I want to say that 2016 has been a particularly busy couple of months but the truth is we’re always busy at Second Mile Haiti. We speak of this mythical time when ‘things will slow down’ knowing well and truly that day will not come. Nor do we want it to, the fact that we are so busy is a reflection of the success we are experiencing and by success I mean the growth and development of the program. I am continuously impressed by the resourcefulness and capacity of the Second Mile Haiti Team they are the heart of the project and everything flows from their commitment. A big part of teamwork especially in a high dynamic environment is holding your peers accountable and looking out for each other. I see this between the groups of moms staying at the project, between the teams of nurses, educators, gardeners, cooks and maintenance workers, between Jenn, Amy and I and between our team of board members. Recently Jenn had to return to the states to seek out medical attention (Jenn will share more in an upcoming blog post). Staying back in Haiti gave me the privilege of watching our staff step up and ensure that the project was business as usual. I went to the land on a Friday to make sure the weekly community campaign focus group ran smoothly. After I arrived and handed over the few resources the staff were waiting on I found my role in the day to be redundant, they had everything you could think of under control and so I stood aside and watched them shine.
Anyone who has visited us in Haiti knows that our home is a working hub! Recently we moved into a new rat and mould free house!! Its not quite as buzzing as the land but it has its own energy. Amy and I spend many days sitting (glued) at our desks working through the lists we come up with in our Monday morning team meetings while Jenn is running in and out throughout the day with various staff members in tow. Our Second Mile home is where we brainstorm, problem solve, consult, argue and console each other. Its a place our staff come to work on projects without the distractions of their busy roles at the land. The Second Mile Haiti team is like a big family which is obvious when you see a staff member sitting on our porch patting and playing with our 2 dogs, a rare sight in Haiti!
This isn’t a Monday to Friday, 8 to 5 kind of job and we certainly don’t leave our work at the door. It can often feel like we are being pulled in many directions but the pull from within the team is always the strongest whether that’s to sit at the table and eat a meal, to begin the morning with a yoga session or a walk with the dogs or to play a game of cards between finishing a day of work and beginning an evening of work. Our work doesn’t slow down so we have to hold each other accountable in finding balance in our lives. I may be the biggest nag of the team but I am also the newest and I can see how much work goes into making this organization a success and the toll that can sometimes take.
As you may have seen in a recent Facebook post Amy is currently working very hard to finish a 40 page Education Booklet that caregivers will use during their time at the centre and take with them when they head back to their home communities. The booklet covers topics such as breastfeeding and infant nutrition, hygiene and water treatment, home gardens and violence prevention. This project has been coordinated by Amy and contributed to by Abby Mass our nursing volunteer and our own health and education teams. It's a beautifully designed and well thought out book that uses pictures and clear messages to assist learning. Finishing a resource like this is a massive achievement in any context but especially in Haiti where you battle with internet and power issues daily.
With the end of the grant only one week away the queen of logistics, Jenn has been flat out trying to complete the few tasks that are still left and final things to be purchased. With the way the system is set up she often has to spend money before having it and it can be very stressful to navigate. The fact that Jenn is again in discussions with the UN about a second grant is a testament to the success of the first grant. When the curtain closes after the closing ceremony for the grant the whole team but especially Jenn and Amy will be able to proudly step back and reflect on what has been achieved in just one year.
The land looks amazing at the moment the recent rain has seen the gardens improve immensely with everything looking green again. The buildings are finished and already being put to good use.
The sustainability building is now in action and we have received our first shipment of packaging and labels for Tou Natural our social business. This year will see the income-generating opportunities for Second Mile graduates expand thanks to this social business. The women will have the opportunity to learn to produce Tou Natural products in the sustainability building with our very our Technician Blaise. We will sell the products locally in Haiti with the eventual goal to sell some of the nonperishable products in the US.
It really is an exciting time for Second Mile Haiti. We're mapping out our fundraisers for 2016 and coming up with new ideas on how we can get you, our supporters more involved and connected with the work being done on the ground here in Haiti. We have had a number of people contact us about our Donor Trip and we hope to welcome our first group here in Haiti in the coming months. If you or anyone you may know are interested in coming to visit Haiti and Second Mile email email@example.com and we’ll send you the information pack.
I wanted to finish off with a short story about something I witnessed a week ago on a trip back from the land. I'm sure that these three faces have become quite familiar to you over the last month. During their stay at the centre Kelida became kind of a rockstar mom not to be outshone by the big personality of one of her twin daughters (the other twin a little more reserved than her sister!) Kelida has a beaming smile and friendly nature, she had a natural leadership among the moms and was always willing to take a main role in the skits and plays the women learn and perform. This particular Friday Kelida and her twin daughters Keeshta, and Keishta had finished a follow up visit at the centre. She piled into the truck with the other moms and kids and a few staff to be taken to the main road for public transport. As we pulled up I looked back and saw that both girls were fast asleep. Now I am sure we can all agree that there is a special kind of praise that goes to a mother of twins! Without hesitation she piled her bags on her back and hoisted both her healthy girls in her arms ready for her journey home. It was in this moment that it hit me, Kelida will continue to make this trip with her twin daughters week after week, month after month. Her families journey and their relationship with Second Mile Haiti and the staff that supported her during her stay didn't end that happy day she graduated the program.
I guess I wanted you as supporters and donors to know that the caregivers in this program take their participation just as seriously as we take our role of ensuring the gates to Second Mile Haiti remain open to them.