My controversial orphanage post

My controversial orphanage post

Are you ready for the VERY honest truth? When you tell someone here that you want to give them money to start an orphanage they won’t want to disappoint you. And if you tell your Haitian partner that you want your facility to care for 150 orphans, I guarantee that children will be taken from their families. 

Oh the places we've been. May.

By now I'm sure you've heard the very exciting, very, very important news: we have a matching donor for 20K! Cue dance music, chorus of hallelujahs, or whatever it is that puts you in the mood to celebrate! 

Frie! This is amazing, and important, for several reasons:

1) We really need the money. I hate to start out with the brutal, honest truth but that’s the beauty of doing important work. It takes a village right? 2) Speaking of village. Let’s grow ours, shall we? What better way to bring new Second Milers into the fold, than by sharing this campaign and granting others the opportunity to join the giving. 3) As it stands, our supporters are the best of the best and we’re confident that we can pull this off, and reach 20K together. Even if it takes 1,000 twenty dollar bills. We got this.

Phew, now that the big announcement has been made, let me tell you a little about what we’ve been up. May was a busy month! 

At the beginning of the month we got to participate in a malnutrition retreat. Sounds funny right? Retreat. Malnutrition. Same sentence? But sometimes being around people who speak your work-language, get the tough stuff, and share your passion is exactly that, a retreat. HaitiServe, a foundation that’s been actively supporting Haiti and those serving in Haiti for the past several years invited leaders from more than a dozen different organizations to come together in Cap Haitien. Every person in attendance works in some capacity to treat and prevent malnutrition here in Haiti. It was a group front-liners, for sure. HaitiServe wanted us all to meet each other. It’s tough to share resources and ideas with people you’ve never met. The goal of the retreat was to connect. And connect we did! 

On Day 1 the group visited the MFK factory, just 20 minutes outside of Cap Haitien where the Medika Mamba, "peanut butter medicine," used to rehabilitate malnourished children is produced. On Day 2, came for a tour of Second Mile. It was a honor to have everyone out at the site. We definitely made some new friends and I came away from the 3-day retreat feeling proud to work in this field.

Taryn, Country Program Director of Children's Nutrition Program, and Dr. Patricia Wolff, Founder & Executive Director of Meds and Food for Kids.

Taryn, Country Program Director of Children's Nutrition Program, and Dr. Patricia Wolff, Founder & Executive Director of Meds and Food for Kids.

A trip out to the gardens, Second Mile

A trip out to the gardens, Second Mile

Shortly thereafter, in the week leading up to Mother’s Day, we held ourselves an online fundraiser. A few of you made donations to honor the mother’s in your life and in honor of those that left us too soon. Thank you for doing that. As I said above, every time you give to SMH amazing things happen at the recovery center. So thank you.  

Unfortunately, around the same time, we had to make some program cuts. Things were looking too tight for comfort. Even though we had some upcoming fundraisers in the works, we knew our current funds would only stretch so far. We went into conservation mode and dropped the program capacity from 22 caregivers to 18. We broke the news to a disappointed Program Manager and told her to prepare for further cuts in June. In light of this very timely matching campaign we will stay at 18 moms this month (not quite back to full capacity, but close). Kerline did a fist pump when we told her that we didn't think we'd have to restrict the program further after all.

Hopefully, this matching campaign will blow our little funding dilemma out of the water.

It has to, because we can't go backwards.

Health education class with Mom #1. Back when there was only one mom...  

Health education class with Mom #1. Back when there was only one mom...  

Last weekend Jenn and I went on a 4-day trip to explore a part of Haiti we'd never seen. It wasn’t exactly Second Mile related, so why mention it? Well because we’ve simply never felt more inspired by Haiti nor more privileged to be partnering with it’s people. There’s still so much to learn about this beautiful country. And we're taking it one little mountain at a time. 

Ok have you seen enough? Ready to take a trip to Haiti now? We don't blame you. The experience of walking 27 miles through such diverse terrain, seeing so much of Haiti we didn't know existed, reminded us of how much more there is to discover. Do it. Explore. It's good for the body and good for the soul. Email us if you want our visitor trip packet. This hike isn't included. ;) But we can still show you some really beautiful places. 

This month we also sat down with our program staff to take stalk of the business program. It's time we examine both it's successes and shortcomings, and prepare some improvements. Since Chiloo both teaches the mothers during their time at the center, and visits them after they've started their business, I wanted to ask her a few questions. 

"Chiloo," I said, "do you ever leave these visits feeling like you should make any specific changes to this program?"

She wasn't sure. 

I continued. 

"Do you ever see something that makes you think you could have helped that mother be more successful in her business if only... ?" 

You see, we’ve talked at length about the opposite side of the coin. I know about the many home visits where she leaves bolstered, happy, and proud. But does she ever feel like we could be doing more or doing better? I wanted to know, but apparently I didn't know how to ask.

So I gave an example about a mother whose products were stolen from her home because the structure she lived in didn't have a door and couldn't be locked. I suggested that hearing about this mother's experience might then prompt us to add “how to create a secure location for your commerce” as an important lesson in our curriculum. Her response took us slightly away from my original question but what she had to say was still good to hear. 

"Some of the mothers don’t even have walls. Some of them don’t even have houses."

"Do you understand? They don't have homes. They are just living with people who have let them sleep on their floors.” 

And then she went off. Her voice cracked and I saw water in her eyes. “These are the people that are really in need here."

"We are doing a good thing. This project is going to get bigger."

"This is really helping people.”

a mother without income-generating activity

a mother without income-generating activity

a program graduate with her business

a program graduate with her business

I'm pretty sure that our staff loves the work they do. I wouldn't make this claim if I wasn't at least 99% sure. They just wouldn’t fist pump at the mention of more work if they didn’t care about the mission. And they certainly wouldn’t speak of it's beneficiaries with tears in their eyes if they didn’t feel strongly about it’s importance. 

And they seem to be especially on top of their game when the program is full. So let's fill it back up shall we? 

Finally, the month ended on a high note, with cake and Coca Cola. This past Sunday was Mother's Day in Haiti and it goes without saying that we didn't pass on the opportunity to celebrate mothers.

Moms and kids

Moms and kids

Staff

Staff

Celebration and hard work. Two things we've tried our best to do well. Now that we've done the celebrating and Second Mile's doors won't be closing any time soon (though it looked scary there for a little while), it's time to do the hard work of getting those donations.  

So here's my shameless ask. Who's with us? We’ve got two goals here. Grow this community of Second Milers and get those much needed funds. Can you help?

International Nurses Day

International Nurses Day

Today on International Nurses Day and the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth, Second Mile Haiti would like to acknowledge nurses around the world and thank them for their life saving work. This year the International Council of Nurses has named the theme as: Nurses: A Force for change: improving health systems’ resilience.

4 reasons why the show must go on

Today I spent a few hours on-site, and no surprise here, I left inspired and eager to share with you the things I saw, heard, and felt while I was there. I was only there for four hours, and I left convinced of the following:

#1:This program must go on. We must expand to new locations. We must continue this, exactly this, and better than this.

#2: Moms are the bravest and most selfless breed of human. There is no-one like them. The things I saw mothers do for their children today were beyond comprehension, beyond love, something even more visceral than even that. I witnessed emotions I couldn't name. Love, yes, but love all wrapped up in contradiction. Elation and focus. Fear and peace.  Humility and super human strength. Hope and contentment. Clearly, what moms have going on is something I won’t fully understand until I am one. 

Which brings me to #3. These moms, with poop in their laps and slimy kisses on their faces, made being a parent look absolutely irresistible.

What's #4? I'll get there. 

Second Mile is something special. I've always been of the belief that, if moms were able to stay with their children as they recovered from severe acute malnutrition and that if they were the ones driving the recovery, that something powerful would happen between the pair. The "being there" and the "doing it" mixed with a positive outcome, pride for self, and a newfound appreciation for the fighting powers of her child would produce a spark!, a sort of magical, protective force that would guard the child against future episodes of severe acute malnutrition.

Simply put, the moms wouldn't let it happen again.

Of course, key ingredients (knowledge and income) would also help.

I remember the story written by one of our nurses recently, that recounted a conversation she'd had with a mother whose child very nearly died multiple times during his rehabilitation. The scariest of the photos, taken just after one hospitalization and just before another, was shown to the mom during her last week at the center. It was a reminder of how far she'd come.

The photo brought her to tears and the nurses rushed to make her feel better. She should be happy, they said. After all, her son was alive and well and she knew exactly how to keep him that way. The mom reassured the nurses. She was happy, she promised. And then she added this gem of a remark. “I love him even more now.”

Now either you're thinking: what a terrible mother! How could she admit to loving her son on a sliding scale of not so much to even more!? or, you're thinking: this is a perfectly normal sentiment and you find it absurd that I’ve chosen to highlight such an everyday parental feeling. If you’re in boat #2, I’m with you.

Of course, she loved him even more now! Each time we go through something tough, each time we almost loose a loved one, each time we experience something hard, something that brings us through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, don’t we bond with those who share our experience? Doesn't that strengthen our feelings toward them, love or otherwise? Don’t we feel proud of our loved ones when they prove themselves remarkable? Don’t we love them more?

The scary photo. 

The scary photo. 

And 1 month later. 

And 1 month later. 

Myson did prove himself remarkable. And so did his mother. They shared a life-defining experience filled with highs and lows and she came out loving her son even more. 

Before 12.3 lbs. After 16.6 lbs. Age 1 year. 

Before 12.3 lbs. After 16.6 lbs. Age 1 year. 

Which brings me to mom #2. This mom seemed distant at first and not overly compassionate towards her underweight and stunted 5 year old son. During the first days, she kept the program at arms length. In addition to her son, she had two other (healthy) children with her, a 3 year old daughter, and a breastfeeding baby. It was almost as if the the five year old, especially the fact that he was sick, was an inconvenience. Truthfully, it was. She had a lot on her plate. She had a family of mostly healthy children, a huge responsibility and clearly she wasn't a bad mother. These children, even the sick one, were sweet and full of smiles. Still, his progress wasn't exactly fast, and I wondered if there would come a day when she wouldn't be able to wait on her middle child (there were still older children at home) any longer.

But she kept coming back. She attended every class without fail and became immeshed in the fabric of the center.

Just after lunch today, I overheard her describing to another mother something the 5 year old had done. Seriously and with admiration in her voice, she shared. 

“He brought me a chair."

"He walked over to me and handed me a chair. He told me, 'sit down Mama, you’re breastfeeding.'”

"He did that."

She repeated the story twice. I thought she might cry. She didn’t say this in a my-child-is-better-than-your-child tone. She sounded genuinely surprised by her son, honestly touched, truly in love.

I caught her admiring him throughout the afternoon..

...as he ate his Mamba.

....as he played with his siblings

...as he dominated in a game of kick ball. 

With the family together-- with the baby who was breastfeeding and the 3 year old sister who was clearly a close friend-- mom began to discover pieces of her son's personality that were hiding under illness and disguised by the fatigue of a failing body. She waited it out. Now he’s momma’s helper. He’s polite. He’s a good soccer player. And he's funny. And it all played out with the family together. 

At around 2:30 pm "the mother of the tiny baby" returned from the hospital. The staff had sent them to the hospital assuming that the baby, at less than 3 lbs, would be admitted for treatment. But, with several public hospitals on strike, the private hospital where we send children for admission had a full neonatal unit. The term neonate (a baby less than 4 weeks old), doesn't actually describe this baby at all. 

He's now more than 100 days old.

Born prematurely at 28 weeks (6.5 months), he's already accomplished what 2.6% percent of children born in Haiti find impossible: life passed the 30 day mark.

I had to see him for myself. When I located his room (not an easy task now that there are 11), he was enveloped in receiving blankets so that one couldn’t even tell if he was breathing. His skin, rubbery with a glossy sheen, didn’t look human. I lifted the blanket to verify when his Mom caught me. “Are you scared?” she asked with a grin. And that’s when I learned that she was not.

I watched her change him and feed him, weigh him, and dress him. She was not scared. He was hers. She’d been with him during her pregnancy. All 6 weeks and 15 days. She pushed him into the world and stayed with him during the 45 days he spent in intensive care. No amount of bony ribs, unworldly wailing, or baby vomit, could shock her now. She knew him and she knew what he was capable of. We may have been shocked. She was not.

At the same nursing station, there was a mom taking her exit test. Her baby had reached her goal weight and they wouldn't be coming back to the center on Monday. The exit test is mostly questions straight out of the health education classes. But there are two un-scored questions that are just for us. "What hopes and dreams do you have for your child?" 

Who doesn’t love to hear that? 

And "how did the center help you?"

These questions are just as important as testing whether the caregivers have captured the important health messages. After all, these women have spent anywhere from 4 weeks to 3 months with us, it's important to hear their side of the experience. 

When asked How did the center help you?, this particular mother acknowledged everyone from the cooks to the security guards and thanked the nursing staff by name. "I have nothing negative to say. You valued my baby. You respected me."

Hidden by a computer screen I was able to pretend that I wasn't paying attention. In reality I was eating this up. It's a reflection of Second Mile's upstanding staff members to hear a mom say that she felt respected. Even though I know they’re awesome, it was nice for the staff to get such a rave review.

Respect. That's the goal. 

By 3:30 pm Moms had started to convene in the education building. I'd already sat through half of a health education class, and by the looks of it, I would also catch the start of the daily literacy session.  

Both classes had me in awe. I enjoyed hearing mothers dialogue during the health class. They asked questions. They wanted... no, they needed... to know this critical information.

But literacy class... it knocked me off my feet a little bit.

The average years of schooling achieved by caregivers admitted into our program is 3.

3rd grade.

And more than half of the women cannot read or write. Literacy class is an opportunity for mothers of all ages to learn and practice these skills in a safe and respectful environment. 

There was just something about the way the mothers made literacy class their own. They were in it together: 20 moms ranging in age from 16 to 67, from 0 years of formal education to 11. They sat at the tables with pens and notebooks and a few took to the chalkboard. The class had split somewhat organically. A mom with a baby in her arms led half the mothers in recognition and repetition of numbers and letters.

On the other side of the chalkboard the more advanced students submitted homework, and brushed up on math skills.

The kids were all there. Sitting on tables and cradled in the crook of non-dominant arms. There was focus. It's not easy to learn a new skill. But reading and writing is something these moms clearly wanted--for themselves and for their children. 

The various women I observed today-- 16 years old and handling her 2 lb son without an ounce of fear, 67 years old and plugging away at some of the alphabets more challenging letters, 20 years old, with education booklet in hand helping mothers study for the exit test... 33 years old, stepping up to the chalkboard, sharing literacy with her peers --- they impressed me. 

We're just a few days shy of May, a month for mothers. It's time to honor them. It's time to get their heroic acts #trending in the media. I just found out that today is National Superhero day. I didn't know that was a thing, but I think the discussion fits. Moms are heroes. I can't speak for moms the world over but I can share my highest praise this group. 

Today they kept their babies tucked under mosquito nets. They attended classes.  

They offered each other advice. They accepted each other's advice.

They carried water. They boiled water. They washed.

They prepared for visits to the hospital. They learned about their children's prescriptions.

They spent time with the nurses. They talked about business. They pressed coconut oil.

They laid out clean blankets, washed by hand with love, to protect their children while they slept.

They encouraged one another. And they played with their kids. 

And they did all of it in four hours.  

In case you didn't already reach this conclusion yourself, Moms are heroes. They should be supported. They shouldn't have to watch their babies die of malnutrition. And they shouldn't have to be separated from them. 

We call this "The Second Mile" but shouldn't it be our first response?  

a great deal on a mid-size home

Here it is, the blog post that everyone has been waiting for..

Okay. So maybe you haven’t really been waiting for this blog post per say, but I've been waiting to write it for you.  This blog post is centered around some of Second Mile's biggest and most crucial needs AT THIS very moment (some of my favorite topics) and I'm posting it now since I didn't manage to get out a quarterly needs update.  Mainly, I was extremely swamped by the UN grant and whew, thank goodness it’s over. It's definitely time for a break. Now that it's over, I'm feeling as if my life is in a stage of de-stressing. Who knew that stress can play such a big role in so many medical issues? Well, now I know! In addition to de-stressing, I'm also back on the fundraising train once again. 

Many of you may think that fundraising sounds quite stressful, and yes it can be. But I happen to love fundraising. I love to see if I can get someone to become as passionate about the organization as I am. It’s exciting to see needs met and used at the facility everyday. It’s encouraging to see people step up and decide “hey, this is an important cause" and then ask what they can do to help.

I’m not a doctor, but I do feel on call 24/7. I recently traveled to the States for said medical issues. The first week was supposed to be a week of rest. It was restful, but I found myself talking about our organization every single day in some way or another. Ah yes, the famous question..."so what do you do?" People aren't usually satisfied at the answer “I run a non-profit in Haiti.” You get them hooked and they want more. And of course, I don't mind at all. I'm happy to tell them about Second Mile, because I'm just so dang passionate about our organization. 

With each trip I take outside of Haiti, I find myself talking a lot about the organization. And with each trip I end up coming up with a slogan statement. This trip I just so happened to be working on the organizations's taxes, reviewing the 2016 budget, and looking over some of the numbers from past years. 

I found myself googling the average price of a 4 bedroom house in the USA. The answer: $363,401. And thus my slogan statement became, "Second Mile's operating costs for one year are less than the cost of the average house in the United States. Can you believe it?!" 

Last year expenses were roughly $260,000 and in 2016 we will keep a steady budget around $300,000 since we are finally at maximum capacity! I mean that’s crazy, right?

Second Mile employs 27 people and will employ 30 by the end of the year. 

We will have approximately 280 direct beneficiaries (caregivers and children) this year. During the 6-8 weeks they spend at the center, all of their needs are met including food, stay, medical, & transportation.

Second Mile will have 120 business graduates by the end of the year. These are the mothers and grandmothers that complete the business course during their child's recovery and receive an income-generating business package after graduation to help sustain their families. 

We also help support a micro-finance program in the village that directly impacts 209 local men and women. And, we continue to see caregivers and children after graduating the program. It's the cherry on top. Our nurses will see the graduate children and caregivers from the last 3 years in an estimated 1,248 follow-up visits in 2016.

All of this for the purchase of a medium size home in the USA, and I bet ya wouldn't even get a backyard like ours! Our backyard is roughly 3 acres and is currently home to gardens, cows, goats, and bees. And hey maybe $363,401 doesn't even get you a full four rooms. Maybe it's only 3 bedrooms with 1.5 bathrooms...? Google was not that specific.

Isn’t this mind blowing? This is why fundraising is fun. This why I absolutely love Second Mile, not that I’m biased or anything. We really use every single penny. We pride ourselves on being logistically savvy in every possible way. 

Hopefully, you’re still following me.

Point is.. your pennies matter. 

So our current needs aren’t necessarily the super “fun” needs. Maybe your finger doesn’t do a happy dance over the donate button, but these are important. I’m sitting at home writing this blog post and I haven't actually been to the facility in 2 1/2 weeks. The needs listed below our things that empower our staff members to advance the program. It gives them the tools and technology to not need “Amy and Jenn" everyday. Also, it gives Amy and Jenn time to fundraise and start planning the organization’s next steps. It allows us to dream about a new location and get serious!

Okay the need part.. I know I must sound so “needy."

  1. Two new motorcycles. The cost is $1000 per motorcycle. This covers insurance and registration paperwork. Currently, we use motorcycles for all the mothers' transportation to/from hospital visits, errands throughout day, supply runs, etc. In the 2015 Holiday Catalog we received a gift of a motorcycle cart which holds up to 10 people. We will be purchasing that next week! We have 22 women at our site right now. If we didn’t use motorcycles then we would be forced to use our Ford Ranger Truck and if you have ever been down here then you understand that that’s a very, very bad idea. It breaks down every 10 seconds and doesn’t get you from point A to B in a timely fashion on the village roads. Plus, I really do not want to pay $500 per month on maintenance for the thing.
  2. Two printers. One for the land and one for the office. Our last printer was damaged because we carried it from the office to the land on a motorcycle 3 times a week. Well that just doesn’t cut it. It turns out everyone needs to print at all times. We will buy one color and one B&W. The total cost will be $550 as the printers can be purchased locally. 
  3. 1 part-time nurse that will eventually become full-time. Did you see the part where I wrote about the 1248 follow-up visits our nurses will complete this year. Yep, our nurses need help. The time for a 3rd nurse is now. We need a part timer so for now we are looking for $150/month towards this need. Total= $1800.00
  4. Enfamil. This is a formula specifically used with children under 6 months of age that are not breastfeeding. I am stocked on all other formulas thanks to funds from the UN grant and Holiday Catalog. But we do need $900 to stock up on Enfamil for the next few months. This happens to be more expensive than other formulas and is one of our biggest needs at the moment. 
  5. iPads. Our staff is growing which means more people are inputting data in our database system. Pretty cool huh? Two years ago, most of our staff members didn't even use email and now they are completely running our program through mac minis, iPads, etc. This is a huge reason why Amy and I do not have to be frequent visitors on-site because we can just analyze the data submitted. We need 2 ipads at $750/each. Total= $1500
  6. Good heavens, we need another moto driver. I've mentioned our increase in capacity and you can see that I'm asking for two motos so obviously, we need someone to drive them. To hire a moto driver we need $200/month. $2400 in total.

Okay, this is all I have for now. These are the items that are on my brain every night before bed and as soon I get up. I am not asking you to contribute the whole thing or even a quarter of it. Did you see where I said, “your pennies matter?" Just remember when your finger does do a happy dance over the donate button, let us know towards which need you would like your donation designated. And most importantly, I really appreciate you taking the time to read this incredibly long blog post. It means you support us somehow in some shape or fashion, so thank you. 

Lastly, I invite you down here. No, seriously. You really need to see our logistically savvy organization and all of these items being used on a daily basis. Mainly, you need to see why we have so much passion. So what are you waiting for?

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. 

DSC_0098.jpg

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. 

DSC_0095.jpg

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. 

News Update from Haiti

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 connect@secondmilehaiti.org 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. 



My Haiti Volunteer Experience

I was blessed to have had the opportunity to spend the last three weeks in Haiti working alongside the Second Mile Haiti team! I am a newly graduated RN, and I’ve always had the dream of spending some time working in the medical mission field, and Second Mile Haiti made that happen! Following the program online through social media and whatnot has been neat to see, but it has been a whole different thing to see it with my own eyes and I would like to share my experience with you. 

 

A typical day for my visit here in Haiti consisted of getting picked up by my moto driver, Jos at around 7:45am and commuting to Second Mile Haiti. Upon my arrival, I worked with two of the nurses, Prestina and Guerda to perform assessments on all of the children admitted to the program. At first this was quite difficult due to our communication barrier, but Amy was kind to teach me some Creole so that I could get by. I am now able to do complete assessments of the children and chart all of the information in Creole including asking their mothers how their child ate, how much they ate, how they slept, and if they had any other issues the previous night with some assistance by the nurses. The children and moms really warmed up to me as well! 

 

Aside from helping with the nurses in their daily tasks, I have been working closely with Amy to create an educational booklet that the moms/caregivers will be able to use while they are in the program as well as after they go. A lot of the work has been taking our own pictures that will be used inside the book. The book consists of health education that will be used as a reference during and after the program. Some examples include: hygiene, feeding and nutrition, ways of treating water, the pathway of illness, and more! Hopefully this resource will be greatly used by the current moms and for many future parents that come through the program. 

 

Along with spending a lot of time at Second Mile Haiti, I have truly had a great taste of the Haitian culture and the history of Haiti. I stayed with an organization called Haiti Hospital Appeal in their volunteer housing. This was a great experience in itself! I met many amazing people from this organization and was able to see a glimpse of the work that is being done at the HCBH hospital here in Haiti.

 

 There is a neat connection with Second Mile Haiti and HHA. HHA has a home for special needs children, where the children stay during the week and are cared for, played with and loved on, and returned to be home with their families on the weekends. There have been a few of Second Mile’s children that were referred to the Maison Home and I got to meet one of them, Stanley is his name. He is such a sweet boy. It is amazing to see how these organizations work together to make a difference and provide hope for many children and families. 

 

I also had the opportunity to tour MFK (Meds and Food for Kids). This is the facility where the Medika Mamba (Plumpy Nut) is made. Plumpy Nut is used for the treatment of most all of Second Mile’s children. It was incredible to see the Plumpy Nut being made right there in the facility and to learn that it is shipped to severely malnourished children all over the world.  Not only did I get a tour of the facility, I was able to meet a group of people that make up another company called This Bar Saves Lives. It is a granola bar company that donates a sachet of Medika Mamba for every bar that is sold. This Bar Saves Lives provides for Second Mile’s entire Mamba supply; yet another connection with an organization that is working to do some good in the world! 

 

During the weekends I was more or less a tourist and was able to relax at three beautiful beaches in Haiti, hike to the Citadel, visit the market, and taste delicious food at many of Cap-Haitien’s great restaurants. 


There is a lot of work that still needs to be done in Haiti but all of these organizations are making quite an impact among these local people, to help them in becoming self-sustaining and I am so thankful to Jenn, Amy, and Lalita for allowing me to have a small glimpse of it! It was an absolute honor to have had this opportunity; I will remember it forever and hope to return sooner than later! 

Abby Maas

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. 

Your Guide to Giving

While many expats living in Haiti look forward to their trip home for Christmas as relief from the hot Haitian weather, as per usual things are a little different for the token Aussie girl. My festive season, down under in the southern hemisphere, will be full of long summer days spent at the beach, backyard barbeques, cricket matches and plenty of siestas. This is my favourite time of year where my family and many extras will come together to create memories, to be thankful for the blessings in our lives and to enjoy the spirit of giving.

For a long time now I have been a supporter of thoughtful, ‘out of the box’ gift ideas which go against the consumerism typically thrown in our faces. I have enjoyed choosing gifts from the ranges of products available in NGO giving catalogs. Yep, I am proud to say I am that friend/family member who buys you a goat for a family in Africa, an economical stove for a mother in Asia, or donates to a disaster relief appeal on your behalf. To have spent the last couple of weeks working with Amy and Jenn to put together Second Mile’s 4th Annual Holiday Giving Catalog has been an absolute pleasure. Through the long hours, many packets of skittles and pots of coffee we have put together a catalogue which encompasses our priorities for 2016. The great range of gifts and prices will impress even the most discerning giver or receiver. Having the opportunity to go through last year’s catalogue I was amazed to see how the gifts are now an everyday part of our project. Whether it is the solar panels and batteries that provide energy to our whole site, the addition of a new nurse to help support our growth or the Haojin motorbike with extended cart that delivers business packages to graduate moms.

Choosing to give a gift from our catalog this year, won’t just connect you to our work but also to the recipient in Haiti who also gets to share in the giving. When you give to Second Mile you join a network of likeminded people who get an inside look at where your money is being invested.

I can’t wait to see this Holiday Giving campaign through to completion, from launching the catalogue, to selling out of gifts, to sharing stories and pictures with each of you so that you can see what an impact you have made. 

Now let me introduce you to your gift catalogue categories and a few of my top picks.

First off, there are gifts that save lives. These are the items that a malnourished child admitted to our program needs to meet their immediate needs. For only $150 you can provide formula to see a tiny baby grow into a healthy baby. What makes this gift special to me is that it benefits children who may have already lost their biggest fighter, their mom. It is a beautiful thing to see an Aunt, a grandmother or a friend taking on the huge responsibility of caring for another woman’s child and giving them a fighting chance.

Next we have gifts that change lives and these fit right into our hand up not a hand out approach. These are gifts which go the second mile to help our moms get the knowledge, resources and support they need to care for their families and thrive as moms, business owners and women. For $20 you can give a month’s supply of literacy tools used in daily classes. Literacy is something I know I take for granted. It’s a basic skill which builds confidence. More than half of the women who come to Second Mile have had 3 or less years of formal education in their lifetime. In the classes they are taught math, writing and language skills.

Our ‘other gifts’ category has 3 miscellaneous items for those seeking a practical gift! For $10 you can give the gift of memories. I have enjoyed many fond moments with my parents looking back on childhood photos and talking about those old memories. At Second Mile we provide each of our graduating moms with a photo album which tracks their child’s road to recovery and shows just how far they have come. It’s a symbol of success, empowerment and growth.  

 

Our final category has our big ticket items and they are gifts that take us places. Having worked on Second Mile’s sustainability efforts since I came on-board I’m excited to share this gift. For $500 you can get behind our effort to be self sufficient and allow us to buy items which help us grow endeavours such as our Social Business “Tou Natirel.” All profits from locally made and sold products go back into supporting families in our program and ensuring our doors are always open. 


If you REALLY want to give a gift that keeps on giving, a gift that you can see impacting lives in Haiti then you simply cannot let Second Mile’s Holiday giving catalogue pass you by. So come, join the club! Forget the Christmas rush, long lines and hours wasted thinking of a gift that won’t disappoint Aunt Sue!!  BE that family member or friend who buys the goat, soap, medicine or business package and I promise you will get that ‘this is what Christmas is really about’ feeling.

Ps its also the perfect gift when you’re told no gifts this year but you know everyone still will ;) 

The Good and the Bad Days

The Good and Bad Days

“Some days you get up and you already know that things aren't going to go well. They're the type of days when you should just give in, put your pajamas back on, make some hot chocolate and read comic books in bed with the covers up until the world looks more encouraging. Of course, they never let you do that.”  -Bill Waterson

This quote describes perfectly how the last couple month’s have been, except for the fact I live in Haiti. Therefore, I never wear pajamas because I'd wake up drenched in sweat and could possibly die of heat exhaustion in my sleep and also, I don't think I've ever read a comic book in my entire life. I have however considered staying home and watching an entire season of Scandal on Netflix while devouring yogurt and cream cheese in large quantities. 

These past two month’s in Haiti have been difficult, hence the "bad days." 

So here’s me being straight up honest.

Two months ago, a decision was made after weeks and weeks of careful consideration. For the first time ever, Second Mile would not be renewing an employee’s contract, an employee that has been with the organization since the beginning. 

It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made.

In Haiti you cannot take these types of decisions lightly. We know from the experiences of other employers that there tends to be a lot of back lash. Sometimes it can get plain nasty. 

First of all, you have to negotiate a severance pay. There is a book in Haiti called the “Code du Travail." It states the appropriate amount that one shall receive. While it would be great if it was as simple as that, it’s not. Like I said it’s an negotiation. If the employee is not happy with the decision the employee might take those frustrations out on the employer, the organization, and the other employees. 

In the weeks following our decision, there were some bad days spent at police stations, in court rooms and UN conference rooms, and just sitting on the couch with our heads between our knees because the process was so disheartening. At times we felt literally sick. 

We did this for two months straight, wondering when we would ever get back to the real work.

There were many moments when I felt challenged as an leader. I’m supposed to be an leader because all the personality quizzes tell me I am, but I found myself wondering if they are all wrong.

At each new twist and turn in our saga of events I had decisions to make, decisions that would affect dozens of people. I always tell people that making a decision here is quite different. A decision has to be looked at 100 different ways and it’s exhausting. 

In all the midst of events, Amy and I were supposed to get on a plane for the States. Our destination was California for fundraising and then some much needed R&R time with family and friends. This trip was planned three months in advance. When things got crazy, I so badly wanted to back out and stay in Haiti to try and solve the issues at hand. At the same time I knew I needed this opportunity to get away. I just needed to suck it up and get on the plane. 

Leaving Haiti is always hard. But this time it felt different. This time it was a love hate relationship. We needed to recover, think, and regain our passion for Haiti.

You are probably wondering if I will ever get to the good days.

There were many good days spent in California. Soon after we arrived, we sat down with a company called This Bar Saves Lives. We have been collaborating on a project with them since February and since then they have completely supported all of our Medika Mamba needs. Every time one of their delicious granola bars are purchased they donate a package of mamba. Awesome right!? You can support us by supporting them. Next time you're in Whole Foods or Target, look for their bars. Or order online

One of my greatest of days would have to be the fundraiser that was held in Oakland, California. This event was hosted by some of our amazing board members. For the first time ever, Amy and I did not have to do a thing to prepare for a fundraiser. All we had to do was show up! We were surrounded by so much love and encouragement, and enough bear hugs to last us until the next time we meet up with this crowd. The coolest part of the event was that it was hosted by a lovely couple who have a hobby farm for a backyard. There were gardens everywhere and a chicken coop filled with rescue chickens. Talk about our ideal place! But seriously, the people were amazing, motivational, and inspiring. I’m not sure I even had to “ask” for money because they were busy giving amongst themselves. I was more focused on sending around a sign-up sheet that said “Will you be my best friend?  Check Yes or No.  Please leave your phone number and indicate how many times per week you'd answer a phone call."

That's how fascinated I was by this group of people. 

It was a day to remember. 

Thank you to everyone who attended Oakland 2015! 

Thank you to everyone who attended Oakland 2015! 

Then there were more good days getting lost in thought while hiking the mountains in Yosemite.  And so many good days seeing board members, family, and friends who were not only positive and uplighting, but also a sounding board. This trip helped me to realize that I need that. It’s not always useful to simply bounce my thoughts and ideas from one side of my brain to the other. Sometimes it's good to have people. 

Before long it was time to head back to Haiti. 

Maybe you are wondering if the situation resolved itself while we were away. Unfortunately, it didn't. But that’s okay. I felt stronger. My mom always did say, “what doesn’t kill ya makes ya stronger.” Time away also gave me fresh eyes to see and appreciate all the amazing things that are going on at Second Mile and in our lives in general. 

For example, last week we held a focus group at our site. This group consisted of the UN, Commissioner of Cap Haitien, Mayor of Milot (area where we are located), Judge of Milot, Head of Police for Cap Haitien and Milot, the local village mayors, and the village committee. What a group! It’s rare to get so many leaders in the same place. It was powerful! 

The goal was to talk about our collaboration with the UN, share our vision, and give a tour of our site. Also, the moderator would ask these local authorities whether our presence was seen has a positive one or a negative one. I don’t think this is a question we (international organizations) tend to ask local authorities because of course we always think we’re doing good. But sometimes our good intentions aren’t always the right intentions. I sighed a relief when everyone gave positive feedback. Many stated that they appreciate our unique vision because it's one that Haiti needs. To my surprise, I was even asked "why haven’t you started another one?"

It was a good day to start dreaming again.

Now, the situation has been resolved. Finally, it’s over.

I couldn't be more excited to be able to focus on the day-to-day again, with more energy to appreciate the good stuff. 

Yesterday, we helped 3 of our employees set up a bank account. The goal is help a total of 8 employees set up an account before the end of next week. Their faces were proud. I remember how I felt the very first time I received a debit card. I think their excitement was 10 times more than mine. 

Yesterday, I watched Kerline give six exit exams which means that 6 moms are going home this Friday. Their kids are healthy and ready. The oldest child to enter our program, Lovelie, is one of the children going home. She’s 11 years old. Yesterday, I watched her help her mom with the exit exam. She’s brilliant. It’s amazing the difference between being nourished and having malnutrition. She’s a whole new person and ready to take on Haiti.

Apparently the education classes aren't just for the moms! 

Apparently the education classes aren't just for the moms! 

Yesterday, I worked on finances. I’m excited for Haiti. I’m feeling grateful for witnessing the positive changes. I can now look at my Haiti bank statements online and there is even an app for online banking. 

Yesterday, I dreamed a lot. I dreamed about being here for a bit longer with Amy and starting a few more Second Miles. 

Friday's program graduates

Friday's program graduates

In the end of it all “A day is a day. It’s just a measurement of time. Whether it’s a good day or a bad day is up to you. It’s all a matter of perception.”

Keeping families together?

It's another one of those late Saturday work nights. I find myself sitting in the kitchen sipping cold coffee  both battling technology and singing it's praises. Computers (and tablets and cameras and all the cords and cables and funny business that allow them to work together) are responsible for both my biggest headaches and my most fulfilling moments. I could do without the crashed hard drives and the missing files and the ever present and terrifying possibility that I might accidentally delete something I've been working on for months [the wounds are fresh] but nevertheless I've had some success this year managing the beasts. Getting our database up and running may be my biggest accomplishment of the 2014-2015 year and keeping an uber-organized Dropbox would probably be my talent if I ever competed in a Miss America pageant. I mean I was going to go with #nursing but we all know how that would play out... #nursesunite

Earlier today I was moving a bunch of files from one hard drive to other so that I could sort our Second Mile photos and save them in their respective homes. The power went out at my apartment and I lost several hours of work. It sucked. I would have cried but the very same thing happened to me the day before so I'd already been there-- done that. This time I took myself out of the house and into the used clothing market in Cap Haitien's city center. There's nothing like a little market jostling to awaken my senses and remind me that I won't survive in life if I let myself get overly worked up by a few Mac-product mishaps. I picked up a few new-to-me dresses and had dinner with friends. When I returned to photo-sorting it didn't take long before the pictures themselves put me in a better mood. 

The best thing to do when I'm feeling excited about Second Mile Haiti is to write it out...There's only one way to harness all that feel-goodness: story telling and photo sharing. 

Perhaps too often I write blog posts highlighting photos of mothers and kids coming for follow-up visits. Since the focus of our program is to keep families together, every picture of a kid with it's parent is something to celebrate. All those pictures of healthy kids, playing, smiling, walking, and "breaking the scale" as we like to say in Creole, are just the icing on the cake. They tell us that recurrence of malnutrition, typically so common, has been abated, at least for now. They give us hope, because with each and every month that the child remains healthy, the likelihood that he or she will experience malnutrition again, diminishes. Perhaps now you see why we get so excited about those follow-up photos! 

But since I often share those stories, why don't I offer a few stories from inside the center. The following anecdotes will give you a peak into what it looks like to keep families together during the initial weeks of recovery and what it looks like for women to learn together. 

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This is Lovelie. She's 11 which makes her the oldest child to recover at Second Mile. She's staying at the center with her mom and her baby sister. 

Lovelie is recovering from Kwashiorkor-type malnutrition, the type of malnutrition that causes swelling of the face and extremities due to an absence of protein in the body. She weighed 29.7 lbs when she arrived. During the first phase of treatment, she lost two pounds of fluid-related weight. She is now three weeks into recovery and weighs 29 lbs.

This photo of Lovelie's mom and sister was taken during our afternoon Literacy class where Lovelie's mother is learning to read and write. She is 38 years old and her formal education ended after the second grade. Lovelie's mother has given birth to 7 children. 3 of these children died before the age of 3. When she describes the events leading up to their deaths it's clear that malnutrition was the culprit in all three circumstances. The family was referred to our center by another mom who, after learning that signs and symptoms of malnutrition, was able to speak to her what her daughter was experiencing. Both women live in a community 40 minutes from the center. They travel together when going home for the weekends and they arrive together on Mondays.

For this family, "keeping families together" means not having to lose another child to malnutrition.

This is Stevenson. And he's a teddy bear. 

His sweet personality and quirky facial expressions are so clearly a result of his mother's affection for him and her own kind-hearted and joyful temperment. Stevenson's mom is 18 years old. His dad is 19 years old and both parents are students. Mom and baby live with her parents and two siblings. 

Mom and Steve on their last day at Second Mile. 

Mom and Steve on their last day at Second Mile. 

He's a momma's boy and she's her boy's momma. 

As part of our admission assessment we always ask the caregiver what she does when her child is sick. Does she take the child to a clinic, or hospital? And if so, where? Stevenson's mom had already made several visits to local health centres.  This wasn't his first episode of Severe Acute Malnutrition. Twice he had been hospitalized. Once for 8 days when he was 4 months old and again for 30 days when we was 5 months old. When resources were dwindling and Stevenson was still suffering from poor health his mom was advised by people in her community to bring her son to Children of the Promise, an infant care center not far from our facility. In an effort to keep the family together, their social worker sent the pair to Second Mile. At 10 months old he weighed 11 lbs.  

Getting ready to go home

Getting ready to go home

While at the center Steve made a new friend and so did his mother. The pair shared a room with Judeline, a baby of the same age who's undiagnosed heart condition had made it impossible for her to thrive.  Her mother is just 2 years older than Steve's mom. The two moms bonded over the fact that they'd reached nearly the same level in school, 8 and 9th grades respectively, and that their babies, both of whom weren't even a year old, had already overcome so much in their young lives. I learned from Judeline's mom that even on the weekend she stayed in contact with Steve's mom. "She's the kind of person that will call you three times in the same day, just to check in. She's a good person." 

During their last week at the center, Steve's mom was seen using her 9th grade smarts to help two of the other mothers study for their exit exam. She humbly and gently led the group through a review of all 18 test question like it was her job, smiling the whole time. 

Mama Stevenson scored a 93% on her exit exam. She scored a 39% on the pre-test

Mama Stevenson scored a 93% on her exit exam. She scored a 39% on the pre-test

For this 18 year old, "keeping families together" meant finding a solution to her son's health woes that didn't involve being separated from him. It meant getting answers, gaining confidence and making mom-friends. 

This is Givens. He was somewhat of a surprise admission to the Second Mile Haiti family. 

1 day old. 

1 day old. 

This is his big sister Gudelande 1 week into her treatment for severe acute malnutrition.

She had a rocky start. But things got much better.

When they arrived at the center Gudelande's mom was fairly pregnant and Gudlande, in the throes of severe acute malnutrition, was in very poor shape.

On their 3rd Monday at the center, Mama Gudlande arrived at the site with an extra bundle. Without making a fuss, or asking for help, she walked straight through the gate to the room she way occupying, Gudlande in one arm, the bundle in the other. 

Much to our surprise, Mama Gudelande had had her baby at home over the weekend and without missing a beat, she was back at the center to continue where she'd left off!

Because Gudlande's mom did not know how far along she was in her pregnancy and because the new baby appeared to be pre-mature, we sent them for consultation at the nearest hospital. After a few tests, the baby was admitted and spent 5 days in the neonatal unit. Gudelande stayed at the center. The other moms collectively bathed her, changed her, and brought her to and from the nurses who spent time coaxing her to eat and drink.

By Friday, Mama Gudelande still hadn't been released from the hospital with the newborn so one of the moms took Gudlande home with her for the weekend.

The following Monday the entire family was back at the center. 

Other moms smile at G. Happy to see her on the mend. 

Other moms smile at G. Happy to see her on the mend. 

What would have become of Gudlande? What would have become of her tiny brother if Mama G didn't have the knowledge she gained in just 2 shorts weeks at Second Mile?

Pre-mature feeding is common in Haiti. Families often give infants tea and coffee, sugar water, and porridge when they are days and weeks old. This harms the child's digestive tract making them more susceptible to infection and food sensitivities. This is especially true in the case of low birth weight babies. Unable to afford infant formula, and under the impression that breastmilk is not enough, the mother and other well-meaning relatives will try to supplement the baby's diet with mature foods that do more harm than good. If Gudelande's mother hadn't received the education she received at Second Mile she would have likely given him other foods to help him grow. And when she could no longer afford baby food she would have filled his belly with coffee, tea, and sugar water as she had done when Gudlande was an infant. 

While early feeding may have been a contributing factor in Gudlande's experience of malnutrition, her brother Givens won't have the same problem. Even though she'd been in the program only a short time before giving birth to her second child, she'd learned that exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months is an important step in preventing malnutrition. And the regular, nutrient rich meals she received at the center also set her up for a successful breastfeeding experience.  But today, at 3 months of age Givens weighs a solid 13 lbs. Just 4 lbs shy of what his 15 month old sister weighed before treatment.

For Gudelande and company, "keeping families together" meant being able to keep and care for a sick child while pregnant with another, giving birth to a low-birth weight baby but having the support system to help while her hands were full, and developing a new understanding of how to nurture her baby in a and a safe and economical way that promotes health for the entire family. Breastfeeding for the win! 

Mama Gudelande may have scored a 17% on her entrance exam but she scored 88% at exit and the difference shows. 

This is Fadelin.

He's 6 and his mom is 35. She gave birth to five children and lost one at the age of 2 to malnutrition. She also lost her sister. 

When Fadelin's mom arrived at Second Mile at the referral of another Second Mile graduate, Fadelin weighed 24 lbs. He wasn't the only one who was ill. Josie Fadelin's cousin was also unwell. He also had early signs of kwashiorkor type malnutrition. Both boys were lethargic. Both needed mom. 

We've watched these boys change drastically with improved nutrition. Fadelin is kind, quiet but smart. Josie is outgoing and cunning, a faithful friend. The two boys have an amazing mother in Fadelin's mom. Though Josie is her nephew she's taken him into her care without hesitation. The boys are brothers.

Meanwhile Fadelin's mom has been quietly and diligently taking advantage of all the classes offered at the center. She reached the second grade before her family could no longer afford to send her to school. She cannot read or write but is learning these skills in the literacy class. She makes her living selling food products like dried fish and tomato paste earning roughly $10 / month. She's eager to apply the skills she's learning in the business program and try her hand at managing the business she will be given when she graduates from Second Mile. With a larger supply of products her profit margin should be much better. 

For this family, "keeping families together" means investing in a mother who is already stepping out to support her family. In her case "keeping families together" means allowing her to continue to parent not just her own children but those of her late sister. It means equipping her with the tools and the knowledge to invest in and educate a community that is suffering greatly under a burden of malnutrition.

Already she has reached out to other women in her community to teach them about malnutrition and to help them seek treatment. Already she has opened her home. It's a privilege to stand with her.

Whether a mother is 38 or 18. Educated in a classroom or not. Living with her parents or parenting kids who aren't her own. Second Mile is a place where women are united by a common experience and everyone leaves empowered to share their knowledge with others.  

It comes back to education AND opportunity. At Second Mile learning takes place actively, in a safe place, among other mothers who are also learning. The child is recovery from a critical condition, in real time, which does something remarkable for the caregivers sense of can-do. The opportunity to participate in the business program which ends with a real business and the chance to earn a living once they leave the facility-- is priceless. All of this. It all makes a difference for the child and for the entire family. 

Progress at the site

Hey there everyone. I feel like it's time to give you all an update, an exciting update.

Well let's be frank. I don't just have one update. I have many. But they're all exciting. So here goes.. 

This has been the busiest season of them all. Christmas has nothin’ on Second Mile. At Second Mile, we have been working around the clock to get the yogurt and cheese building up and running. Last week the solar team flew down to install an additional 5.1 kilowatts to our beautiful system. 

Three of "my favorite guys in the world" — Don, Dale, and Mike — worked from sun-up to sun-down for seven days in a row.  Now we have three times as many solar panels and twice as many batteries. For three years now we have been completely sustainable by the sun’s rays. Beautiful, right? 

The finished product: solar panels on both the old and the new recovery wings.

The finished product: solar panels on both the old and the new recovery wings.

The additional power will help us run refrigerator units, water filtration, and electric stoves. And to top it off, we now have the capacity to pump out clean water for the entire village which won't even cost us a dime! 

When people come down here to work I tend to make them work their butts off. It’s just something I do. During their last two days at the site, we were able to plan for the building’s electrical needs (wire, outlets, switches etc). As soon as we finished planning, they got right to work! They worked until there were only 2 hours before their plane was supposed to take-off. They quickly bathed with Wet Wipes and scarfed down some food in 30 seconds. They made their flight. I can’t say how thankful I am for these guys. What they did in 7 days means tremendous progress for Second Mile. 

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Okay so let’s back up for a second. The week that the guys were here was crazy, hectic. So hectic, we didn't have a chance to post very many Facebook statuses.

Here’s what else happened: 

  1. We opened our new recovery wing. At one point during the week, we had 18 moms and 24 kids with three kids hospitalized.
  2. A sudden spike in the number of moms and children we were hosting at the center meant that we had to spent several days purchasing mattresses, mosquito nets, medications, formula, etc for these new cases.
  3. A cholera scare! One of the mothers had to be rushed to hospital at 1 A.M. We are thankful that our staff made such a quick decision in the wee hours of the morning. She received treatment while hospitalized for several days. That mom is now healthy and back at the center! Luckily the Ministry of Health paid a visit to our facility. They sprayed down the recovery rooms with sanitizing spray (something we also did the moment we heard the mom had cholera) and spent two hours doing education with our moms and staff about cholera prevention.
  4. We hired a new staff member. We started training a local technician in the production of yogurt and cheese.

Mix in a few flat tires and about 100 supply runs and you have a pretty good picture of the month of August. 

Flat tire day #2

Flat tire day #2

The supervisors

The supervisors

Dale and Don instal electrical wire

Dale and Don instal electrical wire

Education from the Ministry of Health's cholera prevention team

Education from the Ministry of Health's cholera prevention team

The mothers receive packets of oral rehydration solution

The mothers receive packets of oral rehydration solution

local masons putting the final touches on yogurt and cheese production building

local masons putting the final touches on yogurt and cheese production building

Jenn discusses electrical plans with staff

Jenn discusses electrical plans with staff

Purchasing a water reservoir from a depot in town

Purchasing a water reservoir from a depot in town

Getting by with a little "help" from our "friends"

Getting by with a little "help" from our "friends"

Joseph, Herode, Ama, Joslin, and Verdieu - our full-time staff members after another long day at the site

Joseph, Herode, Ama, Joslin, and Verdieu - our full-time staff members after another long day at the site

Ok caught up? Three days after the solar team left Haiti, Jason arrived! He’s also at the top of my list of favorite people. He came all the way from Wisconsin to help us tile the building, finish the electrical system, and set up plumbing. He’ll probably do about a million other little projects, as well. It’s should be a busy 10 days. I will let you know how it all ends, but if all goes well then we should be able to start the production of yogurt and cheese in just two weeks.

You may have noticed that I had a 3-day break between the electricians departure and Jason’s arrival. I decided I would take last Friday off and use Saturday and Sunday to plan. I let the staff know about my day-off and I could see that everyone was excited for me. Or maybe they were all thinking: “geez get her out for a day before she goes crazy.” But when Friday rolled around, I woke up with a chest cold. So much for a day of exercise and play. I guess I need to work on to the whole "rest thing.” Thankfully, I have Amy. She's my personal nurse and she loves to concoct essential oil and home-made remedies for me when I'm sick. She’s a gem.

I’m going to throw you for a loop, because this blog post doesn’t seem to follow a timeline. About 3 weeks ago, as you may remember, we did our 12x12 fundraiser. 

I know, I know, I know… we are a little behind with an update. Well, the fundraiser was fantastic!

This year was the most successful year, by far. 

The final tally was $7,123! (In one day!!!!) Holy moly, we needed that!

We started with 144 numbers on the board and we were able to takes down a total of 113 different numbers. 

Friends from 3 different organizations on the ground donated during the fundraiser AND we were given a check for $1,000 here in Haiti. Locals supporting local causes!  

We can not thank everyone enough. It's just amazing. 

All numbers count

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.


Proud owner of a cow registration card.

Proud owner of a cow registration card.

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.

One of many customers

One of many customers

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!

Nice lookin business!

Nice lookin business!

Purse full of money!

Purse full of money!

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. 

Satisfied customer.

Satisfied customer.

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!  

Mama Sterly and her mom, setting off to sell merchandise.

Mama Sterly and her mom, setting off to sell merchandise.

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.  

Jenn and Amy kick off the number fundraiser. Circa 2014. 

Jenn and Amy kick off the number fundraiser. Circa 2014. 

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.