One Family's Story

It’s New Year's Eve, the last day of the year, and the last day that the Holiday Catalog will be live, online. There are a few gifts left that are of some consequence to me. While every gift matters, I have the privilege of watching some of these gifts in action as they save lives, empower mothers, and keep families together. I know we use that string of claims often when trying to sum up how your gifts will make a difference but that’s only because they are absolutely true. When you give to Second Mile Haiti, your gifts really do make an immense difference in the lives of actual families.

If you don’t have time to read this post but you do want to make a tax-deductible year-end gift right now. Consider the gift of medicine $45 or a gift towards life-saving milk (a case of infant formula costs $150 in Haiti). You can give right here. Or take a quick peak at our Holiday Catalog to see what else is left. 

Here’s one family’s story. 

This baby’s name is Clara. She was 10 months old when she came to Second Mile Haiti. She weighed 8 lbs (3.6 kg). I love the way the name Clara sounds in the Haitian tongue. It’s not Claire-uh. It’s Clara. Throaty and beautiful. Clara was a beautiful little girl, with a surprising amount of sparkle in her eye, considering her condition. Ten-month-old babies aren’t supposed to weigh 8 lbs.

Meeting the immediate needs

The size of a newborn and uninterested in the therapeutic peanut butter paste normally used to rehabilitate malnourished children, we started Clara’s recovery with infant formula. During the course of her recovery she was diagnosed with congenital heart disease. We helped the family with transportation to and from the hospital visits required for this diagnosis and payment for the services rendered. We provided the medication needed to manage her heart condition and the funds to travel to a larger hospital so Clara could be evaluated for surgery. Without diagnosis, without intervention, without a form of nourishment that her small body could absorb, Clara’s chances of survival would have been slim. With her heart under control, she began to gain weight and the sparkle in her eye, began to sparkle all the brighter. 

 Clara and her grandma inside the recovery room

Clara and her grandma inside the recovery room

The social

Clara arrived at Second Mile with her mother and her grandmother. At the time of their referral to the recovery center, Clara’s grandmother had been searching for an orphanage that would take over the care of her granddaughter for a period of time. She thought maybe 6 months or a year would help, "maybe even 18 years but not any more." She didn’t want to lose the granddaughter she loved, but being the sole provider for a household of eight, she knew there were not enough hours in the day to give the sick baby the attention she would need to survive.

The entire families survival depended on Clara’s grandmother being able to sell products in the market and travel to the border each week to purchase goods. Clara’s mother, Jesula, now 25 years old, had been dismissed as unable to care for a baby the moment Clara was born. Partially for good reason, Jesula is delayed developmentally (her cognitive age could be estimated as 12 or 13), but partially because no one believed she could learn to function more independently. 

She loves fashion, singing, and dancing. She knows Shakira's signature dance moves and Michael Jackson's moon walk. She likes the way her Dora the Explorer sun visor makes her look "fresh" and always wants her picture taken when she wears her purple Hannah Montana skirt. When interviewing this family Kerline, our Program Manager, knew that Clara's recovery might have some challenges. But Kerline thrives in the most challenging of situations. Without hesitation, she suggested that Clara's Grandma give us a chance to work with Jesula. 

The pair stayed with us for 14 weeks, twice the length of most children and their caregivers. 

Jesula learned to take care of her daughter just like everyone else. And she had a great time in the process. 

 Jesula and Jenn dancing on Tuesday. 

Jesula and Jenn dancing on Tuesday. 

Throughout their stay, Jesula was supported by Kerline, nurse Prestina, and the other mothers. Kerline, has a soft spot for the moms that need extra help. Plus, she's good at what she does. She's the head educator and acts as a social worker on most days. And she likes children. Alot. 

 Kerline gives Clara some extra attention

Kerline gives Clara some extra attention

She took Clara and Jesula under her wing. Anytime Clara needed to eat she brought Jesula and Clara into her clinic, or went to meet them in their room, to teach Jesula again and again how to feed her daughter. 

Clara 6.jpg

Pristina, our nurse, gave Clara her heart medications and taught grandma so that she could take over during the weekends. Every Monday Clara’s grandma brought Clara and Jesula to the center, and every Friday she came back to the center to accompany the pair home. A family, together. 

 Clara sits with grandma, as all the moms and children check back in on Monday

Clara sits with grandma, as all the moms and children check back in on Monday

 Grandma and Clara, going home on a Friday. 

Grandma and Clara, going home on a Friday. 

With everyone’s help Jesula was an important part of her Clara's recovery. She grew proud of her daughter and proud of her involvement in her care. Clara gained 3 1/2 lbs and she learned to sit. Jesula taught her.

Sitting with Clara.jpg

Back at home Clara’s grandmother is still the sole provider of her household. She stills participates in commerce. Her business was bolstered by the items she received after the family completed our program 18 months ago. She takes her granddaughter to monthly heart appointments at the hospital near our center. And following those appointments, she brings her to follow-up visits at Second Mile where we help by supplying the heart medications prescribed by her doctor. 

Clara is walking now. She hasn’t needed heart surgery yet, as the condition is being closely monitored and managed through medication. On the day that they left Second Mile, Grandma still looked a little apprehensive about her granddaughter's future and her ability to provide for her. 

 Clara and Grandma Last day at Second Mile 

Clara and Grandma Last day at Second Mile 

 Clara and Jesula, last day at Second Mile

Clara and Jesula, last day at Second Mile

But they kept coming back for follow-up visits.

And Clara kept growing. 

And now, 18 months and more than 18 follow-up visits later, they are still doing pretty darn well.

I failed to mention just one part of their story: you-- the donors who support Second Mile during the holidays and throughout the year. The type of treatment Clara received at the local hospital (a brief hospitalization that cost $60), a echocardiogram (to diagnose her heart condition) for $35, and medication to treat pneumonia and it’s symptoms $22 — are what you offer a family when you give the gift of a hospital stay. The monthly expenses of managing a heart condition in Haiti, specifically the medications Clara needs to keep her heart functioning at its best, are an example of the types of intervention you make possible when you give the gift of Medicine. The infant formula that our nurses taught Clara’s mom how to prepare before she was eating solid foods was purchased in Haiti with money designated towards infant formula from the previous year’s Holiday Catalog. Clara's grandma felt able to provide for her granddaughter because of the support she received through our "Launch a business" program (a gift of $250). And perhaps, most importantly your gifts kept a family together, empowered a mom, and saved a life. 

Your gifts make a difference. And they don't go unnoticed. 

At our annual Christmas party for moms, held December 18th, a few of the caregivers stood up in front of the crowd. One father sang a song. Some of the others stood up to declare before everyone how Second Mile helped them in a time of need. Then Clara’s grandmother walked to the front, with Clara in tow, to give her own speech of thanks. She thanked the nurses by name for giving Clara life after such a close call. She gave thanks for the medication, and the formula, for help going to the hospital. Then she thanked the other mothers for their patience with Jesula, she thanked them for helping her. She thanked them for Clara. Then, aware of the fact that organizations like ours need funds from people "on the other side," she thanked the people abroad who give to Second Mile Haiti. 

I couldn't have said it better myself.