Well hello there. How are you?
So much has been happening here in Haiti, it's hard to know where to begin! Most days are either really hard or really exciting. Every day is full. Those of you who have been following since the beginning have seen Second Mile grow from the ground up. You heard from us during our first 3 months when we were sharing our vision in the States and stuck with us during the next four months of getting our bearings in Haiti. You watched us (and helped us) buy land and spend a full year building the facility, pushing ahead with construction only so long as we had the funds. Then on Mother's Day 2013 we opened our doors and started to walk alongside our first mother.
Can you believe it? On Mother's Day 2014 we will have been functioning for one year!
Wow! It sure feels like it's been longer than a year. We still follow-up with the very first moms. Their children are doing very well and many are still doing well with their micro-businesses. Those that aren't, are still making it work somehow. Their not-so-successful business ventures have helped our business program director come up with better ways to get moms on their feet and to help them succeed even though the odds aren't stacked in their favor. All the moms that stuck through the recovery program are still bringing in healthy children for follow-up visits.
That means that not only are their children alive, they also aren't living in an orphanage or institution. Those statistics are pretty good right now. We know we will encounter harder, more challenging cases in the future where family preservation actually won't be the best solution. But if the first year has been any indication of what's to come, then those cases will be few and far between. There have have been just 2 women that weren't capable of staying at our facility and caring for their children there. These kids were referred to another program. And there was one child whose father pulled her and her step-mother out of our program because a visiting group of short term missionaries, without knowing exactly where she was, told her that they were the ones helping his daughter and that she didn't need to be anywhere else. I could insert something here about why that kind of stunt will give short term visitors a bad rep among those who are working to find sustainable solutions for families in poverty but I think I'll skip it today. ;)
Not including the three cases I just mentioned, we've worked with 26 mothers and have nutritionally rehabilitated 30 children. And guess what!
We still love moms.
We are still passionate about empowering women.
And we still believe in caring for mothers of malnourished babies in this unique way. We are still doing the same ol' things but it looks a lot different with so many more women in the mix!
Our process is still to come alongside women during their child's health crisis, offering a place of recovery, nurturing that mother-child bond, and offering educational and skills training opportunities through which women can begin to bring themselves further away from that scary place where their kids are experiencing undernutrition, hunger, and illness.
I've spent a lot of time with our photos lately. We have got to get our act together and share some of the amazing images with you. I hate to admit it, but we don't even have a single page on our website that shows what we actually do, now, present-tense. The pages on our website that describe our facility were written when Second Mile was just a dream of an idea. That's got to change! Until it does, this small photo collection will have to serve as an update. We've chosen the photos that reveal moments of hope, courage, and joy. As you linger on these photos and read their captions I hope you will consider what improved health, empowerment through education, and new economic opportunities can do for women in Haiti.
We've added a new activity into the mix: Infant Massage. The practice of massage has many benefits for babies. It helps their digestion, immune system, and mental health. The class is taught by our very own Ms. Kerline.
The beauty of putting a bunch of women together is that there's always the potential for one to support another. My favorite thing (in the world!) is watching a group of expert, seasoned moms teach a new moms the ropes.
As we expected, all moms have been hugely invested in their child's progress. Many of the moms remember their child's weight from day to day. When a child doesn't gain weight and it's not because of infection or complication, the moms are empowered to think critically. Is it the timing of feeds? The amount offered? The feeding method? They begin the day ready to troubleshoot. The nurses stand by to help and guide.
Around 8 am each morning, the moms mosey into the clinic gallery and chat with one another while Ms. Prestina (nurse) weighs the children one by one and takes their measurements. For most of the children the goal is to gain weight. But for the children that come to us with swollen limbs [a sign of acute malnutrition], weight loss is actually an indicator that the child is making good progress. The child below is a good example. He was admitted with swollen limbs and face. We began by teaching the mother how to make [and administer] a special stabilization formula of therapeutic milk. The formula is made using sugar, oil, milk, water, and cereal flour in amounts set to offer precisely the right nutrients and calories to stabilize him without any adverse effects. At first the milk was given in small volumes (according to his weight) every 2 hours, then he graduated to every 3 hours, and eventually every 4 hours. His mother was the one giving him each milk feed. Her happiness, and his, is truly a byproduct of much patience and perseverance.
The facility is set up so that moms can always be close by their kids whether that means taking them to classes or letting them sleep with another mom nearby. This helps the kids gets meds and feedings right when they need them no matter what else is going on.
In the photo below, a mom requests that photos be taken to commemorate her daughters 1st birthday. Speaking of birthdays, $3,800 was raised during our recent Birthday Fundraiser. A sincere thank you to those who donated.
This last photo is what it's all about -- How can you empower a mother to care for her vulnerable child if that child is in an orphanage? How does she learn to apply life-saving behaviors (like giving oral rehydration fluids when her child has diarrhea), if mom and baby aren't together? This mom is 18. The mom next to her is 18. And the mom next to her is 19. It's just a coincidence that the young mothers sat together in the back row and all the women in the front are much older. Or maybe they just have better vision...? The point is that the young mothers aren't done learning. The older mothers aren't either.
I can't quite get what's happening in this photo into words, but it's good and it's powerful.