An Update on the Current Crisis in Haiti

Morale remains high at Second Mile, despite the worsening gas, economic, and political crises that are occurring in Haiti. The fuel shortages and political protests that have been happening on and off since February recently hit fever pitch (read our February update for more context). For weeks, protesters have been locking down the country to pressure the sitting president to step down. 

 The country is indeed shut down. School were supposed to open the first week in September, but most schools, government offices, and businesses remain closed.

 In the past four weeks, Second Mile has only been able to purchase gas twice. The stations are mostly closed and when fuel does arrive, police limit the amount each person can purchase. We currently have about 40 gallons which we can make last for one month. 

 “As an organization, we’re in the best possible place that we could be in,” reflected Amy Syres, Second Mile Haiti’s Program Director. “Because we rely entirely on solar power, we are relatively unaffected by the gasoline crisis. We really use so little gasoline.”

 Despite our relatively secure energy supply, another huge issue is logistics. Roadblocks by political demonstrators can make travel challenging at best, dangerous and impossible at worst. 

 The road closures impact the following: 

Photo from Common Dreams

Photo from Common Dreams

  • Staff members getting to and from work

  • Nutrition Center beneficiaries getting to and from the center on Fridays (going home) and Mondays (coming back)

  • Emergency transfers from the Maternity Center to the hospital

  • Sending supplies to the hospital for hospitalized Nutrition Center children

  • Purchasing supplies and medications (fortunately we are pretty stocked up, but occasionally we need to purchase specialty medications)

  • Pre- and post-natal visits, and births. Many women can still come for prenatal visits because they live close by and don't need to take any major roads to get to the center. But many women do need to take major roads to get to us. We were doing around 30 pre- and post-natal visits per day, but now the average is down to 17. While September was technically our busiest month in terms of births (we had 14), most of those happened at the beginning of the month. It has since become increasingly difficult to move about. 

Despite these happenings we've been able to continue to keep programs running and work towards achieving our remaining goals for the year. As Amy put it, “More than ever, we’re trying to be as creative as we can to ensure that our programs can weather any storms.” 

We are already pretty conservative when it comes to gasoline usage but we have had to make additional adjustments, like reducing the number of home and business visits we do. Last week we also changed the schedule so that we only have a skeleton staff onsite at the nutrition center (one nurse instead of two, one psychologist instead of three, etc.). We will continue this way for as long as necessary to limit the fuel spent getting staff to and from work, and to keep everyone safe. 

Last Friday was the first time it was too dangerous to send the caregivers and children back home for the weekend. All the mothers and children spent the weekend at the center. 

We continue to purchase all of our supplies in-country, and many of our purchases are made in the community where we work. The dollars that Second Mile spends are supporting people who are especially vulnerable during these challenging times. And we know that the gardens and the small businesses that women and other caregivers have started with Second Mile’s guidance and support are as important as ever. We are determined to continue building resilient, sustainable local economies alongside our neighbors here in Northern Haiti.

Thank you to all of our friends and supporters who have reached out to check on us. We will continue to post updates as the situation in Haiti develops.

Baby Chrissy's Journey to Health

Wislande received prenatal care at the Strong Start Maternity Center. She came to the center in labor at 33 weeks, and it was clear that her baby would be born prematurely and would likely need special care. We quickly transported Wislande to the hospital in our transfer vehicle. Baby Chrissy was born in the Sacre Coeur hospital in Northern Haiti in mid-May, and she was healthy but small. Strong Start midwives called and visited Wislande and Chrissy throughout their stay at the hospital. When they were discharged less than a week later, Chrissy weighing just 2.87 pounds, we anticipated the the pair would need some extra support.

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Unfortunately, Second Mile staff has worked with many underweight premature babies and their caregivers. Fortunately, over 98% of those babies have overcome malnutrition at Second Mile Malnutrition Treatment Center without relapsing. Chrissy’s case was unique in that she was able to gain strength exclusively through breastfeeding, and because she was treated in both the Strong Start Maternity Center and Second Mile’s Malnutrition Treatment Center. 

During their first week at the Treatment Center, Baby Chrissy was busy sleeping and breastfeeding, while Wislande attended her first group education class and met the members of her newest support system. Wislande learned how to perform “Kangaroo Care” with her newborn, which is a method of caring for a premature infant that emphasizes skin to skin contact for as much time as possible throughout the day. After quality time snuggling up to mom between breastfeeding sessions, Chrissy passed the 3 pound mark.

At the end of their first week at Second Mile's Malnutrition Treatment Center, instead of going home for the weekend like most families, the two headed down the road to Second Mile’s Strong Start Maternity Center for some additional support over the weekend. For the next five weeks, Christy and Wislande continued to split their time between the Nutrition Center during the week, where Wislande was able to attend classes and spend time with other moms and caregivers, and the Maternity Center in the evenings and weekends, where they welcomed long visits from family members and endless breastfeeding support from the midwives. 

Wislande was amazed. “I can’t believe it - every day she changes,” she remarked.

At that point, Chrissy had reached 5.6 lbs, a weight typically used to classify small babies at birth. In this case, her progress was nothing short of a miracle. Wislande was beaming with confidence in her ability to provide everything that Chrissy needs to survive and thrive. With that, they headed home, knowing that there is a brighter future ahead.

Using Multi-Media to Increase Second Mile's Reach in Haiti

Second Mile Haiti believes that everyone should have access to healthcare, nutrition, and education. Without one or more of these elements, life can be unbearably difficult. We work hard every day to ensure that everyone who walks into one of the Second Mile centers has access to all three. But we are just one organization with two centers in a country where the average adult has less than 5 years of schooling, where 22% of children are stunted, one in 20 children are severely malnourished, and the maternal mortality rate is 521 deaths for every 100,000 live births (in the United States, it’s 26. In Iceland, just one).

So at Second Mile, in between tending to births, teaching adult education classes, and working with caregivers and their children, we are dreaming and scheming of a Haiti where everyone has their basic needs met. Staff psychologist Stael had an idea: spread Second Mile’s lessons and practices through videos. That way, we can reach people who are in need of services like the ones we provide at Second Mile but who can’t physically make it to the centers.

Everyone was on board with the idea. The Second Mile psychologists Stael and Louino are in charge of the adult community education program, and the ones taking the lead on the videos project. The plan is to make a series of ten videos that will focus on the topics covered in the adult education curriculum, including nutrition, women’s health, family health, hygiene and sanitation, children’s health, and the environment. So we’re doing what we do best, but in a new format!

Second Mile staff, plus eight community members who have graduated from the community education program have been busy creating and practicing scripts, sketches, songs, and dances. By the amount of energy and passion going into the process of making the videos, we expect the final result to be very fun to watch.

Who doesn’t enjoy watching an entertaining, informative video? Plus, it’s an inclusive way to reach people who may not know how to read. The videos will be distributed via YouTube, WhatsApp, and directly to healthcare providers, clinics, hospitals, and organizations. One is already in production, so stay tuned!

Becoming a Machann Through Theatrical Measures

A machann in Haiti is a person who sells goods to make a living, usually in an outdoor market or storefront. They are businesspeople, often women, and they sell charcoal, fruit, electronics, health tonics, cold drinks, and just about everything else you can imagine. Machann in Haiti have developed creative strategies to respond to unmet needs in the market, collaborate with other sellers, and collectively establish specific calls for different goods (picture “Get your popcorn here!” in many variations and inflections). Being a machann is sought-after labor, but like starting any small business, it can be difficult, especially in Haiti’s tough economy.

A mother who has recently graduated from Second Mile Haiti’s Malnutrition Treatment program with her now healthy daughter and successful small business

A mother who has recently graduated from Second Mile Haiti’s Malnutrition Treatment program with her now healthy daughter and successful small business

Second Mile has been supporting caregivers to become machann through the small businesses portion of our Malnutrition Recovery program since 2014. In this time, over 450 motivated adults, most of whom are women, have started enterprises that will sustain their families economically and contribute to the local economy.

We’ve seen staggering success rates in the business program, no doubt thanks to our enthusiastic staff’s commitment to individualized and culturally-relevant adult education. (If you want to read more about the innovative educational program that Second Mile psychologist-educators Louino and Stael have created, check out our Community Education page.)

We know that it’s working because we have seen families who have graduated from the Malnutrition Center during close to 7,000 follow-up visits, and only 1.2% of their children have relapsed into malnutrition. But Second Mile Haiti doesn’t believe in the old adage “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” We believe that there’s always room for improvement!

Caregivers at Second Mile Haiti’s Malnutrition Treatment Center role play in preparation for opening their small businesses

Caregivers at Second Mile Haiti’s Malnutrition Treatment Center role play in preparation for opening their small businesses

We have the qualitative data to show that the business program is an important part of the amazing lasting change that we see as a result of the Malnutrition Treatment program. Families benefit from the whole package: life-saving medical interventions, adult education in literacy and health, and support in starting a small business to put their new lessons to the test in the real world. We wanted to understand how these separate parts work together to create a whole that is larger than the sum of its parts. So we decided to start collecting more quantitative data on how caregiver graduates’ businesses fare over time.

We started brainstorming ways to measure the success of small businesses in a way that would be beneficial to our continued understanding and analysis as well as to the caregivers. Then a lightbulb went off! What if we created a grading rubric that we used together with the caregivers so that they could self-evaluate and offer helpful feedback to their peers? We decided to try it out. Stael took the lead on creating a rubric and a plan, and we came up with a pretty neat role-playing activity. Well, we thought it was neat, but we needed to know if the caregivers would agree!


This past month we held the first focus group to test out the new idea. Twelve caregivers participated, each receiving an assignment to gather props from around the Center that could act as their store goods. After a scramble to find materials, one by one the caregivers acted out a business transaction with a “customer” (another caregiver). Then Stael presented a couple scenarios to see how the businesswomen might react:

What if you don’t have enough change for the customer at the end of the transaction? What would you do if you keep receiving requests for an item that you don’t currently stock? What if a customer is being impatient or even rude?

The caregivers found it helpful to walk through the process of running their business and to visualizing and practicing skills that they will need to be successful machann. As they move forward, we will to use the same familiar rubric and ask them to self-assess their successes and challenges over time. We hope that this will be a helpful way for both Second Mile and the graduated caregivers to think about what success looks like and then manifest it in a measurable way.

Labapen bouyiiiiiiii!

(boiled chestnuts for sale!)


The Celisnord-Michel Family Regaining Their Strength

Edith and her sons upon arriving at Second Mile Haiti’s Malnutrition Treatment Center

Edith and her sons upon arriving at Second Mile Haiti’s Malnutrition Treatment Center

A happy Celisnord-Michel family in recovery from severe acute malnutrition

A happy Celisnord-Michel family in recovery from severe acute malnutrition

When mother Edith Michel showed up at the Second Mile Treatment Center, both of her sons were very sick with severe acute malnutrition. When children get to this stage of malnutrition, they require urgent medical care in order to survive.

Edith knew that she needed to get help fast. So she traveled over three hours across Northern Haiti from the town of Port-Margot because she had heard of a center that could really, truly help. Not hand her some supplements and send her home. But welcome her and her children in and support them until they were back on their feet. She found it: the Second Mile Treatment Center.

Ryan, who turned one in February, and Karl, who turned two in February, have been with their mother at the Second Mile Treatment Center since January 30th. We immediately started monitoring their health, providing supplemental nutrition, and working closely with mom Edith so that she feels confident in her ability to prevent relapse in the future.

As you can see, the boys' health has been totally transformed!

We were not seeing giggles and smiles like this from Ryan and Karl just 10 weeks before. And Edith is glowing and brimming with ideas for how to apply her new knowledge and skills to keeping her family happy and healthy.

These little guys' transformation is all thanks to their mother's persistence, the Second Mile staff who were there to offer medical services to respond to their immediate needs, and to our Fierce monthly supporters. 

How Second Mile is Using Data and Technology to Go the Whole Nine Yards


Recently, Second Mile Haiti took some baby steps towards tech-savviness. Namely, we installed a new network server that allows us to streamline data input between our three main programs: the Malnutrition Treatment Center, the Strong Start Maternity Center, and our Community Outreach program.

What’s the big deal?

Well, these baby steps are just the beginning of leaps and bounds that we will be taking in the near future to leverage data and technology to make a greater health impact! Our long-term vision is to have a mobile app and centralized database that can be used by Second Mile Haiti as well as other clinics around the country.

National, standardized data on malnutrition and maternal health = more effective allocation of resources = less malnutrition in Haiti.

But we have to start somewhere!


So we started by establishing our own internal server that hosts all of our data in one place. We’ve been collecting data from the Treatment Center since 2014, on the Community Outreach program since 2016, and on the Maternity Center since March 2018. Just a year ago, just seven Second Mile Haiti staff were set up to use mobile and tablet technology to monitor our programs. Now we have 17 staff connecting in order to upload data and photos, analyze data, share reports, generate invoices, and more.

Basically, if we’re doing it, we’re measuring it. And if we’re measuring it, it’s going into one centralized digital database.

This helps us to run our programs more efficiently, sell our homemade natural products like coconut oil, keep photo-records of each of the malnutrition patients that we treat, track our impact on maternal health, and more. It also helps us generate the monthly report that we share with the Haitian Health Ministry MSPP.

This development marks the beginning of our journey towards nationally standardized data collection and management.  In the future, we plan to work with other clinics to use the same or similar metrics that can be shared via a mobile app. This will give MSPP more information on:

  1. the prevalence of malnutrition in different areas of the country,

  2. the types of interventions that are effectively treating malnutrition,

  3. potentially, the types of interventions that are effectively preventing malnutrition,

  4. relapse rates, and

  5. areas that need more access to healthcare.

Right now, we are just one small organization with a fancy new network server. But our programs’ success in treating and preventing malnutrition are being noticed by neighboring clinics and by the Haitian Health Ministry. In the future, we hope that the data will speak for itself, making it easier for clinics across the nation to collaborate on ending malnutrition for good.

Answering Your Strong Start Maternity Center Questions

Last week as part of our celebration of the FIRST BIRTH at Strong Start Maternity Center (hip-hip-hooray for healthy baby Stanley!), we asked YOU what you would like to know about Second Mile Haiti'’s relatively new maternal health program.

You asked some great questions, so let’s get to them!

Q: How many pregnant women are currently on the waiting list to give birth at Strong Start Maternity Center?

A: There are currently 76 women on the calendar set to give birth in the next nine months. This number will likely keep climbing every month until we hit our maximum capacity. We are committed to serving as many women as we can while maintaining the high standard of care.

Shout out to our Fierce Community whose support makes this all possible!

Q. How long will women receive care after their birth?

A: When women come to Strong Start Maternity Center in labor, we support and monitor them through their labor and assist them as they give birth. After baby is born, we encourage the mother to stay at Strong Start for a minimum of 24 hours. After that period, if everything looks good, we send mom and baby home. If there’s a problem, we keep monitoring them at our center for 72 hours. If they have complications that require them to be transferred to a hospital during this time, we transfer them.

Q: How do Strong Start Maternity Staff respond in the case of complications? What is the plan in the case if emergencies?

A: We have a comprehensive list of criteria to determine when we would transfer a woman to a hospital. This could happen during the course of prenatal care, such as in the case of preeclampsia or severe anemia. Anytime there’s an emergency during labor, we have our transfer vehicle on site and all of our staff are trained on the emergency plan, from making sure the driver gets notified immediately, to putting the oxygen tank in the car, to grabbing the emergency birth kit so that we can monitor the woman’s vital signs and potentially deliver a baby in the car. All of the nurses and midwives are trained in best practices in monitoring so that we can anticipate problems and act quickly if it becomes clear that a women will not be able to give birth with us.

The hospital where we transfer women, Hospital Sacre Couer, is a reputable hospital about 15 minutes away where we have great relationships with doctors and staff. For each case, we call them in advance so that the woman gets checked into the hospital with all of the relevant information that we have on her case.

Obviously we hope that hospital transfers don’t need to happen often, but we are well prepared and connected for when they do!

Q: Do women served at Strong Start Maternity Center also receive educational classes like caregivers at the Malnutrition Treatment Center? Are these women also supported in starting businesses?

A: Women who come to the Strong Start Maternity Center do not receive business kits, but we do offer educational opportunities at Strong Start for women who come for prenatal care. Throughout their pregnancies, these women have access to a series of prenatal classes. There are eight subjects in total, and each Thursday we cycle through one of the eight subjects. Women keep a punch card so that they can keep track of the number of classes they have attended, and this corresponds to slightly discounted rates for delivery assistance at the Center. The regular price for birth care is 500 gourdes (just over $6 US). The discounted rate for women who attend at least four prenatal classes is 400 gourdes (just less than $5 US), and for women who attend all eight classes, it is reduced to 300 gourdes (or $3.70 US). We believe that most women would opt to attend as many classes as possible regardless of the discount, but we like to sweeten the deal as an extra incentive to attend all eight classes. The discount may also serve as a “good excuse” for women who have many other responsibilities and family pressures.

The class subjects are:

  1. Pregnancy 101: The adults who enter Second Mile Haiti’s centers average a third to fourth grade education level, so many missed the classic sperm-meets-the-egg talk. In this class, we talk about what to expect during pregnancy, the biological processes that lead to conception, and everything that’s happening during the body during pregnancy.

  2. Prenatal care: In this class, we demystify the care that women receive during prenatal visits by explaining what kind of care women will receive during prenatal visits and why. We go over what to expect during an ultrasounds; why we preform various tests, and what we will do to provide care or transfer to hospital in case we find an issue through these tests.

  3. Protecting yourself during pregnancy. In this class we go over danger signs, how women can identify if they are experiencing these signs, and how they can get help if they are in danger.

  4. Nutrition and pregnancy: Here we talk about how paying attention to what women eat while they’re pregnant can give their babies a strong start and keep mom healthy!

  5. Preparing for delivery: In this class, we go over what to expect throughout the process of labor and share some techniques for dealing with the pain of labor. This is also a great chance for first-timers to learn from the stories and experiences of other moms who have been through it before.

  6. Nourishment for newborns. In this class we look at everything that baby will need in his or her first days and months out in the world, and of course, the wonderful and wild world of breastfeeding.

  7. Early care for newborns. Any mom can relate to the question: What do I need to do for my baby when they’re first born? And what do I do if something goes wrong? In this class we answer those questions and identify signs that a baby is sick and needs care.

  8. The postpartum period. Lest we forget this extremely important topic! In this class, women learn practical tips and tools on how to best take care of themselves after their birth, plus suggestions that they can share with friends and family who are available to help out. We also go over postpartum depression, family planning, and what to expect when becoming sexually active again.

Q: What are all of the prenatal services that women receive at the Strong Start Maternity Center?

All of the prenatal services that we provide at the Strong Start Maternity Center are intended to give each woman a strong foundation of health and knowledge so that she can keep herself and her child as healthy as possible.

Aside from offering a woman the series of eight educational classes described above, we also perform lab tests for hemoglobin, STI’s, and UTI’s; we check her weight and blood pressure; we predict her due date through ultrasounds; and we check the woman’s fundal height (aka belly size) to make sure baby is growing at a healthy rate. Women also receive vitamins and family planning services.

This is all done to identify any complications as soon as possible and to make sure that each woman receives the proper care for her unique pregnancy.

If we do identify complications, we can treat many of them in-house at the Strong Start Maternity Center. We regularly treat UTI’s, STI’s such a syphilis for the women and her partner(s), mild to moderate anemia, high blood pressure due to chronic hypertension, and mild to moderate malnutrition. Women with malnutrition receive the nutritional supplement Plumpy’Sup which is similar to what malnourished children receive at Second Mile’s Treatment Center.

Some complications necessitate transfer to a hospital, which we facilitate. We refer women to hospitals for HIV/AIDS, severe anemia, severe malnutrition, or preeclampsia.

Q: How do women in need of your service find you?

A: At the very beginning, Second Mile Haiti staff did walk-throughs in surrounding areas to let people know that we were about to open the Strong Start Maternity Center and to give information about the hours of operation. We also posted a few signs in nearby communities that remind women of the three days of the week that we’re open for prenatal visits. Since then, women let each other know through word-of-mouth. We keep receiving more and more women each month, so our relatively passive marketing strategy seems to be effective!

Q: How can I support the Strong Start Maternity Center?

I’m glad you’re asking! There are a few things we need your help with.

  1. We need more supporters to give monthly.

  2. We need more supporters to give monthly.

  3. We need more supporters to give monthly.

I said there were a few things we needed your help with but… really it comes down to just one.

We still need 23 friends to join the “Fierce 40.” The Fierce 40 are monthly donors who give any amount of their choosing each month to sustain the services we provide at the Strong Start Maternity Center. If you see the value in the services we provide and think that women in Haiti should have access to these services, please join the Fierce 40 today!

We couldn’t do this without your support. Thank you!

Mirvensly and Dawensly

An Update on the Civil Unrest in Haiti

You may have seen some articles, or at least Facebook updates, on the situation in Haiti. Thank you to everyone who is paying attention to what’s been happening and to those checking in on the Second Mile Haiti team. Here is a brief update on the civil unrest that has the country on lockdown and how we’re coping at Second Mile Haiti.

Protesters have been demonstrating against government corruption, gas shortages, a devaluating national currency, and a spike in prices for basic goods like rice. For the past ten days, these protests have blocked many major roads, most businesses have been closed, and most citizens who are not protesting have sheltered in place. At this point, there is little electricity, gas is hard to come by, many people are running out of drinking water and food, and people cannot afford to eat.

The Second Mile Haiti staff sprang into action on the protests’ “rest day” to purchase supplies that will be used at the Treatment Center and the Maternity Center.

The Second Mile Haiti staff sprang into action on the protests’ “rest day” to purchase supplies that will be used at the Treatment Center and the Maternity Center.

Jacqueline Charles, one of the leading journalists on Haiti, wrote that the situation is affecting many hospitals, and that women with complicated pregnancies are especially vulnerable at this time. Government hospitals have gone on strike for lack of pay, and many international aid agencies have evacuated. Among many very serious issues facing Haitian people in this moment, pregnant women and sick children are particularly vulnerable because there are more barriers to accessing care than usual.

The U.S. State Department issued a Level 4 “do not travel to Haiti” advisory for U.S. citizens. The Canadian Embassy evacuated over 100 Canadian citizens via helicopter. We certainly agree that it is better to err on the side of caution and to ensure safety. Here in Northern Haiti, we are taking the precautions that we feel are necessary while remaining on the ground.

Second Mile Haiti is not struggling in the same ways as other organizations when it comes to electricity since both of our properties are 100% solar. This has allowed us to keep the centers open. However, our employees have had difficulty coming and going both because of road blocks caused by protestors and because transportation options are limited due to extreme gas prices.

Last week, we strategically picked up our program managers, psychologists, and nurses so that we could keep programs running. But on Tuesday of this week, in light of all the blockades and increasing uncertainty about whether protests would become more heated, we made the decision to send all the nutrition center beneficiaries in the residential program home with provisions to be able to continue their care from afar.

The Strong Start Maternity Center has seen a record number of prenatal visits these past ten days, which just shows the extent to which expecting mothers will sacrifice to ensure their pregnancies are on track. Some women have had to arrive on motorcycles through roadblocks, while others have walked. In a situation where so many hospitals and clinics are closed or inaccessible, we are thankful that we are able to continue providing care at the Maternity Center.

During the week of lockdown, women have been getting creative with transportation to the Strong Start Maternity Center, doing anything necessary to make sure their pregnancies are on track. Here women ride in a truck that will only be able to take them so far on backroads before they reach roadblocks and have to descend on foot.

During the week of lockdown, women have been getting creative with transportation to the Strong Start Maternity Center, doing anything necessary to make sure their pregnancies are on track. Here women ride in a truck that will only be able to take them so far on backroads before they reach roadblocks and have to descend on foot.

Saturday was a “rest day,” which meant that the protests slowed down to allow for people to get supplies like food and water. The Second Mile Haiti team sprung to action early this morning to purchase food, medicine, formula, and even some construction materials. Protests are expected to pick up again tomorrow and last through the week.

Our founder Jenn Schenk said, “We are preparing for how we can conserve our resources but also be a shelter for our community members, beneficiaries, and employees (should the power and food situation continue to decline). I am feeling very blessed by our position in the community and the resources we have at our disposal both through connections here and because of our amazing community of supporters.”

For those who have been asking how they can support Second Mile Haiti at this time, we don’t need emergency materials or funding (and hopefully things will not escalate to that level), but we have been asking people to sign up as monthly donors to support the costs of running the Strong Start Maternity Center. Monthly donations help us to remain a constant presence and care provider in Northern Haiti, in times of peace as well as times of struggle.

We will do our best to keep everyone updated as we continue to provide care for women and children in Northern Haiti.

While many hospitals and clinics were closed or inaccessible due to the “lockdown” in Haiti in February 2019, the Strong Start Maternity center received a record number of women coming in for prenatal visits.

While many hospitals and clinics were closed or inaccessible due to the “lockdown” in Haiti in February 2019, the Strong Start Maternity center received a record number of women coming in for prenatal visits.

Three Moms' Stories

At the Second Mile Treatment Center, we receive all types of caregivers: aunts, dads, grandmothers, cousins, and other family members who keep and care for children who are recovering from malnutrition. In celebration of the Strong Start Maternity Center starting to host births this month, we want to focus in on mothers.

Last year, 83% of the caregivers at the recovery center were moms. These are women fighting for their children. They excelled in the program and made incredible steps to absorb all of the education and opportunity given to them. They left the center ready and excited to keep and care for their kids. These are the stories of three of these superhero moms.

Mom 1: Meet 27-year-old Rosenie. She and her daughter, Fabiola, came to the center after spending eight days in the hospital because Fabiola was severely malnourished. Rosenie has four children of her own but cares for a total of seven. When she came to the center, she had only finished one year of school, meaning that she never had the opportunity to learn to read and write.

During their stay, Rosenie learned a lot, asked questions, and played the primary part in her daughter's recovery. When they left to go home, Fabiola had gained four pounds and Rosenie scored a 96% on her exit exam, a 67% increase from her initial score!

"She didn't walk, now he walks. She wasn't developing, now she has made a lot of progress. She used to cry, now she plays and smiles." 

Fabiola and Rosenie received their first business package just before the holidays. This family is ready and equipped to have a strong 2019!

Mom 2: Meet Charline. She is the Mom of Dieudeson, a two-year-old who spent five weeks at the center last year. When they arrived at the center, Dieudeson was sick, and it had been over a year since Charline had been able to gain regular income.

 Charline has another child as well as Dieudeson, and was struggling to provide for them. When she arrived, she scored a 48% on the entry exam (which is completely normal given that quality education can be hard to come by in rural Northern Haiti), but after her time at the center, she graduated with a 94%! Charline sees so much change in Dieudeson, and we can see so much change in Charline. This family of three recently received their first income generating business package, which Charline will put to good use to reinforce the positive changes she’s seen in her child.

"Dieudeson’s hair was red and dry, but now it has returned to normal. His stomach, feet, and face were swollen, but now they are normal. He had a fever all the time, but now he feels well. Now he is smiling and playing as he should be." 

Mom 3: Lastly, meet Julande, the 18-year-old mother of Judelin. Before having her son, she was a student. She loves to learn! When she arrived at the center, her son was just one month old and severely underweight. When they arrived, little Judelin needed to go to the hospital to be seen by a doctor and have some blood tests done. Mom was exhausted and struggling, and Judelin was too.

 They graduated from the recovery center with Judelin weighing almost 10 pounds (an 80% increase from his entry weight)! And the icing on the cake: Julande scored 100% on her exit exam! They received an income-generating package this month which will help this motivated young mom to earn money and save for their future.

"Second Mile helped me to cover Judelin’s hospital bills and to get all of the care that we both needed. I found education, milk for my child, food for myself, and a secure place to sleep. He wasn't developing as he should for his age - he was tiny. Now he is gaining weight, developing, and he even smiles!"

We say BRAVO! These women have walked a hard road. They're overcoming poverty, illness, lack of access to education, and SO much more. We will ALWAYS be here to provide services for moms and other caregivers who need help caring for their children. But we have another vision: a future where moms like Judlande, Charline, and Rosenie don’t need Second Mile’s Treatment Center, because their children never become malnourished in the first place.

Right now, you can help make this vision reality by becoming one of our fierce, monthly supporters.

If you want to see healthy moms give birth to healthy kids (that stay healthy) this opportunity is for you. Starting February 25th women who had low-risk pregnancies will have the opportunity to deliver their babies at Strong Start Maternity Center.

For the past 11 months, women have been coming to the Maternity Center with the goal of keeping themselves and their soon-to-be newborns healthy and safe. Now, these women will get a chance to see their newborns into the world here, in the presence of skilled midwives, in a facility committed to care for them with the utmost compassion and respect.

It’s going to be beautiful and hard, messy and glorious. We want you with us.

And we need you with us.

Help us reach our goal of 40 new Fierce Partners before February 25th.

2018 in review

It’s been another 365 action-packed days around the sun! Here in Northern Haiti, the Second Mile team is still basking in that sentimental feeling after getting some much needed rest and family time during the holiday season.

 We feel grateful for the privilege of taking time at the end of each year to reflect, reinforce our relationships with family and friends, relax, and prepare for the work to come. And from our recognition of that privilege comes a sense of urgent responsibility.

 At Second Mile Haiti, we feel that it is our responsibility to use our skills and resources to expand access to the same rights and privileges that we have. At the very least, sick children should be able get the rest they need to recover, and families should be able to stay together throughout their most difficult times rather than forced apart. And access to quality healthcare should be a right for all so that kids never have to experience malnutrition in the first place.

We have a long way to go before the biggest worry for most families in Northern Haiti around this time of year is what New Year’s resolution to adopt. But with your sustained support, change is possible. Piti piti. Little by little. 

We’re already racing into 2019.

But before we get too far down the road, let’s take a look at some 2018 highlights that have us smiling:

  • A fierce group of supporters decided to stand with women and families by signing on as monthly donors to support the Strong Start Maternity Center. Because of their tenacity and commitment to maternal and infant health, they are known as the Fierce 50!

  • Thanks to the support of the Fierce 50 and other generous contributions, we finished phase one of the Strong Start Maternity Center and started accepting patients for prenatal care, holding education classes, and offering expecting parents other holistic health services such as psychological support. It’s a landmark accomplishment for us to be providing women the care they deserve while helping them give their children a Strong Start. 234 were served at Strong Start during the last nine months of 2018.

  • Our staff grew from 28 to 38! We’re proud to be providing local employment for skilled health services professionals like skilled birth attendants, nurses, and psychologists, as well as operational technicians, gardeners, and… how would we describe Blaise? Chief-yogurt-maker-entrepreneur-biologists. Three of our newest team members are phenomenal midwives who are now the backbone of Strong Start's maternal health program. These Haitian midwives are bringing their strong backgrounds in Maternal Health, coupled with the continuing education and additional training they received this year to improve outcomes for mothers and their babies.

  • Our adult education programs now have more livelihood opportunities that are specifically tailored to the needs, strengths, and interests of each individual. New customized business plans integrate animal commerce, husbandry, and agricultural classes that help adults maintain income streams and access to healthy food all year round.

  • Thanks to our dedicated staff and to amazing supporters like you, 105 children recovered from severe acute malnutrition and 138 critically ill children had their medical expenses paid. That definitely has us feeling good about 2018.

If you are a Second Mile Haiti supporter, YOU made these highlights possible. From all of us here at Second Mile: Mèsi! / Thank you!

Thank you for standing with Second Mile Haiti to keep families together and help women and children thrive. We are so grateful for all the many ways you supported kids, parents, and communities in 2018; and we look forward to another exciting year together!

We’re gearing up for another big year that will contain many important small steps. Here’s a peek of the big things to come in 2019:

  • Our community of monthly supporters will have a new name and new ways to participate in Second Mile’s impact and progress! If you want to get in on the action early, visit this link and choose “Yes” to the question “Would you like to make this a recurring donation?”

  • We will finish up construction of the postpartum unit at Strong Start Maternity Center and expect the first birth in February 2019! Throughout the year we will support hundreds of women in giving birth safely at the Birth Center. You know that unmistakable new baby smell? Not to sound weird, but we’ll be getting a lot of that this year.

  • We’ll be purchasing a “tap-tap” (a retrofitted truck taxi) from the 2018 Holiday Catalog to make our own public transportation route. This way women won’t have to walk as far to get to our centers. Which means more access to critical health services for the most under-served in our corner of Northern Haiti.

  • You’ll be hearing a lot more about neighboring health clinics this year as we increase outreach and collaboration with these important local partners. We recognize the need to work together to stop malnutrition in its tracks!

  • A group of young people from our community will have a chance to participate in a sexual health course led by their peers! These Peer-Health Educators have already started receiving their train and are excited to continue to equip themselves over the next few weeks.

  • We’ll soon be launching a new website that we hope will make it easier to learn more about Second Miles’ objectives and to stay informed on our progress towards those goals. Keep an eye out our new and improved look!

With our refreshed sense of purpose and a strengthened resolve, we will continue working with families in Northern Haiti for healing and health, for recovery and strength, and for togetherness. We hope you’ll stay with us and help to forge a brighter future.

This must change.

Did you see the news?

Second Mile Haiti just broke ground on the Postpartum Unit at Strong Start Maternity Center.

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What’s a postpartum unit? And why are we building one? 

Good questions. 

We’re building a postpartum unit because you can’t give women a safe place to give birth without also creating a safe space for them to rest, recuperate and bond with their new babies.

But let’s back up a bit further.

As you may know, Second Mile Haiti set off on a grand adventure last year when we announced plans to build a Maternal Health Care facility in Northern Haiti.

The location for the new center was situated just down the road from our flagship facility, the Rehabilitation Center where we help children and their families during and after their recovery from Severe Acute Malnutrition. 

Bird’s eye view of the Rehabilitation Center.

Bird’s eye view of the Rehabilitation Center.

After 5 years of standing with families in this way, we knew we had to do something more to support families, and we needed to do this long before their kids got sick. 

So we got to work.

Second Mile Psychologist, Staelle, at the recovery center with caregiver Odette whose daughter died while giving birth to twin girls Christine and Christella (not pictured).

Second Mile Psychologist, Staelle, at the recovery center with caregiver Odette whose daughter died while giving birth to twin girls Christine and Christella (not pictured).

Through the help of many dedicated Second Mile supporters, the Maternity Center opened for prenatal care at the end of March. Currently, our staff of three dedicated Haitian midwives provide prenatal care and postnatal check-ins three days a week, while offering family planning to local families on alternate days. 

Head Midwife, Josephine Cossier, counsels a prenatal client at Strong Start.

Head Midwife, Josephine Cossier, counsels a prenatal client at Strong Start.

But the vision for Strong Start was never supposed to stop there. And here’s why:

New data was recently released which reveals that 1 in 12 Haitian children will not live to see their fifth birthday (up from 1 in 14 in 2015). 1


Why do kids die? The reasons are varied, sad, and complex, but here’s the silver lining: 

We know enough about why kids die to know how we can help them survive. 

We know that least 50% of those deaths are at least partially caused by Malnutrition and 75% of them occur within the first year of life. 2    We also know that malnutrition is 100% preventable and common childhood illnesses like pneumonia and diarrhea can also be prevented. 

Caregiver at Second Mile’s Rehabilitation Center models hand hygiene for her young sister.

Caregiver at Second Mile’s Rehabilitation Center models hand hygiene for her young sister.

We know that babies born too early or too small are more likely to have health complications that could lead to their death. But we also know how to diagnose and treat many of the pregnancy complications that contribute to high rates of premature birth in Haiti. 

In other words, through prenatal care we can ensure that more babies stay in the cooker as long as possible.

Client at Strong Start gets an ultrasound to rule out pregnancy complications

Client at Strong Start gets an ultrasound to rule out pregnancy complications

Finally, we know that an alive mother makes all the difference. Children whose mothers have died are 10% more likely to die young than children whose mothers are still living. 

How often is pregnancy deadly for women in Haiti? Too often.

A woman in Haiti is at least 3,000 times more likely to die of pregnancy-related causes than a woman in the United States or Canada.

Right now, 1 in every 189 births results in a mother’s death and 1 out of every 50 Haitian women will die of maternal causes. 3

A client at Strong Start gets her blood pressure screened to rule out hypertension and preeclampsia, a dangerous pregnancy complication.

A client at Strong Start gets her blood pressure screened to rule out hypertension and preeclampsia, a dangerous pregnancy complication.

THIS. MUST. CHANGE. And you can help.

We wouldn’t share the heartbreaking statistics if there wasn’t a way to change them. 

Skilled maternal-health workers save lives.

At Strong Start, our three talented midwives have a combined total of 14 years of higher education and they are more than ready to step up to the crisis at hand.

At Second Mile Haiti we are nearly ready to add labor and delivery to the list of services offered at the Maternity Center. But there are a few things we need your help with before we can begin.

  1. We need more supporters to give monthly.

  2. We need more supporters to give monthly.

  3. We need more supporters to give monthly.

Now, I said there were a few things we needed your help with but really it comes down to just one.

Here’s the thing, we would never promise to offer a service we couldn’t sustain. Monthly supporters are exactly that. Sustainers. 

mothers and babies.jpg

If you truly want to get involved in changing lives become a monthly donor today. 

There’s one more thing. 

And it’s a biggie. 

We also know that breastfeeding saves lives. But breastfeeding is hard. And it doesn’t always happen for mothers and their newborns on the first, the second, or even the tenth attempt. But here’s what we know. 

We know that mothers and babies who are able to establish successful breastfeeding within the first hour of life are infinitely more likely to have success in the subsequent days and months. 


That’s where the postpartum unit comes in. If you’ve given birth or know someone who has you may recall that feeding the baby is a big deal. Entire hospital are changing almost everything about what they do in the hours after baby is born so that parents and babies can get the breastfeeding thing down. 

To learn more about this project and the funds needed to complete it, email us at

To learn more about this project and the funds needed to complete it, email us at

Women in Haiti should have the same support… more support in fact, not less. The stakes are that high. 


You can help keep mothers alive….. and newborns alive….. and keep families together. Give today to help us finish.

The need

The need

Are you interested in knowing more about what the deal is with Strong Start? How do we know there is even a need? What are women doing now for labor and delivery? Does prenatal care really make that big of a difference in keeping families together?

I’m glad you asked!

This fall, we interviewed 100 people within 5 km around the recovery center to get specific information on just that. Here is what we found:

Only a few more weeks to go!


Every few weeks we post a picture like this one. You get a nice aerial shot of bricks, and boards, and rocks and trees. And if you’ve been following along, these photos are exciting! 

But for some of you, these photos might leave you wanting more. More information! More progress updates! More answers!

Who will we serve? What services will we offer? When will we start?!

No fear! In just a few days you can hear the answers to these questions and more during a Facebook Live on Saturday, February 10th. 

But in the meantime...

If you’re wondering "why a Maternity Center?" here’s the scoop: 

Too many women don’t have access to quality maternal care and necessary education during their pregnancies. As a result, life-threatening complications like anemia, infections, and pre-eclampsia go undiagnosed and untreated. This affects not only women and the children they will bring into this world, but entire communities. The health of women affects us all! 

Today, thousands of Haitian women die each year as a result of pregnancy and childbirth. And one in 25 infants don't live past the first 30 days of life. We’d like to stop that.

How will we make a difference and when will we start? 

The Strong Start Maternity Center will serve women and families in Northern Haiti by offering quality maternal care-- identifying complications before it’s too late-- and providing care and follow-up for mothers and newborns in the critical postpartum window and beyond. 

We start on February 26th. Yes, this February. In just 29 days!

We will start by providing prenatal care and education and eventually, we will open the birthing and postpartum unit. As they say in Haiti “piti piti zwazo fè nich li.” Little by little the bird makes it’s nest.” Only time will tell how fast and how far we grow.

Ready for a tour? 


Here's the Prenatal Clinic. In this building there are four consultation rooms, one supply room/laboratory, one electrical room, and three offices.

What will happen in each of this rooms? From Monday through Thursday pregnant women will come for their initial and follow-up consultations. Midwives will help women know how far along they are in their pregnancy, screen and test for complications, provide education, make a birth plan, and see to each women’s specific nutritional needs.

We will be able to test for and treat anemia and common STIs to avoid the severe consequences these conditions pose for mother and child. We will be able to monitor and attend to women with high-blood pressure and provide special care for women with certain risk factors, including helping women access life-saving care when complications arise.

Can you imagine losing your partner or mother because of an undiagnosed pregnancy complication? Can you imagine leaving your kids without a mother because you didn’t have access to a prenatal vitamin?

That stops here.

During their visits both during pregnancy and postpartum, women can meet with a psychologist, discuss their health concerns, and get lactation support.

Here’s what’s happening on site: The roof is being installed in three phase--- the first two phases are already finished! And by next Friday, the final phase will be complete.

We started tiling the consultation rooms and offices this week. That too, will be finished at the end of this week. Next week, we will install the windows and doors and paint the rooms.


By mid-week, next week, we will have started laying brick in the waiting area. And most importantly, the plumbing and electricity will also be finished by the end of next week. The goal is to finish the Prenatal Clinic completely by Feb 9th!

Isn't that a lot of work?! Yes. But as long as we remember to breath in and out we can definitely pull this off.

Alright, let's take the walkway, and head out to the Education Center.


This lovely walkway will soon be covered in brick and provide passage from the prenatal waiting area to the education building.

The cement work on the education building is nearly finished and we have been busy cutting out frames for the roof. We hope to start directing our attention to the roof next week. As you can see, the masons have been quite busy. Just look at those shiny, smooth walls!

The Education Center is the heart of our efforts. We want women to have all the information they need to take care of themselves and their children. The center will be open for prenatal classes Monday-Thursday, new mother courses on Fridays, and on the weekends for family-oriented classes geared towards partners and support people. 

Imagine the Education Centre looking very similar to this image.

Imagine the Education Centre looking very similar to this image.

Standing in the education center and looking back towards prenatal building, you can catch a glimpse of our Founder's Wall. We are so honored to be working alongside so many passionate individuals to make this dream a reality. This wall sets those partnerships in stone... pun intended. While the names have yet to be inscribed, this is where Strong Start's Founding Members will be able to find their names. "Founding Members" are monthly donors and anyone else who has contributed $250 to become a Founding Member. 


We still have several blocks waiting to be claimed. If you want to be a founding member, join us as a monthly donor or contribute $250 to the buildings here. We'll start inscribing names on Feb. 17th. 


And last but certainly not least: What about food and water? Do we have access to water? Will women and their families have access to healthy food on site? Yes and yes. 

We are working hard to finish two supporting structures: the Outdoor Kitchen and the Water Tower. 

The water tower is located next to the well we dug when this project was first getting start. A pump in the base of the well will pump water into a tank on the tower. The ground work for this system has already been laid, meaning just as soon as it's finished, we will have running water throughout the facility. 

The outdoor kitchen will be a place that families can purchase meals at cost during pre and postnatal visits, during education classes, and even in the future when families come to the center to deliver. We will also be providing Chaya and eggs (a protein-rich, green snack) to all women who attend Prenatal Visits.

Imagine the smells of rich, Haitian foods and groups of women nourishing themselves with a healthy meal. A courtyard eating area (not yet pictured) will be a lovely place to stop and sit for spell.

The base of the site's storage room and water tower. 

The base of the site's storage room and water tower. 

As you can see, construction has been moving fast. Now that you’re up to speed, you may be wondering how you can help us prepare to open the center on February 26th. 

We still need the following items and/or donations to cover the costs of purchasing these items.

1)  2 Ultrasound Probes ($1100 each)

2) 2 Ipads

Does anyone have an extra iPad just laying around collecting dust? Let us know! We are looking for two iPads in good condition, generation 3 or later. The iPads will be used with the ultrasound technology and also for Electronic Patient Records. Email Jenn:

3)  1 Solar Suitcase- ($1500)

The Solar Suitcase is a complete solar electric system that includes two 20 watt solar panels, a 14 amp-hour lithium ferrous phosphate battery, a 15A charge controller, two rechargeable LED headlamps and a phone charger. The Basic Plus Solar Suitcase offers, a AA/AAA battery charger with batteries, and a fetal Doppler.  The suitcase will provide enough power to get us

4)  Solar Chargers and Outdoor Lamps-$250

We will buy an assortment of solar chargers and lamps to help provide addtional power.

5)  2 massage tables- $300

The massage tables, sold here in Haiti, will be used as patient exam tables.

Want to contribute towards any of these items? 


We hope you enjoyed your tour and we hope to see you soon as a Founding Member of the Strong Start Maternity Center.  If you want to receive news and updates, be sure to sign up for our newsletter today. We promise to send only the best to your inbox. 

xx Thanks for reading!







Day 27

This sweet look between an aunt and her niece has been making our hearts soar. Today, we'd like to tell you their story. 

2017-12-8 Joalyne And Aunt - 9 of 10.jpg

When they arrived at the recovery center, Judeline had been caring for her newborn niece, Joalyne, for just 21 days. Joalyne's mother had died just 6 days after her birth, likely due to complications from an unassisted delivery. 

Without access to breastmilk, Judeline had no choice but to feed the baby from the foods that were available to her. Judeline was an experienced mother; she had already given birth to three healthy boys herself. However, this situation was a new one. 

She knew that the pharmacies in the city sold special milk for newborn babies, but when she asked someone about the price, she realized that  a single can cost more money than she had to feed her entire family of five for a week. 

She simply did not have the money to purchase expensive formula. 

Instead, she did her best, making plaintain porridge and splurging on cans of Gerber baby food when she could. Inevitably, these foods were too harsh for a baby not yet a month old and they weren't providing enough nutrition. Rather than gaining weight like healthy babies should, Joalyne was loosing it. 

Joalyne - 27 days old, 5.2 lbs

Joalyne - 27 days old, 5.2 lbs

A friend and former graduate of Second Mile Haiti, Yglie Pierre, began to take note. She knew the signs of malnutrition and she knew that babies who did not breastfeed were at risk. She also knew that feeding a newborn solid foods too early could lead to malnutrition. She had unknowingly made the same mistake with her own daughter. 

Her own experience with malnutrition had left Yglie acutely aware that if things didn't change, her friend's newborn niece would not have much longer on this earth. She told Judeline about the recovery center, where she knew that education and infant formula would be available to help.

When they arrived at the center, the baby had been without adequate nutrition for 27 days. She weighed 5.2 lbs. 

2017-9-12 Joalyne Admission - 10 of 10.jpg

Though she was 7 months pregnant herself, Judeline agreed to participate in the recovery program. They stayed Monday through Friday until Joalyne made a full and complete recovery. She gained 4.7 lbs.

Judeline became the caretaker of her infant niece the moment her sister succumbed to complications of childbirth. Her bond with Joalyne began during those first 21 days while she was doing everything in her power to keep the new baby alive. 

But when she got to Second Mile Haiti 'everything in her power' changed drastically. And so did her relationship with her niece. 

November 22, 2017 - Judeline and Joalyne at the Recovery Center

November 22, 2017 - Judeline and Joalyne at the Recovery Center

Each day that Judeline watched Joalyne grow and respond to her loving care, their bond grew deeper.

Their bond grew the more she was able to relax into her new knowledge about how to care for a baby that didn't have access to her mother's milk. 

December 8, 2017 - Judeline shows off her health education post test. A perfect score. 

December 8, 2017 - Judeline shows off her health education post test. A perfect score. 

Their bond grew again when she was able to take her niece to the local hospital's Pediatric clinic where her fears about the baby's health were put at ease. 

And their bond grew even more, each and every time Judeline responded to Joalyne's cries, smiles, and new motor developments, made possible now that Joalyne was receiving adequate nutrition. 

2017-12-8 Joalyne And Aunt - 1 of 10.jpg

Haiti has a unthinkable number of children growing up in orphanages. More than 30,000 children don't live with their families. This happens when families like Joalyne's don't get the support they need to care for these vulnerable children at home. 

Haiti also has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world. More babies die during the first month of life in Haiti than anywhere else in the Western Hemisphere. So high, in fact, 1 in 40 children won't live beyond the first 30 days of life. 

Joalyne arrived at Second Mile at day 27. 

Because of the many individuals who support our work we were able to provide all the infant formula and medical care she needed to recover. 

We are also able to help Judeline's family with a business kit that will increase the family's income and help them cover the additional costs associated with caring for the newborn. And though Judeline will give birth in just a few weeks, her husband, mother, and 13 year old daughter are ready and able to help both with the new baby and the business.

It won't be easy, but this resilient family is determined to make it work. Our support will follow.


This Holiday Season and we want nothing more than to be able to do the same for each new family that finds their way to our center. 

To do so, we need to see our online Holiday Catalog funded in full.

Each year, during the busy season of parties and presents, traditions and traffic, we post about the impact of your contributions to Haiti and ask you to consider making a year-end gift to support our work. 19 gifts categories remain with gifts like Literacy Kits ($25), Infant Formula ($75), and Business Kits ($250). This week, we're looking for 100 new gifts. Every gift, no mater how big or small, makes a difference for families like this one.

December 8, 2017 - Judeline and her niece on their last day at Second Mile

December 8, 2017 - Judeline and her niece on their last day at Second Mile