What is Second Mile Haiti?
Long-term solutions that keep families together.
Second Mile Haiti is a project. It's a process. It's one step in a long-journey, one piece of a complex puzzle. Mostly, it's a place to work through some of the issues that lead to poor health among families with limited resources. At it's core, Second Mile Haiti is a recovery center where parents (mostly women) come to receive support after their child has been diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition. Moms (and dads, grandmas, aunts, and adoptive mothers) learn what causes malnutrition and how it can be prevented. They are guided through the recovery process by compassionate nurses who monitor the child and supply therapeutic food and medications. We believe that a child's mom can be his most important nurse, that's why at Second Mile, our nurses and health educators meet each mom right where she's at, teaching and instructing so that mom becomes the expert! A once downtrodden mother begins to feel empowered as her child improves under her care. And perhaps most importantly, the child benefits from having the person she trusts more than anyone else right there by her side.
The need is now.
Many families in Northern Haiti lack the resources to meet some of life’s most basic needs: food and water, shelter and security, and health care. Diseases which spread rapidly through contaminated food and water become deadly, even though with the most basic hygiene measures these same conditions are preventable. With a countrywide literacy rate of 50% and an unemployment rate of nearly 80% parents lack not only capital, but also job opportunities and marketable skills. Food insecurity in the country is high. Farmers must compete with foreign aid food prices and inclimate weather patterns. Tropical storms and drought alike have an impact on how many will go hungry in a given year. An estimated 46% of the population cannot access healthcare. Too often families must choose where to spend a day's wages. When food or medical care are held up against each other the outcome is poor no matter the choice. When survival seems unlikely, sick and disabled children are given over to orphanages or left near hospitals.
A new way to "help"
Second Mile Haiti began as an initiative to find alternative solutions for a subset of families who are extremely poor, extremely sick, and have almost no resources to change their situations. When the survival of a child is in question and all other options have been exhausted, Haiti has no shortage of orphanages to turn to. Surrendering a child to an orphanage is not a long term answer for families and causes heartache for both parent and child. Yet the trend is significant. At some orphanages (less than 1%), infants and young children are placed for international adoption. At the remaining orphanages parents hope that their children will eat regularly and that he or she will be educated but too often, funding is limited and children go hungry. Understandably, these institutionalized children have difficulty reintegrating into society when orphanage directors and Haitian Social Services determine that they are too old to stay. Officials believe that more than 30,000 Haitian children are living in institutions, 80% of which are not "orphans" at all. These are children with living parents.
The situation requires close and careful evaluation and forces us to ask these questions: Is there an alternative? What if parents could feed their children? What if instead of removing children from families we worked side-by-side with parents without ever fracturing the parent-child bond?
What if we could support families by offering resources, teachers, mentors, skills training and education? What if they didn't have to be alone during the oft-terrifying experience of having a critically ill child? What if there were health workers able to help parents navigate the waters of severe acute malnutrition? What if the experience of nutritional rehabilitation was shared with other mothers who had been through the same, and were able to shine a light of hope from the end of the tunnel?
What if, through relevant healthcare training, mothers (fathers, and grandmothers) were empowered to become leaders in their community and to share their knowledge with others? And what if, through participation in income generating projects, mothers could create for themselves the initial revenue needed to begin local commerce? What if, after a few weeks, malnourished children made miraculous recoveries. What if they gained strength and became healthy and their mothers felt like they did something amazing for their child?
It could change a family's situation, completely.
More than just knowledge
We know that knowledge has little power when devoid of resources. The women who come to Second Mile are unable to pay for medical care for their sick kids. Without a source of income they struggle to meet their growing child's nutritional needs. To combat these issues, Second Mile offers daily business, literacy, and home gardening classes. Moms participate in the ebb and flow of a typical day at "the farm" watering plants, assisting with cooking and cleaning, and providing support for the sustainable small-business projects that Second Mile has underway. It is through these income-generating projects that families are able earn the start-up funds needed to begin a home-business. On average, each caregiver spends about 6 weeks at Second Mile Haiti. Some spend 4, others spend 10. Regardless of duration, at the end of each caregiver's stay they are given a series follow-up appointments and are instructed to continue their child's treatment plan at home. The mother receives her start-up business when she returns for follow-up and the child has reached a pre-determined weight (usually 1 - 4 weeks after discharge). By now, these women have overcome stigma, poverty, illiteracy, malnutrition and so much more. They are ready to fly! And they do.
Our mission is to provide healthcare resources for some of Haiti's most vulnerable children while empowering their parents through health education, agriculture training, and small business opportunities.