No doubt you've heard us talk about keeping families together.
We talk about how our program makes it possible for kids to remain with their families even if their parents have died or do not have the capacity to care for them.
19% of caregivers are a relative other than the child's mother.
The child's mother is deceased in <2% of cases.
Our homepage celebrates the diverse family make-ups we see in Haiti and support through the recovery center. And we talk about how our program does wonders for bonding, a task that can be especially challenging when children are sick.
19% of caregivers are first-time mothers
46% of caregivers have experienced the death of one or more children
And we try to include some visual aids with all that "talk." Our Facebook page is absolutely brimming with sparkly-eyed children laughing on their mothers laps, and grannies gazing down at their babes with love and admiration. #familiestogether
We even talk about Dads and their involvement in the process.
5% of children attend follow-up visits with their dads.
We make this wild claim that we are keeping families together when we invest in the caregivers most at risk of turning to an orphanage when a crisis like malnutrition hits. But there is an aspect of this family preservation thing that we don't talk about very often. It's time we talk about siblings!!
At Second Mile Haiti we sometimes have an opportunity to get to know the siblings of recovering children. Here's some little known information about these kids:
On older siblings who stay at the center with their mom and a sick sibling...
Earlier this week, we shared a Facebook post about Kerlovedine, a nine year old sibling who spent all 6 weeks of her brother's recovery at the center.
Her mother is blind and while she can do so much for herself, she relies on Kerlovedine's help for many everyday tasks. When it was time for an education class, Kerlovedine would guide her mother across the yard that separates the recovery rooms and the education building. When she needed to wash the baby's clothes, Kerlovedine would fill a basin with water, find and set out a chair, and gather and carry over the soiled laundry, all before returning for her mother and carefully leading her to the washing station she'd created. When the baby needed a bath, the same process would ensue. She was always there and always watching. Whenever the other women were laughing and joking Renante's expression would remain blank, but more often than not, Kerlovedine would be right there, describing the scene in a stream of whispers.
When the picture had been painted, her face would ignite, Mackendy's baby hands would shoot up to take hold of her curled lips, feeling the joy in her cheekbones. These three were a unit, not to be separated --- dependent on each other, as families are.
Some mornings, the nine year old took it upon herself to bring Mackendy before the nurses for his morning check-up. She answered all of their questions: "Was he sick? How many sachets of Medika Mamba did he consume? How did he sleep? How were his stools? It was odd at first, to see such a young girl so involved in her brother's recovery. But then you remember, she has had her eyes on this child since the day he was born. She watches him breath at night. It's moments like these that remind us why Second Mile Haiti's mission is so important and why the sibling-friendly structure of the center is so critical. Siblings need their siblings just as much as kids need their parents and parents need their kids.
On younger siblings who stay at the center with mom and a sick sibling...
While it's somewhat rare to have a sibling as old as Kerlovedine at the center, mother's often come with their younger children, kids who may be just a little bit younger or older than the child in recovery. These spunky, healthy kids are a joy to have around. They too benefit from the nutrition offered at Second Mile. But they give perhaps more than they get. Children like Djeff pictured below were a source of strength for their moms, a source of entertainment for the staff, a source of encouragement for the other mothers, and a source of motivation for their sick siblings. Having a built in playmate, and someone to catch up to helped their sibling to recover.
When we talk about why it's important to do everything we can to save the lives of children with malnutrition, we can't forget about the best friends they would leave behind. And when we talk about ending the cycle of malnutrition, we can't forget about the younger siblings who benefit from our efforts.
On siblings who recover from malnutrition together, and their younger siblings...
Walky (age 3) and Alandine (age 5) are two recent Second Mile graduates. When they arrived at the Center, both were acutely malnourished. Their younger brother Marvens was not. The family received support at a critical time. The 6 month old baby is still breastfeeding, but soon he will transition to complimentary foods (like porridge and pureed vegetables), and eventually he won't be breastfeeding at all. It is in these transition periods that children are at most risk for malnutrition. But you see, our program hasn't forgotten about him either. Because of the education she received, his mother understands his needs during critical periods like introducing new foods and weening. Empowered with knowledge, she can move through these stages with confidence.
On older siblings who visit the Center...
It's not just the little siblings who benefit from what a mother learns during the education classes.
Older siblings have certainly made their fair share of appearances at the center, even if it's just for a visit. Lala is a mother of 11 who has given birth to 4 sets of multiples. While she was at the center she received daily visits from her second eldest daughter, 19 year old Kettlie. Their home was situated close enough to the center that Kettlie and two of 12 year old siblings (none of whom were in school) could make the daily 4 mile (RT) trek to Second Mile Haiti. While the main purpose for her visits were to help her mother and spend time with her siblings, she could regularly be seen, listening to education classes, and even participating in them.
Another older brother (brother to a family of 3 former Second Mile graduates) was caught sneaking a read from the education booklet over Dad's shoulder.
And we can't forget about the older siblings who help take care of the family (and look out for other siblings) while their mother is at Second Mile Haiti. This young man, brother to Emanise and Mirlanda, stayed home to help his dad take care of a younger brother while his mom was at Second Mile Haiti with his two malnourished sisters. When the girls graduated from the program and transitioned to follow-up, he couldn't wait to come see where his sisters had been.
He gets major sibling points for the many times he helped his mother bring his sisters for follow-up visits.
Kids needs parents, it's true.
They also need friends, advocates, and role models. Siblings often fill these roles and they fill them well.
These kids and young adults should be celebrated and supported. Certainly, they should never be forgotten.
Use the comments to tell us what your siblings mean to you.
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