I was super excited to wake up and get to the school this morning. I knew that Lala’s peanut butter program was today. The program has just been recently started, it is only in it’s third week. The first week she identified five cases of extreme malnutrition and weighed the kids. She also measured their height and gave them amoxicillin. The next week she took their weight and height again and then gave them a dewormer to cleanse their system. She also identified their target weight and measure how much of the ‘special’ peanut butter to give them. It is full of vitamins and minerals and fats and proteins and all the good stuff you want an young kid to have. It is a science in fact because she is able to calculate exactly how many ounces they should gain in a week.
This week was our first opportunity to see these kids. I wish I could explain in detail the horrible conditions they were in but pictures would be better. The first kid was the worst starvation I had seen up until that point. He name is Jan (said like John). He is 2 years old and weights a remarkable 15 pounds. He looks like a super skinny 9 month old and cannot walk on his own. His mom does not seem to be giving him the peanut butter because he had no weight gain over the past week when he should have gained at least 1 ounce. It may seem like a small amount but every ounce counts when your only 15 pounds. Lala thinks his mom is feeding the other kids with it. He did not seem too concerned with this child and had asked me to ‘make him American’ on several occasions. Jesse held him for what seemed like hours after his turn. She sat and rocked him and cried. It was an emotional time for all of us. I just simply tried to suck it up and compartmentalize it.
The next four kids were just as bad if not worse than the first. Biolan is a 9 year old who should not be in the program because it is only for 6 months-5 year olds but the poor kid would have probably died without it. Truthfully I am very surprised he made it to 9. He has the look and statue of a 5-6 year old and weighs and astonishing 32 pounds. He is only on a ½ dose of the PB because he is not suppose to be in the program but still he has gained 2.5 pounds in the past 2 weeks, which for here is really good. I am so glad his mother is following the program. They said he seemed to sit and eat the entire pouch of PB in one sitting. An exaggeration but close to the truth, he just sucked it down like you would expect any starving child to.
Christela was next. She is probably the best out of all the kids we saw. She is 11 months old and weights about 13 pounds. Again we were heartbroken to see she had no weight gain. Lala was frustrated and explained fervently that if she does not get the food she won’t gain weight. If she doesn’t gain weight two weeks in a row (for unexplained reasons, not like she has had diarrhea or something) then she has to be kicked out of the program and will most likely die. The mom still did not seemed too concerned and Lala sent a pouch of PB home with her. The mom said she still had 1 ½ pouches left over. We brainstormed ideas of why she wasn’t gaining weight and thought maybe Christela was refusing to eat it but that idea seemed disproven when Christela saw the PB packet and squealed and tried to grab it. She nearly clapped her tiny hands in excitement.
Next came Guetchina. She is 2 years old and again looks way younger and could easily pass for an 8-9 month old. She weighs 16 pounds. Lala was nearly in tears to find out she lost weight. She is skin and bones so we could not attribute it to water weight lost (like some starving kids who shed water pounds the first couple of weeks). Lala sent 2 pouches of PB home and again explained that 2 weeks of no weight gain means she is out of the program and will likely die. The mom left seeming more concerned than the last but nothing in comparison to how worried we were.
Finally came Garvenson. He was the worst of them all. I want to cry at the thought of him. In walks this mother of 18 in nice clothes for a Haitian with cute sandals and her hair done with a tiny bundle of baby piled in cute clothes. His clothes were baggy and you could barely find him in them. We stripped him of the clothes to weight him. At 14 months old he weights a little over 10 pounds. He is all skin and bones and I wanted to slap the mother. I know there may be extenuating circumstances such as she had a problem with breast milk not producing or the clothes were donated or something like that. I try to keep that in mind but he should have been on solid food 6 months ago. Unfortunately he too had no weight gain and we all shook our head to hold back the tears. Covered in scabies, Lala gave him some medicine. Because the only scabies medicine we can get is for cattle and because he is so small the amount we gave him was .1 cc diluted with water. I hope that helps clear him up and more than that I hope he gains some weight. We ran out of the special PB to give him so Lala gave the mom three jars of regular peanut butter. How much that will help I do not know, but hopefully it will get him through one more week. Overall the PB program was the hardest thing to see, beyond the feeding program and the naked dirty children. 9 years old’s at 30 pounds and 2 year olds at 15 pounds… that is just heart wrenching.
Thankfully the feeding program went really well today and we even had leftovers. I was able to give a couple of kids a second helping. They looked at me like ‘I know I am not allowed seconds but I am starving and I had to share the first plate with my sister so just don’t tell okay?’ I simply smiled and ushered them to eat. Which they did, ever sharing with each other which is the most amazing thing to see. A child with one plate of food for the whole day and possibly several days will willingly share without being asked, to siblings and hungry friends. If they got a plate and someone next to them didn’t, they will hold it out for the kid to take a handful. It is precious.
Tonight we went over to a local Pastors house. Pastor Genadas and his wife are Pilipino and were only the second missionaries sent out from the Philippines. They run a local church as well as a bakery where they employ deaf Haitians to bake and deliver food. They also run a Bible College and have a deaf college too. They try to make jobs for the Haitians. Tomorrow they are buying supplies to make a water purification system next to their college. They plan on employing 32 Haitians to run it on a daily basis. I am so impressed with them and hearing the wife share about their calling and how they had to step out in faith, blazing a trail. Now over 200 missionaries from the Philippines are on the field working in different countries. All because someone had the courage to follow God. Impressive. Not to mention the food was delicious. Fried chicken, shrimp, coleslaw, potato salad (which is purple here, fyi), and my favorite- cold cokes. DELICIOUS. It’s made from the cane sugar and therefore better than any American coke. That woman can cook. Also she can speak 4 languages. Overall just an impressive family. I would not mind living here if I could do something like that, work to make jobs, teach in the school and still maintain a family. That would be ideal.
I just finished up my shower and I am impressed that I was able to catch up on all my memories in one day. A couple of last minute things: All the kids want to marry me here (and most of the older guys too, I am sick of having people making kissy faces while driving to Jubilee). Including the three boys who live here. Kevin, Marvins (yes MarvinS) and especially Fresno. Fresno is daily hitting on me and going between sweet, like keeping all the flies off of me while I slept in the school today, and sour like demanding I respect him and if I don’t he will hit me. Tonight while I was showering, so were Marvins and Kevin in the stalls next to me, they were cracking me up, hitting on me, saying it wasn’t their fault they were attracted to beautiful women. Kevin is going to be a womanizer and Marvins is too shy to speak in English about those things but will tell Kevin who will translate (whether or not it is accurate is still up for debate).
Well now that I have wrote 7 whole pages of reflections, which will be much more effective when I can add pictures to all of this, I think I am going to try to email this to you and then hit the sack. Or play another game of cards. Haha.