domingo, 31 de julio de 2016

So It Begins...

My brother, who spends time here each year and has a little house here, can’t really understand my life. “You need to stop taking in kids! You need to stop taking in dogs!” he said. I laughed at the dog comment because I have one dog and I have had her for twelve years. I got her at a free spay and neuter clinic I volunteered at in Viola, Tennessee, and helped spay her at 11 weeks old. The boys in the group home took in a puppy last year. Her name is Blanquita. Before she was even one year old, she gave birth to a litter of puppies. 
Blanquita gave birth to six puppies in a locker in group home.

The puppies were doing well until they turned one month old. She wasn’t there one night and they began whimpering in the night. The next morning as we left for school and spring break activities where we had four groups here in one week, she was still not back. They all looked solemn and were quietly whimpering. “We may have to bottle feed them,” I thought since they had not gotten the milk from their mom. 
About two days before they began passing away.
When we came back that afternoon, she was there, but two had passed away! I took two who were not looking good to the vet who told us what milk to get. We went and found a baby dog bottle and began bottle feeding the remaining four. But they died one by one. We also got worm medicine and de-wormed them, but within a week, all four had died. And we worked hard. The mother was there and caring for them as well. It was just the one night that she left them. 

Crystal visited a few weeks ago and through the organization she volunteered with, Moringa’s Mission, she sponsored to get Blanquita spayed so no more puppies for her and sad situations like that.

So really, I don’t think we were excessively taking in dogs. The boys took in one dog. I did not get involved really and because of that, she produced six more dogs who died one by one in our garage, despite our efforts to save them. It was very sad but I was not going to let them die without fighting for them. I had to show my kids and the boys the value of life, and it would’ve been conflicting for me to do otherwise. After the last puppy died, we talked about it during our weekly group home meeting. What did they take away from that? How could they apply it to life? Family planning, preventing suffering, caring for women, for mothers who product children… it was a great talk.

This happened in March.  Shortly after, we began constructing on the land we had bought for the group home two years earlier. The boys learned a lot. By the end of April, we moved. We didn’t move because it was ready for us to move up there, but because their landlady asked for the house and April 21st was the final deadline she gave. Since then our family and the group home have shared one compost toilet, we have no running water still, and when it rains we are covered in mud, but we are at the base of the mountain with more fresh air and privacy and that makes it all worth it.
As I write this the rain sounds on the tin roof and lightning flickers through the sun lights every now and then. Thank you, Lord. This is beautiful. 

So in June, Carlo came to our house with a puppy that had been thrown out in the creek bed. The creek bed is normally dry. I believe he said that there were more but other people had taken them, or I can’t actually remember. But he told me that someone had thrown these dogs out to die and if we didn’t care for it, it would die. He showed me where he had been bit by another dog and had a cut. It was crying.
So we cared for it and gave it milk and food but then had to go meet my mom who was visiting. Ilayas was the leader of the caregiving. I thank God for that sensitive little nurturer. He melts my heart on a daily basis. I came back with my mom to get some things before she left and the puppy was sleeping in an empty cement bag outside of our house. I thought that was a good sign that he had a full stomach and was feeling better than in the morning. 

That evening, I asked the boys about the puppy. They told me that it had died. I told them that I had left it sleeping in the cement bag earlier that day. They said that when they found it, it was covered in flies and dying, so they took it to the creek bed, threw rocks at it to finish it off, and buried it. Jameson did the rock throwing, I was told. What was done was done. 

In late July on our last day of camp, Crystal helped fundraise and we planned with Moringa’s Mission to bring our campers with best attendance to visit their animal rescue, which is about an hour away from us. It was a great trip. My kids (Ilayas, Yenilove, and Maraya) were among the top twelve with best camp attendance and got to go without me even having to pull any strings! They rode a
horse, washed puppies, and had a great time. Ilayas longed to ride a horse by himself and they all came back with a desire to care for puppies. None of our three group home boys of camp age made the cut, unfortunately. The others who went were Magdala and Elena Richardson,Adoni and Nairobi Martinez, Clideson Cheristal, Dateson Dume, Esmayline Orima, KerenchyPetit-Compere, and Julie Francois Onese. Keveline Charles and her little sister Anely were invited but their mom felt uneasy allowing them to go so they stayed behind.

Today, July 30th, about a week after we went to Moringa’s Mission, something happened. I was inside working on the computer and I heard Maraya calling me to come quick. I didn’t go. She kept calling. I asked Yenilove to go see what was going on. Yenilove came back reporting that Maraya was holding a puppy. I thought it was a neighbor’s litter and didn’t think much of it. They brought one in for me to see. It was cute. But I still didn’t pay much attention. Ten or so minutes later I walked outside and saw them on the edge of the property carrying two puppies. They said that they had first seen four and then went to go collect all four but now only found two. 

They started babying them and caring for them. I was tending to other things as they were doing this, but they took both puppies on the step behind the house. They made many trips carrying a cup of water one by one. Yenilove told Maraya to hurry up as Maraya climbed up on a chair with two cups, fetched water from the green tank in our house, got down from the chair with two cups of water, then went to step on top of the bed that serves as a couch where others were sitting watching TV, as someone was blocking the path way between TV and bed to the door. I made them move and told her to pass, and it was at that time that I paid more attention to the effort they were making to give these babies a bath. It made me so proud. Then they took clothes out of the dirty clothes pile and swaddled them cradled them, and carried them around for the rest of the day. They put them to sleep on Yenilove’s bed and checked up on them often.

Yenilove then came and woke me up at 2:30am but I was already partially awake from the puppies crying. I was lying on the double bed with Ilayas, Wevli, and Maraya. Yenilove in her bed and Jeres on the couch/bed. Junior now stays in a room with Sony and Enelbi in the group home, perhaps sixty feet from our house, as we just have two bedrooms in this house, and the group home has three bedrooms. 

I got up and helped her give the puppies food, but realized that there was some crying coming from outside. I opened the door and two wet puppies stood outside. We brought one in easily but the other ran to the side. He did a, “I want to come in but I’m scared of you”. As I went after him, he ran around the house. I rounded him toward the other door which was open and thought maybe he would go in on his own. As he passed in front, a dark little hand reached out at him and he ran under the car. It was Yenilove’s hand. Jeres got up and looked a bit confused as this was going on. It’s not so normal for people here to have dogs inside in general so I am pleased that he didn’t really get upset about it all. 

The puppy hid under the car and the rain poured. I eventually was able to get ahold of its leg, pull it out, and bring it inside, although it put up a fight. The two wet ones reunited with the two dry ones and everyone nibbled on some of Viola’s food. They eventually curled up and fell asleep. I put down a blanket that the boys had thrown away in the compost without it having anything wrong with it. I had one of them wash it among other clothing items that were found as a punishment and stored them, telling them that we didn’t know when we would need them, but they had nothing wrong with them to throw them out. 
Why did I title this post, “So It Begins”? Well, I’m not sure if the river bed is a common place to throw puppies out and we happen to live by it or if people have identified us as caregivers and are bringing their unwanted puppies here. My granddad was identified as such. He was a vet and was my absolute idol growing up. Someone dropping off a box of puppies
Ilayas made a basket puppy bed.
was like Christmas morning for me. And I see that my kids feel the same way. Ilayas has shed a few tears already. I told them that we would bring the dogs to Moringa’s Mission and wrote to Dee about it right away.  I told Ilayas that maybe we could keep one, but where would it go while he was at school? And we talked through that a bit. 

Dee wrote me back quickly to let me know that they cannot take them. She had twenty-five when we were there the other day and had already promised to take in others. So we are stuck with them for the time being. 

So to my brother, I say, sorry. I wasn’t taking in puppies, but now I am, despite your advice not to. Do I really have a choice here? In Sosua they have an animal rescue but you have to pay them to care for the dog you bring in, from what I hear. Moringa’s Mission is further away from Sosua
and they are full. I have never heard of this sort of work in Puerto Plata or anywhere else nearby. I’ll search more, but this country is full of unspayed and unneutered dogs and I’m sure a shelter could be full in each neighborhood quickly if they existed.

But can I really teach my kids that their desire to care for these puppies is incorrect and that we should instead leave them outside to whimper in the rain and die? I don’t think so. I don’t see what other choice I have here. And so it has been with the kids that we have taken in. I continue to learn more about different government options and how to counsel mothers who are struggling to care for their kids and what their options are. 

One mother keeps coming to the school in Padre Granero asking for help for her eleven year old girl. She has five and this girl has health issues. She loves her and all of her kids, but wishes someone would adopt her. I talked to CONANI about it and they said she should bring the girl here from Haiti, step 1. She doesn’t have the transportation money. I have spoken to several people but no one has stepped up to help. If I had had the funds, I would’ve helped her out already. I think people feel unsure that she will actually come with the kids and I understand that. But I would rather her take the money and run then for the girl to die and me not to have been able to help her with the request for transportation money. 

I tried counseling a mom in PG. But she left her newborn and two year old with a neighbor and says that she can do what she wants with them. She’s not coming back. I talked to CONANI about it and they said they would do a visit but this has been… more than a month now, I believe. CONANI is very understaffed. As soon as a little bit more funds are available, I’ll visit the woman and help them out with milk. Thank God for her. 

Anyway, there’s an update for ya! I wonder how others feel on the issue? If it were you, would you put the puppies back in the river bed? Would you forget about the abandoned babies and the neighbor who is a single, poor mom with five kids of her own who is struggling to care for them? If you had $12 for a can of milk or $100 to pay for the transportation (and it’s a bit more than just the cost of transportation as the issue is a little complicated with her coming from Haiti to the DR which is why it costs more) and you honestly have all that you need to get by each day, would you share that with someone who honestly doesn’t? 

I remember when we first did start taking in kids and members of our board of directors said, what will be the criteria to take in kids? We can’t just take in everyone. My thoughts were, we’ll take in anyone who God brings to us. And we’ll pray for his guidance. I know that is an overly simple answer, but the truth is that he hasn’t given us more than we can handle, with him. There have been things that I felt like I couldn’t handle, but he has gotten me through. And I think he knows why he brought me to the Dominican Republic and not Haiti. Here we can serve Haiti without being defeated by it. And we can serve the Dominican Republic at the same time. I don’t think that we need to hold back love out of fear of what we are losing. We are gaining more than we are losing, whether we see it that way or not.  I have said this before, but love is not like water. If you use water, you have less. Love is like fire. If you use fire, it grows. 

Dear children, let us not love with words and in speech but with action and in truth. (1 John 3:18

When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.
Do not be afraid, for I am with you.

jueves, 28 de julio de 2016

Ten Years...

A church from my hometown sent letters to their sponsored students and a card addressed to "Caitlin and Staff". Among other things, it has a verse, Jeremiah 33:3. It says, "Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know."

I love that verse. I loved the card. It reminds me of the most interesting bible study I did the past few weeks with my good friend Gemma. I think I'll write a post about what she showed me as I was really blown away.

It has now been ten years since I first came here to Puerto Plata. Well, ten years and two months.
Wanbert also liked the card from the church.
Yesterday I did an interview with a teacher. She seems great and she said she is waiting for a blessing to be accepted to teach in the public sector, as it pays more, but will work with us until that happens. We need to recruit two more before school starts. Wanbert walked into the office as we were talking and talked to her a bit about the school. He said that he works with me and that I work really hard and she said that that is what the director had said. She said he said that I work tirelessly.

My heart fills with pride when someone says that. I have worked hard and I do work hard. I am not trying to pat my own back but I just feel the need to say that I have worked sooo hard. Is it enough? Will it ever be enough? I have felt a strong sense of fear yesterday and today because we don't yet have enough money to pay teachers this month. And we don't yet have money to get everyone ready for the new school starting in a few weeks.

I know God will come through. I know he will provide. Every month he provides. Every month. He has never failed. It is amazing. It has been amazing to see over the course of 10 years now since we took on financial responsibility.

Yet I still feel afraid. And I feel foolish for the things I try to do from here to bring in more money and they don't work out or haven't worked out yet. Some have worked out like the volunteer program and the art shop. Those are businesses that actually turn a profit (while there is a non-profit side to them but really they are businesses to support the non-profit, complete with expenses, income, and profit). But other things have not gone as well. But then again, they didn't go so well at first either so maybe I should hang in there?

We have never had monthly sponsors cover the monthly budget consistently and we have never had all of our students sponsored. That would just be too predictable I guess and God really likes to keep me on my toes apparently.

But we have our own group home land and building now. We just finished the tether ball game and I can't wait for the common room to get done so we can set up a ping pong table. Not a real one but a piece of plywood to lay on their table and then a net you can put up and take down. I have the rackets and balls. It's basically ready to go just need the room to be done so we can store the stuff in there otherwise they'll be broken or lost in half a day.

And we have our school building in Padre Granero. Both are such babies and need more work so even if they are ours now, there is still the large amount of care that goes into caring for a baby.

Part of me says, Lord, when will I get a break? And part of me says, if I have a break I will probably rip my hair out and create something else to do because I'm a bit of a work-a-holic. Did I mention that we have a new member of our family? Wevli?

Law school is almost over. Praises to the only one who could get me through it. I can do all things through him who gives me strength. Beginning of September I will be done with my core classes. After that, one easy looking elective and a BAR prep course is all that is left and will end in December. I am basically done. I can't believe it.

I love my kids so much. My heart overflows with love for them. Today was basically the only day of the whole summer vacation where I spent the most of the day away from them in order to do my Wills and Trusts midterm. My heart ached to be away from them. And I love Project Esperanza so much. Thank you Father. I look forward to many more great and unsearchable things I do not know.

Oh, and I have been on the search for a solution for our Sweet ADHD Teen. I will visit a place tomorrow. We love him so much but man have things been more peaceful with him at his brother's house!! No offense to him at all in that and I have hope that he will do great things.

The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Lord of the harvest, please send the workers.

martes, 5 de julio de 2016

Our Sweet ADHD Teen

If you read my last update, you probably think we here are a bit crazy. You may think that even more when I tell you that since those events, things got even crazier. I won’t bore you with the full, long stories, but will just share that someone had their locker broken into and lots of hard earned money stolen that resulted in the purchase of gasoline, the plan to burn down the new wooden house we built, rocks thrown at the house resulting in holes which the perpetrator quickly patched feeling regret for his moments of rage, and then a few days later, the same bottle of gasoline that was taken away from said perpetrator was poured onto the head of one young man who continues to destroy and harm other people’s belongings with no real signs of remorse or responsibility. Matches were on hand and he was held down in threat of having the vice scared out of him. We’ll see if it worked. This punishment was not approved by me ahead of time, but was another moment of rage. I share this with you in an attempt to be transparent and make light of the hell that is trying to raise a group of unrelated teenage boys together. 

I won’t mention this young man’s name, but I have to share with you about someone who has been with us here for almost five years now, since he was 12 years old. He just turned 17. I am not referring to Junior. Junior is doing okay and probably going onto 10th grade next year, praise the Lord. 

We love this young man to death, but he is most surely a case of ADHD. He has an older brother in the area and a sister in the capital who comes and visits occasionally. He can thoroughly clean a three bedroom house in an hour’s time, but you might lose a few belongings in the process. He is sweet and personable. We love him, but we can’t have him here with us anymore. I have shed tears over it, but I have finally come to that conclusion. It is time for him to learn reality, and time for others to have some protection from his shenanigans and uncontrollable behavior.

I won’t go into any more details but I will just say that he is too big for us to correct and we can only try to improve things for future difficult cases. We have a small difficult case on our hands, but this one is big and strong and out of our league.  We sent him to his brother’s for a month on Saturday. During vacation, he always creates more problems. It is pretty much a given that during vacation from school, this young man will cause problems. It seems to go hand in hand with his ADHD, not having enough to do although we found a mentorship for him that he didn’t stick with. 

But he often calls me mom, tells volunteers that I’m his mom, and I love him like a son. When we have to send him away to his brother’s for a bit, the kids ask about him and miss him. After sending him away this last time, I cried, knowing that we most likely can’t have him back here again. But we cannot abandon a 17 year old like that either, I don’t think. We fear that he will end up in prison if he does not have the structure he needs. Therefore, I plan to go to the Minor’s Court to see about sending him to a special school in La Vega for his last year of living as a minor. He would then turn 18 after having finished there, and I will have felt as though I have done all that I can. If he rents a place nearby, I’ll always be near and the organization will always be near to counsel him and be his family, but I do not think he should return to live in the home. This is all I know to do.  

I’ll update after I talk to the Minor’s Court. Please pray for our sweet ADHD boy. May God save him from himself and use this extra energy for God’s glory. May he channel it and contain it and protect it. 

"And we know that in all things, God works forthe good of those who love him." - Romans 8:28