What we've learned. This blog post is a joint effort. Jenn wrote the first draft and Amy came in with editing and expanded with some of her own thoughts. That's how we roll. Two heads are better than one. ;)
, Amy is heading back to the States to visit her family, to do some Second Mile networking, and to attend two weddings (the Main Events!!!). N I will be heading back to the States to fundraise and attend two weddings as well. We have had this trip planned since last January and we are just amazed at the perfect timing of it. We knew all along that the trip would force us to stop and to evaluate the first two months of taking in moms and their children. We knew it would be good timing but still, you sometimes hate to leave, but now we are just extremely thankful that we get this time to pause, evaluate, and work on making things even better! These first 4 moms helped us to understand how our organization is running and they especially helped us see all the changes we would still like to make. Amy and I firmly believe we need to always be changing as the holy spirit continues to direct our paths and give us understanding about the different situations here in Haiti.
Here's a couple things we have learned the past two months:
Gardening…I have learned a lot about gardening. It blows my mind the stuff I didn't know before that I should have. It blows my mind that every time anyone sets foot on our back property the first thing they do is compliment our soil. It turns out we have extremely fertile soil. That's exciting huh?
The last two months I have been asked the question why aren't all Haitians growing and planting fruits, vegetables, beans, and corn if it's growing so well here at our place. The biggest conclusion I have come to is the lack of management structure. In Amy's last post you can learn a little about our workers and the things we are growing, but I firmly believe that what's working right now is the division of labor and the chain of command. We have nearly 2 acres of land in the back and we have even been able to plant on 3/4ths of that space in two months. What I've learned is that organization and management are extremely key to success of a garden of this size. It's needing someone to invest in the planning, organization, and the management side of the gardens. I guess that's where Dadou and I come in the mix. We are solely invested every day in those aspects of the gardens. I am the person who figures out how much we need to make to cover our gardener's salaries. Dadou focuses on the planning of the work and gives the motivational speeches. And lastly Ama gets it done. Ama was put in charge 3 weeks ago by Dadou as the "head gardener." He sits down once a week and they discuss the things that need to happen and Ama agrees to get it done. Ama then turns around and has a sit down meeting with the two other gardeners, Joseph and Wesley. This system gives the team goals and direction each week.
When the black eyed peas were popping up everywhere that's when we really learned how to work our garden efficiently. We decided it wasn't efficient to have the gardeners pick the beans because it took time away from watering the land, creating more rows, and planting vegetables. So that's when we decided to get the moms involved with this process. The moms started to pick the beans and shell them. This opened our eyes to the kind of work we would like the moms to be involved in even more so in the future.
I'm not sure if you knew this but we always wanted to focus on giving the moms some chores around the facility so that it could feel like we are doing this together, not just "us" doing for "them." Their participation in the processes which make it possible for them to receive food, medication, and many other things their babies need during recovery just makes sense. But most importantly we want the moms to know that in their time at our facility they also help us, we are doing this together. They add to our project and in this way what they receive isn't just a "hand out." Hand-outs have been extremely damaging in Haiti's history and we really can't be a part of that any longer. Also there is no better way to remember what you've learned than through hands-on practice. At Second Mile moms have the opportunity to learn some valuable new things that we hope stay with them when they return to their own homes.
Secondly, our two ladies who work for had also been involved in shelling the beans for all lunch time meals. Everyday they would sit there for an hour or more just prepping those beans. We finally relinquished this task to the moms so it would free the ladies up to do other tasks they needed to complete.
Over the last couple days Dadou and I have been discussing even more jobs that future moms could be involved in during their stay. We've decided that they could be feeding and watering the chickens and grabbing the eggs from the chicken coops. They could also be in charge of bringing in the goats every night and taking them out in the mornings. They could also begin counting out the number of beans by the cup load that gets put into each sac before it is sold.
That brings me to the "why?" Why does all of this matter so much? Good question.
It gives us an opportunity to give each mom a loan to start commerce. This is what we will do with the last 3 moms. One of those moms left today and the other two will be heading to their homes before the end of the week. We can't expect their situation to just "miraculously" change. They didn't have the economic means before they came to spend 3 weeks (average) at our facility, what changes if we just send them back home with a healthy baby and nothing more? How long could we realistically expect that child to stay healthy? Children need food to grow and moms need to be supported in their efforts to provide for those needs. But, like I said before we don't believe in handing out money when they leave, especially if during their entire stay they had purely been watching us do for them. Our goal is to empower, it says it right their in our mission statement. :) So we are experimenting with a set amount of money we would like to invest in each mom. Each mom will benefit from a sum 5,000 gds which is roughly $110 USD. We have devised a list of items that can be purchased with that 5,000 gds that in turn the moms will be able to sell. Commerce in Haiti happens for most right in front of their living space. For example one family might have a sack of rice they sell to their neighbors cup by cup. Another person may have a stand featuring candy and snack foods. And another person operates a cooler of cold drinks. For the moms, business can happen right in front of their homes, by walking through nearby villages with their merchandise, or by setting up in an open market nearby. Only they will know what works best for the area in which they live. We do the purchasing of the items in advance and keep the stuff in the depot until they are ready to leave. Dadou educates the ladies on the profit they will make from each of the items. He teaches them about tracking all transactions. Most importantly he gives them encouragement about their future in business. The items we purchase for the ladies are all items in bulk: rice, detergent, tomato paste, beans, soap, etc. Dadou encourages the ladies that as they begin to make a profit they can either a) turn around and purchase the same items or focus on items that are selling best or b) branch out to other things they would be interested in selling.
This program in reality, was pulled together just in the last week and a half. Unlike our first mom who had a system for buying and reselling bananas. The second mom did not have a target item or a target market. When asked what she's done in the past for business her answer was "everything." She described herself as a business woman and began to list the different types of things she used to sell before she got sick. Being "sick" and having to take many trips to the hospital for both herself and her children wrecked her business in that she had to continue to spend and spend and spend until there was nothing left. We can't judge her past mishaps we have to simply offer her this fresh start. This is a program that Dadou, Amy and I all feel strongly about not just for this particular mom but for all of the mothers that come through. The reason that their children are so malnourished, for most of these woman, is a lack of income that limits their ability to buy nutritious foods for their babies. We found that when moms first got here they were ansy. They want to "do" something to improve their situation and help their kids. You can see the stress lines on their faces as they worry about it. We think that being able to orient each new mom to the facility by explaining the flow of the day including all the jobs and chores she can help with as well as the tasks she needs to complete by the time she leaves is a good place to start. Being able to work towards her "business loan" should help some with some of the "ansyness" and the worry lines we noticed in the first four moms.
We are still very encouraged about our goat program! (Read more about the goat program here.) But, in the last couple days we have been realizing that we would like to give the moms that goat a few weeks after their departure rather than on the day they leave. We would like to use the goat program as an incentive, a goal to achieve later... when their children are still gaining weight, their business is flourishing, and their kids are just plain healthy.
We are still continuing the strive to partner with the local hospitals and Children of the Promise. We have been referred 3 cases by the hospital in our area zone and 2 from Children of the Promise. Amy continues to be in contact withe the University hospital and a few other hospitals in town and we have already had some referrals from there as well. We have had representatives from all our partners visit our site (besides from the University hospital). When we return we will continue to grow these partnerships so we can continue to have children referred by doctors, nurses, directors, and community health agents.
Our criteria for admits.
When we started out, the program was solely for moms and their ONE most severely malnourished and acutely ill child. But since opening, we have had our eyes opened to possibility of accepting dads as well, and also moms that have more than one young child. In fact, we really don't know our exact criteria because we just know that God is bringing these families into our lives and we will take it one case at a time. We trust the He will bring to our attention those that need the most support and those that can benefit most from our facility. This might be our biggest lesson learned. So... there is no criteria for admits just lots of prayer involved.
We have a new vision for the role of our Haitian nurse. These first 2 months with our first 4 moms were SO incredibly helpful in terms of designing the health education component of our program and also the role of our Haitian nurse. We came up with an entrance and an exit exam that lets us test the mom's understanding of some of the major health topics we cover during their stay (stuff like how to eat a balanced diet, how to protect your kids from things like diarrhea, malaria, and tuberculosis, and really basic technical stuff like handwashing, food preparation, medication administration, and how to make enriched milk and oral rehydration solution, etc). We are now going to focus on creating more hands on activities for these topics since most of the moms haven't been able to read or write. We are thinking about even adding some small tutoring sessions so that any mom who is interested can have a chance to learn these skills. Amy started about a week ago spending some one on one time with a few of the moms per their request.
All of our first moms had the opportunity to learn how to use a thermometer, detect a fever, and give the right dosage of their medications. They learned about the best foods for their kids and how to keep both themselves and their children in good health. They passed their exit exams. This, to us, is success. We don't think anything about the last two months wasn't successful because in reality it went better than we ever expected. God showed us quite often that he knew exactly what he was doing when he put this vision in our heads. This vision in our heads is starting to make more sense. We constantly have moments like "ah, yes" "that's why we were supposed to do this/that." We are here for a long time to serve families in Haiti (God-willling). The only way we will know how to serve more efficiently is if we don't get comfortable. We are focused on being better.
|After a visit to the hospital for an abscess,|
Dieuson returned with 7 new prescriptions
Which leads me to the last thing... We learned a little more about rest. We have learned that when things are slow it's because God is preparing us for something big and we need to be rested for it. So these next three weeks we will be resting even though we will also be doing a tad bit (/lots) of fundraising. ;) By the way, if you are interested in connecting with us while we are in the States let us know! Our destinations are Arizona, California, and Seattle, Washington. We would love to meet you!
One last thing. For those of you that might be worried about what our employees will be up to while we are gone...don't worry! They will still be busy! We can only hope that the back property will be producing tons of vegetables and there's still more to be planted... but let's save that for another post. :)
Thanks for reading,
Jenn and Amy