Hi blog readers.
I know. It's been forever. I have this sinking feeling that the last time we wrote about the recovery and empowerment program, or our gardens, livestock, and sustainability projects was at least 4, maybe 5 months ago. Yikes!
For whatever reason, sharing with you via this outlet has become a challenge. Time just doesn't permit and writer's block wins every. time. Thankfully we have other means of communication. Facebook has been a staple along with the [occasional] newsletter. And recently we joined Instagram. We've got a ways to go before I can say that we've mastered the art of the "gram" but I promise to try. ;)
With this variety of social media outlets, I hope you all find yourselves up-to-date on the "happenings" here in Haiti. And if there's ever something you want to know, just ask.
In an effort to break the great blog silence of 2014 I began composing a new post on no less than 10 different occasions. And at each attempt I keep coming back to this one topic. Turns out I'm really determined to share this mystery topic with you because I stayed up late last night and again today working on it.
However I feel like I just can't proceed with out a ti-update. Ti means small in Haitian Kreyol so don't worry, I'm giving you the short version of what we're up to.
Jenn and I are both in Haiti at the moment and we continue to be encouraged by the progress we see not just with the moms and the children in recovery, but also with our employees as they direct and run their respective programs. Joseph's work in the gardens especially stands out. As does Wilner's work in property maintenance and Dadou's leadership of the organization as a whole.
The fact that this center actually exists never ceases to amaze us. We don't take it for granted. Every day we work hard to make sure Second Mile is funded and thriving. October is something of a "vision" month for us. It was during this very week, 3 years ago, that we took that initial leap of faith to do something different in Haiti. We have been so blessed-- so, so fortunate to have had this opportunity to see our dream become a reality.
Some of our biggest projects at the moment include editing a grant proposal, a pretty significant one at that, and creating a Second Mile database--from scratch. We collect SO much data that, when analyzed, will help us see the big picture and evaluate the effectiveness of what we do. All of the employees document a ton of information each day simply to keep the center organized and accountable. Plus more than 50 moms have been in and out of our doors in the last year and a half. It's time to go digital!
I can't think of a more useful tool for us moving forward.
Speaking of moving forward... that is precisely what this little blog post is about.
In case you missed the title, "walking" is the big mystery topic.
Did you know that once a child has mastered the skill of walking, the likelihood that he will suffer from undernutrition drops dramatically? Most children suffer from severe acute malnutrition between the ages of 6 months and 24 months and walking seems to be a protective factor. Even children who have a history of acute malnutrition are less likely to relapse once they have achieved this milestone.
Walking is a sign of health, energy, and strength. A child who isn't getting enough protein and calories won't have anything extra to devote to gross motor development. In other words, kids who start to walk are getting enough to eat.
Walking is also a means of transportation. Walkers, even little ones, are agile and adept. They're curious, tenacious, and can even seem a bit cocky as they show off their new skill. Walkers can play hard and work up an appetite. Walkers can get themselves up off the ground and away from the opportunistic bugs that live there. And perhaps most importantly, walkers are better able to make their needs known. Mobile children can toddle over to mom or an older sibling and ask for a snack. They really do have an edge over the not-yet-walking.
Seriously, who can resist a toddler?
Obviously not the person who gave these boys their snack...
Now that I think of it, I'm pretty sure this is the first and only time I've used the word "toddler" since moving to Haiti. The moniker is meant to describe two year olds, right? The population we work with now isn't exactly sticking to their developmental milestones. We see two year olds, for sure, but they aren't doing much toddling-- at least not when we first meet them.
It's not until a little while later, sometime between the Medika Mamba, the therapeutic play, and the one-on-one time with their moms, that a whole lot changes.
First they start to smile. Then they become more interested in playing, moving, standing, and stepping.
Most of the time we don't get to see the whole transformation. The kids who begin to build strength continue to develop once they've gone home.
The moms however, get to see each and every step. Take the mom above for example. She is getting to play an active role in her child's rehabilitation. And she finds joy in helping her explore and watching her gain confidence. She's getting to experience all the nuances of early childhood that had been absent during many months of ill health and undernutrition.
Sometimes it seems impossible that these sick, small bodies will ever recover. The hard truth is: sometimes they don't. You've seen their before photos and you know that the odds aren't stacked in favor of fragile infants and disadvantaged women.
Loudenie (pictured above) was a twin. Her sister died before we had a chance to intervene although I'm not sure we could have done much to change her fate. She weighed just 7 lbs about the size of your average newborn, at 18 months of age. Her body had already given up. A few days after the death, Loudenie's mother returned to our center with just one daughter. I overheard her admitting to some of the other moms that she was grateful for somewhere to go, away from the too-fresh memories of death that lingered in her own home. She would be able to focus on the recovery of her remaining daughter. And she would make it count.
We have seen Loudenie improve dramatically in three weeks, especially in the area of development. This is a relief for everyone, especially in light of their loss.
She may even be walking soon.
Seeing any child walk is exciting, but seeing a once malnourished child walk is something all-together spectacular. It's the full and complete transformation, a green light in the fast lane, and the point in which we breath a small sigh of relief.
Globally each year, malnutrition is a cause of death for over 2.6 million children. The condition is responsible for one third of all childhood deaths annually. When the risk is reduced even the slightest bit our hearts grow a little lighter.
We have had a quite a few walkers come out of the ranks recently. Their photos are what prompted this post. This may not be a super informative post, or a well-written one, but these photos should make up for it.
She ands her mother stayed for 6 weeks after a hospitalization at the local hospital. She gained 3.5 lbs. She's been in follow-up for 5 months and has gained nearly 6 more lbs at home! Her family is thriving and now she's walking!!!
Remember Chris Benson? He also was referred to the center after hospitalization for kwashiorkor. He lost the remaining fluid retention and then gained 2 lbs in 4 weeks. And another 2 lbs in 2 months at home. When he came in for a follow-up last month he was walking.
Remember Rivenson and his Grandma? They also came to Second Mile around the same time and via the same referral pathway. Rivenson and Grandma spent six weeks at Second Mile. He gained almost 3 lbs. In 2 months at home he gained another 2 lbs.
Well... he's walking too!!!
And last but not least Andy. Andy shocked us all when, less than a week after leaving Second Mile, he came back for a special physiotherapy session and walked in like he owned the place.
The ability to walk does not preclude the ability to have a good life
but, in the field of malnutrition rehabilitation, it is a beautiful site to behold.
These kids were all very sick; now they have a new lease on life. Their parents have had to deal with much in their short lives: hospital stays, many sleepless nights, and the uncertainty of whether or not they would survive.
Now they get to experience the joy of watching these same children go places.
These are our future world changers.
As we head into year # 3 of this crazy adventure we hope you will join us. Join us in prayer and pocket, join us by signing up for the blog and newsletter, following on FB and Instagram, and keeping in touch with us via email. We pray that we can partner with more and more of you this coming year. We don't want to do it without ya.