It's time to write a blog post about time.
I'll be honest. I don't really want to be "blogging" right now. It feels a bit obligatory. It also feels a bit like forcing happy when in actuality I'm feeling far from it. My better half/partner in crime is far away in America and going through a hard time. Jenn left Haiti on the 13th. Her grandmother passed away 3 days later at far too young an age and far too soon after Jenn and her siblings had to face the death of their father (in March). Today is the memorial service for 'Mimi' and Jenn is giving the eulogy. I wish I could be there. I could have joined the family for the services, of course. But I simply didn't get up and go. Leaving Haiti tends to be more difficult than staying.
Still despite the rainy, dreary week (and the broken vehicle, and a new baby with a heart condition, and a new baby with TB, and sickness, and death, and the events happening in Texas, and the wrath of Chickengunya that seems to be ravaging Port-au-prince and creeping it's way up the central coast to the North) I really must blog. The tricky thing about time is, it's fleeting.
If you don't take advantage of a moment, it's gone.
So in this moment I'd like to recognize that it has been 1 year since Second Mile Haiti opened its proverbial (and literal) doors. That's right! On May 15th, 2013 a 31-year-old mother of two arrived at our facility with her 9-lb 19-month-old baby girl. Those first few nights she was the only momma at the facility until, a few days later, we got a call about another mother and child. This mom had 5 children but it was her youngest, and only daughter, who was struggling with malnutrition.
Moms Claire and Rosna with daughters Marie-Ange (then 19-months) and Witchana (then 15 months).
These two moms laid the foundation. They showed us what it would look like to partner with moms. They were genuine, receptive, patient, and kind; wise, resilient, and strong. With their children they were self-less, nurturing, and affectionate. We loved them (and still love them) a lot. We are grateful that they shared there lives with us for a little bit. Claire and Rosna are seriously good people.
The two women had a lot in common and became fast friends. They live in two different towns at least 30 minutes apart. But we know they call each other on the phone to check in and sometimes they'll show up for a visit to Second Mile on the same day.
That's what happened last week. Both Claire and Rosna came with their girls on the same day! The moms were happy to see each other and I think Witchana would have been eager to play with Marie-Ange...but not so much the other way around. When we tried to get a picture of the two girls sitting together MA was not having it! It would have been the ultimate then and now shot, something like recreating an old family photo. But Marie Ange is so attached to her momma that no one was going to be able to get her to sit by herself (although Witchana did make a valiant attempt to hold her friend still).
I shouldn't have deleted those photos. They were hilarious. But unfortunately, I did.
While we didn't get to recreate that photo from last May what we do have is a few photos that will show just how well these girls are doing now, 12 months after they first spent time at Second Mile.
Marie Ange at 19 months and 31 months.
Witchana at 15 months and 27 months.
I know that today is actually May 22nd (actually it's now the 25th!) And here we are a week after our 1 year anniversary. But I think this is one of those better-late-than-never posts.
Witchana looks great! (So does Marie Ange). And these moms are happy.
So maybe Second Mile did make just an teensy-weensy bit of difference for these families. Maybe it was the nutritional nudge. Witchana gained 1.5 lbs in her 10 days at Second Mile. And Marie Ange made the most progress during her second stay at Second Mile where she gained 5.5 lbs in 7 weeks. Or maybe it was the follow-up, the education, or the business (i.e. income). It was probably the business.. or a combination of things. And just to be fair, these mothers unlike many of the others are fortunate to have access to healthcare services that are about 80% free to them. This means that both girls can get care when they are sick. That's a huge factor in their staying healthy and we need to recognize this particular hospital and the Haitian Ministry of Health for making those services available to them).
Still, I think it's fair to say that both of these girls were in pretty bad shape initially (especially MA). The rehabilitation they received at Second Mile was, in fact, a good and necessary intervention. The thing about malnutrition is that it causes you to be more susceptible (in a weakened immune state) to other infections. And the thing about other infections is that they can cause or worsen malnutrition.
Sick kids sometimes just aren't very hungry or don't want to eat. And even when they do eat, the calories they consume are directed towards fighting the infection rather than weight gain and growth.
It's clearly not ideal to stay in a malnourished state for any length of time.
40% of childhood deaths, world-wide, are of dual-cause: infection in the presence of malnutrition. That's kind of why it's such a big deal to be able to help families get medical care. Not all infections are easy to treat. Treatment for TB, for example, is a long and cumbersome undertaking for both families and health-care providers. The WHO believes that 74,000 children die from TB each year (WHO Global TB Report 2013). Severely malnourished children and children with HIV are the most susceptible to TB and the most likely to die because of it. And TB is just one example. There are plenty of yucky illnesses and infections ready to prey on the vulnerable.
So, the getting healthy was important.
But the moral of this story is the staying healthy. And our conclusion is that moms can. They absolutely can. These pictures in this post weren't before and after pictures showing the progress made when both mother and child were at Second Mile. These were taken a year later... The girls stayed healthy with their mothers and aunts and grandmas and uncles...at home... despite all of life's challenges and expenses.
So hat's off to you, mommas. And Happy Haitian Mother's Day!