Meet the Staff: Yogurt, Cheese, and everything else

Meet the Staff: Yogurt, Cheese, and everything else

Today I’m interviewing Blaise Roosvelt. I have some questions for the person in charge of generating revenue for Second Mile's business program.

Blaise is responsible for, Tou Natirèl (All Natural), the social business branch of Second Mile Haiti’s activities, and a project that came out of a desire to generate sustainable income, in Haiti, through food transformation.

We started making yogurt, the first culprit in a list of bright ideas, back in 2013. Blaise came on to take over production in 2015, when we finally realized that midnight yogurt-making efforts were no longer cutting it...

Success at home - Part 2

Success at home - Part 2

Each time we send a family home, out and away from the structure of the recovery program to the uncharted waters of post-malnutrition existence, we have to wonder: will they be okay?

Will the problems that ailed the family prior to their arrival, continue to weigh them down?

Will disputes cause disharmony? Will the kids get sick again?

Will the business fail? Will disaster strike?

After Adeline left Second Mile Haiti she enjoyed success in business, but that wasn't her only achievement. 

 

Help wanted!

Communications/Social Media Intern

Internship Title: Communications/Social Media Internship

Position Type: Summer (Academic Year) Internship

Location: Cap Haitien, Haiti

Start Date: Position open until filled, requires 6-week minimum commitment

Hours: 30-40 hours/week, preferably four times a week in the SMH office. Up to 4 hours can be completed from the volunteer residence.

Compensation: This is an unpaid/volunteer internship. Housing and meals will be provided.

Duties and Responsibilities:

The Social Media/Communications Intern will:

  • help manage the organization’s website (Squarespace)

  • write drafts for the blog or press releases

  • post on social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, website)

  • review analytics for social media and website

  • create visual graphics, flyers, postcards

  • brainstorm new marketing campaigns

  • assist with content creation for monthly newsletter

  • photograph events at Second Mile Haiti

Qualifications:

  • Firm grasp of available tools and platforms in the social media space

  • Completed or working toward a college degree, preferably in a related field (English, Marketing/Communications, Public Relations)

  • Working knowledge of word processing, Powerpoint, & Excel.

  • Effective communicator, both written and oral

  • Organized, detail-oriented, with ability to prioritize, multitask and meet deadlines

  • Enthusiasm for the mission of Second Mile Haiti and the families we serve

Please include the following for your application to be reviewed:

  • Cover letter, explaining what attracts you to SMH and why you are a perfect fit

  • 2 references

  • 1-2 writing samples

Additionally, please submit answers to the following questions:

  1. What is the best book you’ve read in the last year? Why?

  2. What interests you about Haiti?

  3. What’s the sweetest place you’ve ever travelled to?

Send your application to connect@secondmilehaiti.org. In the subject line please type: Social Media/Communications Intern

 

Success at home - Part 1

Success at home - Part 1

Success is strange. Most of us want to experience it, desperately even. But we don't all share the same definition. For some, success is the gold medal in the Olympic decathlon, for others it's running a mile. For many us, success is simply pulling our shoes on in the morning.  

When extreme poverty enters the equation, a successful week might be one where your entire family goes to bed every night with enough to eat. For others, success might be when this occurs just 50% of the time. 

Rerouted

Rerouted

When she arrived at the center with her cousin Violeinne (age 36), 3-month-old Daphne wasn’t in good shape. According to her caregiver, Daphnee was sick with diarrhea and a cough, evidently caught in the cycle of infection and malnutrition, where the presence of one, both causes and worsens the other.  At 5.3 lbs Daphnee weighed 7 lbs less than a 3-month-old of average weight. She had...

The Trouble With Poverty, The Second Mile Approach

The Trouble With Poverty, The Second Mile Approach

A few days ago while putting together a status for our Facebook page, I found myself captivated by one family in particular. 

To learn more about them, I took a terse spin through our electronic database, chasing the answer to one question after another and marking my journey with mental bullets. 

It was all VERY interesting. 

For the next 24 hours, those mental post-its persisted to flash in my brain like internet pop-ups, beckoning to be made into a story that could be shared. To buy time, I wrote them down with a pen, in a notebook. And now here I am, not two day later, engaging in the most permanent form of note-taking: blogging. 

My Serenity Prayer

My Serenity Prayer

This prayer has been on my mind a lot recently. Growing up, these words were plastered throughout the walls of both of my grandmothers' homes. Both women were devout Catholics until the day they died. I remember getting older and thinking, wow, what a powerful prayer, but I have no idea what it means. I knew it had to be pretty significant though, if two of the most important women in my life had gone to such great lengths to make it visible at every turn. I mean it had to mean something, right? Perhaps at that time, I hadn't yet endured any real hardship, or maybe I had, and I just didn't have a name for it. 

Men?

Men?

"I know the sacrifices you will need to make to attend these classes are great, but the reward is even greater."

At this point I’m just watching, trying to hold back the tears.

We were in a classroom full of adults of differing levels of education. But something told me that few, if any, had ever met someone like Louino, someone who cared about them from the moment he met them.

Numbers & You

Numbers & You

The month of October is an anniversary of sorts for Second Mile Haiti. I know, I know. It's August, not October, but the winds have already started to change, and fall will be here before we know it. 

This coming October will mark 5 years since we started this journey. 5 years already??? 

Yes. And it's hard to believe.  

 

On Siblings

No doubt you've heard us talk about keeping families together. 

We talk about how our program makes it possible for kids to remain with their families even if their parents have died or do not have the capacity to care for them. 

19% of caregivers are a relative other than the child's mother. 

The child's mother is deceased in <2% of cases.

Our homepage celebrates the diverse family make-ups we see in Haiti and support through the recovery center. And we talk about how our program does wonders for bonding, a task that can be especially challenging when children are sick. 

19% of caregivers are first-time mothers

46% of caregivers have experienced the death of one or more children

And we try to include some visual aids with all that "talk." Our Facebook page is absolutely brimming with sparkly-eyed children laughing on their mothers laps, and grannies gazing down at their babes with love and admiration. #familiestogether

We even talk about Dads and their involvement in the process.

5% of children attend follow-up visits with their dads. 

We make this wild claim that we are keeping families together when we invest in the caregivers most at risk of turning to an orphanage when a crisis like malnutrition hits. But there is an aspect of this family preservation thing that we don't talk about very often. It's time we talk about siblings!! 

At Second Mile Haiti we sometimes have an opportunity to get to know the siblings of recovering children. Here's some little known information about these kids:

On Siblings...

On older siblings who stay at the center with their mom and a sick sibling...

Earlier this week, we shared a Facebook post about Kerlovedine, a nine year old sibling who spent all 6 weeks of her brother's recovery at the center.

Her mother is blind and while she can do so much for herself, she relies on Kerlovedine's help for many everyday tasks. When it was time for an education class, Kerlovedine would guide her mother across the yard that separates the recovery rooms and the education building. When she needed to wash the baby's clothes, Kerlovedine would fill a basin with water, find and set out a chair, and gather and carry over the soiled laundry, all before returning for her mother and carefully leading her to the washing station she'd created. When the baby needed a bath, the same process would ensue. She was always there and always watching. Whenever the other women were laughing and joking Renante's expression would remain blank, but more often than not, Kerlovedine would be right there, describing the scene in a stream of whispers. 

When the picture had been painted, her face would ignite, Mackendy's baby hands would shoot up to take hold of her curled lips, feeling the joy in her cheekbones. These three were a unit, not to be separated --- dependent on each other, as families are. 

Some mornings, the nine year old took it upon herself to bring Mackendy before the nurses for his morning check-up. She answered all of their questions: "Was he sick? How many sachets of Medika Mamba did he consume? How did he sleep? How were his stools? It was odd at first, to see such a young girl so involved in her brother's recovery. But then you remember, she has had her eyes on this child since the day he was born. She watches him breath at night. It's moments like these that remind us why Second Mile Haiti's mission is so important and why the sibling-friendly structure of the center is so critical. Siblings need their siblings just as much as kids need their parents and parents need their kids. 

Benito and Clovens (2014)

Benito and Clovens (2014)

On younger siblings who stay at the center with mom and a sick sibling...

While it's somewhat rare to have a sibling as old as Kerlovedine at the center, mother's often come with their younger children, kids who may be just a little bit younger or older than the child in recovery. These spunky, healthy kids are a joy to have around. They too benefit from the nutrition offered at Second Mile. But they give perhaps more than they get. Children like Djeff pictured below were a source of strength for their moms, a source of entertainment for the staff, a source of encouragement for the other mothers, and a source of motivation for their sick siblings. Having a built in playmate, and someone to catch up to helped their sibling to recover. 

Woodson, age 4 (left), recovery from severe malnutrition, takes hold of his brother Djeff (Age 1 year)

Woodson, age 4 (left), recovery from severe malnutrition, takes hold of his brother Djeff (Age 1 year)

When we talk about why it's important to do everything we can to save the lives of children with malnutrition, we can't forget about the best friends they would leave behind. And when we talk about ending the cycle of malnutrition, we can't forget about the younger siblings who benefit from our efforts. 

On siblings who recover from malnutrition together, and their younger siblings...

Walky (age 3) and Alandine (age 5) are two recent Second Mile graduates. When they arrived at the Center, both were acutely malnourished. Their younger brother Marvens was not. The family received support at a critical time. The 6 month old baby is still breastfeeding, but soon he will transition to complimentary foods (like porridge and pureed vegetables), and eventually he won't be breastfeeding at all. It is in these transition periods that children are at most risk for malnutrition. But you see, our program hasn't forgotten about him either. Because of the education she received, his mother understands his needs during critical periods like introducing new foods and weening. Empowered with knowledge, she can move through these stages with confidence.

mother and 3 children

On older siblings who visit the Center...

It's not just the little siblings who benefit from what a mother learns during the education classes. 

Older siblings have certainly made their fair share of appearances at the center, even if it's just for a visit. Lala is a mother of 11 who has given birth to 4 sets of multiples. While she was at the center she received daily visits from her second eldest daughter, 19 year old Kettlie. Their home was situated close enough to the center that Kettlie and two of 12 year old siblings (none of whom were in school) could make the daily 4 mile (RT) trek to Second Mile Haiti. While the main purpose for her visits were to help her mother and spend time with her siblings, she could regularly be seen, listening to education classes, and even participating in them. 

Kettlie participates in a hand washing activity using "Glo-Germ"

Kettlie participates in a hand washing activity using "Glo-Germ"

Another older brother (brother to a family of 3 former Second Mile graduates) was caught sneaking a read from the education booklet over Dad's shoulder.

And we can't forget about the older siblings who help take care of the family (and look out for other siblings) while their mother is at Second Mile Haiti.  This young man, brother to Emanise and Mirlanda, stayed home to help his dad take care of a younger brother while his mom was at Second Mile Haiti with his two malnourished sisters. When the girls graduated from the program and transitioned to follow-up, he couldn't wait to come see where his sisters had been.

He gets major sibling points for the many times he helped his mother bring his sisters for follow-up visits. 

Kids needs parents, it's true.

They also need friends, advocates, and role models. Siblings often fill these roles and they fill them well.

These kids and young adults should be celebrated and supported. Certainly, they should never be forgotten. 

Use the comments to tell us what your siblings mean to you.

Learn more about how you can help. 

Share if you LOVE your siblings! 

 

My controversial orphanage post

My controversial orphanage post

Are you ready for the VERY honest truth? When you tell someone here that you want to give them money to start an orphanage they won’t want to disappoint you. And if you tell your Haitian partner that you want your facility to care for 150 orphans, I guarantee that children will be taken from their families. 

Oh the places we've been. May.

By now I'm sure you've heard the very exciting, very, very important news: we have a matching donor for 20K! Cue dance music, chorus of hallelujahs, or whatever it is that puts you in the mood to celebrate! 

Frie! This is amazing, and important, for several reasons:

1) We really need the money. I hate to start out with the brutal, honest truth but that’s the beauty of doing important work. It takes a village right? 2) Speaking of village. Let’s grow ours, shall we? What better way to bring new Second Milers into the fold, than by sharing this campaign and granting others the opportunity to join the giving. 3) As it stands, our supporters are the best of the best and we’re confident that we can pull this off, and reach 20K together. Even if it takes 1,000 twenty dollar bills. We got this.

Phew, now that the big announcement has been made, let me tell you a little about what we’ve been up. May was a busy month! 

At the beginning of the month we got to participate in a malnutrition retreat. Sounds funny right? Retreat. Malnutrition. Same sentence? But sometimes being around people who speak your work-language, get the tough stuff, and share your passion is exactly that, a retreat. HaitiServe, a foundation that’s been actively supporting Haiti and those serving in Haiti for the past several years invited leaders from more than a dozen different organizations to come together in Cap Haitien. Every person in attendance works in some capacity to treat and prevent malnutrition here in Haiti. It was a group front-liners, for sure. HaitiServe wanted us all to meet each other. It’s tough to share resources and ideas with people you’ve never met. The goal of the retreat was to connect. And connect we did! 

On Day 1 the group visited the MFK factory, just 20 minutes outside of Cap Haitien where the Medika Mamba, "peanut butter medicine," used to rehabilitate malnourished children is produced. On Day 2, came for a tour of Second Mile. It was a honor to have everyone out at the site. We definitely made some new friends and I came away from the 3-day retreat feeling proud to work in this field.

Taryn, Country Program Director of Children's Nutrition Program, and Dr. Patricia Wolff, Founder & Executive Director of Meds and Food for Kids.

Taryn, Country Program Director of Children's Nutrition Program, and Dr. Patricia Wolff, Founder & Executive Director of Meds and Food for Kids.

A trip out to the gardens, Second Mile

A trip out to the gardens, Second Mile

Shortly thereafter, in the week leading up to Mother’s Day, we held ourselves an online fundraiser. A few of you made donations to honor the mother’s in your life and in honor of those that left us too soon. Thank you for doing that. As I said above, every time you give to SMH amazing things happen at the recovery center. So thank you.  

Unfortunately, around the same time, we had to make some program cuts. Things were looking too tight for comfort. Even though we had some upcoming fundraisers in the works, we knew our current funds would only stretch so far. We went into conservation mode and dropped the program capacity from 22 caregivers to 18. We broke the news to a disappointed Program Manager and told her to prepare for further cuts in June. In light of this very timely matching campaign we will stay at 18 moms this month (not quite back to full capacity, but close). Kerline did a fist pump when we told her that we didn't think we'd have to restrict the program further after all.

Hopefully, this matching campaign will blow our little funding dilemma out of the water.

It has to, because we can't go backwards.

Health education class with Mom #1. Back when there was only one mom...  

Health education class with Mom #1. Back when there was only one mom...  

Last weekend Jenn and I went on a 4-day trip to explore a part of Haiti we'd never seen. It wasn’t exactly Second Mile related, so why mention it? Well because we’ve simply never felt more inspired by Haiti nor more privileged to be partnering with it’s people. There’s still so much to learn about this beautiful country. And we're taking it one little mountain at a time. 

Ok have you seen enough? Ready to take a trip to Haiti now? We don't blame you. The experience of walking 27 miles through such diverse terrain, seeing so much of Haiti we didn't know existed, reminded us of how much more there is to discover. Do it. Explore. It's good for the body and good for the soul. Email us if you want our visitor trip packet. This hike isn't included. ;) But we can still show you some really beautiful places. 

This month we also sat down with our program staff to take stalk of the business program. It's time we examine both it's successes and shortcomings, and prepare some improvements. Since Chiloo both teaches the mothers during their time at the center, and visits them after they've started their business, I wanted to ask her a few questions. 

"Chiloo," I said, "do you ever leave these visits feeling like you should make any specific changes to this program?"

She wasn't sure. 

I continued. 

"Do you ever see something that makes you think you could have helped that mother be more successful in her business if only... ?" 

You see, we’ve talked at length about the opposite side of the coin. I know about the many home visits where she leaves bolstered, happy, and proud. But does she ever feel like we could be doing more or doing better? I wanted to know, but apparently I didn't know how to ask.

So I gave an example about a mother whose products were stolen from her home because the structure she lived in didn't have a door and couldn't be locked. I suggested that hearing about this mother's experience might then prompt us to add “how to create a secure location for your commerce” as an important lesson in our curriculum. Her response took us slightly away from my original question but what she had to say was still good to hear. 

"Some of the mothers don’t even have walls. Some of them don’t even have houses."

"Do you understand? They don't have homes. They are just living with people who have let them sleep on their floors.” 

And then she went off. Her voice cracked and I saw water in her eyes. “These are the people that are really in need here."

"We are doing a good thing. This project is going to get bigger."

"This is really helping people.”

a mother without income-generating activity

a mother without income-generating activity

a program graduate with her business

a program graduate with her business

I'm pretty sure that our staff loves the work they do. I wouldn't make this claim if I wasn't at least 99% sure. They just wouldn’t fist pump at the mention of more work if they didn’t care about the mission. And they certainly wouldn’t speak of it's beneficiaries with tears in their eyes if they didn’t feel strongly about it’s importance. 

And they seem to be especially on top of their game when the program is full. So let's fill it back up shall we? 

Finally, the month ended on a high note, with cake and Coca Cola. This past Sunday was Mother's Day in Haiti and it goes without saying that we didn't pass on the opportunity to celebrate mothers.

Moms and kids

Moms and kids

Staff

Staff

Celebration and hard work. Two things we've tried our best to do well. Now that we've done the celebrating and Second Mile's doors won't be closing any time soon (though it looked scary there for a little while), it's time to do the hard work of getting those donations.  

So here's my shameless ask. Who's with us? We’ve got two goals here. Grow this community of Second Milers and get those much needed funds. Can you help?

International Nurses Day

International Nurses Day

Today on International Nurses Day and the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth, Second Mile Haiti would like to acknowledge nurses around the world and thank them for their life saving work. This year the International Council of Nurses has named the theme as: Nurses: A Force for change: improving health systems’ resilience.

4 reasons why the show must go on

Today I spent a few hours on-site, and no surprise here, I left inspired and eager to share with you the things I saw, heard, and felt while I was there. I was only there for four hours, and I left convinced of the following:

#1:This program must go on. We must expand to new locations. We must continue this, exactly this, and better than this.

#2: Moms are the bravest and most selfless breed of human. There is no-one like them. The things I saw mothers do for their children today were beyond comprehension, beyond love, something even more visceral than even that. I witnessed emotions I couldn't name. Love, yes, but love all wrapped up in contradiction. Elation and focus. Fear and peace.  Humility and super human strength. Hope and contentment. Clearly, what moms have going on is something I won’t fully understand until I am one. 

Which brings me to #3. These moms, with poop in their laps and slimy kisses on their faces, made being a parent look absolutely irresistible.

What's #4? I'll get there. 

Second Mile is something special. I've always been of the belief that, if moms were able to stay with their children as they recovered from severe acute malnutrition and that if they were the ones driving the recovery, that something powerful would happen between the pair. The "being there" and the "doing it" mixed with a positive outcome, pride for self, and a newfound appreciation for the fighting powers of her child would produce a spark!, a sort of magical, protective force that would guard the child against future episodes of severe acute malnutrition.

Simply put, the moms wouldn't let it happen again.

Of course, key ingredients (knowledge and income) would also help.

I remember the story written by one of our nurses recently, that recounted a conversation she'd had with a mother whose child very nearly died multiple times during his rehabilitation. The scariest of the photos, taken just after one hospitalization and just before another, was shown to the mom during her last week at the center. It was a reminder of how far she'd come.

The photo brought her to tears and the nurses rushed to make her feel better. She should be happy, they said. After all, her son was alive and well and she knew exactly how to keep him that way. The mom reassured the nurses. She was happy, she promised. And then she added this gem of a remark. “I love him even more now.”

Now either you're thinking: what a terrible mother! How could she admit to loving her son on a sliding scale of not so much to even more!? or, you're thinking: this is a perfectly normal sentiment and you find it absurd that I’ve chosen to highlight such an everyday parental feeling. If you’re in boat #2, I’m with you.

Of course, she loved him even more now! Each time we go through something tough, each time we almost loose a loved one, each time we experience something hard, something that brings us through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, don’t we bond with those who share our experience? Doesn't that strengthen our feelings toward them, love or otherwise? Don’t we feel proud of our loved ones when they prove themselves remarkable? Don’t we love them more?

The scary photo. 

The scary photo. 

And 1 month later. 

And 1 month later. 

Myson did prove himself remarkable. And so did his mother. They shared a life-defining experience filled with highs and lows and she came out loving her son even more. 

Before 12.3 lbs. After 16.6 lbs. Age 1 year. 

Before 12.3 lbs. After 16.6 lbs. Age 1 year. 

Which brings me to mom #2. This mom seemed distant at first and not overly compassionate towards her underweight and stunted 5 year old son. During the first days, she kept the program at arms length. In addition to her son, she had two other (healthy) children with her, a 3 year old daughter, and a breastfeeding baby. It was almost as if the the five year old, especially the fact that he was sick, was an inconvenience. Truthfully, it was. She had a lot on her plate. She had a family of mostly healthy children, a huge responsibility and clearly she wasn't a bad mother. These children, even the sick one, were sweet and full of smiles. Still, his progress wasn't exactly fast, and I wondered if there would come a day when she wouldn't be able to wait on her middle child (there were still older children at home) any longer.

But she kept coming back. She attended every class without fail and became immeshed in the fabric of the center.

Just after lunch today, I overheard her describing to another mother something the 5 year old had done. Seriously and with admiration in her voice, she shared. 

“He brought me a chair."

"He walked over to me and handed me a chair. He told me, 'sit down Mama, you’re breastfeeding.'”

"He did that."

She repeated the story twice. I thought she might cry. She didn’t say this in a my-child-is-better-than-your-child tone. She sounded genuinely surprised by her son, honestly touched, truly in love.

I caught her admiring him throughout the afternoon..

...as he ate his Mamba.

....as he played with his siblings

...as he dominated in a game of kick ball. 

With the family together-- with the baby who was breastfeeding and the 3 year old sister who was clearly a close friend-- mom began to discover pieces of her son's personality that were hiding under illness and disguised by the fatigue of a failing body. She waited it out. Now he’s momma’s helper. He’s polite. He’s a good soccer player. And he's funny. And it all played out with the family together. 

At around 2:30 pm "the mother of the tiny baby" returned from the hospital. The staff had sent them to the hospital assuming that the baby, at less than 3 lbs, would be admitted for treatment. But, with several public hospitals on strike, the private hospital where we send children for admission had a full neonatal unit. The term neonate (a baby less than 4 weeks old), doesn't actually describe this baby at all. 

He's now more than 100 days old.

Born prematurely at 28 weeks (6.5 months), he's already accomplished what 2.6% percent of children born in Haiti find impossible: life passed the 30 day mark.

I had to see him for myself. When I located his room (not an easy task now that there are 11), he was enveloped in receiving blankets so that one couldn’t even tell if he was breathing. His skin, rubbery with a glossy sheen, didn’t look human. I lifted the blanket to verify when his Mom caught me. “Are you scared?” she asked with a grin. And that’s when I learned that she was not.

I watched her change him and feed him, weigh him, and dress him. She was not scared. He was hers. She’d been with him during her pregnancy. All 6 weeks and 15 days. She pushed him into the world and stayed with him during the 45 days he spent in intensive care. No amount of bony ribs, unworldly wailing, or baby vomit, could shock her now. She knew him and she knew what he was capable of. We may have been shocked. She was not.

At the same nursing station, there was a mom taking her exit test. Her baby had reached her goal weight and they wouldn't be coming back to the center on Monday. The exit test is mostly questions straight out of the health education classes. But there are two un-scored questions that are just for us. "What hopes and dreams do you have for your child?" 

Who doesn’t love to hear that? 

And "how did the center help you?"

These questions are just as important as testing whether the caregivers have captured the important health messages. After all, these women have spent anywhere from 4 weeks to 3 months with us, it's important to hear their side of the experience. 

When asked How did the center help you?, this particular mother acknowledged everyone from the cooks to the security guards and thanked the nursing staff by name. "I have nothing negative to say. You valued my baby. You respected me."

Hidden by a computer screen I was able to pretend that I wasn't paying attention. In reality I was eating this up. It's a reflection of Second Mile's upstanding staff members to hear a mom say that she felt respected. Even though I know they’re awesome, it was nice for the staff to get such a rave review.

Respect. That's the goal. 

By 3:30 pm Moms had started to convene in the education building. I'd already sat through half of a health education class, and by the looks of it, I would also catch the start of the daily literacy session.  

Both classes had me in awe. I enjoyed hearing mothers dialogue during the health class. They asked questions. They wanted... no, they needed... to know this critical information.

But literacy class... it knocked me off my feet a little bit.

The average years of schooling achieved by caregivers admitted into our program is 3.

3rd grade.

And more than half of the women cannot read or write. Literacy class is an opportunity for mothers of all ages to learn and practice these skills in a safe and respectful environment. 

There was just something about the way the mothers made literacy class their own. They were in it together: 20 moms ranging in age from 16 to 67, from 0 years of formal education to 11. They sat at the tables with pens and notebooks and a few took to the chalkboard. The class had split somewhat organically. A mom with a baby in her arms led half the mothers in recognition and repetition of numbers and letters.

On the other side of the chalkboard the more advanced students submitted homework, and brushed up on math skills.

The kids were all there. Sitting on tables and cradled in the crook of non-dominant arms. There was focus. It's not easy to learn a new skill. But reading and writing is something these moms clearly wanted--for themselves and for their children. 

The various women I observed today-- 16 years old and handling her 2 lb son without an ounce of fear, 67 years old and plugging away at some of the alphabets more challenging letters, 20 years old, with education booklet in hand helping mothers study for the exit test... 33 years old, stepping up to the chalkboard, sharing literacy with her peers --- they impressed me. 

We're just a few days shy of May, a month for mothers. It's time to honor them. It's time to get their heroic acts #trending in the media. I just found out that today is National Superhero day. I didn't know that was a thing, but I think the discussion fits. Moms are heroes. I can't speak for moms the world over but I can share my highest praise this group. 

Today they kept their babies tucked under mosquito nets. They attended classes.  

They offered each other advice. They accepted each other's advice.

They carried water. They boiled water. They washed.

They prepared for visits to the hospital. They learned about their children's prescriptions.

They spent time with the nurses. They talked about business. They pressed coconut oil.

They laid out clean blankets, washed by hand with love, to protect their children while they slept.

They encouraged one another. And they played with their kids. 

And they did all of it in four hours.  

In case you didn't already reach this conclusion yourself, Moms are heroes. They should be supported. They shouldn't have to watch their babies die of malnutrition. And they shouldn't have to be separated from them. 

We call this "The Second Mile" but shouldn't it be our first response?