Okay.. so a lot as been going on. I talked to Crystal on Skype the other day and we caught up on things we had talked about through e-mail but then she asked me what else was going on. I didn't feel as though I could say anything because as is often the case, if I open my mouth to tell the situations that are flying through my mind... I'll be explaining details about the distribution of a few donated laptops and the parts that were not working and the hurt that each recipient, who are both teachers, felt over the idea of receiving the one with the problem and the love that I have for them as Haitian women who have such hard and brave lives and have been such role models in the community of Muñoz. But it wouldn't have come out that way.. it would've come out as so and so asked me to ask so and so for a laptop for her and she said she maybe could find one and then I found one from so and so.. and Crystal would have had a hard time following and I would've gotten lost as I was telling it.. And then there are about five things like this that I could've told... so I just froze and didn't say anything.
But here are a few updates. I'll just blurt. I need to do law school stuff but also feel the need to purge this first:
1. I started online law school. I especially like criminal law. It is hard to keep up with and keep up with Project Esperanza stuff. I long for a day when we are sustainable and have one or a few paid folks to take care of things like giving reports.. although I don't mind the mindless activity of copying from a spreadsheet to a Word doc. the names and amounts given for the year, then sending them to Kristin who will print them and send them out. If the kids are up then I can do this sort of work since I can't really concentrate on doing much law school reading while they are up. One reason why those giving reports aren't sent out yet though is because we want to send the 2013 Winchester restaurant night calendar out with the ones going to Winchester and we are still waiting to hear back a confirmation from a restaurant.
2. The giving reports show that our income for 2012 was more than in years past which is great and I know we are moving in the right direction. Although there is still debt to teachers, it has closed a lot and they have continued getting their raises over the past few years. However, a lot has been invested in things like art shop and volunteer housing and I just feel sick over the thought of having to defend decisions to invest in those things and just want them to pay off already so that I wouldn't even have to defend decisions..or think about defending them. Jireste has been opening the art shop in the absence of an art shop manager and we put the colmado on hold for a bit. No one wants 7% commission it seems.. I am burnt out on doing HR stuff too.. posting on idealist.org, receiving all these applications and resumes, contacting references, trying to find out who will even come soon enough and who will even come with the compensation we can offer.. and it turns out this time, after talking with, I believe, more than 10 people and contacting references of many, no one has come to serve. In offering to one person and waiting on another, the other took another job, etc. One woman still says she is coming but seems to have been having problem after problem that has kept her from booking her flight, and while she may be completely telling the truth, after someone who was supposed to come in Oct. had us looking for apartments for her, had concrete plans as to when she would come, when she would start working with us, where she would stay the first week before she found an apartment... well she never showed up and never answered any e-mails or calls afterwards. Anyway, the monster truck place is letting Jireste go by every day at 1 (starting tomorrow) to make sales and give out brochures so hopefully something starts rolling and we went and offered 15% to some guides who say they will stop...
Here is what I want to say to anyone who would say stop trying to do business ventures - we can't just sit here and beg!!! But balancing providing the services the organization has been committed to since the beginning and investing in these businesses... it's hard... So anyone who is in our FB group has seen posts I have been making about a hole (debt) now to landlords and a lack of hope for the future of the schools.. but we have downsized the school in Muñoz to finish the school year and then will reassess at the end of the year, depending on how things are going (and if the guides would just stop I am sure there would be a huge turnaround), and a few new monthly sponsors have come on board as well. So I am very grateful for that.
3. Some people have asked for an update on Elisenia lately. She is doing fine although I'll admit with my schedule and my own kids, although she is right across the street, I don't get to spend much time with her. I pay Adeline each month (or Project Esperanza does, rather), get her daipers, her milk, Adeline gets a little food money for her as well to include her in on her family's meals, and Adeline sometimes goes to the doctor with her and gives me perscriptions to get her the meds. But she is talking a little and trying to crawl. We have been giving her peanut butter in her milk but I will admit that she still looks malnourished. I could take a picture but honestly feel sheepish to do it, even though I have every right to. But I am just so used to comments people make when people take pictures and the accusations that they make. And for other people it may be true. Maybe people do go and sell photos and make a profit and the model stays here unpaid. Or maybe they go and show people and it doesn't generate any support or they don't even use the pictures to try to generate support. Maybe it does generate support but the person having his or her picture taken still feels crappy about it. UUuggghhhh there are just all of these negative comments I feel people could say about me for taking a picture in the house that she is in and I want to avoid that. I'll do it at some point. Not Adeline.. she wouldn't say anything, but she has ignorant neighbors who likely would. Ahh, I'll get over it and do it and post it soon. :) Sorry about that rant.
Now I can't write much about Elisenia but I could write a book about Junior, Elisenia's brother. If you haven't read this blog since its beginning, if you read the first posts, you'll read about a malnourished baby we took in and the situation with her father who died, then her mom who took off after we took her in as she was close to death and took in her brother as he was 12, not wanting to go to school, fit into our boys home nicely although unlike the others, he had never been on the streets, but was at risk with the recent family situation. Shortly after we took them in, the mom took off and her three other kids by themselves in Muñoz. Since then, other families in the area (also impoverished) have taken them in but they are still at risk for sure...not that all kids in extreme poverty aren't at risk, but when you don't have your family, I think the risks are just that much higher.
While I don't get to spend much time with Elisenia, I spend a lot of time with Junior, and he spends a lot of time with our family. I wrote to my mom to tell her that something has changed in my relationship with Junior to where I used to have my heart guarded and he was one of the boys in the home but over the past month or so something has happened to where he is now my son and I think about him and worry about him the same way that I do my biological kids. And I am admittedly scared to death about this. I am scared to death for his future. And I'm scared to death over the thought of growing attached to him and something happening to where he would no longer be with us. And I'm also scared to death over the thought that he might not want me as his mother the same way I now want him as my son, and we've had lots of awkward and emotional conversations lately and I now understand a lot of what I have read about adoption.
We have cared for boys from the streets ever since the street census in 2006, and even though they have often stayed on mattresses on our living room floor when there was no appropriate home for them at the time or room for them in the home, I have always guarded my heart to the point where my attachment wasn't the same as my attachment to my own kids. I will say that I had a very strong attachment to Chinaider and Jeres and I both still do now that he is back, but he went into the streets and went to Haiti for awhile and my heart was broken and I got over it, I guess. This is likely why I am scared to death over what is happening here with Junior. Something else dangerous that seems to be happening, I never have bad feelings about boys' biological mothers. The normal story is an absent or dead father and mother in Haiti who is very poor and not able to take care of her kids. This is how they end up in the Dominican Republic. They normally maintain a relationship with their mothers but know that their mother cannot care for them and they can't presently care for their mothers either. I am not saying that I have bad feelings about Junior's mother... I don't..not bad necessarily, but probably just the same feelings as anyone who has adopted would feel about a biological mother who has abandoned the child you are raising and mothering...especially if the adoption is not finalized and the future there is uncertain and your heart is on the line. Ouch. So the way I see it, there are two reasonable choices... to make him go away and not be near us so our hearts won't be at risk of breaking over him one day, or to adopt him and protect him and build him up so that he can be a strong member of the family. And after writing it out... making him go away doesn't seem reasonable at all... so that leaves us with only one choice really.
I told my mom this and mentioned that I had learned that some people who adopt hold fundraisers to pay for the adoptions. I had told her before about a need I feel I have to adopt kids. Not a ton of kids... but just in reference to going to the US for any length of time. I just would/do feel absolutely sick about it without having a family.. our family with the current members, and then some adopted kids. Something would not be in balance and healthy for me if I were to do that. She said she would pray about it and asked for details and... I haven't had the chance to send her any yet because I am still praying and mulling over it, talking to Jeres, observing these family dynamics, having awkward conversations as I said.. wow. Oh, not to mention, I don't know how Jeres would survive without having some fellow Haitians around.
Also with the news of these kids, the 6-year-old, Jennylove, is now living with a teacher in Padre Granero and his partner. Actually, his partner is teaching in Muñoz and it was after hearing about the way the little girl was being treated and seeing some evidence, she took her home. They have asked for help with her on several occasions and the brother Elideau's student sponsor, Sarah, sent some help and some gifts, as she did last year, but the partner is one of the teachers who has just lost her job in Muñoz, the teacher in Padre Granero is... well I'll just say I give him preferential treatment when it comes to paying teachers based on need to the point that some teachers are owed quite a bit but now he is not and has been needing to borrow quite a bit and it's really not fair to the other teachers. And they have not put her in school. I am not trying to criticize them and am glad that they took her in, responding to what they judged as an abusive situation, but am just explaining the situation that she is in now as far as her future is concerned, etc. So this is her situation. And the point is, I feel led to take her in too. And I would love for her to be an addition to our family as well. And I told my mom that too.
Lastly, I have mentioned here a few times a certain organization I like, International Justice Mission, and I think they now don't mind that I share that they are coming for a visit very soon and I hope and pray they will see that our missions align and want to partner! (They are investigating the possibility of working in the Dominican Republic.) I have also been thinking a lot about the boys' home and program in the future (whether near or quite far) and so much want to buy a piece of land for sale nearby here and build a house and have a complete program with the soccer team as the primary outreach to boys on the streets. But I want to have a different role than in the past. I want there to be paid staff (Willy and Enso along with a woman to cook and clean and then regular and vocational teachers) who I support and stay in contact with, but as far as interaction with the members of the home and program, I want to be the person who talks to boys when they are either being really problematic or really struggling and maybe come and do bible study once a week... but not be their family member as I have been up to this point. I have quite enough family members in extreme need as it is and I need to stop right there, although I love them so much, but realistically speaking. There needs to be very specific qualifications for someone to enter the home and a cut off as to when they must leave. It has felt cruel having this before with 1. seeing members of the home as family members and 2. not having been able to give the proper vocational training prior to an appropriate cut off time so that they would have a fair shot upon moving out - although anyone who came of age who didn't want to help and didn't want to listen and go to school got the boot. But the point being, I have learned so much and feel like I know what needs to happen to create a successful and lasting program for the future. Again, I hope and pray that IJM will see this work as valuable and alligning with their mission and want to partner.
Oh, and lastly, my conclusion on adoption after caring for other people's kids now is this: If the mother or family is going to raise the child, then get your stuff together and raise the child. Through our organization, we have been able to help mothers in Padre Granero and Muñoz where we have the schools and in Muñoz have been providing meals, artist training, and the fair trade art shop. In both communities we have, on several occasions, when funds are available, helped out widowed or abandoned mothers who were struggling with rent, food, and start up money for street vending. But I resent this idea some seem to have of a free child raising service that allows one to be released of the dutied of motherhood and return when it is convenient. However, I sure am not judging... I'm just one quite honestly beaten down individual trying to protect myself from another. We won't even get started on the fathers, although what can you say if someone is passed away as is the case often, but many abandon as well. I would say that the battle to create healthy families and avoid unhealthy ones from forming better begin when the parents are 12 at the latest... thus the need for the boys' home and the grassroots schools. But wait, I didn't finish my conclusion on adoption. If the family is going to raise the child, then raise it and minimize the abandonment time and hurt to the child. If the family is not going to raise it..and I think this decision should be made within the course of a year and would be interested in learning more about U.S. law and procedure here but in the DR things are often a free for all... if the family is not taking the responsibility, then quick! Get the child in a family! Give the child a chance at a secure and lasting attachment. Take away the rights from the family and protect the caregiver/adopting parents whose hearts are on the line. My heart is breaking thinking of kids growing up with no secure attachment. Teenage years is hard enough for those of us with loving parents... good God.
Thank you for reading. Thank you for your support. I feel better after writing. Amen.