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Saying hello to a newly adopted baby is full of joy and wonder for new parents but left alone at the orphanage are the nannies that are joyful the orphan has been adopted, yet sad that the child they have loved for years is now gone forever.

During this trip to Haiti, we specifically addressed how the nannies can do their part in interacting with the American parents and trained them on how to read the babies’ cues upon getting to know the new parents.  We discussed that the babies have known these nannies as their parents up until now. Allowing the children freedom to get to know their adopting parents in their own way and in their own time is vital to having a healthier transition for each child. We taught the nannies how to read the babies cues and the importance of them being present with the child when they are getting to know the new parents.  These precious nannies are the children’s safe haven and the children will need to know that their nanny is with them in order to feel comfortable meeting the new people.   Our conversation led to recognizing that the nannies will experience the loss of these babies and they need to recognize the importance of allowing themselves to be sad and to grieve. There were many tears as they realized the sadness that is yet to come. It’s a beautiful thing to have such invested and nurturing childcare providers to care for these sweet orphans in Haiti.

We assessed a few children and gave the assessment to Three Angels for the adopting parents to have.  Each report incorporates treatment and attachment procedure recommendations. The hope is that these assessments will equip the adopting parents with information that will encourage them to get early intervention to help the children adjust. Small Steps International exists for these reasons. We want to give adoptive parents the most information possible so they can address any mental health and emotional needs the children may have upon arriving to the states where the resources for meeting those needs are more readily available.  Adoption can be a very idealized fairy-tale and the more both parties are ready for the real life that is to come…the better!

Three Angels and Maranatha are both moving toward creating more opportunity to reach out to the community. They are both interested in SSI training Haitians about the mental health needs in the community and the children.  Three Angels is currently building a community center that can be used for educational and community activity purposes.  Maranatha continues to invest in bringing parents of the preschool children in for education.  SSI has a chance to be a part of this and expand our reach to the community in greater ways. Creating healthier children and healthier families creates a better world!

So far on our first Haiti trip in 2014 we have been able to help encourage and give hope to the orphanages we serve.  They are daily in the trenches of dealing with trauma and poverty.  These beautiful people, that have come to live in Haiti, are helping the Haitians build and create healthier lives, healthier families and a healthier future.  It isn’t easy and that’s why we are here to help where we can.  We have been working with the nannies about the progress with specific children we continue to work with as well as the new orphans.  Also, we are providing great support and direction on how to proceed with counseling new adoptive parents through the difficulties involved with the long process of Haitian adoption, including the best way to interact during visitations, etc.  We want the absolute best for each child in their adoption journey and are trying to help the parents in their journey as well.  Small Steps International exists to bring health to traumatized and abandoned children and we’re honored to be able to serve in Haiti this week.

Our 4th Haiti Trip

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Haiti. The Experience. The People. The Children. They change lives. They change first world perspectives.
Basic infant mental health education is what they need and it’s what Small Steps International provides.
Why should we touch our infants the Haitian parents ask….and we answer.
Why should we not beat our children the Haitians ask….and we answer.
Touching the heart of a child with consistent love….Training the brain for health….It’s vital in living a healthy and fulfilling life…Small Steps International provides such health.
The Haitians keep telling our team that everyone in Haiti needs to hear our training. Foreign aid does come with medical care and other avenues, such as cleaning systems for their water. Yet an equally great and growing need in Haiti is mental health.  Educators in Haiti beg us to come back and teach more.  Parents are shocked by what they hear and ask for more. We have met a Haitian consulate, a Haitian psychologist, educators, pastors, nannies, doctors, and they all believe in what Small Steps International is doing.  They think our training and education should extend the length of the country and penetrate the hearts of all who live in Haiti. Since SSI gives in mental health training we hope to change not only the children, nannies and teachers but the future Haitian generations.

October 22 – Haiti day 9

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Today is cloudy so it is a lot cooler; we are thankful for the respite from the heat!  Courtney completed a training with the caregivers and she is continuing to work on assessments of particular children.

Auntie Di had one training this morning on Infant Massage and will do another this evening with the night caregivers.

AJ is still working on the drainage system to catch rain water; it’s a big project cleaning out and re-routing all the drainages into the cistern. Luckily Erick is able to help with this project.

We had a beautiful flower bloom for us this morning; it’s lovely eating breakfast out on the patio and having dinner on the roof in the evening. Sandy feeds us very well!

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October 21 – Haiti day 8

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Oh how we can take our education and clean water for granted…..

 

The team has been working hard at Three Angels with mental health evaluations and training more Haitian caregivers in infant mental health. Courtney is taking her training and individualizing it per the nannies questions and specific concerns. The team is also training again in infant massages. All the education has been well received. Small Steps International is so encouraged to see the fruit of our labor so quickly.

 

AJ is working hard to fix the water issue at Three Angels. They have to buy water and then purify it with chlorine because there water systems is plugged. AJ will spend the whole time repairing the water collection systems that will save the orphanage thousands of dollars so they don’t have to buy their own water for all their needs anymore.

 

Our team is eating very well! We have American foods at both places we’ve stayed for most meals…cereals, peanut butter sandwiches, tuna sandwiches, pizza, pork roast, cinnamon oatmeal, raisin bread, spaghetti, and fresh salads. Since there is no air-conditioning we sleep with fans on us constantly. Sometimes you can catch breezes during the day and we must stay hydrated with purified water (never drink the water from the tap). Since the government turns off the electricity at their pleasing, our hosts have generators that start up at these times. So thankful for constant power. Small Steps International is truly honored to be a part of such fantastic and needed work in Haiti! We are very grateful to be here.

 

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October 19, 2013 – Haiti day 6

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Today Arick, Rachel, Bree and Emily left for the USA and home; we miss them so much already!

Been a quiet day, Courtney and Auntie Di went back to Maranatha Orphanage for Courtney’s last presentation on the Circle of Security for Byron, Shelley, Sue, James (from CA) Katie and myself.  This is the English DVD that is going to be translated into Creole for Courtney’s next trip in February 2014. Very enlightening for us all!
The rest of the day is being spent resting and catching up on reports, for Courtney; her awesome work never ends.  Everyone here (teachers, caregivers, and families) is very appreciative of all the information she has given them on how to care for infants and toddlers who have been through neglect and trauma.  These Haitian children are precious and they are the generation who will make positive changes for their countrymen and their country.
A.J. spent the day fixing a washing machine at Maranatha. He always does great work, learning new skills as he goes, and innovating with the tools and parts he has available. He has such a willing  heart to serve, and will continue to be a blessing in the coming week.
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October 18, 2013 – Haiti day 5

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Our week in Haiti…

After Courtney trained all the preschool teachers and nannies….she informed them that next time Small Steps International (SSI) would bring the training material, including the video– translated into Haitian Creole. They exploded in smiles and clapping!! The need for training in child mental health is so great around our world. The need is here and we are serving that need.

It’s amazing to see the healing that has happened in between Small Steps International’s visits to Haiti. We have seen these children’s lives changed through the implementation of the skills that the teachers and care takers have learned. Children who wouldn’t take food from anyone…now eat and thrive. Children who wouldn’t be hugged….now accept touch. Children who couldn’t trust…now knowhow to recognize their care takers are looking out for them. Children come into the preschool without experiencing any boundaries or rules. Their parents don’t care where their children (even as young as infants) are during the day yet these children learn over time how they can be responsible in the confines of love and respect. Small Steps International helps train these teachers to do this in the healthiest and age appropriate ways. Our own host missionary family has trusted us enough to serve them with our SSI skills as well. Restoring and healing mental trauma and abandonment takes time and SSI is here for the long haul…willing to be patient as health and healing come over time.

Knowledge that is common with educated parents in many countries, including the U.S., are not common for many places of poverty in the world, especially in Haiti. People of privilege can be tempted to forget the needs outside of their own lives. Trials faced in first world countries like broken appliances that can be fixed in a day with all parts in the same city, the store being out of your favorite brand of food, cannot compare to the despairing trials of children in poverty….needing shoes, needing food, needing education, needing parents, needing love.

After our third trip to Haiti, we are even more passionate and proud of our work! Small Steps International is making baby steps in mental health here in Haiti and it is continuing to grow! We are seeing baby steps in our work in New Mexico too! It’s an exciting time to move forward in bringing health to children all over the world! We’d love your support in our work! Small Steps International looks forward to gaining more people to walk along side of us as we touch the lives of these hurting children, one at a time.

 

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October 17, 2013 – Haiti day 4

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Serving in Haiti is a little like wedding vows….

 

Through sickness and health we persevere.

Once you know Haitians, you have and hold them in your heart.

For better and for worse, you serve and play and feed and work

For richer or for poorer…mostly poorer, you try to teach and train the teachers, care takers, and nannies.

 

Haiti leads the western hemisphere in poverty.

Haiti was the first black republic in the world.

Haiti is protected with weak law enforcement.

The streets are lined with trash and the homes are all surrounded by HIGH walls and locked gates for safety.

The earthquake killed over 150,000 people and left a million homeless.  Many Haitians still don’t have homes from the earthquake.

 

Patrick is a 17 yr old that now lives with Byron and Shelley. On the day of the earthquake almost four years ago, he skipped school to go see his dad who lived across town.  He got hit by a car the  moment of the earthquake on his rush to get home so his mom wouldn’t know.  His mom thought he was dead because his school was completely crushed to ground.  He sat in the hospital with no doctors for days.  His broken leg was so infected he finally had to be rushed to the US for care. He now lives with Byron and Shelley and is so respectful, hopeful and responsible.  He has learned about love and kindness in a new way.

 

Today our team tirelessly continued with completing the construction needs….the list could go on forever. Part of the team worked with children at the Creche (orphans that have families waiting to adopt them), while the rest of the team trained the teachers and nannies about the vital importance of attachment in child rearing.

 

Let us all remember wherever we are to love those around us.  Not to ignore or walk away when someone is in need. We don’t have to come across an ocean to serve the needy.  Look next door, at school, at work and do what we can to add help and joy to this world. Many wedding ceremonies speak this verse, ” Love is patient. Love is kind…It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs…It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” I Corinthians 13:4-7

 

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October 16, 2013 – Haiti Day 3

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What day is it? HUMP DAY for week one!

Quotes from our Infant Attachment Training today from mothers:

“Why should we touch our baby?”

“So when there’s a behavior issue with our child, what is another option rather than beating them? (Beating means hitting their children with sticks.)

“If the father is being mean to the mother, does it affect the baby?”

Courtney and Auntie Di did vital work with educating the parents of our preschool children at Marantha. Our dear translator, James, has learned about our work and proclaims that everyone in Haiti needs to hear the training that Small Steps International provides for free here. Educating is half the battle in helping these children have more mental and emotional health. No one tells the moms at birth that skin to skin contact is a good thing for their baby. No one tells the parents to hold, touch and look at their babies. James says in obvious awareness, responding to the question if he would implement this education when he becomes a father, “Why wouldn’t I?!”

Our day was also filled with more individual assessments of children facing trauma and abandonment, baking for the classes, putting every screen back on the windows of the home and preschool (yay mosquitoes won’t come in as easily now), pantry organizing…living every day life with the Haitians and Americans offering support, grace and love where we can.

 

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October 15, 2013 – Haiti Day 2

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Day two in Haiti

The warm night of day one came to a close with dinner and devotions with our host family. A team meeting was a great start to day number two. Our group has fantastic chemistry…passion for the cause, good humor towards each other, and respect for those we are serving are making a successful trip. Dividing and conquering today, our crew went to three separate places.

The construction team, Arick and AJ, continued work on the Maranatha home and orphanage. The men are constantly working (digging holes, pouring cement, and fixing screens) with little rest to get the job done. Emily and Rachel stayed to help with the preschool. What did they learn about Haitian children? For all of the differences between Haiti and America, some things do not change. Little girls have to stop racing to fix their hair clip, boys pull girls’ ponytails, little children cry when dropped off at preschool, children fight over sitting in grown-ups’ laps, and possibly most noticeably, mothers love and advocate for their children in Haiti too. Courtney, Bre and Auntie Di took their services to a neighboring ministry called Heartline. Courtney trained at least 30 moms at Heartline about 0-6 months infant mental health. Auntie Di trained in infant massages. This was an incredible and encouraging time for teaching these Haitian moms.

Our team is learning a lot about Haiti. We have new levels of gratitude for DEET, convenient access to clean water, and even generators (the government turns off the city’s electricity randomly throughout the day)! We are especially thankful for home cooked meals in the evening. Byron and Shelley (our host family), have massive dinner times (25 people last night!). The best way to end our day here is with the 3 D’s: dinner, devotions and total body DEET coverage…even IF you have just showered!

 

October 14, 2013 – First Day in Haiti

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Who can rock out their first day in Haiti with 4 hrs of sleep? The SSI TEAM! We arrived Monday morning and hit the ground working. Our hosts are fantastic and so welcoming! The needs are great and there’s always many. At Marantha, 75 preschool children come for the day. We drove down the street with high walls on both side. Once we came through the locked gate, the children were in full swing of learning and play when we arrived. Intrigued, adorable faces stood and stared.

We had time to divide up the supplies we brought, along with shopping, connecting with another outreach to pregnant/new moms and babies. We also started construction help (until the torrential downpour paused the work) and Courtney has completed one assessment.
We’re bracing ourselves for a week full of busy and purposeful work! The team is ready to serve with enthusiastic and willing hearts.

Last Haiti 2012 Entry

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One last blog entry before we head to the Dominican tomorrow.  On this trip I was asked to do two assessments of individual little girls.  One is a baby about 12 months and one is a little girl age 6.  The six year old had been “zoning out” at preschool, showed significant delays in learning and recently had begun to act out at school.  The baby was found 3 months ago on a trash pile in Port-au-Prince by a police officer, she was starving and left there to die. They found out she had HIV and since being at Three Angels she has recovered some of her ability to respond, but is behind developmentally and is overly quiet.  I was able to implement some assessments that I have been trained in through Play Therapy and the Infant Mental Health Association.  Both girls revealed the need for significant help after each assessment.  I laid out treatment plans that are possible within the scope of what the orphanages can do, but it makes me sad that there is no other child therapists or psychologists down here who can help and get these children the services they both so desperately need.  And they are just two.  There are many children just like them all around Haiti.