Friday, February 28, 2020

Old Friends

Noah & Geronne today 
While we did not approach many things the same way and the cultural divide was challenging and quite obvious at times, my long-time relationship with Geronne taught me a lot about myself and Haiti and human nature.

I always felt weird having help in my house. I was embarrassed about it. I would get mad at how awkward it felt. I couldn't ever come to a peaceful way to feel about being the one that gets to afford to have a helper/housekeeper.  

Geronne could never get why I would refuse help sometimes, it was too complicated to ever explain and our paradigms didn't allow us to ever get each other totally. We are the same age, but we have vastly different life-experiences. 

In 2006 Geronne worked in the kitchen at the first organization we worked with in Haiti. That is when we met her. In 2008 she took our job offer and moved to Port au Prince with us and helped with the kids and did the best housekeeping work ever in the history of mankind.

Back in 2006 Noah was newly two and he was all about white rice and bean sauce - he went to the kitchen where it was being prepared for several hundred kids and he made sure he had his bowl and spoon ready whenever it was possible. Geronne always thought that his love of Haitian food was the best thing about our family. She thought Noah was the smartest of the whole clan.

She was so genuinely happy that he came with me on this trip. She cooked for him and spoiled him and made sure he got to eat all the foods he loves. It was touching to see how deeply she cares for this boy she met 14 years ago. 

Today she asked Noah if he would make it back to see her in the next year.  She hugged him tight and sent him off with rice and beans to go. 

2 year old Noah

Thursday, February 13, 2020

It Can't Be About Us

I’m sure other people have written about this eloquently.

That is not what will happen here.

Today, I bring you another way to write about it. 

sans eloquence 

Over the last decade and a few spare years I watched and learned a lot in Haiti. I saw red-flags frequently.  I cannot speak to every red flag in every area in a single post. I can speak to just one today.  

There is a problem.  
It is not a small one.

In missions, non-profit, and humanitarian work there is a large issue with people that need to be needed.  

When they arrive to begin helping they maybe don’t consciously realize it but over time the payoff they get from being the provider/giver/helper or the 'patwon',  as we are often called in Haiti, begins to corrupt their pure motives.

At times I noticed myself sliding toward what I did not want to become. It was never overt, maybe just be a flashing thought. Maybe an icky little feeling or subconscious belief like, "I'm needed for this - or it won't / cannot happen." Usually I would catch it and talk to my head about the nonsense and danger of that narrative. 

Many working in this development/missions/aid arena feel and come to act as if they are the only ones that can solve the problems that exist in whichever land/city/village they’ve determined needs/wants their help — and their identity is wrapped up in being needed.  

Time passes, they don’t see clearly how they are beginning to self-identify only as the “helper”, “fixer”, “provider”, or, dare I say, “savior”.

When these workers that come to help others get a high from being needed they end up actually not really ever thinking of a way to work themselves out of a job because their own needs are being met by being NEEDED.  Eventually the “aide-workers” need the “poor” to need them  - or they won’t be okay. They enter into things that they shouldn't and hand out help wrecklessly and without enough examination and introspection.

They often fail at trying to go do something else in another line of work because they have become addicted to the glory or the payoff they felt being the one to provide a service or a thing for the downtrodden. They have trouble stepping down or handing over the reigns for the same reason.

This is why there are not succession plans in place and why founders of organizations get old and senile and then often die and let their organizations die with them — they couldn’t plan a future because it is really not about the people it is about them and their need to provide and control it -- they often lose all vision for a future that does not include themselves.  

Every organization should be thinking about what happens next and working to assure that the work is not about any one person or leader. 

Here is the thing. I knew I was capable of getting this way. My personality flaws include wanting to be a helper and feeling lost if nobody needs me. I hate that about me - it is an actual flaw in me that needs continual work. When I am in my right mind and thinking from a place of objectivity and health, I want NOTHING MORE than to get out before my identity is so singularly defined as to believe Haiti or Heartline needs me.  That is false. They do not.  

Haiti needs things, but it is not me.  I can both care about the place and also remove myself and act supportively to advocate and encourage the work to contiue without me. 

It can't be about us. 

PLEASE SEE: for information about the class and manual that share the model  - we ask and encouarge others to please copy what works - save yourself some heartache and a whole ton of mistakes and begin working in Maternal HealthCare with a bunch of the common pitfalls crossed off your list. That is what the point of the class and the manual is. All proceeds from the class go back into the Heartline Maternity Center, paying for supplies, salaries, and programs we offer. 

Monday, February 03, 2020

State of the Union Address

When we made the decision to have the kids and I leave Haiti earlier than our June 2020 plan, I was a little bit pissy.  I didn't want to go - like at all.

I did the single Mom thing for six years back in the 90's and didn't much enjoy it.

The seven months we need to live in different countries (in order to do a good job and see the transition plans out)  is at the half way point TODAY.

Last week during a poorly attended yet still so amazing 2am pity party, that I threw for me, myself, and I --  I figured out the exact halfway point between the date I left Haiti and the date Troy will move to Temple, TX. -- that date is TODAY.  

This is the half way report.

Marriage is easier and better when you live in the same house.  If living apart is better, maybe that means your marriage is something different than what we are going for at this point.

We have struggled a bit and fought and had some tension over things.  This has not been an easy or fun time for either of us. I would say the challenges of living apart have been all totally normal and I guess it just means we are regular, just like all married people.

Sometimes I make up stories about why Troy didn't try to call me.  Sometimes I go so far as to believe my stories have merit.  Sometimes I'm less kind to Troy because of a false story I told me.

Once in a while Troy forgets that I feel (and then after feeling, actually AM) overwhelmed with the load I'm carrying and he asks me to do something dumb.  One day he wanted me to call the credit card company about some bogus $5 charge.  I assured him my time was far more valuable than the five bucks and to just let it go - c'est la vie - You lose some you lose some.

So.  He called the credit card company.  Now we understand who makes calls like that and the division of labor is back in order.

Here is to hoping the next three point five months will fly by and we will live in the same house and deal with this mob of children and making stupid phone calls and facing dumb government offices (I'm looking at YOU DMV of TX) as a unified front.

* * * * * *

Isaac -  Got a job at Subway as a sandwich artist. Is working way too late at night for my liking.  Is practicing driving and getting sort of safe at it. He is finishing his high school requirements with Stef (teacher of the last three years and the amazing person that came to TX to help them finish out their Senior year) and will graduate in late May.

Hope - Got the holiday job at Target then was offered a permanent position at Target. Is also working on finishing out 12th grade and the classes she still needs.  May 24 we shall place them in caps and gowns and make them give us a speech. She is driving and getting some behind the wheel time. We have not gotten on the freeway yet, but soon.

Noah - Is finishing his 10th Grade curriculum with James Madison University and their on-line High School curriculum.  As of this moment, he plans to go to Temple High School next fall for 11th grade.  He will be 16 years old in March and I would like him to drive by April or May if the good Lord allows me the patience and wherewithal to take time to get enough hours with three drivers at once.  He spends his life finding ways to score Chipotle burritos, it's encouraging to see he has some drive/passion - at least -if not only- in the area of procuring burritos.

Phoebe - Is very much just eye-rolling the average middle-school kid.  She thinks they are a bit disrespectful and ridiculous but she seems energized by public school and is totally rolling with it. The other day her Social Studies teacher called me to tell me how delightful she is.

Lydia -  After day one she was sure she had met some amazing people.  On day two she called me from the counselors office telling me (with tears) that she was for sure a terrible judge of character and all the friends she chose on day one were really mean kids.  We talked her into allowing herslef some time to figure out who might be her friends and now that she is two weeks into this Middle School thing she seems to think maybe she found her people.  She is in a play at the Temple Civic Theatre right now and her love of the stage is apparent.

Four of the five are talking to a counselor about all the ways we jacked them up by taking them to Haiti AND all the ways we saved them by taking them to Haiti.

Three cheers for keeping therapists in business.
We are doing our part.

This ends the 2020 State of the Union address. 

Sunday, February 02, 2020

A Look Back: 2019, Heartline Maternity Center - What Do You See?

Thank you for stopping here!

We first began keeping statistics at The Heartline Maternity Center about three years after we added labor and delivery services. The first baby born at Heartline was born in September of 2009. By 2012 some statistics were being tracked.  

In 2016 the stat-keeping and tracking got a lot better when we switched most of the record-keeping over to a digital system.  

Any organization asking you for financial help should be able to tell you how they use the money. Beyond that, they should be able to somewhat objectively identify where there is room for improvement and where they have experienced success.  

When we stepped into the leadership roles at Heartline Ministries, Troy and I both felt (and still feel) strongly that honesty and transparency are incredibly importantAlso important to us is valuing the staff and those we work with above ourselves and using integrity in our decision making. We don't want to hide the hard parts of working in a country like Haiti. We also try not to be cynical or lose hope when things are hard and we experience several setbacks.  

It's a rough balance to strike, I don't know how well we do - but I can assure you we are trying.  

2019 was a year of restructuring after 2018 brought staffing changes. We worked on changing the culture of the ministry with clearer communication and several weeks of leadership training for key staff members. The goal for the next phase of transition (with us not living full time in Haiti any longer) is for us to get out of their way and allow them to grow and lead. 

Today we are reporting specifically on the Maternity Center in 2019. This entry does not include information about everything Heartline attempted and/or accomplished in 2019. Much is missing regarding the Education Center, the Outreach and Community Service efforts, the Bakery, and plans for future growth.

The Gates of Hope -
“Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of Hope
Not the prudent gates of Optimisim,
Which are somewhat narrower.
Not the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense;
Nor the strident gates of Self-Righteousness,
Which creak on shrill and angry hinges
(People cannot hear us there; they cannot pass through)
Nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of 
“Everything is gonna be all right.”

But a different sometimes lonely place,
The place of truth-telling,
About your own soul first of all and its condition.
The place of resistance and defiance,
The piece of ground from which you see the world
Both as it is an as it could be
As it will be;
The place from which you glimpse not only struggle,
But the joy of the struggle.
And we stand there, beckoning and calling,
Telling people what we are seeing,
Asking people what they see.”

-Victoria Safford 

Back at the year-end stats report we wrote in 2012, we said this:

We do not place an abundance of importance on statistics. 

If statistics are the forest, we are always aware of each individual tree. As a team, we are too involved in relationships to worry a lot about the numbers. 

Working with the women we quickly learn that one healthy pregnancy carried to term, one victorious labor and delivery, one healthy single baby born to one mother that overcame immeasurable obstacles is what truly matters. The young woman courageously delivering her healthy baby far outweighs the preponderance of any statistic.

At the Maternity Center each woman is known by name. Statistics never know a name. Without a doubt a community has developed.  It is safe to say that staff, midwives, and pregnant women alike all look forward to program days.

Having said that - we recognize that those that give to keep this program operating and pray continually for these women and for the staff might like to see how the numbers look.

Even as our numbers climbed from 80 babies a year up to 120, we made sure to hold onto the goal of relationships between practitioners and clients - BUT - I have changed my tune a bit too. We want to prove that this model works and therefore the outcomes (the stats) matter as well. 

Now to the point of this entry, here is the truth about 2019:  We had a hard year. 

The political climate meant a lot of danger for women and even more stress on their bodies and minds than usual. We had a higher premature birth rate, more IUFDs, and more transports to a hospital. Everyone in Haiti had a difficult year as the cost to feed your family is rising and that is one of the smaller challenges.

In 2019 there were 121 babies born: 
(this number does not include the miscarriages)

61 boys
60 girls

We had 37 transports (higher than usual - see below)
78 babies born in house
6 babies born at home (prevented by unrest from getting to us)

45% of moms were first-time moms 

We had 3 IUFDs- one at term and two preterm 

We had four preterm births: two PPROM- one at 24 weeks and another at 26 weeks (both babies died in hospital shortly after birth. 

One born at 35 weeks-required CPAP for 48hrs (with us)

One born at 29.5 weeks- baby died in hospital shortly after birth. 

We had several first trimester miscarriages.

We had two late term miscarriages at 20 weeks. Both moms delivered with us and held their babies. 

We had a 10% preeclampsia rate

We had a 30% transport rate (19% cesarean - also higher than past years) 
When women are transfered to a hospital, they return to us to be cared for at Heartline until they feel healed and ready to go home. The postpartum stay is determined by the woman's need and is a flexible number of nights.

We had a 3% hemorrhage rate 

1,460+ private prenatal visits took place.

Each new mother was offered three postpartum consultations between one and six weeks postpartum.

Each woman was informed and educated about three free birth control options available to her through Heartline Maternity Center.

We take thousands of photos each year, choosing which ones to post is impossible, but here are a few of the women that delivered in 2019 ...

Submitted to you today with love and gratitude from,
"The place of resistance and defiance,
The piece of ground from which we see the world
Both as it is an as it could be
As it will be;
The place from which we glimpse not only struggle,
But the joy of the struggle.
And we stand there, beckoning and calling,
Telling people what we are seeing,
Asking people what they see.”