Second Mile Haiti

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Then and Now

I may love Haiti more and more everyday. Right around this time every year I can start saying I'm almost a year older than I am. January is almost all used up which means March is just around the corner. Right about now I'm almost 25 and I've almost been living in Haiti for 2 years. It's nice to be able to say 2. It has a little more meat on it than 1. Not a whole lot more, but a little more. 2 years ago Haiti was hit by an earthquake. I'm sure you heard about it. It made National news and drew thousands of people to the country to offer aid. January 12, 2010.

I'll be honest this was the first time Haiti was really on the radar for me. At the time I was a freshly graduated nurse and had just completed a temporary job at a camp for children and adults with special needs. I was unemployed and desperate to be useful. A week after the earthquake I decided look into the need for nurses in Haiti. The hospitals in the US weren't looking, but Haiti...surely after a disaster of this scale must need some RNs. Right? After clicking around on the internet I determined that I would officially not be useful in Haiti. What was needed in the wake of this catastrophe was surgeons and surgical nurses and...water. Haiti needed clean water not me. I didn't want to get in the way. I completely gave up on my idea of being useful in this country. I'd leave a seat open on the plane for someone that could really help.

But, the next day I received an email from Haiti that an infant care center in the North needed a nurse. They admit severely malnourished children into their care for rehabilitation and often, adoption. They'd gone without a nurse for a few months and that wasn't cutting it. The staff was stressed from having to evacuate 70+ children from the country. They needed more help. Huh, maybe God wanted me in Haiti after all. I wrote the organization and said I could commit to 6 months, maybe even a year.

That's how I got to Haiti.

I didn't really know what I was getting myself into but I'd seen the pictures and  the kids at the care center looked really small and really sick. I figured that if I got there and I was in over my head I would just pray a lot, no big deal. I figured that God wasn't just going to open all these doors for me to go to Haiti and then just leave me hanging... I trusted him.

Jenn's story is a little bit different.

In a weird way God put the country of Haiti on her heart a long, long time ago. She had opportunities to go on other trips, to help in other countries. But declined. She didn't know much about the country of Haiti either. But she knew the name and it was a country that was on her mind. A place she just knew she'd wind up someday, someway, somehow.

The someway, somehow came when she and her best friend decided to take a summer trip together. The mission of their trip: to volunteer. The subject: kids. The location: undetermined. They found two orphanages. One in Africa, one in Haiti. As the story goes, Jenn's vote was a heavy Haiti. They ended up coming to Haiti in June of 2010. Jenn hated it, her first day. Let me clarify. She just felt...a little misled. She thought she was coming to hang out with kids, not babies. The oldest child at the care center was two. Not exactly the age for playing soccer and basketball.

But her experience quickly changed. One little boy in particular played a significant role in that. He was really sick when he arrived at the orphanage. We soon determined that he was HIV+. He needed to start treatment but the hospital was dragging their feet to start him on Anti-retroviral drugs. He became dehydrated one day. Jenn was taking care of him. He needed an IV. Ironically, I remember that day vividly but for different reasons. This was the first IV I ever started on a child. I won't go so far as to say that it saved his life, but he did need it very badly. Jenn remembers that day because her main job was just to hold this little guy. Too weak to struggle much, he still needed to be held. Being secure and comfortable in her arms meant that he wouldn't cry or flail.

Jenn worked her magic, the IV worked it's magic, and the little guy worked his. He caused Jenn to fall in love with babies. I'm pretty sure it was around that time that she decided to extend her stay. She changed her plane ticket and stayed in Haiti for the rest of the summer. Soon after that she adjusted her school schedule making it possible to return to Haiti full-time that December.

So that's how we got here.

We don't work at the infant care center anymore, but it was a wonderful experience. Our work there helped us realize how freaking awesome babies are and beyond that how absolutely incredible their parents are. These men and women try their hardest and they are still faced with impossible decisions...Do I feed my family or send my sick mother to the hospital? Send my son to school or my daughter? Do I pay for my father's medication or a repair for our crumbling house? Do I take my child to the orphanage or let him die in my loving arms? Not easy.

People work sun up to sun down to make things happen for their families. How can you not be inspired by this persistence? These mothers and fathers have dreams for their children, for their communities, for their country. Possibilities have been slim in the past but the opportunities are growing and the country is advancing. There's a wave of hope and triumph that is flowing through Haiti. We're on it...and the surf is right.

We attended a conference today that supports this statement. 300 Haitien business people were signed up for the conference and key players from major and minor NGO's were also in attendance. The theme of the conference was to "Buy Local." A major way to boost the economy and drive Haiti out of it's food deficit is to support projects that's encourage food production within the country of a Haiti. NGO's have two options. They can ship food and building materials into the country or, they can purchase Haitien products from Haitien vendors an action that lifts the economy and creates a demand for jobs. It's an important concept. It's a bit revolutionary. If business persons and non-governmental aid agencies alike can jump on board, this trend will push Haiti in the right direction.

The partnering organizations which sponsored this meeting are lobbying for the creation of 100,000 new jobs in Haiti by 2020. So what's new two years later? Well, some of the tents have been folded up or discarded and some of Haiti's boldest and brightest are making their entrepreneurial debut. After the conference we witnessed these men and women courageously showcasing their services and goods to major international organizations. Exciting stuff.

We're also excited to be hosting visitors. We'll share more about the group soon. But for now keep us all in your prayers as we travel from Port-au-Prince to Cap Haitien tomorrow and then proceed to take our visitors on a very real tour of real-life in the North. It should be a fun couple of days!


  1. i think it's so amazing regarding helping these businesses get off the ground. it's right along with everything you want to do.

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