a "relaxed" Jenn

It has been a long time since I have written. Where do I even begin? Amy left Haiti on January 1st for two weeks. We decided very last minute that it would be a very timing for her to visit her family, and so she did. 

So despite my blog post title, "A relaxed Jenn" I was not very relaxed during these two weeks.

While she was gone Dadou and I took Loudjina to Port au Prince to get a CT scan and see if she could be a potential candidate for surgery. Loudjina is 18 month old with a condition called hydrocephalus. She has a build up of fluid in and around her brain. We met her 3 months ago. She and her mother stayed at Second Mile (during the normal Monday through Friday program) for 8 weeks. During this time we provided dressing changes for the four large pressure ulcers that had developed on Loudjina's head. We also worked to empower Loudjina's mom who was pregnant at the time with business and health education. Eventually she became very comfortable and skilled at changing Loudjina's dressings on her own. After we met Loudjina we contacted the only surgical program for children with hydrocephalus in Haiti and were instructed to bring her for a consultation in January.

So that's what we did. Let's just say that day ranks as one of my top 10 least favorite days of all time. We picked Loudjina and her grandma up early in the morning, 3 AM to be exact. We arrived at Bernard Mevs hospital in PAP around 8 AM. We made great time getting all the way from Cap Haitien to Port au Prince in 5 hours. Did you know that 3 years ago it used to be an 8 hour drive? See…Haiti is improving. The nurse that is in charge of the hydrocephelus program didn't arrive until 11 AM. That meant that Loudjina, and her grandma and I sat waiting for 3 hours. It would never be any big deal to sit with your average baby for 3 hours but Loudjina is not your average baby. Her head weighs close to 25-30 lbs (I am completely guessing here) so you can imagine how awkward it is to hold her for 3 hours. It's like an arm work-out., for um, 3 hours. This is not what made it one of my least favorite days. What made it one of my least favorite days was all the staring and comments that were directed towards Loudjina. People would say things like, "how is she not dead?" or "why did you not abandon her?" or "why is she not in an orphanage?" And when people stare here…they stare hard.

Loudjina and her mom, at there home, a few days before the trip
In fact, people will walk up and stand a foot away and just stare. I timed one of the stares and it lasted a full 78 seconds. Can you imagine, a 78 second stare from a person standing only a foot away? The nurses and doctors asked me several times why I didn't get her to PAP months ago, because the program for hydrocephelus is free. Over and over I had to tell them we just met Lovelie 3 months ago and started seeking medical attention the day we met her. I know how they feel though. I am irritated too.

Loudjina's family has known about the program ever since Loudjina was 3 months old and they took her there. We were told that she even received surgery at the time but that they never returned for follow-up because they didn't have the money to make the trip to PAP. That's frustrating and sad. I would have gladly handed over the bus ticket cost of $30 to get her to PAP a year ago, and just like that her head would be 25-30 lbs lighter. So the whole situation is frustrating. We left later that day after the nurse told us she would send the CT scan to the surgeons who are coming in 2 weeks.  They would decide if they could operate. The nurse told me to go ahead and make arrangements for Loudjina to head back to PAP on the Jan 17th., two weeks later. So we did. Loudjina, her dad, and her grandma all went back this past Friday. They spent two night in Port au Prince but the surgeons decided that nothing could be done. It was too involved. There is not a whole lot we can do now except love on this girl, check on her pressure wounds and make sure mom has all the supplies she needs to keep the wounds clean and healing. And we can pray for her family. I really want to thank everyone for keeping her in your thoughts and prayers. And a special thanks to the people that made donations towards the cost of travel. By the way, the reason Loudjina's mom didn't travel to Port-au-Prince is because she just had a C-section a few days before. She delivered a healthy baby boy.

In the two weeks Amy was gone, the PAP trip was the only day I was not at the land. I wanted to spend this time to really work on our existing and future sustainability projects. I gave this pep talk/speech to our gardeners:

I don't know how long God plans for me to be here. I can not show up everyday and have my main focus be on the gardens. I do not want to be the one to tell you to plant this and that and when to plant. We need to think about 3 things:
  1. We need to always have produce to make meals for our moms and babies
  2. We need to plan and rotate our crops more efficiently (so that we always have produce to make meals) 
  3. We need to remember that sales from the gardens is what gives us a chance to hire more people!
So, I put a solid two weeks into training my new "side kick" Joseph. Joseph has been working with us since April 2012. He is now head gardner and is in charge of 4 other staff members. First things first. We solved an on-going problem with the irrigation system. Did I mention we were going on 56 days without rain? Yep, it was a stressful time. Joseph and I sat down and devised plans for rotating crops and inter-cropping plants. We picked seeds and decided how and when everything would be planted over the next 6 months. I really worked with him on leadership skills and managing people effectively so we can accomplish a lot of work in a short time. Because of the donations that came in the month of December we are now working with an additional 1.5-2 acres of gardening land. We were able to hire 20 part time employees during this new "garden-facelift" and we hired 2 more full-time staff members. It's always fun to hire people. It may be one of my favorite things in the entire world. 

the new gardening space (to the right of the fence)

Jenn, Joseph, middle (black shirt), with some of the other employees

Today Joseph made my day. I asked him when he had decided to plant sorghum. I expected him to have picked a day, sometime in the upcoming week. 

He responded, "I already planted them on Monday."
I asked him if we would be able to plant the next acre of corn and beans in two weeks? He said the land will be completely tilled by Friday and everything will be planted by Saturday.
Again, simply amazing.
I gave him praises up and down today. Sure I was a little hard on him during the last two weeks, but boy am I glad I was. Today he thanked me for showing him how to manage employees. He said, "I think I think like you now." That's a little funny that I have someone wanting to think like me. I am not sure I even want to think like me, but I will take it has a small compliment. 

Joseph, working into the afternoon

I have also invested a lot of time in Dadou and Kerline (our community health worker) lately. I think they are really starting to become a team. It's amazing the decisions that are being made without me. Slowly but surely they are taking initiative and feeling comfortable in their roles. Amy has even been able to spend less time at the land because Kerline is becoming proficient in all of the skills and tasks she set up for her to do. She is admitting kids, monitoring kids, teaching moms at every opportunity, and continuing to hold health classes. She also stays in touch with all of the moms who have graduated from the program and tracks the children's weight and health. When we increase the number of moms we are admitting we will be able to hire a Kerline #2. At that point, we're confident that Kerline #1 will be able to train Kerline #2. It's a fabulous system. Of course, our next health worker probably won't be named Kerline, but we've been referring to this mystery person as Kerline #2 for some time now. 

It's nice. Our facility is getting closer and closer to running without the "blans" aka foreigners. 

 So maybe now you are starting to see why my blog title is called a "relaxed Jenn." Oh, and let's not forget that a  huge part of why I am so relaxed is because our entire Holiday Catalog was funded! It's always nice when I can just work and plan for projects without being stressed about funds. So, this "relaxed Jenn" is going to end this post feeling thankful, relieved, and excited about the future of Second Mile.

Here are a few more pictures from January. 
Joslin and Verdieu harvesting carrots, our dog "tutu" likes to be in the mix


hot peppers

neighbors came over to help with the green onion harvest, and to buy vegetables
a lone pumpkin
making new rows
planting Moringa trees