getting involved

Bees and Honey! Are you ready for this?!?

There’s a lot of things that are really exciting about Second Mile. The fact that this organization is poised to provide services to a demographic that is already extremely under-served is already amazing.  That it does so in such a thorough and holistic way is even more amazing.  I suspect, however, that you are all already in agreement with me on this point… you all read the blog and follow the updates because you, also, are excited about the work that is being done at the center of this organization.  Which is why I want to tell you a little bit about the equally amazing things that are happening more on the periphery and also about some of the things that are still being developed and why they are just as important to the central mission of Second Mile.  

From the time SM opened its doors, one of its primary objectives has been self-sufficiency/sustainability.  In short, the objective is to have as little reliance on outside funds as possible so that we can continue our work (and continue to pay our 20+ Haitian employees) regardless of how much is donated from month-to-month.  

For example, our land is completely supplied with power through our solar panels.  This simple fact means that we don’t have to spend money on gas every month to run a generator.  Also, the entire salary of our gardeners is paid for by the commerce generated from selling the produce we grow.  Not to mention that we have to spend less money on food from week to week because we grow our own.  The list goes on – cows supply milk for the formula we make on site for the children in recovery, chickens supply eggs that are sold to pay for more salaries.  

All of this means that the money that is donated can be directed to things other than day-to-day operations: medicine, hospital visits, further development of our current resources, etc.  That’s important to us, and it helps to insure that the work we are doing here can continue for as long as it’s needed.  

To that end, we are always developing small ‘sustainability-projects’ to diversify our income and pay our people’s salaries.  Two of these projects are ready to get off the ground and swing into full launch.  I want to tell you a little bit about both of them, and then tell you how you can help us to get them off the ground.  

Bees and Honey

About five weeks ago, SM purchased four bee boxes (complete with bees) and set them up to do their magical work on our flowering land.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that the land literally hums with their activity.  The acquisition of these bee boxes was step one of a more long-term plan to start honey and wax commerce on our land, and eventually, in our community.  

The bees have settled in (they haven’t ‘swarmed’ for those of you familiar with the beekeeping speak) and have been working industriously over the last several weeks.  Our next step is to build more boxes for our bees to expand into – a necessary step before we can begin harvesting honey and wax from the hives.  In the meantime, we are learning as much as we can about the art of beekeeping, training our employees, and working on acquiring the required tools (more of that in a bit).  

Bees are really amazing, and part of what’s so great about them is that they require little to no intervention.  The applications are, for the most part, fairly obvious.  Aside from the added benefit of having thousands of little workers pollinating our land, we will eventually be able to sell the honey they produce in the markets (and to visitors).  Beeswax is another useful commodity here – a primary ingredient in candle making and soap making, this bi-product gives us the opportunity to branch into these cottage industries ourselves, or to partner with a variety of small organizations that are already doing this work in the area. 

Obviously this project carries a lot of potential and we’re so excited to see where it goes, but we’re not quite there yet. 


Another project we’ve been playing with is yogurt production.  While it sounds immensely impressive, yogurt is an incredibly easy product to make and can, for the most part, be done with nothing more than milk, started (i.e. yogurt) and basic kitchen equipment (if you like yogurt and have never tried making your own, I recommend you ‘google’ “how to make yogurt” and give it a try!).  

This project is really promising – the overhead is low, and the process is simple.  Once we’ve established a system for consistent production, we can teach the process to the cooks on the land, which they in turn can fold into their weekly schedule.  

Over the last several weeks we’ve been experimenting with and perfecting this process and brainstorming our basic business plan for selling it.  The numbers are promising.  In short, with the production of just two gallons of yogurt a week, we could cover the salaries for two of our people and still set enough aside to purchase several more cows in our first year.  

Of course, we’ve also had upsets with this project: since we buy our milk from small producers in the village, the consistency of milk quality is variable.  Sometimes it is watered down, and sometimes it has simply gone to long without refrigeration, causing it to separate more easily in the production process.  But these setbacks have been really minor, especially when compared to the potential this program has to be a consistent source of income for SM.  

A yogurt-making lesson, at the land. 

A yogurt-making lesson, at the land. 

Now you know what we’ve been cooking up over the last few weeks.  These are projects that we are really excited about, both for their simplicity and for their potential to make Second Mile Haiti a more financially stable and sustainable program.  But we’re not there yet (yes, this is the part that we in the non-profit world call, ‘the ask’).

Both of these projects need some basic things in order to start them off right and make them sustainable.  

For the bees and honey, we need some basic bee-keeping supplies. All of these can be found on our Amazon wish list (along with many other things…)  

In addition, we are also looking to purchase a hive centrifuge (the tool used for extracting honey from the comb), which is not available on Amazon.  The centrifuge itself costs $299, plus an additional $150 for shipping and customs.  If you would like to make a donation toward any of these materials, you can do so on our donation page! Also, if you’re a closet expert on beekeeping or yogurt making, and have tips or suggestions, we’d love to hear from you.  

What’s Needed:

  • Bee keeper suit + gloves

  • Hive tool

  • Capping knife

  • Bee smoker

  • Bee feeders

We also need a few key things for our yogurt production:

  • Jars for canning
  • yogurt culture 

Again, you can find these on our wishlist.  We also need a lactometer, an instrument used  for measuring the purity of milk (watered down milk doesn’t seem to make very good yogurt).  This item is a little tricky to get a hold of and will cost us approximately $80 with shipping and customs.  

The first honey from the hive! 

The first honey from the hive! 

We want to thank Armen Rashidyan for writing this post! Armen is currently in Haiti and is acting as our resident guru in yogurt production. He's doing all sorts of great work for Second Mile (take this blog post for example) and we're lucky enough to have him for few more months.

More Birthdays

26 and 27. Now I know what you are probably thinking. 

You girls are getting too old to be fussing over birthdays. Birthday fun is meant for 6- and 10-year olds. And really, if you insist on grown-up birthday fun, it should be reserved for the sacred years of 30, 40, and 50.

Notice I left out the infamous 21st birthday? Yes, I may finally be old enough to recognize that twenty-one, is not a grown-up age.

Jokes aside. I want you to hang with me. All this fussing is for a good cause. 

I have a few things to tell you about birthdays. And you can get to know us a little, while we're at it.

Among the expats in Haiti, which Jenn and I belong to for obvious reasons, 'birthday' is less of a noun and more of an action verb. I think it might be because those participating in the birthday festivities are equal parts happy to have a reason to gather and cognizant of the fact that even though our friendships are young and our ties are loose, we are a rag-tag family for whatever length of time we will all be living in Haiti.

And families need to celebrate each other's birthdays. 

There have been pancake breakfasts, midnight teas, and no shortage of dance parties. There was this one party where a Haitian party guest brought goat soup which I’m sure is typically delicious but on this night I was distracted by the goat’s skull that sat in the middle of the serving tray. Garnish, I suppose. It was a feast to remember! There was another time when our neighbor was presented with a hand-made Owl 


 at her surprise party. It was made by her crafty roommate in 

Papier Mâché

, pronounced "

papper mAh-chay,"

 emphasis on the


 (because the birthday girl was British). Classic, yet oh-so original. This party will be remembered for generations (which in expat terminology is roughly 2 years). 

We live in this weird community of people who are nothing alike yet have everything in common. It’s an apartment complex of sorts, unique in that, aside from a handful of Haitian exceptions, everyone who lives here hails from another place...Pakistan, Ghana, India, Sweden, Canada, Switzerland... and New York City. I’ve never experienced anything like it except college, which was much less diverse. It really is a great set-up for potlucks, networking, and birthday parties. It’s also perfect for community composting and borrowing each other’s baking dishes, but that’s not my point. 

So what will I do for my birthday? Well, if you and I do not know each other personally, then we best get this one thing out on the table. 

I, Amy Syres, am the epitome of introverted.  

It should be no surprise to you dear reader, that I have never had a birthday party in my adult life. Now, if we


know each other, than don’t you dare get any ideas; I intend to continue this trend so please, PLEASE do not throw me one. It would put a serious strain on our friendship. Plus, come party time, I would just retreat to my room lock the door and hide under my yoga mat, thoroughly embarrassing myself, and you. So don’t bother.

Instead I think we may go out to dinner on Friday and/or enjoy one of the several brunch spots in Cap Haitien on Saturday morning. We can pretend it’s like any other weekend and it will make me 


 happy to slip by this calendar day without too much fuss. 

I will however, shamelessly commemorate the advent of my 27th year with a trip to the Tourist Market. This wonderful place is the spot where we take visitors to buy metal lizards and braided yarn bracelets with ‘Haiti’ inscribed on their faces. There you will find no shortage of artisans and vendors pushing handmade dresses and painted wooden figurines from the mouths of their overflowing shops while saying things like “it’s free to look” and “come inside, very cheap price!” It’s also the place where you will find me at Christmas, and New Years, and Valentine’s Day and the first day of Summer, absolutely exploiting these “holidays” in order to justify a moderate offloading of cash and an excessive uploading of stuff.  I just love me some metal art and some carved trinkets! Really, I do. You should see our house. 

At least when it’s my birthday Jenn usually buys the items for me which makes me feel only slightly better about the splurge.

Jenn is my opposite. While I light up at the thought of a woven basket and a quiet brunch, Jenn likes to spend her special day surrounded by people (fun people); the more the merrier. 

April 1st 2014 will mark no less than three birthday taco nights for miss Jenn. 

No joke. ;)

Much like the April 1st of 2012 and the April 1st of 2013 there will be zesty margaritas and homemade salsa. Once something has been fun or tasty the first time, Jenn’s sure to look forward to the same places, people, and treats in subsequent years. She loves tradition. Like gluten free chocolate chip cookie cake for dessert. Which reminds me, dear neighbors, we best do our best to find some decorating icing-preferably blue and green-- because Jenn really loved her cookie cake last year…For Jenn, the closest we can get to a duplicate extravaganza, the better. 

She loves to be in the middle of a crowd...revving the conversation, serving the drinks, making sure people are fed. There’s a feast, but she forgets to eat. Girl loves her birthday. 

Now, I have been going on and on about birthdays for awhile now. I mean I’m generally pretty wordy but this has been down right excessive—on purpose. I wanted to make a point to convey that yes, although we will be turning an awkward 26 and 27 years old, Jenn and I really are making 

a deal

, even if it isn’t a big deal, about our birthdays. And truth is, these two days won’t look very different than they did at 23, 24, and 25. Nonetheless, we commemorate. 

And I’m guessing that you do too.

While you read, I wanted you to think about your own birthday. And about how you help others celebrate theirs. Do you have a bad habit of spending too much on not-needed birthday gifts for people? Or like me, too much on yourself? Do you have kids? How do they like to celebrate? What are your traditions? 

I hoped you would think about how it feels to age and how it feels to celebrate the life of the people you love. 

It really is a big deal you know, a year in time. 

Marie Ange turned two while she and her mom were at our facility. I wonder how many people doubted that she would live to see that day. We didn’t do anything special on that day, not even a birthday crown or a piece of cake. Although we should have. I think we were just really busy. When Marie Ange turned two she wasn’t out of the woods yet. She still looked like this. 

a few days before her 2nd birthday - back down to 9 lbs - readmitted to Second Mile

Up until this point she had only looked as good as the photo below, taken 6 weeks earlier on the day that Marie Ange and her mom left for home, after their first 8 weeks of recovery at Second Mile. At 21 months old and 12 lbs she was still fragile. A few weeks later a nasty bout of diarrhea caused her to plummet back down to an emaciated 9 lbs. 

I wonder what was going through her mom’s mind on that day September 10th 2013, her 2nd birthday. If instead of rejoicing, she was thinking about all the ups and downs...the uncertainty. 

July, going home 2 months older and 3 lbs heavier.

Starting in September we did another 8 weeks of 'recovery and empowerment' and a second-chance business.

Now Marie Ange looks like this. 

Not bad, hey?

taken January 2014 - 2 month's after going home - a follow up visit

It's been 4 months since Marie Ange and her mom left Second Mile.

She's made it halfway to her 3rd birthday.

Her mom seems happy, appears healthy, and as has a successful business. She even has love in her life and a baby on the way, a planned and wanted pregnancy. I just get this feeling that she will be celebrating, actually celebrating Marie Ange’s 3rd birthday. In true Haitian tradition there will likely be a fancy new dress and a ‘#3' themed photo shoot. 

If there is, we will probably be given one of the prints. I will then ask mom if I can post the photo here, so that everyone who has been a part of Marie Ange’s story, everyone who has given to Second Mile, and to those of you who play a role in manufacturing Medika Mamba and to those who are donating it for this very reason, will be able to see your impact.

And now it’s time to talk about how we hope to make this birthday fundraiser about


birthdays. We are asking you to give to Second Mile Haiti so that moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles, can usher their children into each new year of life with an added measure of certainty. Of course nothing is certain, every day and every hour of life is a precious gift. There are just certain things, which I believe

shouldn't have to be



 Tragic accidents and terminal illness aside, mothers everywhere should be able to rest in the security of daily food for her children, clean water for drinking, and the means to obtain medication when her children are sick. 

We see a lot of moms for whom this isn’t the reality…they don’t always have food, they can’t always afford clean drinking water, and they aren’t sure what to do about sickness because the hospital is far and the fees are too much. 

They aren't sure about much of anything, except that they love their kids. We are trying to change these uncertain parts for one family at a time, starting with one malnourished child at a time. 

On a personal level, we rally behind the groups and individuals who are championing causes and campaigns which aim to change the

systems of inequality and injustice

that collide to make it nearly impossible for impoverished Haitian women and the children of impoverished Haitian families to rise and stand. We hope for a breaking of these chains and a surge of employment and improved human rights for all. And while we are hoping and collaborating and advocating to these ends, our little organization- Second Mile Haiti- takes up a little space with a few women who are actually hurting now, whose children are actually on the brink of that first or second birthday. 

We are little, but we have big goals. We believe that in order for a child to remain successfully healthy families must 1) know how to keep their child healthy and 2) have the means and resources to do so. 

In Haiti approximately 77% of the population live on less than $2/day. 80% of the adult population are unemployed. And their children? 1 in 14 Haitian children will not live to see her 5th birthday. 

Our starting point is women who do not have a stable income, most of whom did not enjoy the privilege of secondary education (or even primary education in many cases) and most of whom did not have the luxury of choosing when and under what circumstances they became mothers. 

And as if that doesn't sound problematic enough, they have a sick baby and a handful of older children who will always be on the verge of illness unless their nutrition improves. 

What we do costs money. 

But it’s worth it. Don’t you think? 

Marie Ange (18 months) - May 2013 - First day at Second Mile

You can partner with us! Now, during our birthday weeks. In two weeks (starting today and ending April 2nd) we would like to raise at least $10,000 to support our efforts and get on good financial footing for the coming months. 

There's no magic number to give but we do have some [fun, because it's a


draiser after all] birthday related suggestions. 

Donate the cost of a birthday card, we don’t have a mailbox anyway. ;)  

Donate the amount of your age or your children’s ages.

Donate the year of your birthday ('88, '63, '54--the older you are, the cheaper it is!)

Donate what you would spend on yourself at your next birthday, 

or the cost of a party, or a fancy dinner.

Or just give- generously- because your gifts mean

more birthdays

for children in Haiti. 

Donate because you have birthday traditions. And they don’t yet. 

Donate because you tend to spend too much on the frivolous while parents in Haiti are borrowing money to bury their children because they didn’t have money for food. 

Remember the goal is 

more birthdays! 

We can make a difference for one family at a time. 

Donate now and often.


or by check.  

These families thank you. 

For more information about Second Mile please read some of the previous blog posts, or visit

our website

and have a look around. 

our mailing address:

Second Mile Ministries

5251 W. Desert Falcon Ln. 

Tucson, AZ