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.