the surplus of plant photos wasn't enough)...

Our puppy and director.

The first day of that big harvest I was telling you about.

Okay, maybe not everyone's super enthused about the Friday photo flurry
The chickens.

The teenagers.

I just did some rough calculations and I believe, that last week was our 34th week with mothers and children at the facility. We had 8 moms with 8 children in rehabilitation, and 2 siblings. Several of the kids made huge leaps of progress this week. An 18 month old who has never been able to stand is now walking with her mom's help. A baby that has been with us for a ridiculously long time is now finally making the kind of progress you start to think isn't possible. And a baby learned to breastfeed. It was one of the more remarkable things I've experienced in my time in Haiti. It deserves it's own blog post... although every time I say that about a mom or a situation I hardly ever follow through. Here's to hoping that this won't be one of those times. The story of how a 17 year old girl came to successfully breastfeed her 6 week old baby after having not breastfed since it was 5 days old... well it really is a phenomenal story.

baby Fredline

We've come to find a very special use for the small blackboards that are in each of the rooms. Each room has two beds, two shelves, two chairs, two black boards, two moms and two + babies. For the first time this week, Errod used those blackboards to assign weekly chores. One momma sweeps the education building each morning. A few moms are on morning garden duty, filling watering cans just as the sun rises. There is a mom on breakfast dish duty, another on lunch dish duty. One mom cleans the bathroom. Each week they help in a different way. 

There is rhythm and harmony to the day with the understanding that each child's needs are different, each mother's day will look different, and feeding and caring for one's child takes precedent.

There is even harmony at the end of the week when we must plan for 8 women and children to go to 8 different places. When planning Friday's travel arrangements the moms are affectionately referred to by their home-cities by Jenn, Dadou, and Errod. I promise it's very affectionate. For some, the nickname's have stuck and even the moms call out to their friends with the city-moniker. Like "Milot! It's your turn to leave!" We give the moms the money they will need to travel home and bring them by moto or car to the nearest point where they can catch a tap-tap. Some moms only have to travel a distance of 20 minutes, for others it takes more than an hour. They take their babies with them with everything they will need for the weekend. In the current group of moms there are two children who have cerebral palsy. Friday morning we drop them off at the Baptist Hospital (HHA) where the moms spend a few hours learning range of motion exercises and other techniques they can practice during the week. Haiti Hospital Appeal is the only place we know of that offers a physical therapy service. We are so fortunate that they are located so close to our site. The moms really appreciate the opportunity to learn how to help their kids.
helping mom pack
the "departure schedule"
Two of the kids had diarrhea on Tuesday. Kerline, took the opportunity to make "diarrhea" the topic of the morning's health education session. A hands-on activity, "how to prepare oral rehydration drink" was the cornerstone of the session. The drink was then split between the two children that needed it and the diarrhea was resolved by the end of the day.


Another highlight this week was the advent of literacy classes for the mothers. I can't tell you what made me smile more..  Was it hearing the certain din at 2:55 pm as the mothers would begin warning each other  "class is about to start," "the professor is waiting!" and "finish your homework!" Or was it watching Ama, a life long teacher, lead the class like an expert conductor, helping each woman advance according to her level of skill and proficiency? Maybe all of the above.

Some moms are more educated than others but none of them have advanced further than the 6th grade, a few had been enrolled in first or second grade while other had never been to school at all. The moms who can read and write are practicing addition and subtraction problems and honing their math skills. This will be helpful when they start their businesses. Moms who have mastered the alphabet have moved on to writing their name. Once they have mastered their own names they will move on to the names of their children. How useful for these mothers. It is a small thing that will make enrolling their children in school, or bringing them to the hospital just an ounce easier.

One afternoon I stopped by the education center to peak in on the class. I arrived just in time to see a mom who couldn't tell the difference between a 2 and a 7, tap the board with her pen 26 times, correctly naming each letter of the alphabet.

There's no such thing as a hopeless case, but between you and me, if you knew this mother you'd be crying tears of astonishment to see her do what she's doing here.

On yet another afternoon I wandered into one of the recovery rooms and noticed an open notebook on the bed. The page was filled with one sentence, written repeatedly in impeccable script.

First name Last name is very intelligent.
First name Last name is very intelligent.
First name Last name is very intelligent.

How long did that take her? Did she leave her notebook out in the open to show off her work? She must be proud. And that sentence... what a fitting choice of words. Either it was her "homework" to copy that particular sentence, in which case Professor Ama has a knack for injecting confidence-building into his classes, or, this mom was just already feeling that empowered.

Kids walking, breastfeeding, smiling, and growing.
Moms learning and helping one another, smiling, and growing.
Second Mile is exactly what we hoped it would be.