Must be doing something right!

So, I realize I have been non-existent the past couple months. Lately, I feel like Amy and I haven’t been able to take a breath. It has been a constant whirl-wind for us. Let me see if I can catch you up on everything from operations in Haiti, to the grant and our trips, and just life in general.

Maybe I’ll start with the most recent events and work backwards, if that’s okay with you. 

Thanksgiving. Everyone in Haiti knows this is by far my favorite Holiday. Why? Well most ex-pat, humanitarian- aid workers, and missionaries all decide to stay in Haiti for this Holiday since they usually choose Christmas to be home with their family and friends.

So for the past three years, Amy and I have decided to host a BIG feast on this day. On this special day we make the turkey, decorate our apartment, and invite as many people as we know that don’t have the opportunity to eat delicious turkey. Usually the most important thing to me about this Holiday is that we invite people that are from all over the world. This Thanksgiving we were hosting people from 6 different countries!

How cool is that?

Even though we have hosted Thanksgiving the past three years, this just so happened to be the first year we actually made the turkey! I should add that it wasn’t one turkey, but TWO! 

Amy and I spent the entire morning defrosting turkeys that we may have forgotten about until about 10 in the morning.  We must have spent several hours on google on the “How To” pages. Luckily we scheduled our feast to be at 7 PM so it gave us the opportunity to accomplish everything in one day.

 Amy defrosting the 2nd turkey for the day.

Amy defrosting the 2nd turkey for the day.

 I'm struggling.

I'm struggling.

No matter how stressed we were.. The night turned out to be more amazing then the previous two feasts. It was a great night! 

In the weeks leading to Thanksgiving we both took a trip to the States and decided we would re-decorate our apartment/office. We have lived in the same apartment for the past 2 1/2 years. We host many potlucks, small gatherings, and organization meetings in our apartment. Oh, and let’s not forget it’s our office since our Haitian staff doesn’t seem to need us as much these days. (That’s a good thing ;))

It finally hit us that we both plan on being here some way or the other for the next 5+ years. Oh, and there you go.. question answered for everyone that asks, “where do you see yourself in the next 5 years.” Anyways, back to the point. If you haven’t seen our apartment then let me give you a mental picture. Our apartment has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a large dinning area, small living room, small kitchen, 25 foot high ceilings (not sure why) and about 30 unneeded stairs in the apartment. The walls are painted in several different shades of white and with the ceilings being 25 feet high then I am sure you are imagining the cobwebs. So it was time to re-decorate. We have been pushing it off for awhile with the heavy workload. Most of our painting was done from the hours of 12 AM-4AM, and we were able to recruit several neighbors. We may have had to bribe them with wine and chocolate. Here’s the finished product. :) If you have seen our apartment then you can imagine how accomplished we are feeling right now. 

 Apartment-Before

Apartment-Before

 Apartment-After (or in the process)

Apartment-After (or in the process)

Okay, so you saw that I mentioned Amy and I taking trips back to the States? Both of our trips were in November. Amy took off for the States first. The purpose of her trip was to start and finish the 2015 Holiday Catalog and attend her grandmother’s memorial in California. Amy was gone for a little over two weeks. 

In those two weeks Cap Haitien (where we live) was hit with heavy down pours. I wasn’t even able to get to get to work! Cap Haitien was completely flooded. Many homes were destroyed. Actually several of the moms in the program lost their homes because of the downpour of rain that eventually led to flooding. I spent most of my time trying to figure out the logistics: how to get moms to the site, preparing mom’s homes, transportation to/from work for our employees, conserving power/electricity, how to keep moms and employees mind’s off all the devastation of losing everything, and all the additional costs that happen when the city floods!

 An aerial shot of the flooding.

An aerial shot of the flooding.

 Dadou, making a home visit.

Dadou, making a home visit.

When Amy got back we literally only had 22 hours before I would head off on my trip. Out of those 22 hours we must have worked 15 of those hours! We were preparing for my trip to meet potential donors and speaking at churches. That meant in 15 hours we needed to finish the Holiday Catalog, finish (I mean start) the 2015 projected budget, and have something prepared to give out during all my meetings. I literally did not shower and pack until an hour before I was supposed to leave for the airport. 

My destination was Minneapolis and New Richmond, Wisconin (my home away from home). My trip was only 6 days, and in the first two days I had 8 meetings lined up! The meetings were exciting and tiring at all the same time. It’s during those meetings that I realized..

  1. After 4 years in Haiti I realize how much more passionate about Haiti and the organization then the very first day that I arrived
  2. I’m getting pretty good at speaking to donors, and Im suddenly starting to realize it’s my favorite thing about running a non-profit
  3. Our organization is a lot bigger then I think it is.. Holy cow, 23 employees this year and we plan to have 31 next year!
  4. Second Mile Haiti is starting a movement to keep families together and I am glad we are in the front-lines in Haiti
  5. People are excited about the past three years, and I think they will be even more excited about next year alone
  6. I AM BLESSED, WE ARE BLESSED, and the ORGANIZATION is BLESSED
  7. Clearly there is a higher power in all of this.

It went great. People are catching on to the vision and the future of Second Mile. Who knows maybe when I decide to settle down, I think I might be able to find a job in good ol Minneapolis.

The last couple days were spent in New Richmond, Wisconsin. I spent most of my time re-connecting and setting up the board for 2015, establishing work duties on the Holiday Catalog, and visiting one of my favorite churches. It went well. The trip was overwhelming, but I couldn’t have asked for better results. 

So now on to what I have been waiting to tell everyone!!!!

Early on in 2014 it was proposed to Second Mile that the UN (United Nations) would like Second Mile to be one of their grant recipients. I had figured this was going to happen soon since I, myself have probably given over 20 “project tours to UN officials, and government officials. In 2014, our project became a “must-see.” In April I had a sit down meeting with the “now” chief of the UN for Northern Haiti. He said, “Jenn, we would like to do a project for this amount xxx (trust me it’s a large number ;)), what do you think we should do,” My mind is racing. Amy and I do not believe in growing our operations just because a big sum of money is throw at us. So there were many meetings between Amy and I and how we should move forward. We even asked ourselves if we should even pursue this grant. Maybe it was too early. 

In May 2015 we decided on the terms of the grant. For the given amount Second Mile will:

  1. Build two buildings (Sustainability work-shop and additional recovery homes)
  2. Strengthen the capacity of our health education and business programs
  3. Do a HIV/Gender Based-Violence campaign that reaches 4 villages (approx 1200 people)

Okay, so maybe there are only 3 points, but it’s so much larger than that!

Building a Sustainability workshop will mean that we will be able to make bread, yogurt, cheese, and jam. These are all income-generating projects for the organization, but they are also “future” incoming generating projects for our moms and dads that enter the facility.

When I say build an additional recovery home, that means we will be doubling the capacity of the facility. Second Mile will be able to hold 24 sets of moms and babies at a time, instead of 12. 

Strengthening the health education programs means we will be able to have the most-recent health education materials in Haiti, and that we will be providing a work-book for all the moms to complete during their stay.

Strengthening the business programs means we will no longer give businesses for that have a $200 value, but $300 instead.

We will be doing more extensive follow-ups with the health and business program.

How will all this be possible??

The grant accounts for 5 additional staff members!!

In case you were wondering why it takes us several days to answer your emails or why we sometimes become non-existent on Facebook. This is why. There was over 1000 hours poured into this grant including  more than 50 meetings as it went through at least 30 different channels before it was approved.

I found out 3 weeks ago that they only accepted 8 other recipients in Haiti. Did you know there are 4,000 other organizations working in Haiti? This is all mind blowing.. but do you want to know what gets my attention the most besides the monetary value? This grant means Haiti accepts our model. They think Haiti needs more of these models. So, maybe we’re onto something?

So 2015 plans:

We will complete this grant, and have our ideal facility. In the later months of 2015 we will start looking to expand. We will strategize and plan to set up these same (working) facilities in several locations in Northern Haiti. We will start a movement. We will insist that moms and children graduate this program instead of relinquishing their children to orphanages. Do you want to raise your wine glasses, and give me a cheers to that?

Second Mile is on to something. It’s onto something great. I promise we will not disappoint you in 2015. 

Here's my last plee: Check out the 2015 Holiday Catalog for needs that won't be covered by the UN grant. These are literally gifts that are so so crucial to our organization operating!