chickens, babies, and a bit about being short

We are wrapping up a busy week with what promises to be an eventful weekend. On Sunday there will be big party in our village. A local Haitian-run micro-finance program has planned a celebration of their 1-year anniversary. More than 300 people have been involved in this lending program. It's a good thing. They’ve asked us to be there. 

This morning Jenn competed in a 4k fun-run in downtown Cap Haitien. Guess who took first place among the females? Yep. Ms. Jenn Schenk took the prize. 

Tonight a friend is celebrating his birthday. It's almost midnight and I'm still hearing the kompa music and the sounds of lingering party guests coming from the apartment next door. 

I don't bring up races and parties for nothing. This particular friend happens to be a PhD student and has been kind enough to consult with us regarding our chickens and their diet. He and Jenn contrived a plan to better balance the our chickens' diet using food sources that have the potential to be more sustainable and less expensive. 

We are always looking for ways to improve the chicken's health and nutrition but at the moment we aren’t having any major problems. The chickens are producing big, beautiful brown eggs so delicious that they are flying off the shelves faster than those ladies can lay. 

Errod, a SMH staff member, has added chicken care to his repertoire of responsibilities. He’s been getting special training and has definitely taken ownership of the egg production process. He works hard to make the egg business as successful as it can be. It’s his job to monitor how many eggs the hens lay per day, to oversee their food supply, and to procure all feed elements before we run out. He even delivers the eggs to customers. 

Recently, with money from the Holiday Catalog, we did an upgrade on the chicken pen to include a cement base (for easy cleaning). Besides the cement the pen elements are pretty organic. The ground is lined with rice shells and the roof was created with dried palm leaves. It’s much nicer than the salvaged wire barricade we put up the first time and much bigger than the bamboo pen we used for our very first 20 chickens. Those temporary pens cost next to nothing  since we used materials left over from construction. But since we now have 120 chickens an upgrade was definitely in order.  It was time. 

before, old coop

during, the sugar cane canopy was built by a local man...
we told him we liked the canopy he had at his place and then hired him to make one for us

The chickens seem pretty content in their new space. 


We are currently working with four families. 

#1 Daniel Tiny Daniel is stable and getting bigger by the day.  He is almost 4 months old. This was his third full week at Second Mile (for a total of 3 1/2 weeks). 

His mother was having issues breastfeeding during Daniel’s first 3 months. When she came to Second Mile she was underweight herself and was feeling ill. She was tested for tuberculosis but came up with a clean bill of health. Her story is like that of so many other women in Haiti.... a mother's illness affects a child's health. But too often mothers are separated from their children when they themselves are ill. Maternal illness and death are common reasons why Haitian children end up in the orphanages. The child is first separated at the time of health crisis, but sadly, it seems that the longer a mother remains ill and unable to receive treatment or answers, the more likely that mother and child will never be reunited. 

We are thankful that Milouse and Daniel didn't have to be separated and that mom's health issues seemed to resolve after a few good meals and rest. The stresses of not knowing whether or not she had a serious condition and whether or not she would be able to afford treatment combined with the stress of not knowing how she would get help for Daniel could have been enough to keep her sick.... the reduction of those stresses might have been the turning point for healing. 

At Second Mile we are working to improve health-seeking behaviors among women both for themselves and for their children. Each case is different, but part of our health education curriculum is teaching women where, when, and how to seek healthcare. Of course, knowing when and how to use a healthcare facility means nothing if a woman does not have the means to travel to hospital or to pay for treatment. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every mother with could afford to nourish and care for herself, including regular check-ups? Wouldn't it be great if every family could head straight to the hospital in an emergency without worrying about how expensive medication will be if  a child is admitted? 

We can’t expect good outcomes if families don’t have enough money for food, shelter, and basic health care, much less savings for health emergencies. That's why the business program is set up to give these vulnerable and disadvantaged mothers the tools they need to run and sustain successful business. We're still working to make the program better, but we are learning so much with each new situation. 

Friday - Daniel and Mom packed and ready to go home for the weekend

#2 Mickey We also still have Mickey and his mother with us. His story is a bit more complex. I’m working out a blog post to share more of his hard and hopeful journey. Mickey is almost a year old. He weighs 12.7 lbs. When they first came to Second Mile he weighed only 8.8 lbs. 

#3 Bel Little Bel, age 3, just completed 4 weeks at Second Mile. She gained weight rapidly due to an affinity for Medika Mamba. She quickly moved from a diagnosis of “moderate acute malnutrition” to a weight that is average for children of her height. She made the jump from 16 lbs to 19 lbs in just 3 weeks. 

Friday, going home to Grandpa
While we are excited about Bel’s progress she still shows some lingering signs of poor nutrition. Her orange hair and her short stature are signs that she isn’t completely out of the woods yet. Any illness at this point could send her right back to where she started. The short stature you see in children who are undernourished has a technical name. It’s called stunting.

Stunting is present when children are exposed to a diet that is persistently lacking in essential micronutrients, such as iron, folic acid, and vitamin A. Without these and other essential nutrients children don’t grow and develop as they should. For example, even though a child's weight might be average compared to children of the same height, these “stunted” children are considerably shorter and don’t look as healthy as other children their age. Just about 1/3 of the world's children are stunted. (That's a big problem). Children who are stunted fall ill considerably more often than children who are not. Bel is the perfect example.
Bel's grandma shelling beans outside the Recovery Home. Bel's mom died 3 months ago.
Bel had cold symptoms all week and it affected her appetite. She lost a little bit of weight last weekend, then she stayed stable during the week. This small episode of illness gave us the opportunity to teach the all the moms about managing  the spread of germs among other children in their households. The moms learned about washing toys before they get into the hands of a smaller/more fragile child. They learned about the benefits of vitamin C and how important it is to increase the amount of liquids you give a child while he or she is sick. The good news is that Bel didn’t lose too much ground as a result of this cold. We praised the grandma for this! In fact, this week Bel showed one of the best signs of recovery: the energy to walk and play! She spent a few afternoons this week, getting creative with a basket full of building blocks. 

Bel and Grandma had to leave the facility on Friday because of a death in the family but she will be back for follow-up. As she continues to eat a diet rich in iron her hair should change and we should see progress in her height. One of our favorite things to note when kids come back for follow-up is how tall they are getting!  Along with weight gain, an increase in height (or length) is an excellent sign of overall improved nutritional status. 

Take Witchana for example. She sure has changed in 6 months time! 

                       Witchana at Second Mile (May, 2013)                              Witchana, 6 months later (Now, 2013)

#4 And finally, Loudjina is back at Second Mile, with mom, brother, and dad. 

You may remember an update in a recent blog post where we said that Loudjina had recently returned from a trip to a hospital in Port-au-Prince. Everyone was hoping that she would be scheduled for surgery during the trip. But then we learned from the family that nothing could be done for her severe case of hydrocephalus. But.. as it turns out... we have reason to believe that the family was confused and that the visiting physicians would have placed a shunt (to drain fluid via a tube from brain to abdomen) in January if only the family had been willing to stay for the entire week. But instead, after just two nights in Port-au-Prince they traveled back home to Cap Haitien. It was disheartening to learn of this discrepancy between the nurse’s story and the family’s story but we want to give Loudjina and her family a second chance at surgery if it is available to them. It is once again a possibility that a visiting surgical team will attempt to place a shunt. A few days ago, the nurse in charge of the program called Jenn and asked that she arrange for the family to return February 20th. 

Loudjina’s father is doing some work at our facility to earn the money they will need to travel back to Port au Prince. We thank the donors who have provided this transportation money as these are the funds that allow us to pay Loudjina’s father for the work he is doing. We believe this arrangement is best for the family as it allows them to have ownership over the money they will need when they go back. Having Loudjina’s dad at our facility during the day is also a great thing for Loudjina. Her mom just gave birth to their second child via C-section 4 weeks ago. Dad has been a big help feeding and dressing Loudjina, giving mom time to recuperate. We taught Loudjina’s entire family and some of the other moms how to lift and turn Loudjina using a 3-person method that will help prevent any more pressure ulcers from forming. She is getting 2 dressing changes per day for her existing wounds.

That's all for now.
More updates coming tomorrow!