Well we haven't written much here lately. The facebook page is straight poppin'... but this space has been pretty quiet. In an effort to make up for lost time we will start (right now!) with a very important story: Witchana's.
In mid-May we opened our doors to our first two cases. One, a referral from Children of the Promise, a nearby creche and our former stopping grounds, the other a referral from a local hospital. Both girls fit the World Health Organization criteria to be dubbed with the diagnosis “severe acute malnutrition.” Both over a year old, both under 11 lbs, both with extremely devoted mothers that didn’t make enough money to feed them. What we had on our hands mid-May was two mothers who just needed a little extra... To begin, they needed the nourishment that would help their babies survive and then get over the hump. What they got in addition was time and space, encouragement and friendship, and the opportunity to receive training that would optimize their ability to care for and provide for their children. That friends, is a glimpse of “the miracle” that’s found when you go the extra distance...but anyway those busy first days turned to weeks and they, like the entire month of May, came and went without a post.
Then we sent home one of those moms and one of those little girls. She did it! She gained enough weight. Mom was ecstatic. She showed tremendous developmental progress with just ten days of solid nutrition and tons of one on one momma play time. Her floppy legs filled out. She started to bear weight. She started babbling, making rasberries, and hold up... this is big... CRAWLING. This little 15 month old who had the energy to smile but couldn’t do much else when she first arrived attempted to crawl. Things are looking up for the future of this little one and her momma knows it! Mom was ready to go home at day 10. We had begun preparing her for her send off from Day 1. She participated in some gardening classes taught by our very own expert employees and learned how to prepare the land. On send-off day we surprised her with some seeds; beans, corn, pepper, carrot, and tomato seeds she could plant outside of the small mud hut she shares with her mother, two sisters, and 5 children. Her husband has been away for many years only coming back occasionally. He hasn’t returned at all this year and by the sound of it, that’s probably in everyone’s best interest. She washed her daughters clothes and blankets the night before she left. When we arrived on the day of her impending “send-off” we found the baby’s nicest dress laid out on the bed and the baby’s vitamins and medications packed away in her suitcase.
Witchana and mom, Rosena, getting comfortable in their room
Rosena getting some lessons in agriculture
We congratulated her... Gushed over Witchana and all her progress. And prayed.
Dadou is totally excited that we're sending home our first mom!
A thermometer, a goat, and a plan
We give each mom a thermometer when they leave. It’s a simple one, the kind that you could stick in a baby’s behind but most people just go the armpit route. Teaching the mother how to use the thermometer and interpret the reading is one of the first things we do. The lesson is especially well received when the child does in fact have a fever or when the body temp is too low. Too low? Quick bundle that baby up. Too high? Bathe her, STAT + cool compress. Check again. Give Tylenol if the hot-bod persists. Watching moms get so comfortable with what might seem to you like a common-knowledge/common-practice type situation is dance-party inducing. Marie-Ange’s mom is now so familiar with and so good at this mom-duty that we don’t even hear about the fever until she’s fully handled it. With a huge smile she comes to us and says, “she had a fever, I bathed her, I checked it again, it’s 97.7.” Watch out fever, momma Claire's in the house.
Witchana gets bundled for being too cold. Marie Ange's mom gives her a fever-reducing bath.
For moms like Witchana’s the thermometer is a tool of empowerment and practicality. It means she can know with a measure of certainty when a trip to the hospital is absolutely necessary and when it’s not. Just as we want to convey the importance of seeking medical attention when a child exhibits certain symptoms of illness we also want to help the moms differentiate between emergency and non-emergency situations. For Witchana’s Mom the amount of money she needs for a day trip to the nearest health center is enough to feed her family for days. She can't be doing that trip at the drop of the hat, although she would if it was necessary. The gift of a thermometer is like saying "here Mom, do your thing, do it with confidence.”
Also from the start, we spoke with her about the logistics of her life on the mountainside in the rural outskirts of Cap Haitien. How much money did she really see in a month’s time? How were they really surviving? We learned about her banana selling endeavors. She buys them before they are ripe and sells them when they have ripened. This turn-around affords her just $12 in a months time. Again, our staff sat down with her and worked out a plan for increasing those profits. It may or may not have involved Jenn’s vow to become her most loyal customer. Not only does Jenn consume bananas like a boss, but we also try to have a steady supply so that the babies can get their recommended dose of potassium each day. As we wait for our own trees to grow we’ve found someone we couldn’t be happier to bless with our business.
The goat program had also been discussed with her prior to departure. She would receive this pregnant goat as long as she agreed to return one of it’s babies to Second Mile. Our staff, or more specifically Dadou, worked out the details, ensuring she had a place where she could tie up the goat and let it graze. And he explained in detail how to reap the economic benefits of raising, breeding, and selling goats. These moms don’t have savings accounts or health insurance. They don’t have employees benefits. Heck, they don’t even have employment. This pregnant female goat, given as a live animal loan, is meant to be her ticket to a herd of little goats she can sell one by one (only as needed) to get her family through the hard times. Think: drought, the month of September when school fees are due, family funeral expenses, and health emergencies.
what to help? make a donation here and we'll purchase more goats for moms like Witchana's.
it'll be $60 well-spent.
A program graduate
Then we got the best news ever. Witchana, who had been scheduled for a follow-up at the hospital on Monday June 10th (yes I know we are a few days late in the sharing), weighed 15.3 lbs at that visit. Remarkable! On her first day at Second Mile Haiti she weighed in at 11.4 lbs. That’s not too good for a 15 month old...not too good at all. After 10 days with us she was up to 14.1 lbs. We were satisfied with this progress but the extra pound gained during the following 2 weeks at home was more than we could have hoped for! She arrived at her appointment with a completely clean bill of health. The hospital staff was over-joyed. We were stunned!
It’s one thing to gain weight in a setting where weight gain is the day’s one and only objective. It’s another thing to gain weight at home with one's four hungry siblings at hand.
Something must be working out for Rosena.
She's doing her mom thing, and she's doing a great job.
so proud of the things Witchana learned from mom while at Second Mile. She's cute when she claps!
Since that follow-up visit at the hospital we’ve had not one but two phone calls from the hospital staff. They’re referring patients right and left, hoping for more success stories like Witchana’s.
Stayed tuned for part 2 of Witchana’s story. We have a feeling that our favorite part of this story will be the part 2, the unveiling of what an empowered mother can do at home. We have the pics, we have the news. We just don’t want to overwhelm you with too much goodness at one go.
Thanks for visiting.