Thursday, November 24, 2011

You know you've been in Haiti too long when...

A wise man, aka my neighbor and fellow missionary, once told me a good joke.

"When a person comes to Haiti short term, they'll find a bug in their food and throw their meal away.  After you've been here a year or so, you scoop the bug out and go on with your meal as if it's no big deal at all.  However, once you've been here a significant amount of time, you take that bug out of you meal, grab it by the neck, and tell it to spit your food back out!"

Well I'm somewhere between the second and third one!  Prior to moving to Haiti, if a bug even landed on my food briefly, I'd hand it to Nick and find something else to eat.  Oh how my life has changed!

Someone recently sent us down a box mix to make cinnamon rolls, and you can only imagine what a treat this is for us!  We had a few sitting on the table wrapped in foil and I went to move them to the fridge when I noticed the top was covered in ants.

Oh NO!

I quickly ripped the foil off only to find that a handful had already made it inside.  The old me would have thrown the whole bundle in the garbage, but not any more.  Those are precious treats now.

I carefully plucked each ant I found off and threw them on the floor, and while doing so made the comment to Nick that "It's not like they don't carry any bad diseases or anything!"  Nick got quite a kick out of this and told me I've been here to long!  I guess so!


Since moving to Haiti I have become acutely more aware of all the blessings I have.  As I logged on to Facebook today, I saw post after post of people listing what they were thankful for.  Most said friends and families, a few said their health and the health of their loved ones.

What I didn't see was that people are thankful for the hospital and medicines that allow them to be healthy.  Or the car they drive to get to the doctors when they are sick.  The shoes they wear on their feet so they don't have to walk barefoot to get medical care.  Nobody was thankful for the cupboard of over the counter meds they have in their home that they can take every time they don't feel good.

I take these things for granted just as much as the rest of us.  I have never appreciated enough how much of a blessing it is to always have a bottle of tylenol in my house, car, backpack, and purse incase a headache ever comes on.  I've never really had to suffer through it.  Not only do I go to the doctors when I'm sick, but I also go for preventative care as well!

These things are just part of my life.  They are normal.  Why would I be thankful for something that everyone has, something that wouldn't make sense not to have.  That is until you meet someone who doesn't have it.  Until you meet lots of someones who don't have it.  Until you meet lots of someones who don't even understand what it is when you try to describe it.

So this year, I'm going to do it a little different.  Yes I'm thankful for my friends and family.  I'm thankful for my health and the health of my loved ones.  But, I have SO MANY more blessings than that.  Today I'm going to share some of those with you.

-I'm blessed to have shoes
-I'm blessed to have quality clothes
-I'm blessed to have tooth paste, tooth brush, soap, and other hygiene products
-I'm blessed to have a bottle of tylenol and a bottle of vitamins in my house
-I'm blessed to have a bed to sleep on
-I'm blessed to have blankets to keep me warm
-I'm blessed to have electricity
-I'm blessed to have the most amazing son and husband in the world
-I'm blessed to have a fan to cool me off on warm nights
-I'm blessed to have more food on my shelfs than I could eat in a month
-I'm blessed to have amazing technology at my finger tips
-I'm blessed to have clean running water.
-I'm blessed to not have to walk miles carrying a five gallon bucket of water to cook, clean, and drink with.
-I'm blessed that my son doesn't have to carry water as his daily chore.
-I'm blessed to have a vehicle to drive so I don't have to walk every where
-I'm blessed to have a University education
-I'm blessed to have the freedom of religion
-I'm blessed to have a house that doesn't leak every time it rains
-I'm blessed to have a door that locks when so many others don't
-I'm blessed to have recreation
-I'm blessed to have access to quality health care that doesn't require me to walk several miles and sit in line for hours or days to receive.
-I'm blessed to have a house full of toys for my son to play with
-I'm blessed to have the ability to read and write my name
-I'm blessed to have money saved aside for the "rainy day"
-I'm blessed to have the opportunity to live and work in Haiti doing Gods work daily

I'm Blessed, I'm Blessed, I'm Blessed.  This list could go on forever.  Anyone who's reading this is more blessed than they know.  We have so much to be thankful for.  I don't know about you, but I personally am not nearly appreciative enough of these blessings.  Even living in Haiti and working everyday with people who literally have nothing, I still always want more and more.  I still don't get it.  I'll never get it.

Today, being a day of Thanksgiving, it's easy to be reminded of all the blessings we have.  Tomorrow will be much harder; but what would our life look like if we remembered these things daily?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Educating our Families

Over the past year, I have always wanted to add an education component to our formula program.  I have been running this program since shortly after moving to Haiti, and although I very much enjoy running it, I fully realize that the program has more potential than what I can offer it with my limited Creole and lack of cultural experience.  I knew that the best way to ensure that this program was making a lasting difference, beyond just the time the families spend in our program, was to hire someone to teach information that the participants could use not only for this child, but for any child they raise.

Thanks to a grant from Haiti Serve, today we had our first Formula Program Class!  I was very nervous and excited to see how this would go.  We hired Mary Lourde, the lady that teaches our prenatal classes to do it.  I have honestly never sat in on these classes and had no idea how she would do.

I am excited to announce that she is AMAZING and defiantly the best fit for the job.  She did so well today with all the guardians of our kids.  She choose to talk about serum, which I thought was a great first topic since we recently had one baby pass away from Cholera and four others admitted to the hospital for diarrhea and vomiting.  She discussed how to make it from scratch, when you give it, and for how long.  At one point she even demonstrated how much water you would need by filling up two empty coke bottles with water and presenting them to the class.

I expected her to stand at the front of the class and just lecture the whole time.  This was not her approach at all.  She made sure everyone was involved in the discussion.  Instead of just saying "this is how you make serum" she asked the class who knew how to make it.  She then challenged them and asked where they received this information, if they actually do it just as they were told, etc.  Mary Lourde spent time making sure that each participant spoke up at least once during class.  She made great eye contact and just did amazing over all!

I was also nervous about what our parents/guardians would think of these classes.  I didn't know if they would be accepting of the program or if they would be upset that there was now a hoop to go through to receive their formula.  I should have known the value that Haitian put on education and realized that they of course would love to go to our little "school" to help them learn how to better provide for their babies.  They were all very attentive and excited to be there.  Many even thanked me for the opportunity to go!

There has been 3 families in our program for several months now that all live very close to each other.  I have never once seen these families interact.  However, today they all waited for each other after class and walked home as a group.  By requiring them all to come at the same time and sit together, they are able to have fellowship and will hopefully build lasting relationships with each other.  They will be able to lean on each other in time of need and have someone to talk to that understands what they are going through.

The only thing that didn't happen today that I expected to was prayer and singing with the our families.  Mary Lourde does this with the Prenatal ladies but did not do it today.  My assumption is that she choose to skip it since we started out with everyone signing contracts, but she agreed to do it next time!  I am also excited because this will take this program from being just a humanitarian program to a mission program!

For so long I have felt like this program is just a band aid; helping a few people with the problem thats here and now.  I have never felt like it makes a lasting difference in their or their children's lives (minus the benefits from the nutrition).  Now however, I feel like we are teaching skills that these Moms, Grandmas, Aunts, Fathers, Uncles, Neighbors, and Cousins can take with them and spread to their community.  Now if any of their kids get sick or any of their neighbors children, they will be able to offer appropriate advice on how to make serum and when it's necessary to give it to them.  They will not only benefit from these classes, but their entire family and community could as well!

I have dreamed, talked about, and begged for these classes for a year now, and today I couldn't help but smile as I sat in the back of the class and listened to the discussions our families were having with each other and Mary Lourde.  It's finally happening.  So much has changed, and it was all from a one hour class.  I can't imagine what is going to unfold over the next several weeks as these families continue to met, learn, and grow together.  All I can say is I am looking forward to meeting with them all again in 2 more weeks to discuss whatever topic Mary Lourde decides to discuss then!

I love that COTP continues to do all we can to keep families in our community together!  With out this program, many of these babies would have been admitted to our care, become extremely malnourished, or potentially could have even died.  It's great to know we are able to provide assistance to these 13 beautiful children which hopefully will help them flourish in their parents home!

Please pray for Mary Lourde as she is teaching and leading these families, pray they are able to use the information she is providing them, that they create lasting friendships with each other, and most importantly, that their babies grow and thrive in their care!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Thanks for the Diapers!

COTP Diaper Drive
Diaper Drive Update

 A few months ago we Nick and I asked you all to help us with our need for diapers. We are excited to announce that the diaper drive was a success and we now have 17 people shipping down a box each month! This has greatly helped our diaper needs! It's great to have quality diapers coming in regularly to use on our amazing kiddos!

For those of you that ship us a box each month, Thank you so much! You have no idea how much we appreciate it!

If anyone's still interested in sending us diapers, or other supplies, off of amazon each month, please contact Nick and I at  Now that we are up to 62 kids we could always use a few more!

Thanks so much for your continued support!

Nikki and COTP staff!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Happy Family Day

Eventz in Daddy's back pack on a Moto Ride!
Today Nick, Eventz, and I are celebrating.  One year ago, the three of us became a family!  I remember coming back to Haiti after announcing we were adopting, and being so eager to see my beautiful little baby boy!  I sat in the stuffy, small airport in Port au Prince, watching every minute slowly tick away on my watch, wanting time to speed by so I could give Eventz hugs and kisses.

After what seemed like an eternity, I finally walked into my new apartment, asked the nanny that was watching him that day where he was, and quickly walked into my room to see an incredibly tiny little guy sound asleep in his play pen.  I just stood on the side and stared at him for the longest time.  I wanted to pick him up, tell him the exciting news; that I was his new Mommy; and give him a hug and a kiss, but decided that could wait and instead I just enjoyed the moment!

Eventz demanded I play in this position and
refused to let me get up!
Last night I read through some of my old blog posts about Eventz, and it killed me to see how big he has already gotten.  My once tiny baby is now a running, exploring, adventurous toddler who loves to learn!  In many of these posts, I talked about how I was trying to get Eventz to say Mama.  He refused for the longest time and would only say Dada.  Now however, Mommy is one of his favorite words and he says it all the time, always with a smile on his face!

Yesterday was all about Eventz.  We let him lead us on an "Adventure Walk."  He just wandered where ever he wanted, and we followed close behind.  He lead us to the shop, played with stuff there for a while, and then ended up going over to the neighbors where he ran around for about an hour!

Nick and I are only just now beginning to learn how difficult this adoption is going to be.  I had always thought we would let him live with us for a year and then at least start the 2 year process to make him legally ours.  I expected us to be able to go to someone's office, tell them our story, and either be approved or denied to start the adoption.  However, there is no way to know whether or not we will be approved until we actually submit all of our paperwork; which is several thousands of dollars; and since we don't met the Haitian requirements, theres a good chance that would be denied.  At this point it looks like we are going to wait the four years until we met the requirements before we even try.  This means 6 years before he'll be able to leave the country.

We are still hoping and praying that the Haitian laws change, but know they likely wont!

Regardless, we are so blessed to be spending this time WITH our son!  Nick and I just can't believe how well he fits into our lives!  He has a combination of both of our personalities, and if it wasn't for the physical appearance, you would never know he wasn't biologically ours!

Eventz now knows what a lion, kitty, puppy, goat, sheep, and cow say!  His favorite toys are his plastic lions, which he carries ALL over the place and 'roars', and his toy quad, which he pushes around and says 'zroom' to!  One of my favorite things Eventz does is go to the edge of the balcony, stand on his tippy toes so he can barely see over and yell "Ni, Ni" (Nick, Nick)!  Apparently he has seen me do this a few times, and now when he wants Daddy, he simply calls for Ni to come up and play with him!  Eventz is completely bonded to Nick and I and loves to give us hugs and kisses!  He knows that we are Mommy and Daddy and he knows he's well loved!

However, God never ceases to remind me what sacrifice had to be taken in order for him to be ours.  On our Family Day, Eventz Dad came to visit and began talking to me about Eventz baby sister, who is one month old.  I was reminded that Nick and I aren't the only ones that love Eventz, that there are two other people out there that love him even more than we both do.  That they love him so much, they made the incredibly difficult decision not to parent.  Everyday we love him more and more and are so incredibly thankful that he lives with us and is ours to care for.

Friday, November 4, 2011

How do you tell these stories?

One of my friends, Jillian, recently wrote this in her blog, and I can't sum it up better..

"Why have I not been writing? Good question- one that I have been asking myself a lot lately.....Thing is, sometimes all I have, is the energy to live here in Haiti. Writing about it, having to dwell on it, and attempting to make my everyday poetic and inspiring is draining so say the least. And most nights, especially the most frequent ones, I have found myself more than drained, completely uninspired, and the least bit poetic. It isn't that I don't have good stories to tell. I have plenty. It's just that sometimes, I can't muster up enough energy or spirit to make them inspiring."

For every blog I post, I have probably 10 potential posts I would like to write about.  Amazing stories, that I want to share.  But the fact is, one, I don't have time. Two, I'm tired.  Three, they aren't always inspiring.  And four, I don't know how to tell these stories and do them justice.

This life I live, it's full of of making life and death decisions EVERY day.  I hate making decisions, ask anyone who knows me, I can't even decide where to go out to eat.  Now I'm supposed to be making decisions that literally could result in a helpless baby dying, often multiple times a day.

What do you do when one someone you know has a baby that dies and it's twin is equally as sick.  Do you do nothing except encourage the family to care for the baby and ensure them this one won't have the same fate, even when you know that may not be the truth since the baby is so fragile?  Do you separate the family for a short time, while the baby is healing and gaining weight, even though this causes the Mother to not be able to breast feed once reunited, when you know they can't afford formula and otherwise could breastfeed until the child is 18 months (or longer)?  Do you choose adoption?  What is the right way to or not to help?

What do you do when one of your favorite nannies comes up to your house and apologizes for missing work, and then points to her black eye and tells you that the father of her kids gave that to her when she went to ask him to help pay for food for them?

What do you do when a grandma begs you every week to take her grand baby because she isn't able to care for her, yet you see her deep love and that the baby is in fact doing fine?

What do you do when you suspect physical and sexual abuse in the home of one of our kids?

How do you know when it's time to take a child to the hospital.  When is all we can do not enough?

What do you do when a child you really thought should be up for adoption, gets reunited?  What do you do when a child you really thought should get reunited, goes up for adoption?  How do you know when to push for a child to be reunited and when not to?

What do you do when you hold a dying baby in your arms?  What do you do when a baby dies in your arms?

What do you do when you are the only one to attend an infants funeral, because they have no one else.

What do you do when a child is abandoned at your gate, not because they aren't loved, but because they are SO loved.

What do you do on days when you have seven families, with seven children, all in need of help, sitting at your gate asking you to take their children.  You can't take them all.  They all need help, but they don't all need to be separated.  How do you decide which one's to and not to help?

These decisions are tough.  These situations are heart breaking.  These stories are real.  These faces and names are stuck in my head.

Yet somehow through all of this, God gives us strength, peace of mind, and the energy to carry on.  Everyday Nick and I pray that we do God's will before our own and that he helps us make the right decisions.  That he guides our hands and feet and works through us.  That our work here is not ours, but his.

We've done a lot of debating recently in regards to whether we are Missionaries or Humanitarian Workers.  I'm torn.  It feels like all we do is Humanitarian work.  We care for the needs of these kids, our staff, and their families.  But are we preaching, are we spreading the word?  Not directly.  However, I can say that if it weren't for my faith I likely would not be here. 

My prayer is that through these works we are doing, the love of God is shown.  When we hold a child; whether it's for five minutes at the gate, three months while they get healthy, a few years until their adoption is complete, or an undisclosed amount of time until they leave this world and go home; I pray that we are able to show God's love to each and everyone of them!

When I make a decision, even when the parents aren't happy and our staff is encouraging me to change my mind, I have peace of mind knowing that God is in fact the one who made the decision, not me.  If I was making these decisions on my own, I'd be a wreck.  I couldn't do it.  I'd see a child die, I'd hear an awful story, and I wouldn't be able to handle it.  But God gives me the strength to carry on every day.