The Gift of a SMILE

Hey there... still here.

Still loving every minute of life in Haiti. Still amazed by God's blessing on our first month back. Although we're just a tadpole of an organization at this point. We have this perfect peace that God will grow us into something awesome (in His timing). We are very content to wait on Him.

We are still checking out different parcels of land outside of Cap Haitien. We'll let you know just as soon as that becomes final. Prayers are appreciated at this point in the process. I'm sure He'll have us "stumble" upon the just right place sometime in the near future. We look forward to the day when we can pour all our efforts into moms and families in a way that empowers and supports them.

At present, we just can't seem to stay away from this concept. This whole mother/baby thing is something that sort of just naturally works itself into our lives here. Today was Saturday. We spent a good chunk of the day with the Tanias. Baby Tania and her mother, Tania.

It's a common trend in Haiti to carry on your parent's name in some way shape or form. A Guerlande might name her child Guerline, a Junise may name her daughter Junissa, a Mackenson might name his son Mickenson. Maybe Tania searched long and hard for something just different enough to suite her baby and just never found anything. At any rate Tania and Tania are pretty cute together.

We met Tania while working at Children of the Promise. An employee knew Tania and recognized right away that her baby needed help.

Little Tania was born with a condition know as cleft lip and cleft palate. But she didn't let this slow her down too much. When we met her at 6 months and 8 lbs, she was full of life and full of smiles.

We were impressed with her mom's care, attentiveness, and the creativity with which she was adapting to her daughters deformity. She had blended an assortment of vegetables, plus peanut butter and was feeding Tania from a makeshift bottle. Mom Tania was trying her best but the presence of an enormous opening between the mouth and nose and lack of a proper palate makes it difficult for children to feed and gain weight appropriately.

The Leap Foundation changed all that. 

The Leap Foundation is a Dallas based organization comprised of volunteer plastic surgeons, urologists, eye surgeons, anesthesiologists, orthodontists, nurses and support staff. They routinely journey's to less developed countries to offer specialized surgical care to children born with deformities. Being from Texas herself, Jenn had an inclination that they might be able to help Tania.

Sure enough, after contacting the Leap Foundation Jenn learned that a team led by the Foundation's founder, Dr. Hobar, was scheduled to arrive in Haiti the following month to perfom none other than cleft lip and palate repairs. It couldn't have been more perfect. Actually, if you consider the people that were in Jenn's life at the time, people passionate about Haiti, people passionate about children with cleft lip, and people that cared enough to raise the money for Tania's transportation to Port-au-Prince well than I guess the story does get... "more perfect."

That April Jenn accompanied Tania and her mother to Port-au-Prince for her first surgery.

Tania and Tania's first time to Port au Prince!

Wish we had a picture to show how the family reacted when they first saw baby Tania, fresh off the airplane, sporting a new smile. It was an incredible moment. This one-week post surgery pic will have to do.

During the first surgery Dr. Hobar created a new lip for Tania. Jenn and the team bonded over all things "Texas" and during the second surgery, in August, she was invited to get in on the action.

Jenn and Dr. Craig Hobar

The second surgery involved additional work on Tania's palate. The transformation was remarkable. A little girl that once looked so disfigured was given a chance at life, and a beautiful smile.

We got to spend our Saturday with this now 18 month old little girl. And her mom.

Tania's journey is not over yet. The Leap Foundation returns to Haiti in April. At this time Tania will receive her third and final surgery to finish closure of the palate. We hope and pray that Tania will continue to grow big, and strong. We can't thank the Leap Foundation enough for what they offer to families like Tania's around the world.

As for Second Mile Ministries, we don't need a facility to invest in mom's like Tania's. In the last few months before Tania's surgery we'll be stopping by each week to check in on the family and deliver a nutritional supplement that's sure to help her gain weight before the big day. Now that we've got you hooked on her smile, stay tuned for more pictures. :)

Outside with Tania's sisters and a cousin - Jennie, Myra, and Yousline.