Moms and Babes

What do you do when you’re at capacity?

This morning I received an email while at home.

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

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

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

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

 These are the moments that tug at my heartstrings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


More lessons from Marie Ange


This is the picture that's making me all happy-feely inside. There's just something about it. Maybe it's the mom's smile. Maybe it's the sparkle in her eye. Maybe it's the way she holds her baby, cheek to cheek, or the obvious pride she takes in dressing him to the nines. Maybe it's the way she's standing, all 17 years of her, erect with confidence.

This image drips with hope and promise. The economic kit that rests at her feet represents an unlimited number of opportunities. With it she will eat. Pay rent. Help her family. Put money in the offering basket. Take her baby to the hospital when he's sick. Take herself to the hospital when she's sick. Heck, she might even buy herself a brand-new pair of third-hand shoes when her plastic sandals refuse to be repaired, not even one final time. In a few years she'll send this baby to school. She'll be lauded as a smart and successful young person. She'll make good choices. She'll rise up from the flood-waters. She'll remind us that there is hope.  

How can I be so sure? How can I sit here and tell you that 50 lbs of rice, a few gallons of oil, and some dried up fish will really take her to such hopeful places?

Because she came to the center every Monday and stayed Tuesday, and Wednesday, and Thursday and Friday for 9 weeks!!! She wanted this opportunity and worked hard for it.

Nothing was more important to her than getting that sick baby healthy. It was obvious in the way she recorded every ounce of infant formula he drank and the way she cared about every gram of weight he gained. It was present in the way she dutifully checked his [cloth] diaper for signs of diarrhea, and the chipper way she sprang for the wash basin every time he soiled his clothes.

For me, the tell-tale sign was how she carried her kid. She had mom-swagger. Her 4 month old baby was sick because she had been ill-advised to stop breastfeeding and without mother's milk she didn't have the resources to keep him healthy. But at Second Mile, with some guidance and the right resources available to her, she was killing it. The way she carried her things to and from classes, a notebook and pen in one hand, the baby tucked into the crook of her arm, a spare blanket dangling from who knows where, and the baby's bottle with an ill-fitting couviture expertly balanced in the grip of hand #2. The way she masterfully utilized all 10 fingers and an elbow-armpit for crying out loud the way normal people (people who aren't moms) use only their two hands, told me this:  she will be just fine. No, she'll be better than fine. 

But even more compelling than mom-swagger is the fact that more than 40 other women have stood in that same spot, posed for a photo under that same tree, and then went home to "take care of business" with a new sense of "can do" and candor. 

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I'm so proud of the staff because they have to be doing a million things right for us to be able to see this much success with a program that could just of easily turned a million shades of wrong. But it's working. Follow-up visit after follow-up visit we see that children are getting better and better and with each passing month families are becoming stronger and more self-sufficient. 

I had the great privilege of spending a few hours at the center, yesterday. I had to pick up some boxes of Medika Mamba and bring them out to the site. Normally Jenn handles that, but she's in the States, fundraising. During this season of fundraising, and goal-setting, and end-of-the-year reporting, I typically work from my "home office" more often than not. The land has too many tempting distractions. I'm simply not strong enough to work at a computer when I could be having conversations with the world's greatest moms, or watching our amazing staff work (which is mesmerizing, by the way), or playing with babies of the goat, canine, and human varieties. Basically, if I hope to get anything done I steer clear of the snare and work from the silent haven that is my kitchen. Except that yesterday I didn't. I made the 25 minute drive out to the site and these are a few of the things I witnessed while I was there. 

Moms ministering to each other 

I was trying to get my computer unfrozen so that I could share some information with our health workers. I was sitting in the clinic where two moms were waiting. Both women are program graduates and their time at the center had overlapped briefly. "I asked about you" said one mom to the other. "They told me you were at Milot (a hospital)." "No" the mom replied. "I was at Limbe (a different hospital). We were there for 11 days."  She shakes her head and looks down at her daughter who has been doing well since the hospitalization.

"She had to be on serum (IV fluids). Every time they put in an IV, she ripped it out...(pause)... I cried" she confesses, still shaking her head. 

"It was good for her" the other mom piped in reassuringly. "She needed it. The serum did what it was supposed to do."

Although they were discussing a difficult experience, it was a beautiful moment. I was struck by the fact that two women who live nearly four hours apart (one lives two hours from the center in one direction while the other lives nearly two hours away in the opposite direction), could share this moment of vulnerability and compassion. I was shocked to hear a mom speak so freely about her child being in the hospital for 11 days. Sometimes I sense shame. It's easy for a mother to feel like she's failed her child if she ends up in the hospital. But these moms have a good sense of self. They know they're doing a great job as moms. They know that illness happens and that sometimes it's preventable and sometimes it's not, but that it's never their fault. And I think they know that these sisters, the ones they met through this program, understand that better than anyone else. These friendships are built on the shared experience of crisis and triumph. 

While the women were talking, Fara sat happily on the floor, playing like the professional player she's become. But then her mom decided to step out. As soon as she left, happy Fara started to wail. Neither I nor the other mom could console her. So we waited. The look on Fara's face when her mom reappeared was priceless. She started rocking her body, flapping her arms, and making what I can only describe as a the cutest smiling noise I have ever heard. I'm not a mom, so the closest thing I can imagine is how excited my dog is to see me after I've been gone for a few hours. This child was ecstatic and her mom had been gone for less than a minute. I couldn't possibly imagine these two, one without the other. Fara is well-attached, well-loved, and a source of joy to her mother. 


Moms helping one another

"Who is that kid?" I asked Kerline as I tried to focus my gaze across that courtyard on the profile of a child I didn't recognize. I could make out the woman feeding the child. I knew her name was Cherline, but she was someone else's caregiver. Then another mom walks over and I realize who the baby is. Daniel has been coming to Second Mile with his mother every day for the past several weeks. He and his mom were program graduates back in March, but a few months ago her house was burglarized, her business stolen. We decided to employ her for a little while so that she could get back on her feet after the break-in. While she works, the other moms look out for Daniel. They feed him, play with him, and they call for her if he needs anything. I watched Cherline scrape the last of some rice out of the bowl and give Daniel one final spoonful. Then his mom picked him up and the two women smiled at each other. One went off to wash dishes, the other went off to wash her baby boy. Did that really just happen? Yes, yes it did. 

Women happy to see one another succeed. 

I was sitting with the cooks under the palm frond canopy that covers their space. We were talking about green charcoal and all the veritable ways Haiti has been moving forward in the last several months. There was a mom close by washing the pots from the afternoon meal. In my mind I pictured the freshly painted buildings I had passed earlier in the day, the solar powered street lamps newly installed in a highly populated but not-so-safe area of town, and the brand-new international airport just a few miles from where we were having this conversation. They spoke of education, aid, government, and NGOs. The underlying message was "now we know!" Jiji had an explanation. "Before people were just having a lot of kids and there wasn't a strong regard for education. But now people value education, they value family planning, they know how to do more. They know how to use the land better. They know that cutting down trees is bad."  She made it seem so simple. Everyone deserves to learn right? Knowledge IS empowering. Children are learning these things in schools. Adults are attending meetings in their communities. There are radio messages and announcements in church... Information is spreading and the entire country will be the better for it. It was an energizing conversation that got better because of what she Jiji did next. Guillouse was leaving with her 2nd commerce package. The second commerce package is $100 of product that each program graduate is eligible to receive 2 1/2 months after she leaves Second Mile. It's an incentive based system that places value on the first business package by making the second disbursement dependent on the success of the first. For an opportunity to grow their business, the moms must be judicious with what they've been given, they must show that their business is growing because of the work they put into it, they must attend follow-up visits at the center and their baby must be meeting certain health markers.  I watched Guillouse walk over to the gate and open it so Herode, who would take her home, could drive through. The moto was piled high with her stuff. Just as she was about to draw the gate closed Jiji called out to her. "I'm happy for you. Your life is changing." Guillouse smiled and nodded. 


"Andy!" everyone said in unison when a recent program participant came through the gate with her grandson in toe. They were here for a follow-up visit. "Andy's been sick," the grandmother announced before greeting everyone in the room. Several mothers were sitting in the clinic and she knew most of them. "What did he have" I asked. "Diarrhea and vomiting" she replied. "I've been at the hospital with him. It was so bad I though he had cholera. They even put us in the cholera treatment unit."

"How long were you there?"

"Two nights," she answered. "The pregnant mom, with the boy... What was her name? She was there too. The boy had cholera."  As she finishes her account of the Hospital, she opens her bag and takes out a plastic thermos of clear liquid presumably ORS. (oral rehydration solution), that she had prepared before leaving their home. She gives Andy a drink and the moms start to talk about something else. This was all I needed to see. She came with ORS which means that a) she knew that it was important, b) she knew how to make it and c) she had clean water and something to store it in for the trip. At this point I wasn't worried about Andy.  I wasn't even worried about "the boy" (whom we determined to be another program graduate's younger brother). I was simply proud. This is exactly what is supposed to happen. Parents, and in this case, grandparents, are supposed to have the resources they need to get the help they need. Andy's grandmother and the mom she encountered at the hospital knew where to access healthcare, they knew when to access healthcare, and they could afford to access healthcare. 

Isn’t it incredible that for less than $500 per pair, we can meet the physical needs of a child while supporting the child's guardian with food, a safe place to re-nourish, and assistance with medical care.  And as things take a turn for the better, we're able to offer empowering education and supportive community, both of which help the caregivers feel confident in their ability to care for their child whether sick or healthy. The gardening classes inspire the moms and get their creative juices flowing. At the center/farm they get to participate in the growth-cycle of food and can take the skills (and the seeds) home with them. The business classes that caregivers attend give them a real-life chance to change their situation and remove some of the factors that contributed to malnutrition in the first place, namely the lack of income-generating activity. Then we get to see them doing their mom-thing. They come for follow-up visits with food. This is such a big deal! I can feel my ability to articulate flying out the window as a type this…I can feel something water-like in my eyes. It’s such a big deal. Mothers in desperate situations don’t have diaper bags. They don’t bring juice and snacks when they leave the house with their kids because they don’t have those things. But these moms do. It’s working. 

Sanchez and his mom 2 months after Leaving second Mile... 1 month after starting a business.

Sanchez and his mom 2 months after Leaving second Mile... 1 month after starting a business.

And finally...

May 2013

May 2013

Remember this kiddo? Maybe you don't. If you are new to our story you won't recognize these people. This is Jenn and I with Claire and her daughter, Marie Ange. This was our first mom on her first day. This was the beginning. We all got incredibly close to these two individuals. Their names have come up over and over again in our blogs. Marie Ange was 18 months when she and Claire came to stay at the center. She weighed just around 8 lbs at the time. A few weeks before this photo was taken she had been admitted to Children of the Promise (an inpatient care center for infants). They began caring for her when her life was on the line but when our doors were open they sent baby and mom our way. We're so thankful that she survived and that she responded to medication, therapeutic food, and the love and affection of her mom. She's a miracle, the first of many that we've been able to witness since then. 

This picture was taken a few weeks ago. Marie Ange is  now 3 years old and she has a baby sister.  We may take a ton of photos at Second Mile to document a mom's journey through the program but this here is the most important photo. This is the one that really matters. This 18 months later- at home- eating something yummy- sitting next to her sister photo. This is what we work for. 

Want to be a part of these stories? Check out our Holiday Catalog.

Walking, smiling, growing.

Last week we posted

a collage of garden pictures

on Facebook with a status about how we were entering our biggest month in terms of garden produce.

The pictures we used had actually been taken the previous week, before the splendid 3 nights of rainfall we enjoyed last weekend. When Jenn was making the status I asked naively, "what do you mean the


month? Like "big" because all the crops are going to shoot up in all this rain?"

She looked at me like I was crazy and then informed me that this month will be our biggest


yet. Well, how 'bout that. Time flies. It seems like just yesterday that the garden workers had worked to clear the land and we hired a few extra hands from the community to get the seeds planted.

Truly it is about to be a "big" month as our garden is now 3 times the size of our last garden and at least 5 times the size of our very first attempt to grow things.

Our garden space spans not only the back two acres of "the land." But also an acre plot just to the right.

We will sell the produce, use it to make meals for the moms and babies, and this season we will make our first attempt to save some seeds.

I took a bunch of garden photos on Friday.

I thought I would give you a little tour of the garden, but I realize now that I completely forgot to photograph the tomoato plants and the carrots. You will have to use your imagination.


more cabbage

Cabbage close up... I think the cabbage is striking, and very deserving of 3 feature photos in this blog post.

Haitian "zepina" (spinach)

fields of spinach, okra, and potatoes 

corn and two types of beans

breadfruit tree, beets



green onions

and a bee

On Friday's I'm usually filled with all sorts of warm fuzzies about the week past. So much happens in just a week. We take a lot of pictures throughout the week but on Friday's I find myself snapping away without discrimination. Aside from the healthcare staff, everyone works on Saturday. That includes the gardeners, the cooks, the leadership...etc. But my week of working at the land ends, with the nurses, on Friday afternoon after the moms go home. I'm only going to be away from the land for

two days,

so why the obsessive picture-taking? I guess it's an attempt to capture everything at the project, as it stands, after another week down in the books. It can be very sentimental. :)

For example (as if the surplus of plant photos wasn't enough)...

Our puppy and director.

The first day of that big harvest I was telling you about.

Okay, maybe not everyone's super enthused about the Friday photo flurry

The chickens.

The teenagers.

I just did some rough calculations and I believe, that last week was our 34th week with mothers and children at the facility. We had 8 moms with 8 children in rehabilitation, and 2 siblings. Several of the kids made huge leaps of progress this week. An 18 month old who has never been able to stand is now walking with her mom's help. A baby that has been with us for a ridiculously long time is now finally making the kind of progress you start to think isn't possible. And a baby learned to breastfeed. It was one of the more remarkable things I've experienced in my time in Haiti. It deserves it's own blog post... although every time I say that about a mom or a situation I hardly ever follow through. Here's to hoping that this won't be one of those times. The story of how a 17 year old girl came to successfully breastfeed her 6 week old baby after having not breastfed since it was 5 days old... well it really is a phenomenal story.

baby Fredline

We've come to find a very special use for the small blackboards that are in each of the rooms. Each room has two beds, two shelves, two chairs, two black boards, two moms and two + babies. For the first time this week, Errod used those blackboards to assign weekly chores. One momma sweeps the education building each morning. A few moms are on morning garden duty, filling watering cans just as the sun rises. There is a mom on breakfast dish duty, another on lunch dish duty. One mom cleans the bathroom. Each week they help in a different way. 

There is rhythm and harmony to the day with the understanding that each child's needs are different, each mother's day will look different, and feeding and caring for one's child takes precedent.

There is even harmony at the end of the week when we must plan for 8 women and children to go to 8 different places. When planning Friday's travel arrangements the moms are affectionately referred to by their home-cities by Jenn, Dadou, and Errod. I promise it's very affectionate. For some, the nickname's have stuck and even the moms call out to their friends with the city-moniker. Like "Milot! It's your turn to leave!" We give the moms the money they will need to travel home and bring them by moto or car to the nearest point where they can catch a tap-tap. Some moms only have to travel a distance of 20 minutes, for others it takes more than an hour. They take their babies with them with everything they will need for the weekend. In the current group of moms there are two children who have cerebral palsy. Friday morning we drop them off at the Baptist Hospital (HHA) where the moms spend a few hours learning range of motion exercises and other techniques they can practice during the week. Haiti Hospital Appeal is the only place we know of that offers a physical therapy service. We are so fortunate that they are located so close to our site. The moms really appreciate the opportunity to learn how to help their kids.

helping mom pack

the "departure schedule"

Two of the kids had diarrhea on Tuesday. Kerline, took the opportunity to make "diarrhea" the topic of the morning's health education session. A hands-on activity, "how to prepare oral rehydration drink" was the cornerstone of the session. The drink was then split between the two children that needed it and the diarrhea was resolved by the end of the day.


Another highlight this week was the advent of literacy classes for the mothers. I can't tell you what made me smile more..  Was it hearing the certain din at 2:55 pm as the mothers would begin warning each other  "class is about to start," "the professor is waiting!" and "finish your homework!" Or was it watching Ama, a life long teacher, lead the class like an expert conductor, helping each woman advance according to her level of skill and proficiency? Maybe all of the above.

Some moms are more educated than others but none of them have advanced further than the 6th grade, a few had been enrolled in first or second grade while other had never been to school at all. The moms who can read and write are practicing addition and subtraction problems and honing their math skills. This will be helpful when they start their businesses. Moms who have mastered the alphabet have moved on to writing their name. Once they have mastered their own names they will move on to the names of their children. How useful for these mothers. It is a small thing that will make enrolling their children in school, or bringing them to the hospital just an ounce easier.

One afternoon I stopped by the education center to peak in on the class. I arrived just in time to see a mom who couldn't tell the difference between a 2 and a 7, tap the board with her pen 26 times, correctly naming each letter of the alphabet.

There's no such thing as a hopeless case, but between you and me, if you knew this mother you'd be crying tears of astonishment to see her do what she's doing here.

On yet another afternoon I wandered into one of the recovery rooms and noticed an open notebook on the bed. The page was filled with one sentence, written repeatedly in impeccable script.

First name Last name is very intelligent.

First name Last name is very intelligent.

First name Last name is very intelligent.

How long did that take her? Did she leave her notebook out in the open to show off her work? She must be proud. And that sentence... what a fitting choice of words. Either it was her "homework" to copy that particular sentence, in which case Professor Ama has a knack for injecting confidence-building into his classes, or, this mom was just already feeling that empowered.

Kids walking, breastfeeding, smiling, and growing.

Moms learning and helping one another, smiling, and growing.

Second Mile is exactly what we hoped it would be.