Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Dream Come True

Written by Nick Stolberg:

Papito running the Database on the iPad
My life in Haiti is far from normal. Life here represents the abnormal.  Problems that we face, challenges that we have, and the solutions are all fundamentally different than I would have ever thought possible.  When I first came to Children of the Promise, I had two visions of things I could help with.  The first was Solar Panels.  I had a strong desire to see that project through completion.  It represents an amazing long term investment, lessens our dependency on diesel, and saves us money.  I am proud to say that the solar panels now operate every day, rain or shine.  They are doing well and it was awesome to see it finished.  After the Solar Panels came the next project.
Before you go on, you must know that I am a bit of what some might call a nerd.  I place a high value in efficient systems that utilize our resources to the maximum.  So while this post may not directly be about babies, it is about how we are improving our system to better care for our babies.
The problem was that COTP was experiencing information overload.  There was so much information that was being collected each day on so many different children in many different programs, but none of it was centralized.  Each person and program had their own way of collecting the data.  When ever a new person took over a program, they would completely change the way of doing it.  There was no consistency at all and that made it difficult to ever train people to do this for us or to know what the data meant.  We were gathering so much useful information but we had no way of using it.  If we ever wanted to go back and analyze the data it would have been such a time consuming task that no one would ever be able to do it.  
My solution was a Database.  Back in High School I took a class on Microsoft Access.  From then on I was enthralled with the potential for Databases.  For various reasons and after months of discussions we decided to develop a database using File Maker Pro.  File Maker Pro offers seamless integration across platforms, and can be used like an app on an Ipad and Iphone.  We had this crazy vision of our Haitian Staff using Ipads to collect and enter the information on the go.  
The journey started for me in September 2011.  I downloaded a trial version of File Maker to start trying to figure it out.  After a few unsuccessful and frustrating hours I began looking on craigslist for FM developers in Minnesota since I was headed there in a few days.  We ended up finding one that was willing to teach us how to start.  He only charged $50 per hour (which is a good deal) and was willing to meet with us for an 8 hour lesson.  
Jamie and I sat in a coffee shop for nearly 10 hours while our head was crammed full of technical database development information.  I then spent the next 3 days in Jamie’s basement building the foundation to what has now revolutionized Children of the Promise.
When I returned from the States I had this database on the laptop that was only a work in progress.  I had poured probably close to 40 hours in 3 days into this thing.  It was described as interesting and vibrantly colored; and we all wondered if we just wasted a bunch of time and money, or if it could really help.  

Nikki teaching Fifi and Roseline how to type.
To switch to something like this requires everyone to throw away the entire way they used to work and relearn a very new system.  The timing worked out amazing as we were having some staffing changes at the time.  Sheila had used databases while working in Hospitals before coming here and had lots of great ideas on how to wildly improve the medical screens to track our children’s health.  The medical aspect of the database was our biggest priority.  There was too much information for each child to efficiently organize it with any other tool.  
The transition also included hiring Papito to do data entry.  We had lots of information of previous children and current children in a vast array of spreadsheets, word documents, note books, and in our heads that we needed to get into the database before it would really be useful.  Papito spent months entering name by name and date by date.  
There have been so many benefits to this that it would take the entire day to tell you them all.  Instead I want to share two of them.
Empowering our Haitian Employees:  A huge misconception that I had before moving to Haiti was that the best way for me to help Haiti was for me to send aid.  While aid is needed, it is critical that it be distributed in a way that builds instead of destroying communities and individuals.  What I try to do now is to empower Haitians with tools that allow them to work better and more efficiently.  The initial time investment in the beginning is far greater than if I simply did it myself, but the long term results are greater than I can image.  
Prior to the database, computers at COTP were for the international volunteers.  That meant that all computer work, data entry, etc had to be done by international staff.  The database is set up to be simple and built in a way that allows our Haitians Staff, who have no prior computer experience, to be able to use it.  Many of our employees didn’t even know how to move a mouse a few months ago, but are now efficiently entering data into our database!  We currently have seven of our Haitian staff who use it daily!
The database is helping us in countless way.  For instance, each room takes different quantities of various types of formula depending on the children in that room and their nutritional needs.  Handing out the supplies used to be a huge task as room assignments were always changing. Now this task is much easier, thanks to a report that Madam Ga runs on the computer in the Depot which shows her exactly how much of each formula to distribute to each room.  This task used to have to be done by an international staff member, however we have now empowered one of our employees who has worked here for 12 years to do it.  In addition, it’s much easier to control the quantity given out.  If we want to change a child’s formula, we no longer have to tell a whole list of people, we simply change it in the database and then everyone can see it!  
Madam Ga has worked for COTP for 12 years, she has at one point probably done every job here.  Now she is using a computer to help COTP operate more efficiently.  COTP is saving money by controlling our distribution of supplies in a much more effective and correct way.  Madam Ga has a job, where she was taught and empowered to use a computer.  She has an increased moral and sense of self accomplishment.  This story is multiplied across many of our administrative staff at COTP that have taken on this Database.
Papito teaching Roseline something new on the Database
Centralizing our data: Well, obviously a database centralizes data, what we didn’t realize is how critical this was.  With a few mouse clicks I can see a graph of any child in any of our programs weight gain.  With a few clicks we can get a precise dosage of tylenol and log the distribution of it into the system.  With a few clicks we can access more information for more of our children than any of us ever realized we needed.  Our international staff, who tend to be swamped with never ending administrative duties, are doing less and less of the data entry and more and more of the reviewing and evaluating.    
For each child we have over 230 fields of information that we can add to. Today we have 872 Records of Children that COTP has helped, we have entered in 3,270 Heights and Weights, 1032 Medical Notes, 539 Medications, 904 Vaccinations, 531 Lab results, and a whole lot more!  All of this has happened in just the past six months!   
It makes it so easy to know that in the first quarter of this year COTP has admitted 11 children, reunited 9 children, completed the adoption for 1 child, and 3 children have passed away.  In addition, so far this quarter 19 kids have been admitted into the formula program, and 11 into the Medika Mamba program.  In addition, 30 Moms in our Prenatal Program have given birth!
COTP has taken on some expenses in switching to this system. One of the keys to having all this information online is that we need to be able to access it quickly and from anywhere.  Many generous people have donated money to allow for this.  We are using a Mac Mini Server to host all of our files and our databases.  We have 5 additional Mac Mini’s Set up as work stations, in addition we use 2 Ipads, and 2 MacBooks.  We have installed over 3,000 feet of ethernet cable, two 16 port switches, one 4 port switch, one Airport Extreme, and five Airport Expresses (For those who want to get technical).  We also have the ability to connect to the database remotely from the US, which allows our staff there to have up to date information on all of our children.

Fifi and Roseline practicing using the computer!
In addition, we just made another significant step in the way that COTP operates which we would not have been able to do with out this system.  As of the beginning of April, we are now doing our employee role call on the Ipad thanks to the database!  This means that when it comes time to do payroll, instead of spending hours transferring data from one sheet to another and then entering it in the computer, we can now get this information at the click of a button.  Not only is it much faster, but it is also much more accurate. 
As COTP continues to grow, we have a bigger and bigger demand for more technology.  Several of our Haitian staff members have already began to ask if we can teach them to use a computer as they know it’ll drastically improve the way they are able to operate at COTP.  If you are upgrading a used piece of Apple technology, chances are we could use your old piece in Haiti.  This includes Iphones, Ipads,  Imacs, Monitors, Routers, Switches, Network Boxes, UPS supplies, Etc!  If you would be interested in donating these items or any others to COTP, please contact me at
Thanks for taking the time to read my Nerdy blog post.  We truly appreciate all of your support in making these big things happen!
Nick Stolberg

Monday, May 21, 2012

Providing Hope

I've been watching a lot of Greys Anatomy lately, perhaps too much since my husbands making references to it and my two year old son runs around saying "Greys Anatomy"all day long, always with a giant smile on his face and a few extra syllables added in!!

Every few episodes a patient dies and the Doctors have to let the families know the news.  They walk out to the lobby, spot the family, let out a sigh, and slowly walk over to where they are seated.  You can tell that while they walk they are practicing what they are going to say in their head.  They don't want to be the ones to tell the family.  They get in front of them, look them in the eye, and let the family know that they did all they could, but their loved one didn't make it.

I hate these scenes because they strike much too close to home.  Far too many times I have stepped out on my patio, glanced down to the waiting area by our gate, let out a long sigh, and slowly walked to where they are sitting, practicing what I'm going to say on the way.  I've had to look too many Mothers, Fathers, Grandmas, Aunts, and other family members in the eye and tell them that we did all we could, but their child, their baby, their little one that they loved, held, and prayed for didn't make it.  Luckliy for the doctors on Greys Anatomy, they don't have to do this in a foreign language, I have to do it in Creole which makes it that much harder.

I've witnessed all sorts of reactions to this news.  I've had Moms who fall to the ground screaming at the top of their lungs, I've had Dads who sit in silence, and Aunts whom don't know what else to do but pray.  I've had families that want to hold their child's body and refuse to leave them and then I've had families who choose not to see them at all in hopes if remembering them as the child they once were.

We had a little boy pass away recently.  He hadn't been in our care long and spent most of that time in the hospital.  I didn't know him well but I was beginning to form a great relationship with his parents and I really liked them.  They were going to take him home and he was only in our care solely for medical help.  They cried when they left him with us.  I didn't want to tell them the news that their child died. I didn't know how they would handle it and I really had hoped that their son would have made it.

This little boys Father really touched me as I told him the news of his precious baby boy.  He looked me in the eye and thanked me.

You see, this little boy was a twin.  They were born at 2.5 lbs and were very fragile.  When they were 9 days old their parents took them to a clinic to get help.  The medical staff there told them that the boys were too far gone and that there was nothing they could do.  They sent them home with out help, medicine, or advice.  They sent them home and expected their parents to watch their babies die.  And his twin, he did just that, he died the next day.  But their parents were determined to get the care that their little guy needed and deserved.  They were scared and didn't know what to do.  They came to us.

He was in really rough shape and I knew instantly I would be admitting him.  I also knew that he likely wouldn't make it.  But we tried any way.  Sheila lost 3 nights of sleep staying up with him to ensure that he was breathing and that his IV was working right.  Both Nick and Sheila donated blood trying to save his life, but in the end he still didn't make it.

His Father told me this story that day and then he thanked me.  He told me that when he took the twins to the clinic no one even tried to help them.  But when they came to us, we gave them hope that their son would be ok.  We loved their little boy and their family enough to try.  We fought to save his life.  We gave his family hope in a country that often feels hopeless.

Today I went on a home visit to one of our children's houses who has been reunited with his biological family.  His house was by far the worse house I have ever been in since moving to Haiti.  When asked where they go to the bathroom, his Mom looked me in the eye and told me that they don't have a toilet, so they go to the bathroom in a bag and throw it over their makeshift wall.  They use what some might call the "Flying Toliet."  This seems hopeless.  Life seems hopeless here.

Life in Haiti is hard it's easy to loose hope.  But amongst all the suffering, COTP is here and we provide hope.  We love these children and their families enough to try.  We loose sleep and donate blood to try and save lives.  We go to peoples houses to try and know them and their situations better.  In a place that is full of hopelessness, COTP provides hope to those who need it most, and in the end, thats all we can really dream of doing!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Josiah: Then and Now

Very First Bath Jan 21, 2012
Age 6 weeks
Weight 2.5 lbs
Josiah's Bath last week April 24, 2012
Age 4 months, 3 weeks
Weight 11 lbs 14.4 oz
(Eventz likes to make sure his little bro always has bath toys)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Haitis Hard

It's been one month since I updated my blog and longer than that since I've put anything of importance on here.

I'll be honest, this past month has been the hardest month, not only since I've moved to Haiti, but probably of my life.  I have been incredibly stressed and the thought of composing an uplifting and/or inspiring post only added to my levels of stress.  Not only had I given up on my own blog, but I also haven't read any of the blogs I normally follow for weeks.

Volunteers and new missionaries often come down to Haiti and comment on how difficult this place is.  I normally get annoyed when I hear these comments and think to myself that this is place isn't all that hard.  Sure we work our buts off, sure we give up a lot of stuff to be here, and are faced with incredibly heartbreaking realities every day; but if this is where we are supposed to be, then it shouldn't be hard.  This past month however I have had to eat my words.  I have learned first hand how hard Haiti is to live in.

I can't put my finger on exactly what makes it difficult or whats been stressing me out so much.  It's probably a list of all sorts of things.  This past month I have been feeling the weight of all of it.  I've struggled.  I've been an awful grumpy person and in a bad mood more often then not.

But through all of this stress, theres on thing I keep thinking.  Theres a common phrase in Haiti that I hear constantly.

"Bondye Konn," God Knows.

Whenever something bad happens, a simple Bondye Konn is usually suffice.  When a child passes away, God knows.  When someone is sick and or suffering, God Knows.  When we aren't able to give employment to someone who desperately needs it, God Knows.  When I have to turn away an old man with a growth the size of a soft ball on his jaw, God Knows.  When I'm stressed out beyond belief, wishing my children had passports so we could hide on some deserted island with just the four of us, when Nick and I are about to kill each other, and when I feel like I'm about to go insane, God Knows.

Nick and I were able to take a family vacation last weekend with our boys, and it couldn't have come at a better time.  We so badly needed it.  We needed to get away and not think of COTP.  To focus on our family and to rejuvenate ourselves.  God Knew.  He knew we needed a break and he provided that opportunity for us.  It doesn't happen often, but it happened at the exact right time!  God Knew!

More updates to come!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wedly's 3!

Last weekend Wedly, the little boy who has been living with Nick and I for the past 9 months, turned 3!  We decided to have a bug themed (caterpillar actually) party for him!  He invited up 3 of his friends and they celebrated by coloring their very own caterpillar and reading the very hungry caterpillar book.  They also played some basketball, ate a caterpillar cake, and of course, had a very fun pool day!  These boys are full of energy and a lot of fun!  Here are some pictures from his birthday party!!

Josiah insisted on wearing his caterpillar shirt!

Listening to the story intently!

Fred enjoyed the story!

And so did Josiah!

Apparently Eventz thought it was funny!

Wedly's caterpillar cake!

Wedly's favorite part of pool day is being in charge of the hose!

Cheeto break!

Cheeto break #2!

Double fisting it!

Wedly's adoption is nearing an end.  Please continue to pray that all of his paperwork is finished quickly and he can go home to be with his family soon!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Remembering Marck

I still remember the first time I met Marck.  We were in the pharmacy and Amy and I were talking to his Mom to decide whether or not he would be a good candidate for our Formula Program.  For me, it was love at first sight.  Marck had a giant afro and his hair was so soft.  In Haiti, it's uncommon to see people with afros, normally their hair is braided and in tip top condition, but Marck was the exception to the rule.  As I weighed his frail little bottle, I noticed that every bone in his body was visible.  Laying on our scale, in nothing but a diaper, Marck was full of energy and grabbing at everything!

I remember later that day telling my friend Tori that we had a new formula program baby that she would absolutely love.  A month later, Tori was able to meet him for the first time.  She also feel in love at first sight.  There was just something about that boy that pulled everyone in.  Unfortunately, our appointment with Marck and his Mom went down hill fast.  It quickly turned from a routine Formula program visit, to hours of Tori, Amy, Jenn, and I desperately trying to save his life.  We worked hard and took turns suctioning him, holding the oxygen mask to his nose, and comforting his Mom.  The four of us barely knew this precious little boy, but we were all nervous.  One thing through this kept us all strong, Monia, his Mom.

When Josiah was sick recently, I was a mess, however, Monia was a rock when her son needed her to be strong.  She sat there for hours holding her little boy, singing to him, praying over him, and rocking him back and forth.  Seeing her care for her baby and ask God to watch over him as well, was something new to all of us.  We had all taken care of babies during their last few hours.  We've even had babies die in our arms and have prepared a lot of bodies for burial.  But none of us had ever experienced this fight when a parent was in the room.  We didn't speak it out loud, but we all knew we would do everything we could to save this little boys life.

Marck made it through the night and he and his Mom ended up staying the next several months with us at COTP.  This was not the only time we had to fight for Marcks life.  On far too many occasions, his oxygen stats would drop down into the 50% and he would turn blue.  We were always surprised when he pulled through as that is scary low.  Each time his stats dropped, we'd hold our breaths, say a prayer, Monia would sing, and we'd wait while they'ed go back up ASAP.

During his time at COTP, his Mom continued to be a rock.  She stayed by his side constantly and since Tori and Amy taught her how, she ended up providing most of his medical care for him.  We fell in love with not only these two, but their entire family.  Monia was so amazing, that even after Marck left our care, we knew we couldn't let her go, so we hired her on to work as one of our nannies!  She has done amazing ever since.

Because of Marcks severe heart problems, he has always struggled to grow and gets sick easier then other kids.

He and his Mom came to visit us three Saturdays ago.  Marck looked good and I was as excited as always to see him.  On that Tuesday night I heard Marck was sick and had a fever.  I sent one of our yard guys on Nicks moto to take him some infant tylenol, hoping it would help.  On Wednesday I was told that Marck passed away.

I didn't believe it at first.  I had to clarify several times.  This was the last thing I wanted to hear.  I knew his Mom would be having a difficult time with this.  I went and told Nick, and at that point wasn't able to keep the tears away.  We hoped on his moto and headed straight to Monias house.

As I got there, Amy was preparing him to be buried.  I helped her put on an adorable little white suit.  Marck has always had good style and loved to wear his best for church.  His hair, the thing that made me fall in love with him in the first place was neatly braided.  I stroked his head and said goodbye to him.

About that time, Monia realized I was there.  As soon as she saw me, she started weeping again.  I walked inside to try and help comfort her.  I didn't know what to say, so instead I just stood there and hugged her, her limp body leaning up against mine as she sobbed on my shoulder.  This lady who had been a solid rock for the past year since learning about her sons diagnosis, was finally letting it all come to the surface. I rubbed her back and said nothing, what could I say?

Nick and I stayed at their house for a few hours.  We learned that they had taken Marck to the hospital that morning, he had been put on oxygen, but still didn't make it.  His friends and family gathered around and told stories of this little boy.

Everytime one of our children passes away, I always say the same prayer, "Lord please help us be better people for knowing this child."  I didn't have to say this prayer for Marck, I know fully well that I am a MUCH better person for the time I spent with him and his family.  He changed my life.  I prayed harder for Marck then I ever have for any other baby.  I loved him.  From his room at COTP, you could look out the windows and see our playground.  Eventz and I would visit him daily, and I'd constantly tell both Marck and Monia that when he was older and healthier, he and Eventz were going to play on the playground together.  I wanted them to be friends.  I wanted him to make it!

But God has other plans for this little boy.  He wanted to take him home early.  Monia and Mackenson, his parents, had always hoped that he would be a pastor when he grew up.  Even though this dream was never fulfilled, I still believe Marck lead people to Christ and helped strengthen others spiritual relationship.  Its crazy that a 8 pound baby could impact so many people in such a profound way, but Marck was capable of just that!

Please pray for Monia and Mackenson as they are grieving the loss of their son.  Please also pray for their newborn son, Mickenson, that was born a few weeks prior to Marck passing away.  He is a healthy beautiful little boy!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Happy 2nd Birthday Eventz!

Eventz celebrated his 2nd birthday today!  I can't believe how big my boy is getting already!  Seems like we just celebrated his first birthday last week!  Since Eventz is obsessed with Lions we of course had to have a lion themed party.  And who better to invite to a lion party then a few of the boys from the Lyon room!  I figure the best way to sum up his birthday is in pics!  Enjoy!

Coloring his lion Mask! 

Papa Paul!
Blowing his party whistle Grandma brought for him!

The boys sporting their masks!
Notice my son is the only one not wearing his mask!
Baby Brother Josiah!
Teacher Mateja read the boys two lion stories!
Surprisingly, Eventz actually paid attention to the story!
And then afterwards looked through it again!
Fred blowing two whistles at once!
Mickenson enjoyed Eventz Thomas the Train!
The fuzziness of this photo helps show how much the boys loved chasing balloons around the patio!
Eventz Lion Cake I made for him!

Eventz seeing his cake I made him for the first time!

Wedly eating his cake! 
Fred enjoyed the cake!

Look at that tongue!
Mr. Manno!
Josiah slept through a lot of the party!
Our little family!
King Eventz was the first in the pool!

He LOVES the water! 

All five of these boys are ALL boy!
There were a LOT of collisions!

Ouch!  Surprisingly no one cried, even with all the collisions! 

"Brotherly" love!
Love this one of Mickenson!
Wipe out!

Boys will be boys!
Afterwards Eventz was shivering and needed a good cuddle with Mommy!

What better gift for a Lion Lover than Lion King?  We of course are watching it tonight! 
Mommy and Daddy got him Capris Sun in the DR!  
It was his first time drinking it and he LOVED it!
Fun sunglasses from Grandma! 

This looks an awful lot like his pics from last year!
Nick promised Eventz he could have steak every year for his bday!   We had to show our cook a picture on Google to show her what type of meat we wanted!  This is Nick lighting the bbq with his torch!
Eventz was too busy watching lion king to show you all how old he is!
I LOVE this little boy SO incredibly much!!  Look at his adorable birthday Shirt!
Happy Birthday to my Favorites two year old in the whole world!  Mommy loves you SO much and I love spending every day with you!  I am so proud of the boy you are growing into and love watching you grow and develop every day!  I am excited to see how this next year goes and laugh at all the little things you do everyday which never cease to amaze me!

***Children of the Promise has given explicit permission for the posting of photos on this site.  Photos taken of children in the care of Children of the Promise are not to be posted publicly without explicit permission given by Children of the Promise.