from Jenn

What do you do when you’re at capacity?

This morning I received an email while at home.

 "Peterson was discharged from the hospital and is now back at the facility. We have 13 moms and 16 kids. We’re out of beds."

 Our facility is set up to accommodate 12 caregivers with their children, meaning there are 12 beds. The last couple weeks we have been completely full. In addition to taking in 13 caregivers and their 16 kids in treatment, there are also an additional five healthy siblings staying with us as well. That makes 13 moms and 21 kids for 12 beds. It's a full house: to say the least.

 I called back a little panicked. Kerline (our health educator) answered the phone and said, "no problem, we have a solution."

 Verdieu, our groundskeeper, who lives on site, gave up his bed to Peterson's mom.  Plus, another Mother with only one child said they would take in another child to sleep in her bed.

 These are the moments that tug at my heartstrings.

 These children and their caregivers were complete strangers before coming to our site, and a week later they are offering up their beds to accommodate another in need.  We have always strived for our treatment center to have a family-like atmosphere, and I think this is what it looks like.

 The good news is that this will soon be a problem of the past.

 We just started our project with the United Nation. Through their support, we will double our capacity. That means an additional 6 rooms, 12 beds, a health education building, a recovery wing and a sustainability workshop.

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 The site is buzzing with workers, supplies and plans coming to life. I can't tell you how much I love construction. I look around and see potential everywhere, and think about how great it will be to have the capacity to have 12 more moms staying at our facility.

 But the most exciting part of doing construction in Haiti is seeing the 30-40 new faces in the facility everyday, thrilled about the opportunity to work. That’s 30-40 more families we’re able to directly impact.

 They say that Haiti has an economic multiplier of six. That means for every one job created, six more follow. And we can see it happening right before our eyes.

 Ladies come in from the village to sell food and beverages to all the workers. Motos are transporting people back and forth from the job site. All while the 200 sacs of cement, two tons of rebar, multiple sizes of wood, and mounds and mounds of gravel and sand are purchased from local business and establishments in Haiti.

 Everything feels, exciting, full of potential and most importantly: hopeful.

 At the beginning of the day I was trying to figure out how we can make room for one more, and by the afternoon all I can wonder is how big we can get.

 Amy and I are beyond thrilled, about everything happening at Second Mile, but while were in this period of transition, we’re also running at capacity. Here are the top four things that could give you chance to get involved in this exciting time, and help take a little stress off of us.

 1) Pray. Pray. Pray. We love more than anything when people are praying for our mommas, kiddos, employees, future projects, and just overall high spirits.

 2) Hospital Bills. These past couple weeks we have taken on some pretty difficult cases. We didn't even think twice about these cases because we knew no matter what we would figure out how to provide for these conditions: hydracelphus, cerebral palsy, club foot/abnormities, and a heart condition. 

 These are special cases that need extra attention along with extra funding. They all need to see specialists and God willing they will all get surgeries. In our Holiday Catalog last year we asked for $1000 of funding for our critical cases. Since January 1st we have already spent $450. We predict this year we will need additional $1500 to cover all the needed hospital visits.

 3) Community Help. Our local community has decided to build a church. We love Pastor Mark and would love to support his building efforts. We have already donated the supplies and materials to lay the groundwork of the church, but we need an additional $1900 to add to his Phase 1 of construction of the Jean Louis Church. All of our employees attend this church and in addition to over 300 people living in the village, so this something we would really like to offer to the surrounding community.

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 4) Building Projects. Although the two buildings are covered by the UN grant we have made some modifications the past month. We have added an additional health wing / pharmacy to the mix. This will help us support the various health needs of our children when were operating a larger capacity.  We are hoping to have a combined effort of $6500 raised towards this new building.

We’re also constructing a sustainably workshop where we will produce yogurt, cheese, jam and bread to be sold local markets. Those profits will help strengthen our programs and increase our sustainability in Haiti.

 As always, any contributions are greatly appreciated. You can send contributions via online, or send us a check: 

Second Mile Haiti - 700 NW Gilman Blvd. #242, Issaquah, WA 98027

We are fans of both methods ;) (Please designate where you would like your contributions to go). Thank you for again giving us the chance to lay it all out there. 

 

Must be doing something right!

So, I realize I have been non-existent the past couple months. Lately, I feel like Amy and I haven’t been able to take a breath. It has been a constant whirl-wind for us. Let me see if I can catch you up on everything from operations in Haiti, to the grant and our trips, and just life in general.

Maybe I’ll start with the most recent events and work backwards, if that’s okay with you. 

Thanksgiving. Everyone in Haiti knows this is by far my favorite Holiday. Why? Well most ex-pat, humanitarian- aid workers, and missionaries all decide to stay in Haiti for this Holiday since they usually choose Christmas to be home with their family and friends.

So for the past three years, Amy and I have decided to host a BIG feast on this day. On this special day we make the turkey, decorate our apartment, and invite as many people as we know that don’t have the opportunity to eat delicious turkey. Usually the most important thing to me about this Holiday is that we invite people that are from all over the world. This Thanksgiving we were hosting people from 6 different countries!

How cool is that?

Even though we have hosted Thanksgiving the past three years, this just so happened to be the first year we actually made the turkey! I should add that it wasn’t one turkey, but TWO! 

Amy and I spent the entire morning defrosting turkeys that we may have forgotten about until about 10 in the morning.  We must have spent several hours on google on the “How To” pages. Luckily we scheduled our feast to be at 7 PM so it gave us the opportunity to accomplish everything in one day.

Amy defrosting the 2nd turkey for the day.

Amy defrosting the 2nd turkey for the day.

I'm struggling.

I'm struggling.

No matter how stressed we were.. The night turned out to be more amazing then the previous two feasts. It was a great night! 

In the weeks leading to Thanksgiving we both took a trip to the States and decided we would re-decorate our apartment/office. We have lived in the same apartment for the past 2 1/2 years. We host many potlucks, small gatherings, and organization meetings in our apartment. Oh, and let’s not forget it’s our office since our Haitian staff doesn’t seem to need us as much these days. (That’s a good thing ;))

It finally hit us that we both plan on being here some way or the other for the next 5+ years. Oh, and there you go.. question answered for everyone that asks, “where do you see yourself in the next 5 years.” Anyways, back to the point. If you haven’t seen our apartment then let me give you a mental picture. Our apartment has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a large dinning area, small living room, small kitchen, 25 foot high ceilings (not sure why) and about 30 unneeded stairs in the apartment. The walls are painted in several different shades of white and with the ceilings being 25 feet high then I am sure you are imagining the cobwebs. So it was time to re-decorate. We have been pushing it off for awhile with the heavy workload. Most of our painting was done from the hours of 12 AM-4AM, and we were able to recruit several neighbors. We may have had to bribe them with wine and chocolate. Here’s the finished product. :) If you have seen our apartment then you can imagine how accomplished we are feeling right now. 

Apartment-Before

Apartment-Before

Apartment-After (or in the process)

Apartment-After (or in the process)

Okay, so you saw that I mentioned Amy and I taking trips back to the States? Both of our trips were in November. Amy took off for the States first. The purpose of her trip was to start and finish the 2015 Holiday Catalog and attend her grandmother’s memorial in California. Amy was gone for a little over two weeks. 

In those two weeks Cap Haitien (where we live) was hit with heavy down pours. I wasn’t even able to get to get to work! Cap Haitien was completely flooded. Many homes were destroyed. Actually several of the moms in the program lost their homes because of the downpour of rain that eventually led to flooding. I spent most of my time trying to figure out the logistics: how to get moms to the site, preparing mom’s homes, transportation to/from work for our employees, conserving power/electricity, how to keep moms and employees mind’s off all the devastation of losing everything, and all the additional costs that happen when the city floods!

An aerial shot of the flooding.

An aerial shot of the flooding.

Dadou, making a home visit.

Dadou, making a home visit.

When Amy got back we literally only had 22 hours before I would head off on my trip. Out of those 22 hours we must have worked 15 of those hours! We were preparing for my trip to meet potential donors and speaking at churches. That meant in 15 hours we needed to finish the Holiday Catalog, finish (I mean start) the 2015 projected budget, and have something prepared to give out during all my meetings. I literally did not shower and pack until an hour before I was supposed to leave for the airport. 

My destination was Minneapolis and New Richmond, Wisconin (my home away from home). My trip was only 6 days, and in the first two days I had 8 meetings lined up! The meetings were exciting and tiring at all the same time. It’s during those meetings that I realized..

  1. After 4 years in Haiti I realize how much more passionate about Haiti and the organization then the very first day that I arrived
  2. I’m getting pretty good at speaking to donors, and Im suddenly starting to realize it’s my favorite thing about running a non-profit
  3. Our organization is a lot bigger then I think it is.. Holy cow, 23 employees this year and we plan to have 31 next year!
  4. Second Mile Haiti is starting a movement to keep families together and I am glad we are in the front-lines in Haiti
  5. People are excited about the past three years, and I think they will be even more excited about next year alone
  6. I AM BLESSED, WE ARE BLESSED, and the ORGANIZATION is BLESSED
  7. Clearly there is a higher power in all of this.

It went great. People are catching on to the vision and the future of Second Mile. Who knows maybe when I decide to settle down, I think I might be able to find a job in good ol Minneapolis.

The last couple days were spent in New Richmond, Wisconsin. I spent most of my time re-connecting and setting up the board for 2015, establishing work duties on the Holiday Catalog, and visiting one of my favorite churches. It went well. The trip was overwhelming, but I couldn’t have asked for better results. 

So now on to what I have been waiting to tell everyone!!!!

Early on in 2014 it was proposed to Second Mile that the UN (United Nations) would like Second Mile to be one of their grant recipients. I had figured this was going to happen soon since I, myself have probably given over 20 “project tours to UN officials, and government officials. In 2014, our project became a “must-see.” In April I had a sit down meeting with the “now” chief of the UN for Northern Haiti. He said, “Jenn, we would like to do a project for this amount xxx (trust me it’s a large number ;)), what do you think we should do,” My mind is racing. Amy and I do not believe in growing our operations just because a big sum of money is throw at us. So there were many meetings between Amy and I and how we should move forward. We even asked ourselves if we should even pursue this grant. Maybe it was too early. 

In May 2015 we decided on the terms of the grant. For the given amount Second Mile will:

  1. Build two buildings (Sustainability work-shop and additional recovery homes)
  2. Strengthen the capacity of our health education and business programs
  3. Do a HIV/Gender Based-Violence campaign that reaches 4 villages (approx 1200 people)

Okay, so maybe there are only 3 points, but it’s so much larger than that!

Building a Sustainability workshop will mean that we will be able to make bread, yogurt, cheese, and jam. These are all income-generating projects for the organization, but they are also “future” incoming generating projects for our moms and dads that enter the facility.

When I say build an additional recovery home, that means we will be doubling the capacity of the facility. Second Mile will be able to hold 24 sets of moms and babies at a time, instead of 12. 

Strengthening the health education programs means we will be able to have the most-recent health education materials in Haiti, and that we will be providing a work-book for all the moms to complete during their stay.

Strengthening the business programs means we will no longer give businesses for that have a $200 value, but $300 instead.

We will be doing more extensive follow-ups with the health and business program.

How will all this be possible??

The grant accounts for 5 additional staff members!!

In case you were wondering why it takes us several days to answer your emails or why we sometimes become non-existent on Facebook. This is why. There was over 1000 hours poured into this grant including  more than 50 meetings as it went through at least 30 different channels before it was approved.

I found out 3 weeks ago that they only accepted 8 other recipients in Haiti. Did you know there are 4,000 other organizations working in Haiti? This is all mind blowing.. but do you want to know what gets my attention the most besides the monetary value? This grant means Haiti accepts our model. They think Haiti needs more of these models. So, maybe we’re onto something?

So 2015 plans:

We will complete this grant, and have our ideal facility. In the later months of 2015 we will start looking to expand. We will strategize and plan to set up these same (working) facilities in several locations in Northern Haiti. We will start a movement. We will insist that moms and children graduate this program instead of relinquishing their children to orphanages. Do you want to raise your wine glasses, and give me a cheers to that?

Second Mile is on to something. It’s onto something great. I promise we will not disappoint you in 2015. 

Here's my last plee: Check out the 2015 Holiday Catalog for needs that won't be covered by the UN grant. These are literally gifts that are so so crucial to our organization operating!

These two!

Where is Jenn?

I realize many of you probably have no idea where I am or what I have been doing the past couple months.

Unfortunately I had to head back to Texas early May because my family suffered yet another loss. My Mimi passed away age at 71. Far too young if you ask me. Luckily I was able to rush home quick once I got the “please call me” emails from my mom. I have seen those words far too many times the past four years.

I said good-bye, grieved with family, and I also had the privilege of giving her eulogy.

My most recent picture with the siblings while I was home.

My most recent picture with the siblings while I was home.

I headed back to Haiti. I was only here for about a week before I racked up even more frequent flier miles to head up North. This was a fundraising trip that has been in the books for the past couple months.

I just returned from my trip this past Monday. I am excited about the connections and partnerships that I have developed in the past couple months. I think anyone can see that I am passionate about Second Mile and I am even more passionate about the direction it’s heading.

Becoming more legit.

Becoming more legit.

Many people asked me several times while I was on the trip about how the project was functioning without my presence and especially with Amy all by her self. Oh, and not to mention I was almost going on 6 weeks being away from Haiti.

Well first of all when we started the program we have always and will always throw out the words being “self-sustainable” which even refers to the fact one day, we hope to be completely ran by Haitians. That means having an organization that is not reliant on Amy and I or any other international worker. In Haitian terms, blan. Blan translates as white person (foreign presence). So excuse my creole, but we hope to not be ran by white people.

Two months ago we were gifted a technology grant by a very, very, generous foundation. The grant approved us to purchased ipads, lap tops, speakers, hard drivers, database programs, etc.

So here’s the goal.

We have two Haitian administrators at the moment.

Dadou and Kerline.

Dadou is our Haitian Director and Kerline overseas the entire medical program. In the past couple weeks Dadou and Kerline received their own iPads. We created for them: email addresses, schedules on iCal, dropbox (file pictures) and set them up to: write procedures, protocols, contracts, etc.

We are currently working on compiling all of our loose papers which will be recorded, tracked, and managed in a database.

Dadou will control all the mom’s information revolving around business. He will be able to keep record of our sustainability projects. He will have all plans that have ever been made for our buildings (especially if we expand in the future). He will control maintenance of all trucks, motos, solar panels, etc. The list literally goes on.

Kerline will have all data we have ever tracked with the mom’s and their children. It will include weight stats, medicine used, inventory, follow-up visits, health quizzes, etc.

Okay to tell you the truth Amy could do more justice for Kerline, but I think you get the point.

Dadou and Kerline will be inputing every single piece of information that we consume in a day in their very own iPads that will be complied in the new Second Mile database.

This is huge. I think we are working ourself out of a job here. The Blans will be out soon. ;)

In the meantime since I have been gone Amy has only had to make a presence at the land once or twice a week! Kerline emails and send pictures through the iPad. This has given Amy a chance to redo our entire website! This was not an easy task, but I can brag on her and say it only took her 2 weeks. It’s amazing. Check it out!

isn't this awesome?

isn't this awesome?

While I was in the States, Dadou and I would chat back and forth through email as well. I was well updated and informed. This may have been the first trip I wasn’t having a panic attack or hyperventilating because of a situation that happened at the land and I couldn’t do anything about it.

Don’t worry I am not retiring yet. I am not ready (yet) to spend my days drinking mojitos on an isolated beach. What this means is that I am working on bigger and better plans. I am brewing up some new dreams and ideas for our project.

Thanks to the wonderful foundation and especially thank you to Dadou and Kerline for us allowing us the opportunity to do this with them.

I will leave you with this. Just two things.

I am hoping to get these items purchased from the amazon list!

These are big items. We need more scales! (do you realize we are averaging 10 moms a week now) We need a printer for the facility so that Dadou and Kerline will be able to print, copy, and scan documents. Oh, and don’t forget a couple needed items we are needing to enhance our sustainability projects!

And as of right now, we still very much, need financial partners.

I promise your money is going in good hands. In fact, I think it’s obvious your money is being used to equip Haitians to empower other Haitians and their communities.

it's time

It's time to write a blog post about time. 

I'll be honest. I don't really want to be "blogging" right now. It feels a bit obligatory. It also feels a bit like forcing happy when in actuality I'm feeling far from it. My better half/partner in crime is far away in America and going through a hard time. Jenn left Haiti on the 13th. Her grandmother passed away 3 days later at far too young an age and far too soon after Jenn and her siblings had to face the death of their father (in March). Today is the memorial service for 'Mimi' and Jenn is giving the eulogy. I wish I could be there. I could have joined the family for the services, of course. But I simply didn't get up and go. Leaving Haiti tends to be more difficult than staying. 

Still despite the rainy, dreary week (and the broken vehicle, and a new baby with a heart condition, and a new baby with TB, and sickness, and death, and the events happening in Texas, and the wrath of Chickengunya that seems to be ravaging Port-au-prince and creeping it's way up the central coast to the North) I really must blog. The tricky thing about time is, it's fleeting. 

If you don't take advantage of a moment, it's gone. 

So in this moment I'd like to recognize that it has been 1 year since Second Mile Haiti opened its proverbial (and literal) doors. That's right! On May 15th, 2013 a 31-year-old mother of two arrived at our facility with her 9-lb 19-month-old baby girl. Those first few nights she was the only momma at the facility until, a few days later, we got a call about another mother and child. This mom had 5 children but it was her youngest, and only daughter, who was struggling with malnutrition.

Moms Claire and Rosna with daughters Marie-Ange (then 19-months) and Witchana (then 15 months). 

May 2013 (one year ago) Claire sits by Rosna in the Education Center to support her on her "going home, graduation day" 

May 2013 (one year ago) Claire sits by Rosna in the Education Center to support her on her "going home, graduation day" 

Two girls 

Two girls 

These two moms laid the foundation. They showed us what it would look like to partner with moms. They were genuine, receptive, patient, and kind; wise, resilient, and strong. With their children they were self-less, nurturing, and affectionate.  We loved them (and still love them) a lot. We are grateful that they shared there lives with us for a little bit. Claire and Rosna are seriously good people. 

Claire offering Marie Ange some yummy mamba! 

Claire offering Marie Ange some yummy mamba! 

Rosna with Witchana at home, a few months after their short 15-day stay at Second Mile Haiti. 

Rosna with Witchana at home, a few months after their short 15-day stay at Second Mile Haiti. 

The two women had a lot in common and became fast friends. They live in two different towns at least 30 minutes apart. But we know they call each other on the phone to check in and sometimes they'll show up for a visit to Second Mile on the same day. 

That's what happened last week. Both Claire and Rosna came with their girls on the same day!  The moms were happy to see each other and I think Witchana would have been eager to play with Marie-Ange...but not so much the other way around. When we tried to get a picture of the two girls sitting together MA was not having it! It would have been the ultimate then and now shot, something like recreating an old family photo. But Marie Ange is so attached to her momma that no one was going to be able to get her to sit by herself (although Witchana did make a valiant attempt to hold her friend still).

I shouldn't have deleted those photos. They were hilarious. But unfortunately, I did.  

While we didn't get to recreate that photo from last May what we do have is a few photos that will show just how well these girls are doing now, 12 months after they first spent time at Second Mile. 

Marie Ange at 19 months and 31 months. 

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Witchana at 15 months and 27 months. 

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I know that today is actually May 22nd (actually it's now the 25th!) And here we are a week after our 1 year anniversary. But I think this is one of those better-late-than-never posts. 

Because... this. 

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Witchana looks great! (So does Marie Ange). And these moms are happy. 

So maybe Second Mile did make just an teensy-weensy bit of difference for these families. Maybe it was the nutritional nudge. Witchana gained 1.5 lbs in her 10 days at Second Mile. And Marie Ange made the most progress during her second stay at Second Mile where she gained 5.5 lbs in 7 weeks. Or maybe it was the follow-up, the education, or the business (i.e. income). It was probably the business.. or a combination of things. And just to be fair, these mothers unlike many of the others are fortunate to have access to healthcare services that are about 80% free to them. This means that both girls can get care when they are sick. That's a huge factor in their staying healthy and we need to recognize this particular hospital and the Haitian Ministry of Health for making those services available to them).

Still, I think it's fair to say that both of these girls were in pretty bad shape initially (especially MA). The rehabilitation they received at Second Mile was, in fact, a good and necessary intervention. The thing about malnutrition is that it causes you to be more susceptible (in a weakened immune state) to other infections. And the thing about other infections is that they can cause or worsen malnutrition.

Sick kids sometimes just aren't very hungry or don't want to eat. And even when they do eat, the calories they consume are directed towards fighting the infection rather than weight gain and growth.

It's clearly not ideal to stay in a malnourished state for any length of time.

40% of childhood deaths, world-wide, are of dual-cause: infection in the presence of malnutrition. That's kind of why it's such a big deal to be able to help families get medical care. Not all infections are easy to treat. Treatment for TB, for example, is a long and cumbersome undertaking for both families and health-care providers. The WHO believes that 74,000 children die from TB each year (WHO Global TB Report 2013). Severely malnourished children and children with HIV are the most susceptible to TB and the most likely to die because of it. And TB is just one example. There are plenty of yucky illnesses and infections ready to prey on the vulnerable. 

So, the getting healthy was important. 

But the moral of this story is the staying healthy. And our conclusion is that moms can. They absolutely can. These pictures in this post weren't before and after pictures showing the progress made when both mother and child were at Second Mile. These were taken a year later... The girls stayed healthy with their mothers and aunts and grandmas and uncles...at home... despite all of life's challenges and expenses.

So hat's off to you, mommas. And Happy Haitian Mother's Day!