jueves, 29 de marzo de 2012

Another Elisenia Update


I am writing this e-mail to update you on Elisenia. A lot has happened since I last updated you.

My husband's aunt stayed with us for the month of February and helped out with Elisenia and other things. She was scared of Elisenia and I really had to pressure her to hold her. I tried to encourage her by asking her to hold my baby and holding Elisenia and she grew less and less scared. She was mostly scared because of the possibility that Elisenia has HIV, and also because of her ongoing cold, sometimes even with blood coming out of her nose, and her cleft foot. Elisenia has ongoing congestion that it seems near impossible to get rid of. Through her history in medical facilities, it seems as though she may aspirate and this is why she stays congested. The only time I have seen her not congested is when she left the Santiago Children's Hospital where they did not let her take a bottle for several days. But they also did not tube feed her, so we were worried about her little malnourished body. But after seeing that they were onto something with not letting her eat, as far as her congestion goes, it seems to make sense that she is aspirating and perhaps a time period of tube feeding would be necessary??

Elisenia's face has to be cleaned continuously because she has such a runny nose. We have given her various different cold medicines which seem to help , but nothing completely gets rid of it. She also came to us with pink eye, which my kids contracted, I contracted, my husband and his aunt contracted, and others who frequent our house contracted as well, haha. We all got over it with eye drops but her eyes stayed gunky and in need of drops for much longer than everyone else's.

She has a great appetite and eats most things, although she still only has four tiny teeth. I, unfortunately haven't been able to weigh her because we don't have a scale and the doctor's office apparently wasn't working when we went to get her PSR test done. She can sit up well and reach to grab items in front of her, but she doesn't show much interest in crawling or moving around in any other way yet. I spoke to a friend who co-founded and directs an organization called
Health Horizons International and she sent me some suggestions as far as organizations that could potentially help out with her cleft foot operation, so I will be looking into that.

So I mentioned before that although her HIV test came out positive, this test really only measured the presence of antibodies, which are present in babies whose mothers are HIV positive. A definitive test where blood is drawn from one's foot is needed to test the presence of the actual virus, which is called PSR. This day, I was confused as they sent me around with prescription papers. I kept telling lab people that I had been sent to do a PSR test, blood drawn from the foot. They swifted us along, took blood from her wrists, and only tested for Hepatitis and other things. I knew that Ceprosh (the HIV clinic) had sent blood to Santiago, but thought this was for her CD4 test. However, I obeyed and came back in a few weeks.

When I came back to check on the results, I found out that I was right. No blood had been sent off for her PSR, just for her CD4. CD4 measures a level of certain cells to determine how advanced the disease is. I spoke only to the psychiatrist, not the doctor, but she said that Elisenia's CD4 test came out perfect, just like someone who is HIV NEGATIVE. I said, "So if someone has HIV, even if it's not very advanced, it comes out very different than this?" She said, "Veeeerrrry different." She then ordered the PSR test, which we came back to get done. I was first told that the results would be back in 18 days... then told to come back in a month. I believe it has been a month and still no results.. :( So we're still waiting.

So after my husband's aunt went back to her family in Santiago, I cared for Elisenia for a few days, which was very difficult because, again, we have a 2.5 year old, a 6 month old, and are fostering another 2 year old. So many diapers to change, baths to give in a house without running water, and tears to be dried. I did not hire a new caregiver because funds had run out and we had a volunteer group come on March 4th. I wouldn't be able to oversee a new caregiver and my husband was honestly fed up with Elisenia being in our small apartment on top of everyone else. He was not fed up with everyone else, but Elisenia just didn't fit in as much with her special needs.
Here's a video so you can see what I mean. We had no funds to rent a separate facility to have her. I e-mailed the organizer of the volunteer trip to let her know of this situation before they arrived. Then, upon their arrival, I introduced them to Elisenia and asked if they would agree to me leaving her at our hostel where they would be staying. They agreed, but were a little nervous. The man who oversees the hostel, Luckner, was one of the people who took shifts staying overnight with Elisenia in the Santiago Children's Hospital when we first took her in, so he is a reliable caregiver, but also busy with other things, and I pushed the group to care for her, to carry her around with us during the days, etc. They were not interested in changing diapers and left those for me, but did buy and administer more eye drops and cold medicine. I tried to see if she could go back to Transformation House for a bit but Transformation House is really a medical facility, not an orphanage, and they already have had other children abandoned that they care for. So it was not possible. My husband pushed me to return Elisenia to her mother, if just for a bit, and I feared to do so because I didn't want the support for Elisenia and the support for her mother to get confounded. Our organization paid rent for Elisenia's mother for three months after she was widowed in November and helped out some with food, but can't set an example in the community of continuing to support her, which she would need some support in order to care for Elisenia properly. However, I was thinking about it as I didn't think the group did not really receive the task joyfully or confidently, and I wanted to keep the peace.

When I traveled with volunteers to Muñoz to do activities in the school, many adults approached me to ask about Elisenia and let me know that Zette had disappeared. A few weeks earlier Zette, Elisenia's mother, had asked me for transportation money to go see family in Santiago, saying she would return right away, but she just needed to talk to them and ask them for help with debt she had acquired before her husband passed away. People were coming after her every day for money she owed them. I talked to her seriously about coming right back because she herself had said that she can't leave her three kids still with her in the house alone. But apparently she never returned. This was March 5th that I found this out. She still has not returned and no one has heard from her. The kids (9, 6, and 5) are home alone. The 6 year old's sponsor sent care packages for them and some food for money which I am managing to help them out a little when I see them. Their thank you videos can be viewed
here and here. We try to get them to go to school but they come sporadically. We were able to provide two school meals before the short vacation they are now on and hope to be able to keep it up as this provides kids like this at least a little security. They stay in the house all by themselves! I pray that Zette gets herself together and comes back to raise her children. The last we spoke, we were planning on when to meet at Ceprosh so she could get her CD4 test done and get on meds. She said that she would have to do that when she came back...

After the volunteer group left, I was exhausted, left Elisenia in Luckner's care for a few days, and thought of what to do next. I had a plan for renting a little place nearby, but again, funding was an issue. During these few days, I was visited by
a woman seeking help for herself and her two babies. I since have formulated ideas as to how I/Project Esperanza can help her, but how she can help us as well. I didn't act yet and wasn't able to. Oh, I actually forgot. The cook that cooked for the volunteer group was helpful with Elisenia as well - not scared at all. She let me know that she was staying in a dirt floor room in Muñoz that really wasn't suitable. I made arrangements with her to stay at the hostel and care for Elisenia even after the group left. She agreed and I was able to offer her minimal pay since it would be a step up from her already poor living conditions. However, she requested time off for church. This fell through just as another group was set to come because she was told that her son who had been sick in Haiti had gotten worse and she should go immediately. So she did. However, during the days she cared for Elisenia, she gave her exceptional care. I hope that her son is okay.

Luckily, also during these few days, a guest who had booked well ahead of time came to stay at the hostel. Nikki has lots of volunteer experience and a heart for the special needs community, and she came just at the right time. She didn't come to volunteer but to visit a family she supports. But she met Elisenia upon arrival, knowing that she would be there, but thinking that she would have a caregiver. Upon finding out that she didn't, many people could've said, "I just came to stay at a hostel.. I didn't plan to have a sick baby crying throughout the night in the room next to me." But Nikki said, "Will you leave her here this week so I can snuggle with her?!" Whew, thanks again Nikki. And she didn't only snuggle with her, but changed her daipers, bathed her, gave her lots of attention, and bought and administered her medicine.   

A few days after Nikki's arrival and a few days before her departure, another group came. We also worked in Muñoz with this group. They jumped in a little more enthusiastically with Elisenia, carrying her around joyfully, etc. As they left, I had found another caregiver. Katya moved in with her 1.5 year old Jiwan for 3,000 pesos a month. (exchange rate is 1 USD = 38.85 RD) This is going well for now... until the month is up and I have to pay her!! How are we managing to buy diapers (how do you spell that word anyway - spell check comes up on both ai and ia and I am trying to finish this update a little quickly, haha, or I would look it up! Which took longer, typing that or looking it up?) Another problem is that I don't want Elisenia staying at the hostel long term. It's mixing too many programs as the hostel is a business with the art shop included. Not everyone who comes to stay will have Nikki's volunteering spirit and caregivers with the kids they tote are a bit much in the building as well. After Katya's month is up (April 20th), I would like to rent a room just a few houses down from my house (2,000 a month) and have
Ghislaine (the woman who came seeking help, if you read the post), stay with her two little ones and Elisenia. I'll also pay her 3,000 but she'll receive care for herself and her children in exchange for other help I'll ask her to provide - more related to our boys' group home which Elisenia's 12 year old brother is a part of.

So, I want to thank you all again for your support. I need to plea for help for continued support, whether you yourself give or whether you advocate. The last time I updated, I forgot to put in a clear financial update, but did include it in my
blog post where I posted the update. I put, "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 ." I mentioned in the last update that I would like to create a committee to take financial resonsibility over this effort (whether out of their own pockets, again, or fundraising), but did not receive any reply from anyone about that. We also have only received $25 since that last update, so all of Elisenia's funds have now been used up. Please let me know if you can help. Attached are a few pictures taken by Nikki.

I have to go now. I hope that this update is not too scattered! Take care and God bless, Caitlin 


sábado, 24 de marzo de 2012

Ghislaine Perard

I wrote this on pieces of paper March 12th but am just now getting to post it: 

This afternoon, Eclezyas knocked on the door and said that there was someone who wanted to talk to me.

"Who is it?" 

"Yon ayisyenn," which means, a Haitian woman.

I stepped out the door. Eclezyas did a quick introduction and then said he would leave us alone to talk. Her name was Ghislaine Perard, AKA Jaqueline. She had been searching for help with her two kids and someone had advised her to talk to Catalina in Los Dominguez (me). She has two little girls: 6 months old and a year and a half. And she described that they are suffering. She breast feeds her six month old but can't eat and drink well enough herself to always have a good milk supply. She can barely feed her one and a half year old and is never able to buy milk for her. She described that her toddler has a dry cough and the whole situation breaks her heart. She explained more details as to the extremity of her poverty, saying she can't afford diapers so she uses waddled clothing but has little money to get laundry detergent as well, in order to wash clothes regularly. Neighbors say they can't accept her anymore because of the pee smell this causes. She is really struggling.

She is from Port-au-Prince. Both her parents died when she was little. She found the opportunity to travel to Canada and stay with a Canadian family she met in Haiti. They got a passport and VISA for her and accepted her into their home. She spent lots of time canning vegetables and learning about life in Canada. I didn't catch the amount of time she spent in Canada. Now her VISA has expired. She describes herself as intelligent, hard-working, and eyes opened to the world. She so much wants to work but her two small children "tie her feet". She is too tired and feels as though she can't go on as she is.

After the earthquake in January 2012, Ghislaine moved to the Dominican Republic and acquired a male partner. She did not take birth control after they had their first child in poverty. When she became pregnant with their second child, her partner asked her to abort the baby. She refused. He left her when she was two months pregnant and she hasn't seen him or heard from him since.

So now she is in this situation where she can't take care of her two kids. She does not really want to put them up for adoption because they are the only family she has. But she wants a life for them. She feels as though if she had freedom and opportunity to work then she could make something happen. I told her if she did want to put one up for adoption, I could likely help to facilitate. The girls have Dominican birth certificates. Of course, this is heartbreaking when women who are healthy and fully desire to raise their children cannot because they have no support and no opportunity, but I have been beaten down by the reality of the way people think and I don't want her children to suffer. This is why I offer. People will spend lots of money when they are in control of something, but are slow to give when it puts someone else in control. And most people who will support something to save its life will soon abandon the cause afterwards. Take the earthquake for example. Many people jumped in to help out when they knew people were dying by the hundreds and thousands, but most didn't do much when they were living miserably before hand and they don't do anything when they are living even more miserably afterwards... I am used to pleaing for cases, I know how these things work, (inconsistent response that doesn't work well when there are consistent needs), and I can no longer commit to helping people without knowing that someone or some group who has the financial capability is committed to backing it up.

I also asked about the family that had supported her in Canada. She has lost contact and is embarrassed to contact them, feeling as though they will be disappointed in her because she has two kids. I tried to tell her how ridiculous that is. I asked her age but could tell that she was not terribly young. She answered 30. I shared my thoughts that it's completely understandable for a woman 30 years old to have two kids and no one should think anything negative about her for that. She is a human being and that is just a part of life. Her extreme lack of opportunity is what should not be a part of life.

I also said that if they were older and she moved to Muñoz or Padre Granero, her daughters could be in one of our grassroots schools and that we always search for funding so that the schools can feed students. Lord, please help Ghislaine and her two daughters. Please don't let them suffer anymore.

viernes, 2 de marzo de 2012

So Tired...Trying to Write More


I have been trying to write an update about a search we went on the other day and continue to go on for a boy named Jakenson whose family lives by us, siblings play at our house and are dying to go to English camp this summer, and who continuously runs away to Sosua (the next town over, very touristy), mainly to beg with a group of boys. His mom has gone after him and brought him back on several occasions and always punished him to attempt to have him stay at home but he always runs away again. Their family is very poor. With the younger boys we have here now and the support we'll be able to give him, I think we would be able to get him to stick around if we can just get him here. 

I also have been wanting to write Ebo's story of how he ended up with him, his family situation, and what it has been like having him here. 

Lastly, I wanted to write about going to church and a new little church that moved in on our street. 

However, Jireste's aunt Mari went back to Santiago two days ago so now we are left here to care for all of these kids by ourselves. (4 kids under 2.5 years old, two of them are ours, two are fostered, plus two 12 year olds who don't sleep here but spend the day here...not to mention 50 neighbor kids who try to come in to play every day but we at least make them stay outside and don't have to feed them :).) And I'm even more exhausted than before! I want to bring in other people to help who will take shifts throughout the day and I want to rent a separate room so that we can have a little privacy in our little house, but funds are TOOO LOOOWWW!!! We have not received any larger donations in February to help with paying teachers so I have that burden on my shoulders as well. Oh Lord, please open the doors! 

The Virginia Tech student organization (VT PESO) is coming early Sunday morning. I am definitely looking forward to it, but am worried about funding!! Leading volunteers to do activities in schools where teachers are frustrated and have not been paid and try to pin you aside and complain to you about something you can't do anything about while you are supposed to be translating for the volunteers is... well...not easy! I am going to tell the teachers that if things don't get better, we'll have to prepare to consolidate the two schools into one beginning next fall. The area that needs a large school like that most is Padre Granero, so this would mean taking the school out of Muñoz and leaving all of those students behind. They could probably be taken into another nearby school that started up unnecessarily, ignored my pleas to do so in another one of the dozens of communities that have no school rather than to come to an area where people are already being served and create division and competition (ridiculous!) but they of course wanted to piggy back and didn't listen. I will be so sad if we do have to do this and we'll have to cut three or four teachers, but I can't let things go on like this. It would also be a shame because we have 20 students in Muñoz sponsored. To ask their sponsors to renew the sponsorship of the same student the following year would be successful I think but to let them know that the school that was educating their students has been moved and consolidated with another and they'll have to take on a new student to sponsor... well... I would be disappointed to ask them to change students and I think we would lose sponsors that way. But I am so sick of owing people... of having people complaining all the time. When one makes endless efforts to support an effort, it is frustrating when others involved cannot be grateful but can only complain. But it's due to the fact that there is too much going on for the limited funds. This didn't used to be the case, but became the case in 2009. So if things don't do a large turn around before August, we'll have to consolidate. And actually, that's a decision that will have to be made much earlier than August in order to plan. Bllaahhh!!! Oh Lord, I wouldn't want that to happen!!! :(..........................

And here are some videos: 


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.