This past Thursday I had the opportunity to do something I've never done before.
Earlier in the week, I made a decision with Shilou (head of the women's business program) and Kerline (our program's manager) to visit some of the women's businesses, a trip that would involve taking a moto out to several different villages on the outskirts of Cap Haitien.
For the past several months I have felt bogged down by construction, taxes, general finances, and just the day to day logistics. It's been one deadline after the other. Most of the time it feels like there's always at least two deadlines on the table. It's been busy.
It's very rare these days that I have any time to spend with the moms and the babies. It's even more crazy that I don't know any of their names. I know it seems sad and pathetic. That's why I wanted to spend this Thursday out of "the office." I wanted to shut my computer and be unaccessible to anyone that would prevent me from going on this adventure. I wanted to feel inspired. Actually, I needed to be re-inspired. Even though the Second Mile staff does a really good job of documenting the kids' progress and the success of the caregiver's business through photos, I wanted to see it with my own eyes. I needed to feel free of the financial burden that is on me every day and to remember that it's worth the $69 spent on a box of Medika Mamba, or the $127 spent on food for the program per week, or the $143 we racked up in medical bills last week alone. I know it's all worth it, but like I said, I needed to get out and soak up some inspiration for myself.
I arrived at the land early on Thursday morning. I had already asked Shilou and Kerline to plan my route, charge the nice camera, and call the moms to let them know I would be passing by.
Jose, our newest hire, was all ready to go with a moto filled with gas. Jose has worked with us for the past three months. He is a welder by trade and one of the best moto drivers you will ever find. It's important to hire a good moto driver since the main mode of transportation in Haiti is motorcycles. Jose is the one who transports kids and their mothers to and from the hospital, delivers the businesses to the mom's houses, and escorts Shilou when she visits them to check on their progress as entrepreneurs.
Jose and I set out on our journey. The goal was to visit 5 homes.
I was quickly reminded that in Haiti I am constantly surrounded by beauty.
I was reminded that men and women walk hours everyday to reach their destinations and to make a living. Some of the roads I travelled weren't even accessible by moto.
The first home I visited belonged to Mama Jesula.
To get to front door, I had to first pass a big cow that was blocking their walkaway. This wasn't just any cow. It was Mama Jesula's cow; the cow that she and her husband had recently purchased with the profits from her business. Like every caregiver that comes through our program, Mama Jesula was given the opportunity to learn about commerce during her stay at the center. A few weeks after "graduating" (when her daughter was healthy and they were ready to go home) she met all the requirements to receive a business starter-kit. She placed the products outside her home. Rice, oil, spaghetti, sugar, beans, and spices. The products sold, but she realized that the area she was living in didn't have another business selling soap and cleaning products . She took her profits and purchased bar soap, cleaning fluid, clorox, and powder soap-- everything one might need to clean their clothes, dishes, and homes-- and added them to her business. This attracted even more clients and the products sold much more quickly! With the profits she decided to invest in a goat. In Haiti, purchasing a goat is like putting your money into a savings account. Whenever you need the money you can sell the goat for meat. That is exactly what Mama Jesula decided to do a few weeks later. Between the profits she had accumulated from another few weeks of soap and food sales and the money she would make selling the goat, she would have enough money to purchase a cow.
Purchasing a cow isn't just a savings plan, it is a true investment. I left this home feeling incredibly proud of this momma and the investments she was making for her family.
Already feeling inspired, I hopped on the moto again.
The next mother was Mama Peterson.
This time I was heading to Milot. This town is home to the Citadelle and the hospital where we send all of our kiddos. Milot is gorgeous and green all the way around. This family's house was situated right on the newly paved road that heads right past the hospital and into the town's center. I assumed that this business would thrive because of the location. But, then again, I had my doubts since Mama Peterson was a young mom. Luckily, she's a young mom with supportive siblings! I learned that her two sisters help her run the business. Mama Peterson started her business in April and it has already doubled in size. Success once again.
Next up: Mama Judeline and Mama Sterly.
Now it was time to head to the real rural area. We started heading to the town of Robillard. In this town I'd be visiting two moms that happen to be neighbors, and distant cousins. I was amazed to see so many different businesses in this town! People had turned their own homes into auto part stores, pharmacies, and bakeries.
When I arrived at Mama Judeline's, I could see that her business was nicely displayed in front of her home. She was proud to show-off her merchandise. But from a distance it seemed like maybe her merchandise was running low. I was worried that her business could be on the decline. However, she assured me that she was just waiting until the elections were over to purchase more products. Elections are on Sunday. I was still a bit skeptical, but she went inside and grabbed her purse. She said "look!" and started pulling out handfuls of money. Wow!
I'm not sure I even have that much money sitting in my house. As I was visiting her business she had two customers visit her. I was impressed by her ability to up-sell and her customer service skills. Even more importantly, her child, Judeline, was right beside her the entire time. I can only imagine the lessons this child is learning from such a young age.
Jose and I set off on a short walk to Mama Sterly's house. Mama Sterly is also quite young. At Second Mile she cared for her niece who became malnourished when her mother passed away and she could no longer breastfeed. When Sterly was referred to our program, this young lady was selected by her family to look after the baby.
When I arrived at their home, I was greeted by Mama Sterly and her mother, Sterly's grandma. I could tell straight away this woman was the leader of the household (a household of 13!) and that Mama Sterly had been impacted and blessed by such strong female presence in her life, her mom. It was evident that this mother and grandmother was the leader of the household, a household of 13! She herself has a successful business and my favorite part: she raises pigeons, and hogs too! When Mama Sterly left the program she was a given a typical business package: rice, oil, butter, spaghetti, etc. What blew me away is that this momma traded all these items in to buy clothing and change up her business. Selling clothing is always "hit or miss" in Haiti. It's not the easiest thing to sell. There is no doubt in my mind that her mother has been nothing but encouraging of her entrepreneurial efforts and supportive of her decision to sell clothes. The shirts and skirts she was selling were stylish and hip and she was very convincing! Even I had to became a customer. I now have myself a fancy new shirt.
I had one business left to visit, and with the scorching sun that was about all I could handle in one day. It amazes me that Shilou can pack in 6 or more visits in a day!
The final stop was the business of Mama Stanley & Issac.
This mom lives in the city and her business, or should I say, "business(es)" are located on the main road. That's right she has more than one. Maybe I should correct myself again and say that together, she and her husband run a few different businesses. All of my visits were inspiring in different ways, but this had to be my favorite stop.
This dynamic duo (husband and wife) set up a food stand. Mama Stanley cooks the food (beans, rice, corn meal, and meat sauce) while Papa Stanley serves the customers. Together, they set up a nice seating area under a tarp for all their customers to enjoy a sit-down meal.
I was fortunate to see 5 different customers show up in a 15 minute span--all raving about the delicious food. They were especially grateful to for a chance to get out of the sun for a few minutes and enjoy their lunch. Across from the food stand, Mama Stanly had a stand set up with candy, crackers, and gum. You know, just a smaller version of what we call 7/11.
Since Mama and Papa are busy making and serving food, they've employed another family member to manage the stand. I love it. A family-run business. :)
It's not hard to see that this is another inspiring story of success. I have a feeling that this family business will continue to grow.
Numbers. It starts with small numbers. It starts with investing completely in one child and one caregiver.
She turns around and invests in business, a business that now impacts a family of 13, maybe that first business gives other family members an opportunity to start business...
Or maybe that one cows becomes 3 cows.
The $5 in her purse becomes $105.
Here at Second Mile we believe in the small numbers that make a bigger impact. We don't stretch our resources to help hundreds of people. We invest in individuals because we know that they are the ones that will impact the hundreds.
Tomorrow, our Number Fundraiser is a big day. It's a special day where you have an opportunity to see how small numbers play a huge role in our organization. You will see how our small impact is actually an important one, a much needed one. If you didn't join us for this fundraiser last year, or the year before, here's the a brief intro. We put #s 1 through 144 on a board. Then we invite you to help us take them all down. You can choose one number, several, or a whole row. The best part is that we do it together. It's the collective effort that will help us "clear the board." 144 numbers donated, means $10,440 raised for Second Mile. $10,440 that will be re-invested through meds, foods, and businesses.
You can donate now, or all-day tomorrow. We'll pull your numbers from the board just as soon as you donate and keep our Facebook Event up-to-date with new photos of the number board.
Your donations count. Moms and families will be invested in, empowered, and inspired.
I think you get the picture..
5 visits was enough to inspire me--enough to get me geared up for this long, but fun, day of Fundraising. I hope you join us tomorrow and I especially hope you feel as inspired as I am.