So in case you’ve been wondering what exactly I do these days (since the grant is all finished and approved) I’m going to tell you. :) Now that I’m not restricted to having to be at home 24/7 with my 3 best friends, phone calls, meetings, and emails, I finally have the opportunity to spend some quality time at the land. I am blown away by how well the project is functioning. I find myself saying things like “hey maybe we should build another compost bin” or “maybe we should make meal X instead of meal Y.” This makes me grin because these are simple, simple suggestions. The project is running so well without Amy and I. The awesome part is that even though Amy and I aren’t there most of the time, our Haitian employees understand that we are always working on something that will be BIG for our organization. We've never been accused of being slackers… we do our part and they do their part.
Well these past two weeks, my focus has been on developing a better relationship with our staff members, moms, and kiddos. Gosh I’m not sure I even remember the last time I knew a child’s name or much less a mom’s name. I can go for weeks only knowing moms as "Mama Limbe", "Mama Bel-Air” or "Mama Milot".. these are all the names of the cities or regions where the moms live. Hey! Don’t give me a hard time. :) My mind is all about logistics and many times I have had to put personal relationships aside so that I can make sure the essential needs are met!
These past weeks have been pretty exciting for me. I’ll get to the point.
I want to introduce you to two women I have been extremely excited and passionate about..
Meet Mama Beige and Mama Kensiale.
Mama Beige is 17 years old.
Mama Kensiale is 15 years old.
They came to the facility about 8 weeks ago. Both of these moms must have come within just a few days of each other.
It’s sort of rare that we receive preemies and to get two preemies in a week was an even bigger deal.
And these weren't just any two preemies, these were two preemies born to mothers under the age of 17! Anyway, you get the picture.
Just sit and imagine a 15 year old and a 17 year old for a second. Usually 15 and 17 year old children are supposed to be enjoying their adolescence and dreaming of their futures. They aren't supposed to be taking on the full-time task of caring for a premature infant.
These details may be enlightening.
Beige weighed 1.45 kg (3.1 lbs) at 4 weeks old when she entered the program.
Kensiale weighed 1.76 (3.8 bs) kg at 6 weeks old.
Is your mind blown? Yes, they would still be in the hospital in the States.
Yes, they would be receiving 24/7 attention from doctors and nurses.
You can imagine our hesitation when we received just one of the cases.. but to receive two cases in the same week was rather mind blowing.
And the ages of the mommas!! Since they arrived around the same time, they were placed in the same room.
They became roomies.
The first two weeks of the their stay we didn't allow anyone into their room besides Kerline (lead educator), Pristina (lead nurse), and Dadou.
All of their weigh-ins and education classes were done in the room. They barely stepped outside because we were all afraid that their little ones would catch some kind of illness. Right away these women were taught proper hygiene and sanitation because it could mean life and death for their babies.
So here’s why I fell in love with these women.
Whenever I went to the facility their room was always the very first room I visited. Their babies were always wrapped perfectly in blankets and quilts and perfectly positioned on the bed. It was as if they thought the babies would get up and walk away if not swaddled appropriately.
They became passionate about their babies health. In fact, the moms became so passionate about their babies progress that every day became a game to see which baby gained the most weight.
One day I overheard this conversation:
Kensialie’s mom was a little bummed that Kensialie's weight was no different from the previous day.
Beige’s mom turned to her and said “ well did you do 3 hour feedings like they told you to?”
15 and 17 years old, people! While they were never able to continue their education past the 4th grade, these women are becoming educated, empowered, and passionate about their babies' health.
Over the course of the past two weeks, Mama Beige and Mama Kensialie have met we at the car the second I arrive at the facility.
I hear, “Jenn did you know Beige now weighs 3.15 kilograms?” “Jenn, Ketsalie weighs 3.05 kgs.”
I hear.. “Beige used to weigh X (# of kilograms) when she started the program and now she weighs X amount."
I literally hear this everyday. Whats even better, is that these women are proud of themselves and have big grins on their faces.
Here I am, struggling with this blog post, because I don’t know how to convey the fact that everyday I find myself having to hold back a tear or two. These interactions tend to make me a little bit emotional.
These young women are becoming strong women.
These young women are becoming educated.
These young women are becoming leaders at Second Mile.
They are beating the odds.
These babies are becoming healthy and their moms are doing ALL the work.
Here’s the God thing I keep thinking about..
Before these girls, we had never received a little one of their size.
Then receive we two in one week.
These two moms are almost the same same age.
And they’ve become best friends.
They've become equally passionate about their babies getting healthy.
They play this game of who gains the most weight, but really, they see their babies as winners already.
Today, I asked them both what they will do when they graduate the program. They both responded that they will visit each other’s houses and they will make sure their kids walk at the same time. They even mentioned maybe sending the girls to the same school.
If that doesn’t pull on your heart strings then I don’t know what will.
So, you wonder why I love my job. People always come up to me and tell me that the work we do must be so rewarding. I have heard this so many times that it doesn't ever really register. Usually, I think "oh, they’re just being nice." But, you know what.. this job is rewarding. Very rewarding. Mama Beige and Mama Kensialie pump me up. They stir my passion for the vision and mission of Second Mile.
Currently Beige weighs 7 lbs and Kensalie weighs 6.7 lbs.
Finally, I just want to say thank you to everyone, who by giving to Second Mile, makes it possible for these positive experiences to happen. I hope you are feeling just as pumped up as I am. You should.