domingo, 28 de septiembre de 2014

A Summary of this Journey

Small white line next to the fibula is a finger-
nail scratch, not a tibia!
Here is an e-mail I just wrote to Tammie, a volunteer with Project Helping Hands, a medical group that comes here a few times a year. She visited Elisenia when she first came last year and has been supportive of her care ever since. I recently took Elisenia to get a new x-ray of her leg, where she is missing a tibia, and sent it to both Tammie and CURE International where we had consulted her in Santo Domingo in 2012. We now are planning on taking her again this month and they may do a surgery within the next five months or so! 


I am posting this e-mail because I gave a summary of the events with the kids and the mom over these past 3 years and since I mention the kids and the situation so much, I thought it might be good to share a summary.  


Hi Tammie, 

Thank you so much! :) I will talk to Adeline to see when we can take her down. I wish I could go and see the consultation in person but I don't think I can spare a day right now. Just wanted to give you the dates of when we took in Elisenia since you said we found them early last year. It was Nov. 2011 when we first found her being toted around by her sister who was 9, but very sick. She had just turned one. Her sister and other siblings were students in our school but had not attended that year because of family problems. The mom had been gone for three months at that time and the dad had gotten sick. The mom came back but Elisenia was in critical condition with pneumonia and malnutrition... picture attached of her and my daughter. My daughter was 4 mos. and Elisenia was a year.  So we had her in the hospital for weeks, volunteers and one of our staff members taking turns sleeping with her, and then moved her into a missionary house in Cabarete and she spent another month there. The guy holding my daughter is our staff member who was taking turns with volunteers staying with her in the hospital. Then we have had her since then but went through 2 caregivers before we found Adeline who cares well for her, just the facilities are not ideal. 

The mom was back at this time but her husband had just died and the brother, age 12, was refusing to go to school so we took him in since we work with boys from the streets and have special school efforts for them. This was Jan. 2012. We paid the house for them and got food for 3 months, which is what has been the rule of thumb for a woman when her husband dies if they're involved in our schools. The mom asked me for transportation money to go to Santiago and said she would come right back, she couldn't leave the kids. I was reluctant for her to even leave the kids for a day but she promised she would come right back. Then we didn't hear from her until she showed back up July 2014, so 2.5 years she was gone without a word. I had taken her to the AIDS clinic before, she knew she had it, but was embarrassed to get her meds! She said when she came back from Santiago she would start taking them. 

So when she left in Jan. 2012, her three others who were 5, 6, and 9, were alone and going from house to house in the batey. One man in the area who had volunteered some with Elisenia even set up an account for them at a colmado where they could get 100 pesos a day to make food. They finally settled somewhat, and we eventually took in the 5 year old girl. So we have Yenilove who is now 8, Junior who is now 15, and Elisenia is with Adeline and will be 4 on Nov. 2nd. Elideau who is 9 is with a family in Munoz, a Haitian woman who has a Canadian husband, and Alexandra who will be 12 in Dec. was with her godmother but was having a really hard time, her godmother has tons of kids, extremely poor, lives right on the road, and I was getting lots of reports of her being involved in really vulnerable situations. I planned to go take her to child services, who I had talked to about her lots before but I just couldn't take hearing those things anymore. I had made the decision that day that I went to that clinic with Helping Hands (July 8, 2014) that I would take her that same day and then the mom showed back up while we were in the clinic. So since then she has stayed with the mom. Her husband (who passed away)'s aunt is allowing the mom to stay in a room of hers in the batey. The mom at this point can't walk and is very thin. Alexandra goes to our school but she cleans clothes, cooks, and takes care of her mom. :( She is the one that breaks my heart most at this point but we couldn't take her in because we have a little group home with boys from the streets and she is a wanderer and the two wouldn't mix. Plus the godmother was adament that Alexandra wasn't going anywhere and many people began to question her motives... but right before the mom came back, she left her house and went to Haiti for a bit, which is when I had planned to take Alexandra to child services in hopes that they would put her in a home. 

So that's the story! This Nov. it will be 3 years since we've had Elisenia under our care. :) Thank you so much for helping her... early on a few people donated but since then there has been no success in fundraising for her except for you. I think I told you another nursing group that has started doing deworming in our schools every six months got a stroller and a nebulizer for her? The nebulizer has helped a ton. 

Thanks always, Caitlin

P.S. Junior lived in the group home during his first year, which is just down the road from us and from Adeline and Elisenia, and then when Yenilove moved in with us in Feb. 2013, he moved into our house too. I find this funny, but as soon as they both moved in, they started plucking white hairs out of my head! :) 


 Don't forget, if you want to support me and my work, please consider using this credit card or these awesome gift options. Sign up as a customer here. If you want to use this method for gaining your own personal support to enable you to do similar work or to just supplement your family income, please e-mail me at CaitlinMcHale@EsperanzaMeansHope.org. Don't forget to read this book as well, and recommend it to others! If you want to support Project Esperanza, learn how to do so here. Thank you and God bless! 

jueves, 18 de septiembre de 2014

What's Going on...


I had been planning on writing a post about the motorcycle accidents/incidences I have gotten into and my need and desire to buy a little three-wheeled vehicle, but in the craziness of end of camp, teacher training, and back to school, I haven’t had time to go to the dealer and take a picture of one of the cute little guys. So I must write about last night’s events, and then maybe that will be my next post.

Update 1: I passed the CA First Year Law School Exam (FYLSE) A.K.A. Baby Bar!!! On my first try!! It has a super low pass rate, (see here), so I am so very relieved to have passed and not have to leave my babies behind again and travel by myself. Leading up to the results, I had thoughts of, “If I don’t pass, I’ll just drop out,” because it was such a big deal to travel to LA to take the test. So now I can truly and freely envision a life as a lawyer! The Bar test I will take after I have already graduated, and that can keep me from practicing law, but it can’t keep me from being a lawyer.

So my plan as far as paying off student loans is to do the public service loan forgiveness plan. If I can start receiving a salary from Project Esperanza by the time I graduate, then as a 501c3, that should qualify me for the program. After 20 years of making consistent payments, the rest of my debt will be forgiven!! (I go back to this later on in this post in a less confident tone.)
Last day of camp.

Update 2: This summer was awesome because our volunteers were spectacular, Joanne was volunteer coordinator and went above and beyond expectations, and returning volunteers ended up coming at overlapping times so it was a big reunion/team effort/fun time. Crystal, EM, and Cole all three came within 36 hours of each other.

During these same 36 hours, another person came into town VERY unexpectedly. I was helping to organize a clinic in the school in Munoz when a woman in the community came to the door and told me that Zette had just showed up. Then the woman ran off. I took it with a grain of salt, not knowing if it was true, but then a few other people came and told me the same. Talk about confusion. In my last post, I mentioned how long she had been gone and how we had assumed she had passed away. People then started telling me that she wanted me to go see her. I didn’t know what to do. Jeres was translating for a station of medical volunteers and I scuddled over to him, told him the news and sobbed on his shoulder. He couldn’t go with me because he was translating. So I got myself together, then some medical volunteers asked me what was wrong and I sobbed again. I got my female comforting and talking in, and then went down to see her.  After caring for Ebo for five months, I made the decision that I would not foster a child for free anymore…I would only adopt. It was too hard for me to attach and unattach. And I treated Junior like a non-family member for a year until my heart softened for him and I treated him as my son. I watched Yenilove go from house to house for a year before I committed to taking her in, and as soon as I took her in, I didn’t plan on anyone ever taking her away.

I don’t want to take up too much time writing every detail of our conversation. Elideau and Alexandra were both already with her when I got the house she was sitting in. Alexandra was so happy to see her but Elideau looked like he didn’t know what to think. Ironically, that very day I had made the decision to take Alexandra to social services because I got nothing but bad reports of… well she wasn’t being watched and protected and her godmother she was living with left her and other kids and went to Haiti. I was set on it, and then Zette ironically showed up, which changed that.

She said she had been at “kay boko” which is a voodoo priest’s house in Artibonite. She said a friend took her there because she was sick. So I tried to take her to the AIDS clinic before she left, (January 2012), but she was embarrassed to go and asked for transportation to go to Santiago (one hour away) to go and come right back, which I gave her. Then we never saw her again. Now she returned and her explanation was that she was sick and was at a voodoo priest’s house (several hours away). I called Junior. He came and saw her for a few minutes and then said, “I want to go to my house.” I gave him transportation money and he went home. I got Yenilove from camp and then took her to see Zette. She was happy and sweet but… I didn’t feel threatened after the visit, despite the fact that Zette never thanked me and when questioned if she would take the kids, she said she would send all five to her aunt’s house in Haiti. I asked if she had been at her aunt’s house, her aunt who was capable and willing to take in five kids and she said no, she never did make it to her family’s house. I find it all a bit confusing.

So that’s that. I didn’t take Elisenia to see her, but promised to. That was before she started sending Gaddy and Nanie to ask me for money. On Yenilove’s birthday we took Elideau to get pizza and cake, which was Yenilove’s wishes. I visited with his
Yenilove's 8th birthday. 
caregiver, Vlidgitte, and she let me know that Zette had gone there complaining about a tooth ache and she gave her 500 pesos. I said, you are a good person. Because I didn’t plan on giving Zette any money. Then I started getting messages from Zette asking for help with her toothache. I haven’t gone to see her since. Alexandra let me know that Zette now smokes whereas she didn’t before as well. I don’t want to judge her, I just don’t necessarily want to help her, either. I feel like the only help I could provide her at this point would be transportation to go to the aunt she has in Haiti that is apparently willing to take in 5 kids. Maybe my heart will change over time, but I struggle to take care of her kids, so it’s not just that I don’t have a heart for it right now, but I don’t have the capability either.  She’s currently living with the aunt of her husband who passed away, Yenilove, Elisenia, and Elideau’s dad, but this aunt never took in the kids after Zette left, but let them be passed from house to house, and she even tried to get money from me through it all. I don’t want to judge her either, but just telling it like it is. She tried to get money from me because she said that the house Zette was renting that the kids continued to stay in after she left them, was hers, and she needed to be paid for the months Zette owed her for the kids staying there! With all of that said and done, she is a little old lady with a sweet disposition and sells good homemade peanut butter!

Now that I have updated about that, let me get onto last night’s events.

Wow! Once again I began a post and couldn’t come back to it to finish until weeks later. It is now September 18th. I wrote the above part on August 27th. So by this time, Zette ended up in the hospital for awhile and I visited her and helped her out a little more, whereas I was reluctant to at first when she was asking for funds.

The events I was going to write about was something that happened with Junior and school. He is doing really well, by the way, getting up and going to school, whereas last year he was quite a handful there, unfortunately. But a lot of it had to do with the fact that we couldn’t get him into morning school, and this year I did.

So I was helping him with his homework. When the teacher asks questions for him to find the answers by reading in the textbook, he needs a large amount of help.  I don’t mind helping him, but I don’t want to do it for him. This night he for some reason started insulting me as I searched for the answers, saying that I must not know what I was doing because I was taking a long time. I realized that his reason for insulting me must stem from his own lack of confidence, which he was projecting on me, but it made me mad nonetheless. I forget the full details of what followed, but it ended up in him threatening to rip up his books. I told him that if he ripped up his books he could go live in Munoz.  I guess I should note that his school and homework is in Spanish, but as we were exchanging such comments, we were speaking in Creole.
Teacher training 2014.

Sometimes when I take a step back, I realize that I have said something that I shouldn’t have, but I have to defend myself and my home and can’t let him run the show. Shortly after, he came with a ripped up book and threw it in the trash bag hanging on the doorknob. I told him to get his stuff together to go live in Munoz. He went and started packing all of his clothes in my suitcase that I let him store his clothes in. I reminded him that that was my suitcase and he wasn’t leaving the house with it. He argued that I had given it to him.

I went and shut the door in my room and sat imagining what would happen to him if he went to live in Munoz. How far we had come with him and school and how he would not go to school if he lived in Munoz..not to mention, he could get into bad stuff. But of course, I couldn’t let him be impossible and destructive either. A bit later he showed me that it wasn’t one of his new books he had ripped up, but one the public school had given him the last year and never asked for it back, True, he should have returned it and not ripped it up. But the point is, I hadn’t just bought it!  (FYI – Public schools supply books to students, but not always and not all of the books. But at private schools, students have to buy their own books.)

I was relieved that he had not ripped up his new schoolbooks. He then sat by me and asked, “How do you find the answers in the book?” This might sound like a lie to be cheesy, but it’s true. We had a breakthrough. So I talked to him about finding the keyword of the question and looking through the subtitles in the book to find where it’s talking about the keyword, and also about skimming. And when you find the right section, you just have to take the time and read it. We finished his homework with him making more of an effort. The next day he told me that 3 out of the 4 answers were wrong and I told him that I never studied Dominican history in school, but the answers we put looked good to me. J I can be more of a help with math and science, I suppose. But I enjoy learning more about Dominican history through it all.

So we didn’t get any help to pay for his schooling. So I’m paying for it through my student loans. We weren’t able to register him in the bilingual school I wanted to, but hopefully next year. The main reason is that he was in our grassroots school in Padre Granero in the afternoon last year, and did adult public school at night. That was the only spot I could find for him in the public school. So he had switched from the day system to the night adult system, and they wouldn’t let him switch back until after 8th grade because there is a national exam to pass that year. However, the school I did register him in guaranteed me that he could study there during the day, even if he was just now entering 8th grade.

I thought I explained the situation clearly and let them know that other schools said he could not switch from night to day, and they continued to guarantee me that he could, so I registered him. They let him begin even though I had forgotten his report card, and said I could bring it the next day. I did, and he came in uniform, complete with books. They called me that afternoon saying that there was a problem with his report card, and they were not sure he could study in the morning. I reminded them that I verified with them 3 times before registering him. They replied that they had thought I was asking about something else, about a process necessary when someone is switching countries. They put me on hold for a few weeks and then said they could let him stay in the morning. So by chance, I got him into morning school! But he’ll have to wait until next year to go to the bilingual school. Let’s hope he keeps doing well until then! I should note that the school he is going to this year is much less expensive than the bilingual school. 

So student loans… how will I pay them back? Will I move to the US to work? Well, there is a public service loan forgiveness plan I would like to take part in. It involves making monthly payments for 20 years and then having the rest forgiven. If you work for a non-profit, you should be eligible. So this would mean I would have to start taking out a salary from Project Esperanza when I graduate, paying consecutive loan payments, and then after 20 years, I would have them forgiven. But my mom keeps telling me
CONANI HQ in Santo Domingo.
not to rely on this and I am agreeing that I shouldn’t completely. (I am leaving this paragraph in here even though I have realized that I wrote about this at the beginning of the post, but just so you can see my change of tone.)

I went to Santo Domingo a few weeks ago to register an adoption agency. Hopefully things will go smoothly and I will be their in country coordinator. But we shall see.  CONANI said they will look over things and be in contact. I have never so much wanted to move to the US to work as I do now. But I don’t want to give up the work that I do here. I wish I could be compensated for it, if only to have the chance to buy a property and build a home some day, and to send my kids to the Montessori school I hope to, as well as to visit family in the US sometimes. I would also like to be able to send friends and family presents on special occasions. If I could run Project Esperanza, be coordinator for an adoption agency, grow and sell cacao, and write some books, that would be wonderful. Oh, and I want to home school my kids after 6th grade as well… Ilayas and Maraya that is. These are my dreams. I pray to God Almighty they will come true!! If they are within his will. And that yours will come true too, if they are within his will.

I almost forgot to mention that I had chikungunya, which is a mosquito born sickness that was taking over the country this summer. It causes lots of joint pain. I only had a fever for a day, but my feet still ache weeks later.

 Don't forget, if you want to support me and my work, please consider using this credit card or these awesome gift options. Sign up as a customer here. If you want to use this method for gaining your own personal support to enable you to do similar work or to just supplement your family income, please e-mail me at CaitlinMcHale@EsperanzaMeansHope.org. Don't forget to read this book as well, and recommend it to others! If you want to support Project Esperanza, learn how to do so here. Thank you and God bless!