She is his mom now.

It’s Friday. I am exhausted. But this blog is not about me! It is about THESE AMAZING WOMEN! 

a few of the current moms
While I may have experienced extreme stress and sheer panic this week, our first with 8 moms (as of last week our average was only 4), looking at this picture I feel nothing but pure joy. Hopefully that stress and panic thing is only momentary because this is exactly what Jenn and I envisioned when we dreamed up this place. God is certainly good. It is humbling indeed. We have seen many success stories. The problems we hoped to avoid have been avoided... We don't always know how, but we are thankful! And we are swinging. And by that I mean Second Mile Haiti is in full-swing. 

We are now officially, a recovery center for malnourished infants and young children.

We are a center of empowerment for moms (and dads).

We are keeping families together. 

We are just a puppy of an organization. So a baby step, like having 8 moms (9 kids) sleeping at our place all at the same time, is a really big deal. 

speaking of puppies... we have one! meet "dog," the newest addition to the farm
I want to talk a little bit about what "recovery" is like for the moms. Then I want to share a story. 

Fridays we take pictures. We weigh the babies everyday but on Friday we measure them, check their arm circumference and take progress photos. It is a time of pride and anticipation for the moms especially after the child has entered the rehabilitation phase. This means that they are eating well and gaining weight steadily. Morning weights are so exciting for the moms. When the weight has registered and it's time to take the baby off the scale it's not uncommon to see a little love-fest between mother and child. 

Last Friday, after two days of consecutive weight gain one mom grabbed her son off the scale lifted him up in the air and smothered him with kisses. "Mickey, I love you!" she said. "Two days in a row you have made me love you!" The babies are kissed, showered with compliments, and paraded around the room. Yes, there is sometimes happy dancing. 

Sometimes the children arrive with no appetite. Not only do some children not want to eat, they fight food like its poison. One mom said this of her daughter's distaste for mamba. "She would rather vomit that have that stuff in her stomach." So there's that... 

It takes time and effort on the mother’s part to rehydrate the child (if it has been experiencing vomiting or diarrhea) and then to gradually feed the child with a special milk formula until the child gets to a point where he or she wants to eat. For some children their poor appetite may stem from an infestation of worms. Very gross indeed.  The vermin make their bellies feel full and painful. Other children suffer from infections of the mouth and throat which make it painful to eat or swallow. Still others may be under treatment for other conditions and have to take nausea-inducing medications several times each day. Others are simply too weak and tired to eat. Whatever the case, I bet you can imagine the mother’s relief when she no longer has to coax and coerce the child to drink. When a child starts to take feeds voluntarily, even asks for them...we all celebrate! 

Moms are probably most in tune to these changes, even when they themselves don’t realize it. Just imagine this scenario with me. Your child has been sick for months. They have missed many developmental milestones. At this age they should almost certainly be sitting, even walking. Yet you've only known your child to be sad and in pain, lethargic and grumpy, lacking the energy needed to play and unable interact. This may have been your situation for weeks, months. And now over the course of a few days things begin to change. They now smile and babble.

Walking with their kids through these milestones is a significant bonding period especially if the mom had already begun to fear a worse outcome. 

 friday morning, not so happy about photos but smiling for mom

We get to watch the stress fall from the moms shoulders as they ease into this new reality. Once their child is “out of the woods” they become a new person. They play with their kids almost constantly. They brag about their kids and how much they eat. They talk about their kids to the new moms as though they are little princes and princessess, demanding the utmost attention and care. 

The change we see in the moms is almost more drastic than the change we see in the kids. Their demeanor changes entirely. We see confidence. We see agency. They can. They did. They were the agents of their child’s recovery. They gave them those feeds. They battled through the days where their baby didn’t want to eat, they were persistent. 

Giving a feed during a gardening class

With each step forward, the moms become more confident. 
It happens quickly. 


                           our newest mom. feeding her baby on Day 3 and smiling about his progress on Day 4!

Meanwhile, they are learning new things. Each day in health education class the women are empowered with useful information regarding health, disease prevention, nutrition, and hygiene. They are inspired to be “sharers” of their knowledge in their families and communities. You might ask... Really? Will they really share what they’ve learned?

Yes. Oh yes, they will. 

Some moms are more assertive than others, but I can definitely say that we’ve watched this phenomenon play out when moms who have been with us for 3 or 4 weeks interact with fresh meat. It can be quite funny. 

These new arrivals get quite the ear-load from the more "experienced” mothers. Haitian culture permits these lectures. What you have is a society where educated people are given the benefit of the doubt and over 60% of adults are illiterate. Most people rely on oral tradition to transmit information. These factors create a culture where individuals are ready and willing to be told something useful. And naturally, once they themselves become a vessel of that useful information, their sense of self-worth increases each and every time they are able to share. 

And the new moms listen. Wouldn’t you? Imagine you have a very sick child and now you've come to a place where several other women appear to have been in much the same situation as you and they are giving you all sorts of advice. Their words are comforting. 

They tell you things like “feed him the milk every two hours and you will be out of here before you know it!” or “all you have to do is never forget to give the medicine and force the baby to eat even if it doesn’t want to and it will be better.” While that sounds kind of harsh, these mini-lectures are meant as encouragement, from a deep place of solidarity from someone who has already seen the light at the end of the tunnel. The new moms take heed. 

In a way... this knowledge sharing makes things easy for us. On a mom-to-mom level is it they that run this ship. And they run a clean, tight ship. They are vigilant! Old moms berate new moms who forget to wash their hands or leave a bowl of food uncovered and open to attack by flies or worse! But it all comes from a place of love and sincerity. And it doesn't take long before a new mom becomes an old mom for someone who is newer still. The old moms know that the new moms want nothing but health and happiness for their own children. They are simply advising and encouraging, in an “i’ve been there” sort of way.

hand-washing station
It’s hilarious and sweet to hear the mothers interact with one another and to watch them change from week to week.

Dieula is an excellent example. I will close this blog post with her story. It is a sequel to the expert I wrote in this blog. I called that portion, An Aunt and a Dad. 

That’s what was left for baby Ederlie when his mother passed away two weeks after he was born, an aunt and a dad. 
And I will argue that that is enough. It is with this argument that I wish to convey that before a child has to call an orphanage his home, so much more can be done to help families become care-givers. Just because a mother dies doesn't mean there aren't a handful of capable and compassionate family members already filling the void as only they know how. 

For Ederlie, his aunt Dieula and his father Kado were his life-line of support. 

This is Dieula.

She totally inhabits the meaning of her name, "God is here." Dieula did for Ederlie what God does for us pretty much all the time. Holds us. Loves us.

I don’t know that she was initially planning to be his mom. Staying at Second Mile with her nephew was just a favor for her brother. But things changed. And for the rest of this blog post I will call him her son.

They went home today after spending 5 days a week, for 5 weeks, with us. Ederlie weighed 7.4 lbs when they arrived. He now weighs 10.5 lbs. He is now 3 months old and he looks good. And so does Dieula's two year old daughter Wilnise. She stayed with her mom as well.


We didn’t really do all that much for this family. We provided infant formula and a place of support and “recovery” when this family of siblings felt the shock of a motherless newborn under their already full roof. Ederlie’s dad lives with Dieula and one other sister. Combined, they have 8 kids. When Ederlie’s mom died the family absorbed a fragile newborn who might not have made it past his two month birthday having to tolerate ingestion of the only food the family could afford to feed him. We put Dieula through the same healthcare education classes that all the moms go through. She watched videos about what it means to “eat well” and how troublesome little germs can be for young babies. In one way or another, in her 5 weeks at Second Mile she became a super-mom able to feed and care for a newborn with the utmost diligence. She became an expert. So efficient in her care for Ederlie and her 2 year old (she has 3 other children at home) that she had plenty of extra time during the day to help new moms. She was the first to pick up a crying child if another mom was busy. She was the first to take a baby into her room if a mom was out for a few hours. She was the first to mop up a mess that didn’t have an owner or take on a task that didn’t have a “doer.” 

And oh, was she proud of Ederlie! It only took her a few days to see the correlation between frequent feedings and healthy weight gain. When she first arrived Ederlie would cry out in hunger and she would ceremoniously sooth him and put him right back to sleep. Eventually she began to feed him at those signs of hunger and he became a solid and developmentally on track 3 month old. We are so happy that she is so happy. 

Let’s not forget about Ederlie’s dad. He is still very much in the picture and we believe he will continue to play his fatherly role in Ederlie’s life. 


These pictures were taken last Friday when dad, Kado, arrived early to pick take Ederlie to an appointment at the University Hospital. Ederlie had been hospitalized after his mom died. Lab tests were done and treatment was started but the family took an early discharge because they couldn't afford to stay. The dad felt like he should take the baby back for an appointment to have him checked out and to tie up any lose ends. We couldn't agree more. One of the things we hope to help families with is ensuring they have a good plan of action for future medical care and emergencies. We want to demystify the healthcare system and one of the best ways to do that is to actually have the parent take the child for an appointment or a vaccination. This way they become familiar with the hospital and they have a good idea about what it costs to receive care. By going through the motions once, they're empowered to do it again. And, they know that the child has both a hospital card and a file at the facility. Dad did it. He totally took initiative and navigated the clinic, the lab, and the pharmacy with no problems. Ederlie received a clean bill of health.

So what's the plan for this family? Well, business of course. Early on we began inviting Kado twice a week to participate in business education classes alongside Dieula. It only made sense that bringing both caregivers into the fold, to work together, would give this business a chance to be doubly successful. 

a family business endeavor

Ederlie's well-being really was a group effort. When they went home for the weekend's Kado took charge of the feeding. While Dieula was at Second Mile he watched out for her older kids and made sure that they were fed. Meanwhile, Diuela invested sleepless nights caring for and nurturing this sweet bundle of life, he became her own pride and joy. 

showing off Ederlie's progressive weight gain! 

She is his mom now, I am certain. 

They left today. We know it will be hard at home. At Second Mile the mothers receive three meals a day and the food and formula needed for their child’s recovery is provided for. At home, they will need to buy milk and prepare food to see the same results. Health comes at a price. But that is why we invest in their businesses and continue to follow up. We want step-in mothers like Dieula to know that they are not alone. She is brave. She is bold. She is beautiful. She is Haitian. 

a before and after