I'm glad you're here.

Welcome to my blog! I'm so excited to share with you! Thank you for your prayers, your support, and your encouragement. It means a lot to me, the other volunteers at Children of the Promise, and especially the dear little ones I get to work with. :)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Lovelie's house.

It just started to RAIN. Normally, I don’t think too much about the rain and unlike most Haitien’s who might wait undercover for 45 minutes or even an hour I don’t hesitate to keep going about my business even if it means getting a little bit wet. What’s a little water?

This evening though, the rain is prompting me to blog as I remember my visit to Lovelie’s house a week ago.
Lovelie is an amazing little girl who according to her mom has been sick since infancy with one maladi after another. After seeing her living conditions, recognizing her lack of nutrition, and hanging out with her siblings that share some of the same skin infections and speak with the same small voice, rich with post-nasal drip, I can understand why she frequently falls ill.

I first met Lovelie and her mom at COTP. They had sat for literally hours on a bench in our receiving area while I ran around giving meds, getting juice prepared for our kids, handling some emergent diarrhea, making ORS, putting Cholera prevention posters up in the baby house… I can’t remember exactly what delayed my getting out to the gate to talk to Lovelie and Louise that morning but the point is that she waited...patiently. Even after they were finally sitting in our pharmacy I was called away to some other task. I offered an apologetic half-smile and promised to hurry back. She responded with pa pwoblem, m we ou barace anpil, m’ap tan ou.” “Don’t worry. I see you are very busy. I’ll wait for you,” she said with an inviting smile.

Trust me, this woman can smile!
I liked her instantly and my respect for her grew tremendously in the coming weeks. The day of our first meeting it was clear that Lovelie was going to need medical attention beyond what I could provide. We were able to help pay for her to go for consultation and analysis at the local hospital. On subsequent visits however, Louise and I we were able to talk candidly about her life and family and most pressing, her need for food to feed her 6 children.

"Li fe’m mal. Yo suffri anpil." “It hurts me,” she says shaking her head and looking at the ground. “They suffer so much.”

She wants to work and she thanks the Lord that she is strong and capable. “Don’t you see? I am tall. I am strong. I can work. If I had a little money I would do commerce. I would sell thing in the street in front of my house.”

Not wanting to pass up an opportunity to help a mother so willing and physically able to make things better for her family, I asked her how much she would need to buy the items needed to start commerce. After she listed the price of oil, matches, little sachets, and a big bag of rice I realized that, with only $20 USD to spare, I didn’t actually have the resources needed to get business off the ground. It was right about here, that I wished we had some solid microfinance-small-business-loan program in place. I realize that my gifts alone are not sustainable. But...Louise decided she would gladly accept these initial funds and buy what items she could. She thought maybe she tried to sell something that didn’t have as high an overhead as selling small bags of food.

Before she left I searched COTP for give-away food. Pudding, a few boxes of oatmeal, and fruit loops were all I could find. Not necessarily nutritious… but Lovelie tells me that the pudding was delicious.As it turns out Louise was only able to buy a portion of the supplies needed to begin commerce. She is keeping her purchases safe in her home in the meantime. And the pudding box is serving as a side table…Last week Louise came to ask me whether I liked avocados. She was hoping to bring me some at some point but wanted to first be sure I would accept the gift. She also offered me a chicken. She tells me it’s a skinny chicken though, so I should probably keep it for its eggs, rather than its meat. She invited me to her home and we set a date for Friday afternoon.

Here’s the tour.

Small, hey?

There’s a lot of potential for this family. Yes they have very little. But not nothing.
And yes… I did overhear her husband say that the kids hadn’t eaten yet today and did she have anything to give them? Answer: no. But I believe there is hope for tomorrow.

Louise is a smart woman and with the right tools I know she will be able to create a better life for her family. Her main problem at the moment is that the minute she earns/finds/receives even the smallest sum of money she is faced with a myriad of tough choices.

Should she pay pending school fees? Buy new books?
The director at her children’s school had told her that morning that her children were not allowed to return to school until she purchased new workbooks for them to replace these that are torn. But hey, at least her kids were in school this year, even if they don’t have an opportunity to return.

Hospital fees? Her husband needs a cardiologic exam as an undiagnosed heart condition keeps him from leaving the home or even standing for long periods of time.
But at least her husband is there, alive, kind, supportive, and a good father.

Clothes? Soap? Shoes?
Food for her children? Supplies for her future business?
There are other things she could consider that would be nice, but don’t take priority over the above-mentioned items such as cement to rebuild this weather torn home or a second bed. I was told that when it rains the entire family of 7 (1 child not pictured, 1 child lives elsewhere) is obligated to share the small bed. Rather this, then on a flooded floor.

It’s early in the morning now as I finish this entry and it's been raining all night. I can’t help but think that Lovelie and her siblings are probably cold and might even be wet. And I can’t be certain when they had their last meal...

But it’s a
Family. Together.
And the kids are happy.

And they live in a good area.
With the goal to rebuild. Better.
Yes, there’s definitely hope for my friends Louise and Lovelie.

Please pray for these friends of mine and others in similar tough situations. Thanks!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


I like to follow blogs. It's sort of my new thing.

Why the obsession?

I'm in to blogs primarily because I'm always inspired. Well maybe not always. Sometimes I come away challenged to pursue my maker more deeply as He pursues me. Sometimes I read stories that make me want to cry or pray or cry and pray. Sometimes I'm just plain encouraged. Sometimes I learn a thing or two (http://sleepydoctor.blogspot.com/). Sometimes a blog will be playing music, that makes me want to dance... you just never know! See..? Blogs are fun!

I love to read about how God is stirring in the hearts of my friends in different parts of the world and how he is working mightily in the ministries of people I've never met.

My so-called Haiti blogs have been a great way to stay connected with others doing life and ministry in Haiti. Maria and I are always getting ideas about how to serve people better. Now I hope this isn't too awkward because I've never actually met the people that author such wonderful accounts of life in Haiti. But, if you're curious, here's some more Haiti...

And now for the often-cheesy I-blog-because-statement. Simply, I get to see my Father's heart everyday in this little corner of Haiti and I can't be quiet about it. I want to share and I want Him to receive the glory.

Nick and Nikki, a husband and wife team and fellow long term volunteers at COTP also blog Their posts are actually current and much more frequent. I love hearing Nikki recount events that we've encountered together. They both do a great job. If you ever really want to know what is going on in Haiti/here at COTP it wouldn't hurt to check in with them first. Children of the Promise also has its very own blog. Check that out if you want to read about new admits and see which children are being reunited with their biological families.

Nick and Nikki Stolberg
Children of the Promise


*In light of the current violence and political unrest in Haiti I thought I'd include just one more link. This is an eye-opening blog for pictures, politics, etc. This journalist's images and information are centered in Port-au-Prince but often, what plagues people in PAP plagues people country-wide. http://goatpath.wordpress.com/

Thursday, December 2, 2010

It's official.

Today was fun. Today I was reminded, as I am on so many other occasions, how much I love my life here in Haiti. I love Haiti. I love it for all its shortcomings. I love it's people and it's culture. Haiti's problems are complex but day to day life remains simple. Hard, but simple. Simple has a nice pace to it. I love that pace.

I love the children. I don't mind waking up to their cries at night and I love to hear their happy laughter during the day. I love to hold them when they are sick. I love to cuddle them when they're not. This life is fun. Of course there is always the other side of the coin. I shared about that "other side" earlier this month so this post will be ALL positive.

Like I said, today was fun!
The plan: a trip to the hospital with 3 precious babies.
The goal: three TB tests, two chest xrays, one poop test, one urine test, one CD4 count, one doctor consult, and a rendevous with the American doctor we saw on Tuesday.

I took off early in the red machin with 3 babies. One in a car seat, one in a Bumbo, and one in a little chair that probably served as a car seat sometime in the early 1970s. The two babies and one big kid (age 2) looked so sharp in their nice clothes and freshly braided hair that I had to take a picture. I so wish I could share the photo! The four of us drove in to the next village to pick up what I thought was going to be one person, the nanny that was going to help me take care of the babies. Just four extra people later, we were off towards Milot hospital. Transit time was increased by a few minutes after we attempted to travel down a road that I'm going to have to officially proclaim: impassable! Rendered such by one too many a heavy rainfall. When we had to turn around half-way through what we call "the sugar cane shortcut" the ladies all apologized profusely for having led me astray. They would have easily passed by moto or on foot (the two main methods of transit) and hadn't considered the difficulties the truck would present. After I turned the truck around and headed back the way we came the women joked with me about the gwo chofe (literally, big driver) I'd become. Back in April Jamie taught me how to drive the truck, which has a manual transmission, and it was some of these same women who were with me on my first solo drive. I just barely made it through that same route without getting stuck in the mud. Let's just say it was a wild ride for my passengers. As it goes, I'm usually able to judge my driving by the number of people that breath out a "Mesi Jezi" (Thank you Jesus) when we arrive at our destination. Total for today's drive: zero!

There's something special about traveling in the company of Haitians when I'm the only foreigner. I actually love it. Not that I don't love hanging out with my fellow missionary friends. but I learn so much from the nannies when its just me and them, speaking Creole, talking about life in Haiti. Which brings me to the highlight of my day.

We were sitting outside of the laboratory waiting for my big kid to pee in a cup. I needed him to pee and poop sometime in the next 4 hours as laboratory results are returned to the doctors at 3 PM. I knew 3 of the women and we were surrounded by some other adults who were simply making the best of the long wait by reclining on otherwise vacant laboratory benches. They talked to pass the time. They shared stories of faith, hardship, and humor and although I didn't say much, I laughed with them. Amongst it all I heard a statement that made me smile.

I had just stopped paying attention when the conversation turned to me. Even though I frequent the hospital I still stick out like the white person I am and I can tell people find it curious to see me walking around with Haitian babies draped around my neck, nestled on my hip, and clinging to my skirt. In the same way, this particular group of waiters was wondering about my nationality. One of our nannies answered their comments with what sounded like pride and certainty, "Li pa American, non, Ayitien li ye." She's not American. She's Haitian. Period.

"Ohhhhh.... you're Haitian, are you?" said the waiting woman.

I tried hard to conceal the huge smile on my face when the waiting woman looked at me and nodded with approval. It felt pretty special to hear those words coming out of this particular nanny's mouth.

Later I heard the waiting woman tell another wondering woman that I was Haitian.

Maybe next time I'll correct them but today... I think I'll go on being Haitian.

a week in review. all things medical.

We've had an eventful week. If the kids could talk they'd probably tell me to back off on eventful weeks. They've been pricked and poked, de-scabied and de-wormed, all while suffering through post-immunization sore arms and fevers. I'm sure they've had enough of this already!

Saturday was de-worming day. All rollers, crawlers, and walkers had to drink a dose of Mebendazole a thick, white liquid medication that treats a variety of worm infections.

Sunday we celebrated Thanksgiving with a huge feast!
On Monday almost all the kids received an injection or two, or three. When I took over as COTP's nurse I was well warned that the "vaccination people" tend to be infrequent and unreliable. I've been quite fortunate to see them on four different occasions in the past 8 months. That's a new record! Ideally, the children would have an opportunity to receive their scheduled vaccines once a month, at the same time each month. But...TIH (this is Haiti). It's an exciting day when they show up with their coolers and cardboard sharps container.

Tuesday we had a volunteer pediatrician visit COTP. She is an American doctor that is spending two weeks at the local hospital (http://www.crudem.org/). This was a huge blessing. During the riots in Cap Haitien and Milot our nearest hospital was not open for consultation. Since the roads in Cap were completely blocked by baracades and bottle throwers our Haitian doctor wasn't able to pay us a visit either. It was nice to finally be able to talk to a physician about some of our more complicated cases.

This particular doctor currently lives in Northern California so we had that in common. She's also spent a few years in and out of Haiti and served as a peace corps volunteer in Botswana. Basically, she understands what it is like to work with limited resources and without all the modern medical conveniences. It's nice to work with a doctor that understands our setting and makes treatment recommendations based on context. And check out this cool fact: She used to be Paul Farmer's research assistant and was working with him in Haiti when Tracy Kidder was writing the book Mountains Beyond Mountains! I'm sure only a few people will have any idea what I'm talking about but, isn't that cool!?!?

Tuesday was also an ear cleaning day. Thanks to the help of our two volunteers we now have 84 sparkling clean ears.

Wednesday, our "lab guy" came. Praise the Lord for Axiom labs. It's such a beautiful set up. By giving our business to a laboratory in Cap Haitien and paying a small fee for the technician to come out to our site, I am able to order just about any blood test without having to bother with a hospital trip and a doctor consult. The lab technician's name is Hughes. We ask him to come out to COTP every time we have a handful of new babies as we test all new admissions for syphilis, HIV, and sickle cell anemia. We look at other blood levels as well so we can treat for infections, parasites, and anemias as they arise. Sometimes when we're really trying to get to the bottom of health issues we look at calcium, thyroid function, growth hormone, hepatitis antigens, etc. 12 babies had to give blood this week.

Wednesday night the children were treated for scabies. When one kid in a room has scabies they all need to be treated. Since at least one kid in each room was seen with signs of scabies the whole baby house required treatment! Bring out the premethrin lotion!

You can catch up with Thursday in the next post.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

I want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. The Lord asks us to constantly live with an attitude of thanksgiving but there's nothing wrong with taking some extra time to reflect on His mercies amongst family and friends. I hope everyone has a great day!

My friends and family have asked how I will be spending this American holiday. Although our long term volunteer staff is made up of 3 Americans, 1 Irish, and 1 Canadian, with an extra bonus of 2 short term volunteers from New Zealand we will still most definitely be celebrating....Just not today.

I'll be spending the day at the hospital with our children who need to be seen at the ARV clinic. I will be there with 4 kids and will have the help of 3 nannies. For those of you who've helped with these clinic days in the past you know that collecting medication, consulting with doctors, and getting lab work done is an all day affair. We all decided that it would make more sense and be far more relaxing to recreate Thanksgiving this coming Sunday. We will bake 2 pumpkin pies (one gluten-free and one regular) and we will most definitely cook a turkey. Agape, the missions organization that ships our mail and supplies, provided us with all the ingredients to prepare a traditional feast. I'm looking forward to cooking!

I hope you all have a great day! Special love to my family in California, Arizona, Colorado, and Georgia - I'll be thinking of you all day! :)

"Be joyful always, pray continuously, give thanks in all circumstances for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Friday, November 19, 2010

...sometimes my heart hurts (but God always heals it).

It’s easy to die in Haiti. Excuse me, I don’t mean to sound too grave. But it’s a reality. I actually started writing this blog before cholera had spread to Northern Haiti and more specifically Cap Haitien. But now, it’s here, and my statement becomes even more poignant.

Here are just a few examples.

I thought I was helping a newborn baby whose mother was too sick to breastfeed. I gave her aunt a can of formula and told her to return when the can was empty if the mother was still ill. I would reassess the baby then. I didn’t get the chance. The baby died later that week.

I was briefly acquainted with a young woman by the name of Deliverance. She came seeking my help about a week after she had an operation at the local hospital. She needed her surgical site dressing changed daily. I did so for about a week. At the age of 21 she probably weighed 60 pounds- at the most. She had diabetes but had neither the money for insulin nor syringes. I dumped my whole bin of insulin syringes into her purse one day. But really, that would have only provided a few weeks of daily injections. I found out last week that she is no longer with us.

Last month we rushed a neighbor, an elderly man, to the hospital in our truck. He died in the truck in front of the hospital.

I was in the “emergency department” at our local hospital. I was there with dehydrated twin 8 month olds and a nanny waiting to see whether they’d be admitted for IV fluids. Things were taking longer than usual. I was told that the woman occupying the doctor’s attention was “very sick.” Eventually, we were seen by the doctor and just one of the two babies was admitted. When I arrived at the hospital the next morning to check on her I was told by our nanny that the sick woman had died during the night as had the child in the bed across from our baby’s hospital isolet.

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of doing wound care for a man whose face had literally been ripped to shreds in a motorcycle accident. My cleaning and bandaging each laceration happened to be a convenient way to show this broken man that he was still worthy of love and attention (which is just one more reason I’m grateful that I’m a nurse of all things). I knew he had to be in a lot of pain and was probably embarrassed as well. He seemed so depressed. It wasn’t until the next time I changed his dressings that I came to find out his newborn baby died in the moto accident. He was the driver.

I was at the hospital a week ago today. Checking in a child who was scheduled for an elective surgery the following morning. A woman was sitting in front of the nurse’s station holding a lethargic, febrile baby. The nurse was reprimanding the mother for bringing the child to the hospital so late in the day. The mother replied, “please excuse me nurse, I simply didin’t have the money earlier in the day. And too, my child just died. I was at his funeral.” The woman’s son was just 5 years old. He’d only just complained of a headache the previous day. His death was sudden. But on with life she marches hoping that someone at the hospital will show mercy on her and this baby will be spared the same fate.

Many of COTP’s children find themselves living in the orphanage because one or both of their parents have passed. Cause of death? …fever, unknown, earthquake, childbirth, infection…

I personally have buried six babies, children that I took care of here at COTP that died either suddenly or didn’t make it after being hospitalized for various reasons. Actually, it was the recent passing of one of these children that prompted me to write on this topic.

Just this morning, we were called upon by a friend to take a woman to the hospital. Our red truck is commonly called upon to make hospital runs to the town of Milot just 25 minutes away. The woman was vomiting blood and died in the hospital later that day. She was the biological mother of one of our kids.

So where does that put me? How do I process the realities that surround me? What’s my response?

Well…it depends. Sometimes when I hear about these situations or personally go through the agony of sealing a casket I find myself face down, broken, crying out before the Savior. Not because of the loss of life itself. No, if we’re honest, it’s way better for a suffering child to be running, skipping, and laughing in Heaven in the presence of Jesus than here on earth with the pain and limitations of their illness.

The actual reason my heart hurts (that’s really the best way to describe it) is because I just wish that the people I’m living amongst, and serving, and have grown to love didn’t have to live such hard lives. I wish they didn’t have to worry about losing a child, or a brother, or a mother to things like hunger and preventable disease. To put things in context, a child with a congenital heart defect in the United States would be diagnosed at birth and carefully monitored in the hospital until surgery was performed and recovery was complete. I’ve “lost” two babies who didn’t have such an opportunity. I shouldn’t say that I lost them. I shouldn’t say “I lost” for two reasons. First, because I did not lose anything. Rather by knowing these two children, and all the children that have passed since my arrival in March, my life has been greatly enriched. I’m thankful for my time with them and I am thankful that God is in control. “Bondye fe sa li vle” is a common Creole remark in response to the loss of a loved one. God does what he wants. He calls the babies home. His timing is sovereign and perfect. Secondly, it really wasn’t me but a mother, a sister, and a brother, and an aunt and an uncle that had to say goodbye to their “petit.”

So it’s hard. And I don't so much mean the loss of life itself. Which isn't what I'm addressing in this post. It’s the seeming ease of death that is a ready reminder that life is hard for Haitians in poverty. Really hard.

Our nannies spent hours the other night singing and praying, beckoning God to deliver this country from disease (cholera) and the recent violence (riots in Cap Haitien). As I fell asleep to their voices echoing from the baby house I was reminded why these people are able to push through their trials. It’s because they give their burdens to Jesus. He’s their everything. Their peace. Their sustenance. Their protection. Their comfort. Their help. Their strength. Their guidance. Their provider. Their healer. “Bondye ka fe tout bagay” is another common phrase that roll off our nannies tongues in response to every seemingly insurmountable situation. God can do anything/everything.

So please join me in prayer. Bondye ka fe tout bagay. He can heal this country of its political unrest. He can stop the spread of cholera and preserve the lives of the millions who live here. Mesi Bondye pou tout sa ou fe pou nou. Thank you God for everything you do for us.

It probably seems a bit out of character for me to write something that’s not bound to make you smile. But this shouldn’t be depressing, that’s not how I feel at all. I just wanted to share some of the things I wrestle with on a weekly, and every once in awhile a daily, basis. Playing with kids is fun, but this is another side to life in Haiti.

I'll be sure to show yet a different side of life in Haiti in my next post. Sorry it's been 4 months since my last one!

1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety upon him because he cares for you.”

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are tired and heavy –burdened and I will give you rest.”

Monday, July 12, 2010

Bar Soap and Burn Cream

I know I am very sporadic with my blogging but this is something I've wanted to share for awhile.

God provides.

It's simple but it's true. Coming to Haiti I had to have faith that God would be working out all the little details of my stay here. Living in Haiti I have to have faith that God will provide for us as an organization and specifically for the needs of each and every baby in our care.

Well... 5 months into it and I'm still convinced of this simple truth. In fact, I'm actually quite enthusiastic about it.

COTP benefits immensely from the people who choose to spend a few weeks of their time in Haiti. Short term volunteers help take care of the babies that need extra attention, specifically those that are still small or unhealthy. They help do a multitude of daily tasks like dish washing, brushing teeth, clipping baby finger nails, boiling baby bottles, feeding babies, etc. Probably most importantly volunteers allow for all the kids to get some extra one on one attention. The past few months we've been blessed with teams that have come to paint buildings and do other projects.

I've convinced that God provides just the right volunteers with the right skills at the right times. Example, Bryan a super tall volunteer from Texas was here the week we were repainting the pharmacy. Example B, Joanne, a nurse with 20+ years of experience in immunizations came the week I decided to sit down and map out catch-up vaccination schedules. Example C, Erin, a new nurse grad with experience on a neonatal cardiac intensive care unit came just in time to take care of a baby with those very needs. These are just a few examples. I'm thankful for everyone who has been through.

The Pharmacy

I spend a lot of time in this room. I use it daily to consult with people from the community. It's used when our pediatrician comes once a month. It's used on vaccination day and when new children get their blood drawn for labs.

Once a month, things get very crowded in the pharmacy. The place is full of 70 mothers and babies between the ages of 0 and 6 months. Women who have been through the pre-natal program are asked to return monthly with their infants. We weigh and measure the babies and the mothers have an opportunity to ask questions about their health.

Here are some photos.
lab day
Women from the pre-natal program wait with their babies.
healthy babies, concerned moms
pharmacy: before

Bar Soap and Burn Cream

We get mail once a week. On mail day, Nick drives to the airport in town, waits for the Agape plane to touch down, and then heads out to the runway to help unload boxes sent by generous supporters. Diapers, cheerios, formula... It's basically like Christmas once a week.

Usually Maria, Jamie, or Nikki will sort through the items to make sure we get the names and addresses of those who have contributed. Anything medical ends up in a pile in the pharmacy. After seeing the items that would show up in my pile each mail day during my first few weeks in Haiti I came to the conclusion that I wouldn't ever have to worry about not having the right supplies to meet the health needs of our kids.

One week we received a donation of extra bar soap. The next few days I encountered kids with skin issues that could be resolved with attention to good hygiene. I gave out quite a few bars of soap that week. On another occasion we received a large donations of medication, mostly antibiotics. In it was a case of silver silvadine a cream which happens to be excellent for burns and other wounds. It's funny. As we sat in the pharmacy sorting through this shipment, Silvia, the nurse responsible for acquiring these supplies from the Canadian government asked whether I had seen many burns. My answer at the time was "no." Not kidding, within the next three days I treated three kids with serious burns from surrounding communities.

At the beginning of July we were almost out of oral rehydration solution, a necessary remedy for kids with diarrhea, vomiting, and high fevers. A neighboring missionary decided to give me ALL of the medical supplies that were sitting in one of their buildings. A medical team had come through and had left enough medication to fill 3 red radio flyer wagons!! Talk about a JACKPOT! In this stash was a box of ORS. I've used nearly every packet in the past four weeks. This sequence repeats itself constantly. God provides and a need presents itself.

It's pretty cool.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Meet the nannies: Part 1

Returning to COTP was pretty much amazing. One month is a significant chunk of time in the life of a baby! Kids that couldn't walk when I left are walking, kids that couldn't yet sit are sitting, and almost everyone had gained a pound or two during my month away. Most shocking was hearing our growing group of walking 1-2 year olds carrying on full conversations with eachother -in baby gibberish of course - but they are conversing nonetheless. It's cute.

Seeing the nannies and giving them all hugs was equally exciting. The nannies have become like my extended family. I see them every day...I feel like I am getting to know some of them pretty well. These women are amazing. We have close to 60 Haitien women working as nannies, cooks, and laundry/cleaning personnel. We also have an adoption liason, a school sponsorship coordinator, a pre-natal program director and assistant, and we have a few men who help by doing yardwork, maintenance, and driving.

A lot of our nannies live right here in Lagosette and in neighboring villages which means... I wave to them in them in their homes when I go for a run, I sit by them in church, I give them a ride home from town if I happen to be driving the red machin. Such is village life. (I love it.)
I get to meet a lot of family members (mostly due to illness...unfortunately). It seems that at least once every day a nanny/staff member asks whether I'd be willing to consult with their sick son, father, sister, cousin, aunt....

Seeing families together is one of my favorite things. Example: It would make my day if a nanny brought all of her kids to COTP, stood them in a line, and told me their names and ages. I also enjoy learning about family ties. I've been in Haiti for quite a while now and I'm still learning who is related to whom. Apparently, whenever I discover that a certain Nanny A happens to be the sister of a certain Nanny B I make a pretty big deal about it. The other day I learned that 7 of our nannies were related, as either sisters or step-sisters. The women were enjoying my reaction at the revelation of each relationship so much so that they added an 8th nanny just for fun. Later in the day they got quite a kick out of telling me they were only joking about sister #8.

Basically, I think these ladies are a LOT of fun. They also have faith in God like you would not believe! But I'll save that topic for another post.

Friends and family, I should also have you know that the nannies always ask about you and tell me that they are praying for you. For those of you who are interested in praying for COTP: Please pray for the nannies and their families. At the moment, quite a few have family members that are seriously ill. Thanks!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

3 days short of July?!

Time flies. Time also tells me it’s about time I get back to blogging.

My posts fail to reflect that my two month long trip to Haiti has become a bit more permanent. Within a week of my arrival at COTP I knew that I wanted to spend an extended period of time at this place. I’m sure those of you I had a chance to talk to while I was home can vouch for me when I say I LOVE THE KIDS, I love the nannies and their families, and I love the COTP staff and volunteers. I’m even learning to love cows and to tolerate rats. Seriously, I couldn’t think of anything more appealing than being a nurse in this community for the next twelve months.

So... here I am. I returned to Haiti on June 7th after spending about four weeks in the states. It was a great trip! I got to participate in the beautiful wedding of Mr. and Mrs. Cruz and Vanessa Thomas. Vanessa and I have been friends since we were fifteen. It was pretty special to help her prepare for her wedding.

Between wedding festivities I spent a quick afternoon with my grandmother, aunt, and cousin in Santa Cruz and also took the train to Sacramento to float down the river with some other cousins. It’s a funny thing the first time you hang out with your other “adult” cousins as “adults.” Wasn’t it just yesterday our mothers were dressing us in matching winter sweaters and fluorescent ski gear?

After the wedding my family and I stopped for a Sunday morning church service where I grew up in precious little Morgan Hill. Then we drove to Tucson, AZ where I said hello to the family dog and spent a morning with my grandparents. Less than 24 hours later I was on a plane to Georgia. I spent an evening with Mr. Lt. Steven Vietti who happened to be in Alabama instead of Germany! We did a fair amount of reflection on how crazy it is to be where we are in life just a year after nursing school. That was fun. From Atlanta I drove with my cousins and aunt to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina where the majority of our family spent an amazing six days on the beach. I rarely see this side of family anymore. Our family reunions are the BEST.

I made one more stop back in Tucson where I got to catch up with so many wonderful friends and check in with ELEVATE, the church I’d been attending prior to Haiti. Tribe girls, you still make my heart happy.

Finally, just a few hours before flying back to Haiti I was invited to share with my parents Bible Study class. Guess what I shared about?? Yep. Children of the Promise. Thanks for having me! Sorry I was so long winded.

My trip back to Haiti was pretty uneventful until I arrived at the Cap Haitien airport. It’s a tiny airport with just 3 carriers sharing the short air strip. Apparently, they’ve been cracking down on immigration regulations and weren’t too happy that didn’t indicate a departure date or an address of residence on my immigration forms. These errors led to an hour long conversation in an immigration office with Reekens (our driver) and I trying to convince immigration that I was volunteering for a legitimate orphanage, wasn’t being paid for my work, and wasn’t trying to marry a Haitien man and stay in Haiti for the rest of my life. We were only partially successful. They decided to copy my nursing license, make me a file, have me sign a few papers and promise to leave the country in exactly three months. They wrote the date in my passport just in case I forget. Looks like I might have to drive into the Dominican Republic for a few days to comply with their directives.

Life in Lagosette is as busy as ever. So much has already happened in the three weeks that I have been back. Assuming I find time to blog my next few posts will have to be a combination of current events and throwback thoughts. My goal is to be able to blog about things as they happen! I have so many crazy/amazing stories to share.

Hope this post finds you all happy and healthy.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Just your average Saturday...

Just a little note about my day...

I thought I'd blog about my day for a change. I feel like I have enough good news to share that it will be worth posting.. even though I'm a little bit sleepy.
I generally really like Saturdays. The rest of the week is wonderful too, but on Saturdays, because fewer people from outside the gates come seeking help there seems to be more time to focus on our little ones here. Saturdays always feel significantly different (in a good way). :)

I started off the day with a full night of sleep which is rare in light of the 5 new admits we have staying in the volunteer house and apartment. We try to rotate the babies to allow people to rest when they really need to. For the past 2 weeks I've been responsible for a one month old baby girl. She was born 2 months prematurely and was less then 5 lbs when she arrived at COTP. She's chunky now and weighs over 7 lbs. She sleeps in my room and I feed her throughout the night and day. I love her ALOT and I always miss her when its my turn to rest or take care of a different baby. The night before last 2 other little boys needed some extra attention. One baby needed NG tube feedings and another little one needed oxygen and monitering. So I had TWO roommates. Praise the Lord both babies are doing well.

Today the first little boy pulled out his NG tube. Apparently, he'd had enough! He arrived a little over a week ago with the classic signs of protein-energy-malnutrition plus a terrible case of scabies. Unfortunately, because he'd forgotten how to suck and would gag every time something was placed in his mouth, we had to insert a nasogastric tube for his feedings. I've learned a lot about PEM the last few days as I've researched how to take care of this baby. Who knew that iron shouldn't be administered until two weeks after a malnourished child is without infection and gaining weight? The fluid balance involved in Kwashiorker malnutrition is also quite challenging! He'd been progressing too slowly for my liking, but today things really turned around. Without the tube, we decided to feed him his formula via a medicine cup. Even though at each feeding he cries through the whole process, it works. The best part of today was seeing him smile and really laugh! The edema has resolved and he is finally starting to look and act more like a four month old should. I'm so grateful for Silvia, a volunteer who's taken excellent care of him this past week. She's also a nurse and is so so helpful.

I've also learned quite a bit about faith and healing while being here in Haiti and working in this setting. I know that ultimately God holds the lives of these children in his hands (I hope that doesn't sound to corny). I trust that He loves them, provides for them, and protects them. Over and over again I find myself recognizing a problem, praying for wisdom, deciding on a treatment, praying for protection for the child in case I chose the wrong course of action, hoping I chose the right course of action, and praying for healing. And after that I never worry, or at least I rarely worry, because I know that they have a Father who is stronger than all. Without a doubt I know that God is REALLY taking care of these kids. I don't know how else to explain why last month a baby had an oxygen saturation of 39% followed by a 2 hour seizure and didn't die or have any residual damage.

The night before last, we had the two boys I discussed above in a room downstairs. I was leaning over a playpen and adjusting the oxygen for the one (one year old) while another volunteer, Lydia, was holding the other infant. She was rocking him back and forth and singing him a Sunday school song based on the story in the Bible where Jesus tells Lazarus to get up and walk. She laughed and said, "whenever I want to sing a song about healing, I have to sing this song because they're just aren't many songs about healing." I searched my brain for another option but Lydia was right.

This isn't the first time where I've been with a child who isn't feeling well, have done everything in my power to help them, and have arrived at the point where the only thing left to do is pray for them and sing to them. So, if you do know some songs about healing please send them my way. Maybe there aren't enough written songs about healing because we as humans prefer a more independent route. We do everything in our power to heal/help ourselves and when that's not working we just start over and try everything once more. I've discovered that I'm not strong enough or smart enough to go through this life independently. Thankfully, God's in the business of healing.

Later today we did have one visitor. A woman from a neighborhing village came in with a little 3 year old girl. I didn't recognize her right away but then I recognized the little girl's black shoes and skinny legs. Then I saw her face! I practically ran through the hallway in the baby house to greet our guest at the gate. I had seen this little girl once before, a week ago. At that time she presented with a severely swollen face, milky white discharge in her eyes, a eczema like rash on her face, neck, upper back, and scalp, infected lesions on her scalp, and a papular rash in her perineal area. She was a mess. I was a little overwhelmed when I saw first saw her. The caregiver told me that she had suffered for over a year with this problem and had previously received medication that had not helped. Together Silvia and I decided to send her off with some chewable vitamins, an oral antahistamine, an antibiotic suitable for skin structure infections, and a lotion designed to treat eczema. Today, one week later all of her skin issues had been resolved. She was smooth as a peach and I wanted to kiss her! The caregiver, perhaps an aunt, was glowing. Sylvia and I were ecstatic. "Mwen kontan!" I exclaimed. "Ou kontan?" I am happy! Are you happy? "Wi," she answered. She made a point to tell us that everyone in her household was very happy. She had brought the little girl to show us the extent of her happiness.

It was really rewarding.

Today was also weigh day. Every Saturday I weigh a handful of kids that are relatively new or are struggling to gain weight. Once a month I weigh everyone! Today was a big weigh day (all 24 kids). It's always fun to watch the kids grow. It's especially exciting to monitor weight gain in new babies and in kids who are overcoming malnutrition. We have a set of twins, just 2 weeks old. Weight gain has turned into a competition for these two, with one baby just a few ounces heavier than the other. All of the volunteers are cheering for the underdog. There's another little boy that arrived at COTP last week. He was just 14 lbs and almost 3 years of age. But he's doing extremely well. Two days ago he took four steps and today, he weighs 16 lbs 8 oz. Ironically he weighs just as much as our biggest 9 month old.. but that's another story..

Thanks for reading.

Please pray for the health of everyone working at COTP. Currently, 5 people are pretty sick.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

When it rains, it really rains.

Mid April...
"Amy, Ou renmen lapri?" Do you love the rain? Someone asked me this one rainy morning during one of my first few weeks in Haiti. I said an enthusiatic, "Yes!" Although, my enthusiasm might have been more related to the fact that someone had spoken to me in Creole and I'd been able to comprehened. I was asked this same question a few weeks later. It'd been raining for four straight days, and I was soaking wet with a baby in my arms and a blanket over our heads. This time I laughed and shook my head "no." Friends, we've definitely hit the rainy season in Northern Haiti.

Rain can be good and it can be bad. On the positive side of things rain provides water for the crops, gives the cows something to drink, allows people to wash their vehicles (see below), and sometimes provides a place to bathe. On the other hand, it becomes very difficult for people to get to work when roads are uncrossable. Business suffers on rainy days especially for those who sell merchandise on the side of the road. Also, a heavy rain can cause serious damage to homes made from unreliable materials. It's not fun to face a flooded house on a weekly basis. At any rate, rain is important.
I remember the first BIG rain storm I experienced in Haiti. I fell asleep under my mosquito net (this was when I was still using a mosquito net) to the sound of heavy rain on the tin roof above. When I say heavy, I mean the kind of rain that would flatten you if you tried to walk in it. It was fun. The following morning I went outside and to my surprise, there stood a lake. It was large enough to swim a few laps! ;) Well...maybe not quite. But I did stand in it long enough to at least let my feet get soggy. I DO love swimming.
We had a couple more big rains that week. I remember later in the week I went for a walk with a few volunteers and a handful of kids. Every few yards we’d happen upon another giant puddle. Past rainstorms have created huge craters in the roads that fill with water during consecutive rains. Maneuvering around these puddles was a precarious situation with a stroller and toddlers. In fact we probably should have brought along a lifeguard. But thankfully all stayed dry. Later we happened upon, Reekens, an employee of COTP, motoring past us in the COTP tractor. He’d been coming back from town in the white truck only to become very much “stuck in the mud.” Jamie, one of the Site Directors happened to be along on this walk. The two of them successfully dislonged the big white vehicle. Good thing we have a tractor! It really does come in handy. A volunteer named Emily captured the excitement.

A few weeks later I was going into town with Reekens, a different Emily, and Maria. We were going to get groceries for Easter dinner. We traversed some pretty big bodies of water in that little red truck.

And to think, most people have to cross the puddles by walking through them or while on a motorcycle. “Going in to town” involves driving through a few small villages, turning left at the big tree, right at the roundabout, going over the bridge, and past the fried plantain stand and then well… you’re pretty much in town. Cap Haitien.

It’s densely populated place… hard to describe. There’s a lot happening everywhere you look. Sometime, I will have to write a post purely dedicated to Cap.

Transportation in this particular region of Haiti involves motos, tap-taps, mules, or feet. I’ve also seen a few bicycles and a few horses with saddles made from sugar cane. If you need to go any distance the tap-tap is the most widely used option. The tap –taps are old trucks each painted in the same fashion. If you need to go somewhere you better remember which tap-tap drives to that particular spot. You flag down the tap-tap, pay the driver, and join the 20 people already riding in the bed of the truck.

You can also “catch a moto.” To do this you approach a group of men standing with their motorcycles on the street corner. The moto driver will take you wherever you need to go. Frequently drivers will transport three or even four passengers on the back of their motos. Unfortunately accidents are commonplace; both moto vs. tap-tap and moto passenger vs. ground. I have already treated a few victims of such accidents. Just yesterday a young guy walked (or rather limped) 5 miles in order to see if I could bandage a large burn on his leg. Of course I did and I sent him away with some advice and some Advil. They often walk to COTP because taking a Tap-Tap would cost money and treatment at a hospital or clinic would cost even more. Through word of mouth people living in the area have learned that COTP usually has a nurse or two that will perform consultations and sometimes even dispense medicine, all free of charge. This man lived a two minute walk from the hospital. Yet because money is an issue, I’m the better option. I'm just hoping he'll make the five mile hike for me to change his dressing again tomorrow.

The rain makes for a convenient car wash.

M Pale Kreyol.

I guess prior to coming to Haiti I didn’t consider that within a few weeks I’d be speaking a new language. But sure enough, after spending 6 weeks in Haiti with 4 weeks of Kreyol lessons (about 4-5 days a weeks for roughly 2 hours) I’m doing alright.
It’s been a fun journey. I remember during the first few days I would sit on the floor of the pharmacy with kids from the village that had come for one ailment or another (bandaids and cough syrup if I remember correctly) and ask them repeatedly “koman ou rele sa? “how do you call this?” while pointing to everything in sight. Hey I learned some important words in these crash course sessions, like earring and sneaker. :)

For the first four weeks that I was here, every day at around 10 AM I would meet Renel under the Mango tree and we’d head over to the Pre-Natal Building where we spend the next two hours in front of the chalkboard. He would introduce new vocabulary words and I’d translate sentences. My favorite day was the day he had me translate a sentence about some famous Italian soccer player playing for the Spanish team. I was thrilled to discover that I knew enough Kreyol to translate that sentence correctly but I must admit I’ve yet to have any of those words come up in conversation...I'm still waiting for the day.

Now that my lessons with Renel have come to an end I rely on the nannies and a little book called "Creole Made Easy" to teach me new material. There are a few nannies who really love to help expand my vocabulary. It’s so meaningful for me to be able to talk with them. I love that they can come to me when their blood pressure’s high or their own children have a fever. I love that we can work as a team to keep the kids at COTP stay healthy. I’ve been around long enough now and have proven myself trustworthy enough that they don’t have to go to Maria or Bekah or Jamie to report an illness. They come to me. This is SO crucial with regards to continuity of care. I also love that I know enough Kreyol to joke with them! We laugh A LOT. There’s a little boy that I bring pediasure to 5 or so times a day. I spend a lot of time with this baby. We’re buds. If he happens to start crying before I’ve made it over to the baby house with his bottle, Jullien, a nanny whom I know a little bit better than the others, comes looking for me. She always says the same thing. Amy, zamni ou fache avek ou. Amy your friend is angry with you. I always respond in the same way—pretending I totally forgot about him, AGAIN. We laugh.

Sometimes I have a harder time understanding what someone is trying to tell me. But usually when I’m in my element and asking questions related to a person’s health, family, living situation, symptoms, etc.. I can manage. And I’ve got baby lingo down pat.

Today was pretty rewarding in the language department. I was on a walk with Maria.

Side note: Myself and a few of the other long term staff members often go for speed walks in the afternoons when COTP is “closed.” But… walking for exercise is a foreign concept to the people we meet on the roads. It’s not the walking that gets us so many strange looks. It’s the pace. Haitiens walk on a daily basis. But if someone’s planning to walk to town or to the next village, there’s really no rush. So when we speed past in our exercise attire most don’t hesitate to state the obvious. “Nou mache vid” they exclaim with a big smile. You all walk fast!

On this particular speed walk we turned left at the bridge and headed into the village of Pomgrasia. I recognized a mom that had come to COTP the previous day with her 3 year old daughter. She had a fever of 102.5 and looked sick! I was able to help bring that fever down and send her home with some Tylenol, antibiotics, and pedialtyte. By the time we turned around, the mom had brought her little girl out to the road. She was smiling, giggling, and hugging her mom tightly around the neck. It sure was nice to see that she was feeling better. It was also nice to see how much she loved her mom. But personally it was really nice to be able to follow-up, to physically see the baby again, and to answer some of the mom’s other questions. Simply stated, I was happy to be able to ask the mom, Koman li ye? How is she doing? I hope it showed her that I care.

I feel like I rely pretty heavily on language. I’ve always liked to show people I care about them by asking personal questions. Do your ears feel better after using the ear drops I gave you? Did your brother’s stomach ache go away? Did you have a safe trip to the airport? We all do it. I’m probably stating the obvious but without language, relationships are tricky. And without relationships it’s a little tough to show people I care. With that said, I thank God for helping me learn the basics of Creole as quickly as I did. I sometimes joke that it was because Renel and I prayed before and after EVERY Creole lesson. But hey…I’m a firm believer that God does answer prayer. :) You should try it! ;)