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.
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.
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.
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.”