and then there were 20

Hello! A lot has changed since the last time I wrote a blog post. We’ve added new staff members and new program components. We have MORE moms in follow-up, more expenses, and perhaps the biggest change of all: we have the capacity to receive more children and mothers!

Second Mile’s capacity has been slowing growing over the last year. Last April, we started recording everything in our electronic database. With one laptop and a pair of iPads, staff track the children and their caregivers from admission to discharge to follow-up. They even track the launch and progress of each caregiver's new business.

With the support and funding from our UN grant we built and furnished 5 new recovery rooms and a new nurses station where the children are weighed and the moms are counseled, taught, and encouraged through their child’s recovery.

By July a few of the new rooms were hosting kids and caregivers. By October we needed to address the toilet situation. Two flush toilets just weren't cutting it, so we partnered with SOIL to bring two waterless composting toilets to the site. We also experienced drought and a broken pump situation which made the SOIL composting toilets all the more important. We installed 6 Tippy Taps around the site, for hands-free, water conserving, hand washing. 

More caregivers created a demand for more soap, more food, more chairs, more notebooks,  and more mattresses. Through the growth, and the challenges of managing outside funding, Herode our administrative assistant learned some valuable skills from Jenn, the master of logistics. Staff learned to plan well. They purchased supplies, delivered businesses, scheduled home visits, and coordinated weekend transportation all while keeping pristine records!  

In January, two of our educators, Sheloo (business) and Kerline (health) were able to serve as community mobilizers during a 6-week awareness-raising, health-promoting, violence-reducing, campaign we held for members of our local community in partnership with the UNs office for community violence reduction. More than 300 houses were reached during this effort, which turned out to be a phenmenal opportunity for these two dynamic leaders. They made great friends with the other members of the team, strengthened community relationships, and generally rocked it. 

 Campaign team * Sheloo leading a focus group * Kerline speaking at the grant closing ceremony

Campaign team * Sheloo leading a focus group * Kerline speaking at the grant closing ceremony

In January a psychologist joined our team. He performs individual evaluations and counselling sessions and teaches group classes. The kids love him! In addition to his work with the caregivers, he spent many hours traveling throughout Northern Haiti to expand our referral system. With space to receive more referrals, it was time to spread the word at local health centers. As a result of his efforts more than 10 new facilities have sent families to the center. 

 Louino, psychologist, speaking at the grant closing ceremony and holding a new admit on a Friday

Louino, psychologist, speaking at the grant closing ceremony and holding a new admit on a Friday

Thanks in part to February’s 29th day we finished another of our big goals for the year, the education booklet. With photos taken from around the center and text written by Kerline, Louino, and yours truly, this booklet is a home-grown dream come true.  It's five chapters -- hygiene, nutrition, children's health, women's and family health, and agriculture and the environment, hold a wealth of information. We began by distributing the booklets to all caregivers currently in the program and then to program graduates. Every caregiver gets a book! 

That book is in the hands of parents in communities all over Haiti! Yeah, I'm pretty happy about it...

Running low on steam, but eager to finish strong, we managed to throw together a closing ceremony to celebrate and share 12 months of true teamwork during. Local authorities, staff from referring health centers, police officers, the local judge, community group leaders, program beneficiaries sat amongst our partners to hear speeches, songs, and skits. There was also cake, of course. Then, just when things seemed as though they might settle down we reached max capacity with 22 mothers and more than 26 children. That was last Monday. 

On Friday, I took a moment to walk around the facility and take in all in. I was curious to see how the staff, kids, and caregivers were handling the jump in... everything. 

Fridays are typically an exciting day for everyone. The moms and children go home for the weekend. Employees have two days to rest and renew. And sometimes there are even “graduations” for the children who have recovered from malnutrition and their mothers who now demonstrate proficiency in health and nutrition and are ready for the next step: business.

It all starts in the nursing station. 

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Among the bright and shining Friday morning faces was Cherlande. Cherlande is 2 months shy of her second birthday. She weighed 14.5 lbs when she and her mom were referred to the center 4 weeks ago. After todays checks and measures, mom learned that if all goes well next week, it could be their last week at the center. Cherlande has gained 2.5 lbs and reached a healthy weight. 

Meanwhile Nurse Prestina was busy at the scale. Her subject, a 10-month-old baby named Sandy, was about to crack a smile. His grandma looked on with pride. Sandy and Kendy, twin brothers, recently lost their mother. Their grandma, a seasoned mother of 14, has stepped in to nurse them back to health. 

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She has her hands full, but seems to be more than up to the challenge. 

Meanwhile moms pulled freshly washed clothes from makeshift lines around the facility. I stumbled across some of the guys giving our fleet of motorcycles a fresh Friday cleaning. There will be one more business class, a health review session and some singing. The garden staff are harvesting vegetables for the mothers to take home with them and Ama will arrange them in piles in the education center, just so. 

While the moms finish dressing their children, getting last minute instructions from the nurses, and packing their things, I head back into the nursing office to see what's happening. Sheloo, Second Mile's tireless business program manager, sits preparing receipts for the two women who will launch their businesses this week. Sheloo writes the names and the values of the products that make up each mothers' start up kits. She then plans her week-end business visits. 

There's still one little guy who hasn't been weighed yet. He's too busy polishing off what mom confesses is his second pack of 500 calorie, therapeutic peanut butter paste. According to his treatment regimen he'll consume one more before the end of the day. Fritznel, age 2 years 10 months, arrived at the center on March 11th and was referred to the hospital immediately, his condition surpassing what we can deal with at the center. He was hospitalized for 8 days before he and mom returned for further care. 

 Fritznel before hospital

Fritznel before hospital

 First day back

First day back

It's amazing how fast things start to change. 

We may have bigger hospital bills, higher Medika Mamba needs, and not quite enough chairs, but it doesn't take much to have a big impact. Our staff is killing it, and we, the founders of this humble mission could not be more proud. 

If you'd like to be a part of Second Mile Haiti's holistic mission consider partnering with us as a monthly donor. If you can't give visit us on Facebook, join us, and follow along. You can make a difference.