In Septemeber 2008, I traveled 6000 miles to Haiti's Kenscoff mountains. My mission: to care for some of the orphaned and abandoned, the sick, malnourished and premature infants of this beautiful but beleagured Caribbean nation.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

A Living Victory

This gorgeous little boy arrived at GLA last August. He was 9 months old and weighed 10 lb. His bony frame was covered in scars and his ashen face was dominated by huge ears. He was not a pretty sight.

He has underlying health problems that make it difficult for him to gain weigh. As 2008 drew to a close, he was having diarrhoea almost every day and he had problems keeping his formula down. To make matters worse, he was not able to tolerate foods that were thick, or lumpy. He was not recovering from his malnutrition, but I was not ready to give up the fight.

We treated him for parasites. We gave him antibiotics to treat bacterial and protozoal infections, and drugs to help reduce the vomiting. Despite all of this, we saw limited improvement in his overall condition.

That changed when we started him on a hypoallergenic formula. It appeared that my little man was sensitive not only to lactose but also to the proteins in milk-based and soy-based formulas.

By December, the nannies and nurses noticed he was 'beginning to change.' The diarrhoea had settled and he was no longer vomiting. He was gaining half a pound every week. His hair was growing in and his skin was taking on a warm glow. He began to pull him self long on his belly, and a few weeks later, he was too active to join me for our weekly bible study.

I love this little man's shy smile. I love his peals of laughter, and the light in his eyes. I love that I have to tell him it is not OK to reach over and steal the bottle from the baby in the next crib. In short, I love this boy. If it were possible for me to take him home with me, I would, but since it is not, I have faith that God has something better in store for him.

I am watching over his health carefully and deliver doses of TLC everyday, along with the medications and supplements he receives. Mine is not the only heart this boy holds. He has a volunteer on the balcony who thinks he is wonderful, and an experienced nanny who is working on transitioning him onto the regular nursery menu. She does a wonderful job of getting fluids and nutrition into him on the days he is not feeling well. Although this little mans health remains fragile, I believe that we have broken the cycle of malnutrition and ill-health and that is quite a victory!

He has a fever tonight and is vomiting, but he weighs 18lb now and I believe that he will be feeling better in a few days. Please join me in thanks-giving that we have access to the medicines and the formula he has needed. May God continue to provide all we need for our children. May he bless this little man with a healing. May he continue to grow and thrive, and may love forever dominate his life.

Sunday, 18 January 2009


We don't know how old this little man is. We don't know which part of Haiti he come from. We don't even know his name.

Late on Monday morning, there was a commotion in front of our house. Our Gate Keeper, Abraham, came into the office in an agitated state. Abraham explained that he had just had been confronted by a group of neighbours. A baby was laying outside our gate, alone. The baby looked ill. The neighbours were all talking at once and their voices were raised. They were gesticulating and they were emphatic that he, Abraham was to do something.

The baby was laying on a towel that had been spread out on the ground. No-one had picked the baby up. To pick him up would have been to claim responsibility for him. The neighbours did want the responsibility of an abandoned baby. Poor Abraham didn't know what to do; he had never known anything like this to happen before.

Inside the baby house, it quickly became apparent that this tiny boy's mother had spoken with a staff member a short time ago. She had been told that we could not admit him because Mum didn't have his birth certificate of her own ID papers. She was told that she would have to return home to get document.

If she had come a day later, the Haitian administrator, seeing that this child was extremely malnourished, would have admitted the boy right away, sent the boy's Mother to get the necessary papers, and given her money for the return journey. But Miss Magalie was not on-site on Monday, and so one of the newer staff members was dealing with the admissions.

The baby was silent and wide-eyed when GLA's social worker bent down and lifted him off the ground. An hour or so later, the head nurse asked me to check him over.

I estimated that he was over a year old. With spindly arms and legs, a bony head and wasted buttocks, it was clear that he was suffering from severe malnutrition. The baby was weak but he watched me with big, shining eyes.

Some of the nannies think his Mama was cruel to leave him. I am with the other (larger camp), who believes that this was not so much an abandonment as a deliverance. The Momma didn't have money to feed her baby. She certainly couldn't afford a second trip here. She knew that to return home with him would be certain death for her son. She loved him deeply, and she acted with the same faith and desperation as another mother, several thousand years ago, who laid her baby in reed basket and sent him adrift on the River Nile.

So far, this little man's recovery has been unremarkable. He has a voracious appetite and after just 7 days with us, he is all ready filling out. We are seeing a little more flesh on his bones, and even the hint of a double chin. Much to our delight, a precious personality is emerging. This boy likes to be held and he likes to snuggle. For my part, there is no describing the feeling I get when he reaches up, or when he lies with his head on my shoulder, and sings.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

A Double Blessing

A few days before the New Year, we received a double blessing in the form of a set of twin boys.

The little man on the left weighed 13lb when he was admitted and his brother weighed 16lb and was walking. Both boys are very thin. The smallest twin, though, is several centimeters shorter than his brother, which may be a sign that he has been malnourished for longer period of time.

In Haiti, where daily life is often a struggle to survive, many families are unable to cope with the burden of not just one, but two extra mouths to feed when twins are born. Consciously or otherwise, mothers tend to favour one baby over the other. The favourite twin is given a bigger share of the family's food supply. The other twin is neglected. This is a harsh reality, and it is not my place to judge, but it hurts me. Deeply. And it stirs up a fierce emotion I can't name.

We can 't know at this point, whether favouritism made one of our boys three pounds heavier than his brother. If after a few months, the the size-gap narrows, a great many heads will nod.

In the week since they arrived, both boys have gained a pound. This is remarkable given that they were refusing food when they first got here. The boys are receiving high calorie supplements, and Medika Mamba, which is a blend of ground peanuts, powdered milk, sugar, oil, vitamins and minerals. Their progress is a testament to all we are are able to do for them here, and to the loving care they have received from Jocelyn, a wonderful nanny who works in the big nursery at the baby house.

I am grateful that these boys were not born into a family that is living heart-deep in voodoo. If they had been, one of the boys would certainly have died; voodooists belief that the birth of twins brings a curse upon the family that can be broken by the sacrifice of one twin's life.

No, we rejoice that both boys have lived, and that they have arrived at a place where people of faith will treat them equally, believing that that each boy is equal in the sight of God.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Bon Ane

The Haitans are a deeply spiritual people and to mark the New Year, they attended church en mass last night. It seems that today and not Christmas is the main feast day of the festive season. It is a double celebration; the first of January is Independence day in Haiti.

At GLA, we all celebrated with Squash soup. This is significant for the descendants of freed slaves because under French rule, Africans were not permitted to drink this rich and fragrant soup. Soup Janmou as the Haitians call it was eaten by everyone at GLA today. I am told that consuming this will bring me luck.

I was pleased to be able to spend New Years Eve at the toddler house, where we made Dutch Donuts (Ollie Bollen), played a board game and watched a DVD. At mid-night we went out to the balcony. The nannies in the rooms below broke out in song and fireworks were exploding over the mountain tops and down in the valleys. The children, who were snuggly tucked up in bed, slept through all of this.

We started work at 10am this morning but otherwise, it was business as usual. I made a visit to one of my NICU graduates, who celebrated his first birthday today. I offered him a little piece of cake to mark this special event. To my great surprise, he screwed up his face and spat it out. He was much more impressed with my rendition of "Happy Birthday." Poor kid.... anyone who knows me knows me knows I am not very tuneful. Maybe the birthday boy understood the love behind the gesture???