martes, 31 de enero de 2012

Update on Elisenia

This is an e-mail update I just sent to a group of people who have been involved in rescuing Elisenia, the baby I wrote about in this post


First, I want to thank all of you again for supporting baby Elisenia and our collected efforts for her life. If you are receiving this e-mail it is because you have either donated your time and energy to care for this baby or you have heard of the situation and donated financially. Both forms of genorosity have been crucial in this rescue. Things have come a long way and we want to make sure that there is a life ahead for this little girl. Here is a summary of what has happened so far and then plans for the future and a request for aid in carrying out the plans. I apologize that I don't have a picture from Wednesday when I saw Elisenia. I plan to see her next on Wednesday so will try to get a picture then.

So as an update for what has been going on, they took wonderful care of Elisenia at the Transformation House in Cabarete. They first finished her pneumonia treatment that she received at the Santiago Children's Hospital. They tested her for HIV and it came out positive, unfortunately. However, Cindy (Transformation House Director) had been told that if you do the test that young, they can often result in a false reading so it was not a definite. They found out that Elisenia had parasites and then treated her for that. She was not gaining weight as quickly as she should've and this was why. They took her to Ceprosh which is a clinic in Puerto Plata that primarily serves HIV patients. The second test also came out positive. On Wed. I went and met Cindy at Ceprosh. I had Elisenia's mom and Cindy had Elisenia. Elisenia got blood drawn for her CD4 test and Zette talked to the doctors about becoming a regular patient at the clinic.

It turns out that Zette knew she was HIV positive but was too embarrassed to say anything. At the time that Elisenia was found, her husband and Elisenia's father had gotten very sick and been sent to his family in Haiti where he passed away after not long, leaving three kids (Elisenia being one of them) with Zette. Zette has two other children from a previous relationship with a man who also died, so she is twice widowed now. She says that her husband had come up HIV positive and then she had come up positive when she did the blood tests before giving birth to Elisenia. They had a scheduled C-section for Nov. 3rd, 2010 but she went into a quick labor on Nov. 2nd. It was so quick that she didn't even make it to the operating room so it sounds like they set her C-section date too late. However, she listened to doctors and did not breastfeed Elisenia.

As we met with the pediatrician that morning, we learned further why Cindy had been told that tests this young can result in false readings. The reason is because the quicker test done measures the presence of HIV antibodies. So an infant up to 2 years, I believe, still contains antibodies if he or she was born to an HIV positive mother. Another test they were calling PSR, I believe, somehow determines the actual presence of the virus. This is what blood was drawn for on Wed. but we won't have the results for 3 more weeks. But there is still hope that she is HIV NEGATIVE!!! Wouldn't that be wonderful? We have potential adopters if she is negative.. if she is positive then it's a little harder, understandably.

So on Wednesday, we got Elisenia's mother milk and everything she needed to care for Elisenia and her other kids for one week. We had talked about trying to have her care for Elisenia one week and then we would foster her the next week, off and on, but she does not feel able to. My husband's aunt is coming to stay with us for awhile to help out as we have two little kids/babies of our own and recently began fostering another almost 2 year old. On Wed. we will take in Elisenia and are getting things prepared. We also took in her oldest brother who is 12 because
Project Esperanza has a program, which is a main focus of the organization, for Haitian boys who end up in the streets for various reasons. Her brother, Junior, was not in the streets but with his father being dead, his stepfather having just died, and his mother being under a lot with being HIV positive, he is at risk and we offered to take him in. Zette had been complaining that he was very helpful but also unruly and didn't want to go to school. So we are able to do some family pruning and leave Zette with three kids at home who are all sponsored at our school in Muñoz and then care for her other two not too far from home. 

Ideally, the foster home that our home is turning into would grow into a larger program in conjunction with volunteer candy stripers who spend time at hospitals and find these at risk babies who would likely lose their lives if someone doesn't come to their rescue, as was the case with Elisenia. In order to turn this into a reality and prepare for more children we can be sure we will come across, we need continued financial support. I am seeking a group of sponsors who would like to form a committee to take some financial responsibility over this venture. Ongoing financial information will be shared with these committee members through shared spreadsheets, as well as logs recording observations and progress on each child served. The committment is that members of such a committee advocate the program and seek funding or actively fundraise themselves, so that the needs of the program are met on a consistent basis. Ideally, a committee like this should have at least three members. Please let me know if you are interested.

Again, thank you all for your support. I hope that you can continue supporting in the future, as this is only just a glimpse of lives at risk here and the potential rescuing of lives that we have the honor of taking part in. Take care and God bless,


P.S. I forgot to include in the e-mail that we have received $464 in donations so far for baby Elisenia and have spent $277.62. We have not received any funding for Ebo, the little boy we are fostering. Additionally, Jireste's aunt is not coming to help for free. :) It is his Aunt Mari who I wrote about in this post

If you would like to financially support my family and I, the way I prefer you do that is to register as a customer here and apply for this VISA credit card. I am told that the founder of Campus Crusades for Christ raised support for himself through this same method so it has had proven success. If you're in Canada, you register here. If enough people do this, it will generate an income for us. You'll see there are many ways to support as a customer, but for the purpose of focus, I ask that people at least get the VISA card. This is also a great gift option I suggest you try out. Lastly, if you or someone you know is raising support for missions/humanitarian work, you can help yourself and help me by registering as an IBO here and requesting that your supporters become your customers. Please e-mail me with any questions about this. Thank you & God bless. 

jueves, 12 de enero de 2012

Back to School? Spilling My Heart on the Matter...

Photo taken by Laura Vladimirova. 

I mentioned in another blog post that I would like to do an online law school program. Ever since I began living and working in this country, I have had the reoccurring idea to become a lawyer. However, it's a conflicting idea because I am already a mother and one that wants nothing to do with separation from my kids, even for a short amount of time. I also have many responsibilities overseeing Project Esperanza. But, nonetheless, I keep feeling led to pursue this.

Through serving those in most need who were brought to my attention ever since I stepped foot in this country, I have ended up in court several times, always defending. I am always surrounded by injustices and I have always done what I can to work toward justice. An ex-landlord once told me, during a discussion we had where I was naturally defending the haitianitos, which means "little Haitians", he said, "I know, I know. You're their lawyer. You have to defend them." When he said this, I felt a little frustrated because it seemed as though he was saying that I had to defend them whether they were right or wrong, when I felt as though I would never defend someone who was wrong and was only fighting for justice. I felt as though I would be the first person to strongly correct someone I am responsible for who was being abusive or out of line in any way. But this landlord was so used to injustice that he really wouldn't have known what justice was.

I am writing this post in response to conflicting feelings, especially my "first thoughts of the morning" thoughts I had a few mornings ago which caused me to come and begin this post. I have already concluded that the correct way to deal with these conflicting feelings is to "give them to God" and trust him with the details. When I say "give them to God" I mean to spill my heart honestly with the recognition of God's presence and God's supervision over the issue. In the same way one would spill his or her heart to a friend or family member, I will spill my heart to God. But the relief when talking to God in comparison to humans is that sometimes we even have to hide some things from friends and family members. Sometimes we even censor our hearts in those intimate conversations because we assume what the human listener will think or judge.

With God, there is no such screening. He already knows the contents of my heart. I couldn't hide anything from him if I tried. The act of sharing things with him, therefore, is not to inform him but to enter into a dialogue with him and to advance our relationship. The purpose of sharing such things with him is not as much for me to make him listen to me but to put me in a state where I am listening to him. I think that this is similar to conversations children have with their parents. Children who trust their parents and know that their parents love them may vent to them and take frustrations out on them, knowing that their parents will listen and love them regardless. And after the good parent listens and shows understanding and care, the child is then more available to listen to what the parent has to say. Had the parent approached the child, the child may have been less likely to listen. If the parent has often responded negatively and discouragingly to the child previously when the child approached the parent, the child will not likely approach the parent with such trust. Maybe the child will then have no one to safely spill his or her heart to and the result will be bottling up things, frustrations, confusions, etc.

There are a billion possible scenarios and situations that are highly difficult for parents and I don't mean to oversimplify an often complicated issue or appear as though I think I have it figured out, but just say all of this to say that God has perfect parenting practices. I have learned this through my relationship with him over the years. And therefore, I always trust him and come to him with decisions, burdens on my heart, thoughts I have difficulties working through, etc. And he always answers me back in some way. So here goes. This is a public spilling of my heart. I have come to learn also that God gives me wisdom through the thoughts and experiences of other people as well, so I always consider those as well. I consider input that causes me to think of things I hadn't thought of before but disregard discouragement that gives me conflicting advice from what I am feeling led to do by God.

So now I will share some concerns. I spend many nights working on the computer while my family members sleep. For Project Esperanza, I have many tasks I always have to do on the computer, answering e-mails being one, but others include writing updates on various websites, maintaining our own website, recording all finances, developing documents and spreadsheets for various things, etc. I don't mind doing all of these things and actually enjoy it. After a few hours behind the computer screen I often feel very good as though I have accomplished so much. Many times people cannot see the end results of task upon task upon task but I always maintain a vision and am encouraged over every tedious step along the way because I can actually feel the progress being made toward the completion of the vision. I do all of this in the middle of the night because my kids don't leave me much time to do it during the day. Sometimes they both take naps and I can take advantage of such opportunities, or sometimes Maraya sleeps and Ilayas watches youtube videos on the top half of the screen while I work on the bottom half. But some days we are busy and I can't get any computer time in until that long secure stretch in the middle of the night. Even then I am often interrupted by Maraya wanting to nurse or Ilayas needing something as well. Additionally, it's hard to wash clothes and do other such household things sometimes during the day (we now have a washing machine but you still have to do many things by hand with the machines here) so I like to use the time when the kids are sleeping for these tasks as well.

The only problem with this working through the night is that I have to leave my sleeping family members. Sometimes it's hard. And sometimes it makes me feel quite poorly the next day. Once I get going on a task, however, I want to keep going and keep going. I have had to learn to consider tomorrow and stop myself so that I am not too exhausted the next day. I actually have a set of tasks that I am almost done with... perhaps within the next few months, and I can foresee that I would not have to work as much at night after that point. However, if I begin an online law school program, this is when I will have to work. So that is a little challenge. However, if it is God's will for his reasons that we often can't see beforehand as we are mere sheep with limited vision, then I will do it with a joyful heart. I would just like some encouragement. What type of encouragement would I like? Maybe some tea and snacks? Just a few more little comforts. We live so basically for many reasons that are too complicated to share here (it's not just financial although that is one part-it also has to do with our lives being so intertwined with so many others and everyone having to progress together or it just doesn't work) and I just look forward to a time when we can have some more security and comfort than we currently have.

Another concern I have is the cost of law school. The advisor I spoke to assured me that I could have the tuition covered, but now that I think back on that, she may have been talking about a loan and not a scholarship, which wouldn't work for me. I am going into this blindly. I don't know that getting this degree would result in $x amount a year or for what exact reasons God would have me do it. I do believe one reason is that it would provide our family with more financial stability, but I don't exactly know the details of it and do not feel comfortable taking out a loan... they haven't gone well for me in the past. :)

Ilayas' new picture pose.
I really started taking this law school idea seriously after reading through the International Justice Mission website, looking through their job openings, and finding one where the location is open and it says "Field Officer Director - Future Opportunities". This person oversees the organization's justice seeking efforts through the legal route, working with a team. However, one of the requirements is "Attorney with Juris Doctorate or equivalent law degree". But look at the compensation:

IJM offers competitive salaries with excellent benefits, including:

US-Based Compensation:

  • Medical/dental/vision
  • Retirement contribution
  • Paid leave
  • Relocation
  • Spiritual retreats
  • Daily staff prayer

Expatriate Compensation

  • US-based compensation plus:
  • Furlough
  • Tuition for school-aged children
  • Tax assistance

Reading this and imagining it makes me think how wonderful that would be to have such that many have in the U.S. where I am from and security that I gave up to come here, without even thinking twice about it, but realizing it as I go on with life. The thought of "tuition for school-aged children" provides me a sense of security surrounding the issue that is perhaps my biggest concern and therefore fear...fear that I don't give any power but fear that is present until I know that my kids will be able to receive the type of education I long for for them.

I wrote to a few different IJM contacts letting them know about Project Esperanza, my experience with the justice system here and the way it fails those in this country, and a desire to study law and work with them in the future. They replied saying that they did not plan on working in the Dominican Republic but did have hopes to work in Haiti in the future. They also could not guarantee a position for me even if I did go to law school. I didn't really expect a different response, but have been trying to maintain contact and send them blog posts of relevant accounts such as this one.

Now, I'm not potentially pursuing law school with complete hope in securing a job with IJM after this insecure correspondence. I'm pursuing law school because I am determining it to be where God is leading me and that is where my security lies. I suppose a law degree could open up many doors. I think that the world in general takes leaders more seriously when they have more professional degrees such as law degrees, showing they have gone through more extensive training. Perhaps there will be opportunities with the UN or specifically UNICEF and I also think it would be great to work in international adoption in some sense and it seems to be something that keeps coming up.

Let me talk about Jireste shortly since I am talking about investing more in personal education and training and am sharing concerns about our family's future. What part does he play? Well, the truth is that I have a background of much more formal education and training than he does. However, he has a background of most everything the work of Project Esperanza hopes to address. As far as Project Esperanza is concerned, his partnership has been vital. God is my strength, but I believe he put Jireste in a position to be my more tangible strength and to ground me in many ways. I am not claiming that he is superhuman and so exceptional and better than others in any way, but I do see how God has used him and placed him in my life as my partner in this work and am grateful for that.

As far as him bringing home the bacon, that's not his role right now and it may never be (in reference to him being the primary income provider that is). What is most important is that he is never comfortable in a receiving role but pulls his weight in other ways and still develops wisdom about managing money without actually earning it  himself. Of course, I want very badly for him to start earning an income very soon. You can imagine the complexities it puts on our relationship. But at the same time we have had to deal with limits and realities and not let them discourage us too much. Some may think that it would make sense for us to go to the U.S. where he could probably find a job more easily. That would be putting money above so many other things and is not an option I would even consider. The thought of it hurts me. Jireste is beautifully connected to his fellow Haitians. He is used to living in small quarters with many Haitian people and that is how he honestly enjoys and is comfortable living. I can't imagine life for him where he is so separated from that. I also don't think he would get a job quickly in the U.S. but would have a learning curve and we would either have to spend a time period dependent on my parents or with me getting a job there and leaving my kids. I think it would be a step back and we are much closer to him being in the role we would like here than we would be starting new in the U.S. And in working toward this goal here many others are benefiting along the way whereas this would not be the case in the U.S. Everything Jireste does and everything he learns is also shared with at least five other Haitian men. All of these, of course, are reasons other than the fact that I have to be here with Project Esperanza.

We have made efforts to start a little neighborhood grocery store that Jireste would manage and also include boys involved in our program, giving them some work experience as well. This has been something we have been trying to get going for a year and have received some funding to move forward with it. We painted a building, got the necessary equipment, and even got a lot of inventory, thinking we would open the next week. But the truth is, Jireste was just not ready and the money we had to work with was a little short as far as us being able to purchase the proper inventory. Had it been me running the store, I would've started because I am so used to making something out of very little, but I am aware that many people are not comfortable doing this. Through this failed attempt I guess we can call it, I realized that Jireste is being asked to do some difficult things. Normally if someone is going to manage a store, even a little store, they have had experience working in one before and have been able to observe the manager and the store's processes, etc. I have ideas of how to support Jireste, but really, with him having no such experience previously, it likely is an overwhelming undertaking for him. What is also pressing is the issue of neighbors and friends who will likely ask for favors from the store quite often. A line really has to be drawn so that this is a profit making endeavor and not a local handout point. If one thing has been established this year by having the location but not having the store opened, it is that this line has been drawn, crossed, drawn again, reinforced, etc. Had this been done while the store was up and going, things could've gotten more complicated, so it may be a little blessing in disguise. We have had simliar experiences and observations with other small businesses we have set up/are still in the process of setting up including the art shop in Muñoz and Internet center.

After talking to Laura about this, she asked if there was someone, perhaps an expat with more experience, who could help him with this. I had imagined this would get going while I was completely staying at home with our newborn but that time passed and we never had the necessary funds to go for it, so I then saw that I could not be the one to actually be there with them and he doesn't really like me to be that person for him always anyway. It's too close to me being an authority or teacher for him and he has his manly pride. I wouldn't even say the pride is too much, although I would've in the past, but I believe it's a healthy and natural pride. Anyway, after Laura suggested this, I remembered that there is a fairly new Peace Corps worker in our neighborhood who had begun coming to our hostel some for different events, although I had never met him. But I quickly found out that he was planning on coming to yoga the very next morning and met up with him. He said that he would like to help out with the store and could even get ahold of the Peace Corps' small business manual and walk through that with Jireste, which would be perfect! He just was heading home to the U.S. over Christmas and couldn't help out until he got back. That was fine because we were still and continue to be short on funds which are necessary to get going. 

So that's that. Jireste also started a blog where he can share his own thoughts, experiences, and such in his own words, which is better than me trying to express them for him. He just has one post though so I will allow him to grow it more before linking it. His English and writing skills continue to improve.

Well, I think that is most of what I had in my heart. Through sharing concerns, I realize that I have been in so many overwhelming situations since living in this country and do not give much attention to concerns during such times. I just literally live on faith. I am the type of person who thrives under what seems like overwhelming circumstances. As a basketball player, my coaches and teammates often noticed that I seemed to have more success making shots where I was highly guarded rather than shots where I was open, as well as shots that were further away rather than close. This is a little example of how I am with Project Esperanza as well. I have hoped to balance myself out and learn to control myself more in times of low pressure, but the truth remains that I feel perhaps more comfortable under pressure and maxed out than not. I think there are just some things I need to get out of my system before I can really "settle" if that makes sense. Anyway, thanks for reading. I'll let you know how things turn out. God bless. 

If you would like to financially support my family and I, the way I prefer you do that is to register as a customer here and apply for this VISA credit card. I am told that the founder of Campus Crusades for Christ raised support for himself through this same method so it has had proven success. If you're in Canada, you register here. If enough people do this, it will generate an income for us. You'll see there are many ways to support as a customer, but for the purpose of focus, I ask that people at least get the VISA card. This is also a great gift option I suggest you try out. Lastly, if you or someone you know is raising support for missions/humanitarian work, you can help yourself and help me by registering as an IBO here and requesting that your supporters become your customers. Please e-mail me with any questions about this. Thank you & God bless.