Sunday, August 02, 2009

Starvation and Deep Destitute Poverty

Renald, age- 3.5 years old, weight- 13.5 pounds (photo taken in Haiti about two months ago)

The first time I saw true starvation and deep destitute poverty with my own eyes was when I did a semester abroad in Chile my junior year of college. During that time I spent some time living in the slums of Santiago and in the rural mountain villages of the Andes. There was desperation there and it changed me. I had seen what I had known as poverty before-- I had grown up in an area where rural poverty was not uncommon, and I had worked in urban day camps in the U.S. during summers as a teenager-- but what I saw in Chile shocked me. It was that "third world poverty" that you don't really understand until you actually are on the ground witnessing it with your entire soul. I thought I'd seen the worst of what it could be. And the truth is, that what I saw was extreme. But I was very naive about just how extreme it could really be. As I think the vast majority of us are. Throughout our twenties Braydon and I travelled quite a bit. We saw extreme poverty (especially in places like the Dominican Republic and Mexico and South Africa), and we saw extreme wealth (in our own country and everywhere else). The disparities always fascinated, and disturbed, us. During much of that time Braydon and I lived in a pretty hard core, predominantly Hispanic and African-American section of Jamaica Plain in Boston. We saw, and experienced, real heart-wrenching poverty right there in our own neighborhood. But nothing --absolutely nothing-- could have prepared us for our trip to Haiti to get our boys in January of 2005.

We were well-read on Haiti. We had watched documentaries. We had talked, in depth, with people who had traveled there. Yet still, we were shocked to the core. It was mind numbing and all we could think, over and over and over, was: "This is a humanitarian crisis to the greatest degree." What we saw, smelled, heard, tasted, and felt shifted our entire perspective on the world. It was altering. I have not met a person who has been to Haiti who didn't have a similar experience. There is something about it that is indescribable. It shakes you. The profound depths of the injustice, the merciless inhumanity, the atrocities... it goes beyond anything I had ever previously imagined.
Port au Prince, Haiti - taken from our hotel room in Haiti, January 2005

From our hotel room we could see some of Port au Prince. I vividly remember just staring out at it blankly, a baby boy in my arms, the filthy smoky air making me have to squint my eyes, just thinking, "Oh my God, how are we going to explain this to our children? How are we going to educate them about their roots? How can we possibly equip them to bring them back here someday?" Braydon and I spent hours talking about it in that hotel room in Haiti, and we have spent countless hours talking about it since coming home. What we could see from our hotel was miles and miles of shanty-like cinder-block houses, people starting fires at dawn to cook over, and people sweeping out their dirt floors. It was unbelievable to think that Kyle and Owen might have grown up living there. What was too unbelievable to even think was that they would have been lucky to have lived there--- that those areas that we could see were actually the nicer sections of Port au Prince--- and our boys were not from those places. In the relativity that is the deep destitute poverty of Haiti, our boys had been born about as low down as you could possibly get on the "Not Privileged" spectrum.

How do you bring a child out of that, and into the life that we have, and try to empower them with the information that they need to understand their own history?
Kyle in orphanage, 2004

Kyle, April 2009

In the orphanage our boys suffered. Kyle, especially, was sickly and weak. He rarely made a sound for his first eight months (we were told that they had never heard Kyle cry), and he moved very, very slowly. It is a testament to Kyle's inner strength that he survived. Kyle was the more malnourished of the two. But Owen was the more spirited. We heard stories of how Owen would scream, day and night, to demand bottles. This was not looked upon fondly by the nannies at the orphanage, and they treated him badly as a result (read between the lines there). When they ran out of water or formula (which happened often), they would give Owen an empty bottle to try to stop his screaming. He would suck on it, realize quickly that it was empty, and then throw it -- hard -- across the room, screaming wildly. They told us these stories to illustrate how "bad" Owen was. We heard these stories as testament to how amazing and astonishingly resilient Owen was.

Twins can be very different from one another. And to this day, the way our boys handle their early histories is a case in point. Kyle accepts it and seems to just bear it in his soul. Although he is deeply empathetic toward the people of Haiti, so far he expresses no mournfulness about his own past. Owen's spirited soul, on the other hand, still battles it. One of the many ways we see this is in the night. If Owen doesn't eat a dinner that completely fills his belly he will --always-- toss and turn in the night, his whole body writhing, every muscle flexed, until, finally, he wakes screaming in horror and terror with traumatizing nightmares. We have found that the only thing that calms him then is warm milk. And even now, with our five year old 50+ pound boy, we have learned to hold him "like a baby" (often per his own request), and feed him a sippy cup of warm milk. And he sucks and sucks and sucks like an eager hungry infant. And then he can sleep.
Owen in orphanage, 2004

Owen and Braydon, January 2009

Over time we have slowly been giving Kyle and Owen little pieces of information to gather up and process as they begin to piece together their own stories. We have given them much to celebrate about Haiti, and embedded in them a pride in being Haitian. But we began, just this past spring, showing them pictures of some of the more difficult aspects of Haiti. And with those pictures we began talking about what it all means. The first time we showed the boys a photo of Haitian slums Owen's immediate reaction was to ask, "Is that our place?" We knew what he meant, so we answered honestly, "Yes, it is." Our trip to Mexico in May was eye-opening for all of us. For the boys it was eye-opening to see, not in pictures, but first-hand, what deep destitute poverty looks like. It was a lot for them to take in and they had lots of questions. It was eye-opening for Braydon and I to be with them as they began the journey of a discovery that I wish they didn't need to ever know. It was gut-wrenching to see them begin to wrap their minds around some of it.
Progresso, Mexico - taken while on our vacation in May

For a long time now Kyle has wanted to go to Paris, France. He asks us regularly about when he'll be able to go there (how he got this into his head we're not really sure). When we were in the airport getting ready to fly home from Mexico Kyle was telling us how much he wants "our next big trip to be to Paris, France!!!" And then, suddenly, he stopped quick, tensed up, turned, and asked us, "In Paris are they dirt floor houses or real floor houses?" "They are real floor houses," we said. And with a visible sense of relief he exclaimed, "Oh good! Because I don't want to go to places with dirt floor houses. I really don't like dirt floor places. I only like real floor places." And in its perfect honest simplicity, it was clear what he meant: Like so many of us (most all of us?), he would prefer to just turn and look the other way. It is not comfortable to look something terrible in the eye. And like Braydon and I said to each other later, as we discussed Kyle's proclamation-- really now, as Haitian orphan adoptees, really, why on earth, if given the choice, would they ever want to be in "dirt floor places"??? We will always want for them to use the privilege that they have with responsibility; we will always want for them to do good work in the world; we will always want for them to have a heart for Haiti... and we will always understand their desire to be in "real floor places."

Recently at bedtime Owen said this prayer: "Dear God, Thank you that I have a mom and a dad. Thank you that I have this mommy and papi. I really love this mommy and papi. They are the best mommy and papi ever in my whole life. And I have them now, but I didn't have them when I was a baby. And thank you that they adopted me and my brother. Thank you that I have a house that is a strong house that water can't get in when it rains. And I really am sad for the people in Mexico and in Haiti who don't have such strong houses. Amen."

We had talked a bit about poverty, but for a long time I had still been waiting to introduce the concept of starvation to the boys in a real honest way. They knew what the word meant, but they didn't really have a handle on it. Then, one day, the photo at the top of this post appeared on the Livesay Haiti blog. I happened to see it right before I ended work for the day. I was working from home and at that moment Braydon was getting the kids ready to go out to dinner at the boys' favorite restaurant, Carraabas. I knew it was the right way and the right time to really dive into it with Kyle and Owen. I called them in to my office and we looked at the photo of Renald (click here for the original post). We talked about starvation and malnutrition, and we talked about Renald and how old he is and how much he weighed. The boys couldn't stop staring at the photo of Renald, and they got it. And we talked and talked about it. "I wish we could go and get him and take him to Carrabas," Kyle said. Owen said, "I wish I was a pilot and I could just fly a big airplane straight to Haiti and give him a lot of food." We have been talking about Renald, and about all the kids like him, often since.

Recently, over and over, Kyle and Owen ask us, "Did you know we were starving?" And they want (need) to hear us tell the story again and again: "Yes, we knew, and we went as quickly as we could to get you. We went right away, as fast as we possibly could." And we talk about how some starvation is worse than others-- and how they weren't starving as badly as Renald was/is. And we talk about how it is never o.k. (at least not in our family) for any of us to ever use the expression, "I'm starving!" when we really are actually just very hungry. And we talk and we talk and we talk, and we will continue to talk. And the conversations will surely get more sophisticated and more challenging as the years unfold.

And everpresent in our lives is the subject of starvation and deep destitute poverty. And everpresent is the question of "What can we do?"

I first starting reading about Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food a couple of years ago (click here, for example, or just google it). Paul Farmer has been a huge advocate for this, and my thinking on it is that if he advocates for it, then it must be good. The more I learned about it, the more I became a believer that this is a tiny morsel of hope for the people of Haiti and other places like it. Please go here to learn more about it:

And if you possibly can spare 20 minutes of your time, I urge you to watch this series of three short videos:
Malnutrition in Haiti, Part 1: click here
Malnutrition in Haiti, Part 2: click here
Malnutrition in Haiti, Part 3: click here

On May 25th the Livesays posted for the first time about Medika Mamba (Haitian Creole for “peanut butter medicine”/Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food) --click here. And on May 27, Licia from the Real Hope for Haiti Rescue Center wrote about it on her blog-- click here. Through the work of the people on the ground in Haiti, and through the use of Medika Mamba, we can see, viscerally, the power of this approach. Here is Renald, the same boy at the top of this post, after 20 days of being on Medika Mamba-- a full 5 pounds stronger (and 5 pounds is a lot on a 13 pound 3 year old):
Renald before, Renald after

For more about Renald click here. And if you're still not convinced that Medika Mamba works, then check out these posts from Real Hope for Haiti -- click here and click here. And if you still need more convincing, then check out these posts from the Livesays blog -- click here, and click here, and click here.

We are all on this planet together. And a lot of us, by sheer circumstance, will never be directly impacted by starvation and deep destitute poverty.
Meera in Mexico, May 2009

That is how it should be.
However, a lot of us, right now, today, by sheer circumstance, are suffering from starvation and deep destitute poverty. That is not how it should be. A small donation of money toward work with Medika Mamba will not shift the huge structures that have led to these circumstances of extreme inequality. But... a small donation will make a difference. A difference that will be felt on the ground in Haiti.
Children at the Real Hope for Haiti Rescue Center, taken a couple of weeks ago.

And now, because I just feel in my heart that I must do this, I need to ask...

Each day there are about 600-700 people reading our blog. We know you are reading because we have a blog meter that tells us so. Some of you are total strangers all around the world who have found us. Others of you are friends, or aquantances, or friends of friends, or family members. Some of you are near, some of you are far. Some of you know us in real life, many of you don't. Some of you have let us know that you read here. Many of you have never let on that you do. All of you know that we give freely on this blog, and that we have never asked you for anything significant in return. You trust that we're not in the business of begging.

But I need to ask...

If you read our blog, will you please pay it forward by making a donation to the Medika Mamba program in Haiti?

There are two ways (at least) that you can do it:
  1. You can support Tara Livesay's marathon fundraiser for Medika Mamba -- click here. Or...
  2. You can donate directly to Meds & Food For Kids -- click here.
I am asking you, every single one of you readers of our blog, to:
  1. Please donate, if even only the smallest of sums. And...
  2. Leave a comment here to let us know you donated, and/or send me an email at hbj2(at)lehigh(dot)edu I have turned on anonymous comments so that anyone can now comment here.
In return, we will keep blogging. And... icing on the cake... to do their own part in this project, Kyle and Owen will be sending (via regular U.S. mail) a piece of their own ARTWORK (or scribbling as the case may be) to each person who comments and/or emails to let us know you donated (!!!!now that's something worth giving for!!!).

Please, will you do this?

We are hoping for all of our readers to give... and until they do... we are going on a peaceful blog strike. We will return to blogging once a lot of people have let us know they've given.
Owen in our yard, a little over a year after coming home.

"It is better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness."
~Eleanor Roosevelt

(photos of Renald - photo credit to Troy and Tara at The Livesay Haiti Weblog; photo of starving children - photo credit to Licia at Real Hope for Haiti Rescue Center)


Jess said...

Shocking words and images (Kyle in the saucer, Owen with the sippy). Thank you for sharing this stuff that you've guarded. I made my little donation at Livesays.

May the blog strike come to a positive end soon!

Min&El said...

Thank you for providing both the information and the links. My nephew just returned from a humanitarian aid trip to Haiti. To say that his life, his goals and his motivation have been changed by Haiti would be an understatement. I donated through the Livesays.

Tiz said...

As always thanks for your honest and inspiring blog. I have made a donation @ Livesay.

Amy said...

I made a donation when the livesays first posted about renald, I wish I could give more. Thank you,

Kristi said...

There must be something special about little Renald. I also took the opportunity to explain starvation and what it means to my five year old. The photo affected him and he asks about Renald often. We recently brought our son home from Haiti (almost two months ago!) and will someday have to explain this to him as well - it's definitely tough stuff.

Siri said...

So glad you posted this. Had Tara's marathon donation on my to-do list for over a week, and your post was the inspiration (and kick in the butt) that I needed. Donation made! Thank you, as always, for your thoughtful words.

Monica said...

I am an occasional reader of your blog...I have never commented. You have a beautiful
family. I enjoy your posts greatly. This post is one of the most thought-provoking
things I have ever read on the internet.
Donation made @ Livesays.
Good luck with your effort. I hope it is
very successful. Now, let me go find a tissue to soak up these tears. Thank-you...Monica

Dawn in NC said...

I have just made a donation. Thank you for sharing just how REAL this all is. Your family's blog is so meaningful to me.

Jen Slavin said...

This is such a powerful post. I just sent you an email.
xo j

T & T Livesay said...

Thanks Heather and Braydon for risking things in order to spur people to act ... we appreciate it and we are thankful for the exposure for this cause!

We have been able to watch a recovery up close and personal and we have seen how quickly the Medika Mamba adds weight to the tiny frames of these precious little ones.

Thank you to each of you who get involved - we will be posting before and after photos every couple of weeks from now on- it is fun to watch kids who have been helped, renewed, transformed ... saved ... the photos are posted so that you can see what your money did. Thank you for praying for the worthy, beautiful children of Haiti as well.

Marnie said...

Done from Oregon. Hang tough with the strike! Thanks for sharing yourselves and moving us to action. Donation made through meds and food.

Kristen said...

i heard about your blog through one of your former students a little while back and started reading your blog every now and then but have never posted before. this post was incredibly powerful. i am encouraged and inspired by your desire to act. thank you for sharing this post and challenging others to act. i have just donated through the livesays.

mayhem said...

I'm excited to watch Tara's ChipIn counter head all the way to 100%! We donated through her blog.

Meegan said...

Heart-breaking. Powerful. Donation made. What a beautiful family you and Braydon have created for yourselves...
All the best,
Meegan Lerz Dickhoven

Jen said...

thanks for a very moving post. you are so right that the poverty is different in haiti...i've been all over the world and i've never seen anything quite like it.
i made a donation a few weeks ago and i made another tonight...i definitely want you back to blogging asap! :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Heather,

My name is Susanne, I live in Germany and as we also adopted two kids (from South Africa, where we lived for more than 2 years and experienced exactely that poverty you are talking about) I read many adoption blogs from all over the world.
Your blog, however, is one of the most powerful blogs, always very honest and never only being at the surface.
Therefore I would like to thank you for sharing this all with us and in the meantime encourage you to go on.
And yes, every donation makes a change for a child, even if it is small.
Fondest regards from Germany,
PS: Sorry for not having a blog and only being able to comment anonymously.

Molly C said...

I'm sorry, but this is quite possibly the most powerful blog post I've ever read. I'm almost in tears. That picture of Owen and Braydon is what really got me.

I'll comment again when I donate, which will be later today.

honor22 said...

We have given twice through Tara & Troy's blog.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this, I just made a donation. I don't know if I've commented before, but I really appreciate this post, and your blog. A blog strike is a great idea!
Thank you, Sarah.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this, I just made a donation. I don't know if I've commented before, but I really appreciate this post, and your blog. A blog strike is a great idea!
Thank you, Sarah.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this, I just made a donation. I don't know if I've commented before, but I really appreciate this post, and your blog. A blog strike is a great idea!
Thank you, Sarah.

Megan said...

Just made a donation. In the process of adopting from Congo where the devastation is also great. Thanks for sharing this moving post.

Anonymous said...

We are all part of this chain, aren't we? Both of the "check out this blog... and this one" variety as well as the larger "I have the responsibility to help those persons I can help" variety.
I've given to both RHFH and to Tara's race. I live in Mpls. and am thinking of cheering her on when she's here, even though I have never met her!

Please tickle those delightful kidlets for me.

Ani said...

I've been following your blog for a while and I thank you for your candor and honesty. The picture of Kyle at the orphanage breaks my heart... can't imagine the depth of your feelings for this topic and Haiti.

Donation made through the Livesay's blog. Thank you for the call to action. We are all so blessed.

laurafingerson said...

I just donated through the Livesays' blog. I ran the Twin Cities Marathon a few years ago and it is an amazing run! Congrats to Tara for running it to raise donations (and being able to train in Haiti - quite an amazing feat in its own). I also have read the book about Paul Farmer ("Mountains beyond Mountains" - I highly recommend it to those of you who haven't read it) -- what an amazing man with amazing humanitarian work. Your blog post is heartbreaking, Heather. I can't get past the look in Kyle's eyes when he is in the exersaucer. Thank you for reminding us what is out there and what we can *do*.

Anonymous said...

marathon donation - done.

Michelle said...

I just used your post as an opportunity to talk about starvation and privilege with my 9 year old. I have enjoyed your blog, but never commented, for a couple of years now. I hope to adopt some day as well. I'm a single mom and my son and I both sometimes lament the things we can't afford. This week we are foregoing treats and donating to the Livesay blog instead. Thank you for this powerful reminder that I really do live in a land of privilege and enjoy the benefits of it. Thank you, also, for an opportunity to teach a practical lesson of need vs want to my son, and the opportunity to do something, however small.

Esther said...

Just donated through the livesay's blog. wish I could do more!

Anne said...

I just donated through the Meds & Food For Kids site. Your blog has really opened my eyes to the plight of Haiti and I hope to do more in the future. Your family is beautiful and I hope you keep blogging!

Rachel said...

Occasional reader, first time commenter. This post was very powerful. I made a small donation, and decided to try to stop saying "I'm starving" when in truth I have never been starving and hopefully never will be.
Thanks for opening my eyes.

Anonymous said...

I donated through the Livesays. Thank you for sharing this - as hard as it is to read about, it's something we should all be aware of.

Nicolle said...

Donated at Livesay!

I am so moved by your commitment.

Concerned said...

I also donated through the Livesays. Thank you for posting about starvation, although I (well, both my husband and I, actually) were struck with the difference in tones between your blog and the Livesays. You tend to overdramatize, speak in ALL CAPS and italics, make everything So. Extremely. Important., act like you are making the most profound statements ever uttered, and you make it seem like there are no other kids living life as fully your twins. The Livesays, on the other hand, are quietly living the Gospel in the midst of chaos, destitution and poverty, with their children including THREE Haitians (and one Haitian niece) and they are just so humble and prayerful about it all. Yes, we'll give money and we'll thank you for posting something about a situation that none of us have experience firsthand, but the real heroes are people like the Livesays.

Sorry if this sounds unduly harsh. I don't mean any ill will towards you and I am so glad you chose adoption.

Mark and Sarah said...

Very moving post. I just donated through Livesay's. Children should never starve.

Anonymous said...

The post and the video you linked to were very moving. I donated at Livesay.

Heather said...

I enjoy reading your blogg, thank you for opening my eyes to what is happening in Haiti. I made a donation through Livesays, I wish I could do more.

Anonymous said...

I've been a reader for about a year now and only comment occassionally but very much enjoy following your story. Thank you for sharing this with all of us. I've donated through the Livesays' marathon fundraiser.

Laura from Seattle

Sarah said...

Heather and Braydon,

Thank you so much for sharing your lives with us (me). I honestly don't remember how I came across your blog- but I have always believed that I want to adopt and your honest portrayal of what I consider "a true American family" keeps calling me back to your blog. My fiance teasingly asks me when I am checking my blogs what "Meera and the boys" are up to bc I check it so regularly.

I am a public school teacher and can never quite get over the economic disparities in my own classroom and am quite overwhelmed when I think of these on a global scale. Every year I teach a "larger world unit" where I try to open my students' eyes to the needs of children their age around the world. All of a sudden poverty is more than just not having an IPod and PSP. : ) For middle school students who are egocentric by nature, I think this unit has one of the largest impacts on them.

I appreciate your bringing these organizations to my attention and I am eager to help out.



Jill said...

Just donated through the Livesays and have been talking about this all day. Thank you.

Also, my Move to Seattle countdown is less than 2 weeks now. I'm super excited!

Safiya said...

the images brought tears to my eyes. i donated $10...not much, but i hope it helps some little boy or girl. thanks for what you do: sharing and keeping us all in the mindset that the impact of our lives extend beyond our little bubbles. blessings to you all...and to haiti.

Asiaha said...

I just gave my donation to the Meds & Food For Kids! =)


Melanie M. Smith said...

Done and done. Just donated to Med and Food for Kids. Your post reminded me of all the children I met at the Abandoned Children's Ward of the general hospital in P-A-P. A frustrating experience when all I could do was hold and feed the babies, knowing it wasn't enough.

Thank you for this post.

Anonymous said...

We made a donation to meds and food for kids.

You said this wouldn't help much with the big picture, but would make a difference "on the ground."

Any ideas for affecting greater change?

kayder1996 said...

All of it is so true. My husband and I have also been to some really poor places (Romania, Mexico, Peru) but nothing compares to Haiti. It is the "worst" place we have ever been. And when you have a child from there you look at those pictures of the sickest of the sickest, the thinnest of the thin and think with gratitude and trepidation, "That could be my child." How you go about sharing the hope and joy and the sorrow and pain of such a place with a child who needs to know the whole of his birth country, I'm not quite sure. I have made a real point to not say "I'm starving" and to not say that to my child. (I always used to say "starvin' Marvin.") But once we came back from our first trip to Haiti, somehow that saying had lost its luster. We talk about Haiti often, especially since our daughter is still there. I guess we hope we will always serve in Haiti even though our life is in the States. We have a Haiti box that we're continually filling and we support RHFH financially. As our kids are old enough to process things better, I hope we'll be able to go to Haiti as a family. too. I continually try to "force the hand" of my friends and family so to speak with my blog and emails that share links to Haiti sites. But I'm never sure how successful I am. Little by little though, when enough is said, people will come to a place where they will not turn away. Thank you for taking a stand against poverty and starvation.

M and M said...

Last year my dearest friend and I used a program through the Ironman Triathalon to raise $16K for Plumpy'nut distribution by Doctors Without Borders during the green famine in Ethiopia. My son was born during that famine, and "left to be found" during that famine, and orphanages in Ethiopia are using this peanut butter paste to save lives, (like my son's), just as in Haiti. Thank you Thank you for your thoughtful, real, alarming post about the dire need for food therapy in Haiti. And, thank you for modeling a way for me, a fellow AP, to imagine talking about deprivation with my sweet son.

Anonymous said...

I donate monthly to children in need.

Melissa said...

Heather thank you again for your candor and bravery. I just donated for the Tara Livesay's marathon. That photo of Kyle made my blood run cold...not that any of the others don't but just seeing the current pics and then that

Leslie Harris said...

I am an avid reader of both blogs. Thanks for the encouragement to give more. I donated through the Livesay blog.
Leslie in CA

This Mama said...

Just donated through the livesay's chip in badge!

Thanks for this post.

Kristen said...

Wow - your writing is so moving. I posted a while back to raise funds for Tara but I may just have to redirect people here because your words are so powerful! The story of your own children going hungry and their physical memory of that is poignant. I agree, Haiti is like no other place I have ever been. It is devastating in every way.

Anonymous said...

I gave my donation to Livesay's marathon. Renald's photo actually took my breath away. I too have seen poverty, but as a mother, to see a child starving is unimaginable and desterbing.

Anonymous said...

Long time reader, first time commenter. This post is too powerful to not respond. I donated to Tara's sight. Keep up your good work!
Amy in OH
PS-Your family is beautiful.

TGR101 said...

I just donated through the Livesay's blog. Honestly how could anyone not donate after reading this moving blog post? Thanks also for giving me some information to help my sometimes ungrateful 6 year old twins understand what it really means to say I'm Starving...

Renee said...

Thank you for sharing this with us. My husband and I have adopted 2 boys from Haiti and have gone there 3 times so we have seen firsthand the starvation. We are coordinating an arts camp next week at our church and had another mission project but now are changing it and will be raising money for the Medika Mamba program. Many Blessings,
Renee in CA

Katie Sharp said...

I've been a lurker for awhile--not sure how I happened across your blog, but really enjoy following your little family online! My oldest was adopted from Russia at 11 months old and he was literally starving. I know how horrific it is and was so happy to be able to donate today. --Katie Sharp

Anonymous said...

What a post! Very powerful. I definitely will no longer say I am starving and will talk to my boys about it also. A donation was sent.
Jen Ogren

Anonymous said...

I've made a donation through justgive - thank you for your thoughtful posts!

Karin in Seattle

Beth A. said...

I donated through the Livesay blog and pledge to keep making donations to the Meds and Food for Kids.

chenoa said...

My husband and I just returned from Haiti on Saturday where we spent 5 days visiting our 8 year old son and 5 year old daughter whom we have been in the process of adopting for the last 28 months (how I envy your 8 month timeline!)

Your words are true. There is no exception for seeing the poverty with your own eyes. Our 8 year old son is the size of a small 4 year old and he is one of the healthier orphans we saw. He weighs only 40 lbs (fortunately he has put on 8 lbs in the last 2 months--he was down to 32lbs before that).

We are big fans of the Medika Mamba program as well as Feed My Starving Children, which we have donated to.

Jen said...

I am an avid reader of your blog, and a mom of 3 boys (just got our referral for our newest -- 3 year old from Ethiopia!!) This is BAR NONE the most powerful blog post I've read, and I just made a $100 donation through the meds & kids website.

We recently moved from our giant house into one slightly smaller, and I'm currently surrounded by boxes, overwhelmed with unpacking, and lamenting that we have "too much stuff". Can you imagine any of those kids you mentioned and pictured ever having "too much"?? You have given me wonderful perspective on a day when I needed it. Thank you so very much.

Jen in Texas.

Lisa said...

That was a very powerful post Heather! You have a remarkable way with words! There is no easy, right or wrong way to enlighten people to the poverty of Haiti, but pictures are something that are really hard to ignore and always tell so much! There are so many amazing people doing such selfless work in Haiti, I wish we could support all of them! I love that you mentioned Dr. Farmer though, he is at the top of my list, a true hero in my mind! And Tara training for a marathon in Haiti, that takes some real courage and strength, their work is something that I wish I could have the courage to take on! I'm so happy that you decided to post what you did, it's amazing what people can do when the pull together and have someone they "trust" letting them now what a worthy cause it's for! I hope the help continues long after this post! We donated again today!

carma said...

Perhaps I am the lone dissenter here. It is not that I am not extremely disturbed by the poverty and suffering in Haiti, but I am also disturbed by a lack of analysis of those circumstances. Why have you never mentioned and tried to deal with the contradictions of US complicity in the destruction of Haiti? Haiti's poverty is not of its own making but has a very long history and we Americans have played a large role in keeping the people oppressed and the government in turmoil. You post photos in which Haitians comment on their anger at Americans but you don't discuss that -- why? If you are well-educated on Haiti, then you would certainly know Peter Hallward's excellent book, Damming the Flood, which would change the character of your posts and provide some much-needed critical framing. thanks for reading this.

Chelsea said...

I donated through the Livesay's a while ago and will make another donation tonight.

Memphislis said...

I have tears rolling down my cheeks as it all feels so very hopeless. One drop in such a huge, huge bucket. I will make a donation on Friday, payday.

Shannon- said...

Thank you for posting this. I've been following the Livesay's for a while and already donated to support her marathon some time ago, but will be doing so again, tonight. Thank you for sharing your eloquent words about a difficult world. Peace to you all!

Malia'sMama said...

Heather, I read this post, saw the pictures and felt them... I went back to bed (b/c it was something like 4am and the insomnia monster had gotten me again)and dreamed it all, complete with smell (or at least in my dream I was having a hard time breathing b/c of it). I could feel the heat in the orphanage, smell the urine/feces masked with chlorine, hear the crying babies... I will donate. I have to reset my paypal with a new credit card, but then I promise I will. You KNOW how I fell about all this.

BerlinBound said...

Heather and Braydon,

I have been following your blog for about a year and a half but have never commented. I found it completely coincidentally when I was doing a Google search for stories about camping on Assateague Island in the fall and came across the post about your camping trip there a couple of years ago. I liked your style, quickly caught up on all of the posts in the archive, and have been following your blog almost on a daily basis ever since.

Your posts are interesting, funny, and thought-provoking and have given me much insight into the joys and challenges of having kids, adopting, being a dual-career couple and family, and many other things. Thank you for that and thank you for this powerful post, which is hands down the most effective appeal I have ever read (and I have seen quite a few fundraising appeals). Thank you for using your platform to move people into action. I would like to see this perhaps become an annual tradition. We have just donated to Meds & Food For Kids in Kyle and Owen's name. We also support Haiti Reborn (, a program of the Quixote Center where my partner used to work.

You are a wonderful family and your blog is a treat for me to read every day.

All the best,

Elyssium Earth said...

Donated through Livesay. Wish I could do so much more.

Elyssium Earth said...

Just realised you're not posting until we ALL donate. What a peaceful, proactive way to action. As if the story doesn't do it, you will see how loved you are.

Juli said...

Heather, thanks for using your blog's popularity to impact Haiti like this! The picture of Kyle in the orphanage reduced me to tears. I've never known how rough they had it in the orphanage. You elude to it occasionally, but that picture speaks volumes.

And you are right. You can't understand third world poverty until you are on the ground experiencing it. All the research, pictures, and interviews just don't prepare you for the reality of it.

Our family gave a while back, when Tara posted about Renald. We really believe in Medika Mamba and what Real Hope for Haiti is doing.

I pray that your blog strike gets Tara to her goal... and beyond!

Michelle said...

Thank you for bringing attention to this seriously overlooked issue. I so often forget how lucky I am.

I just donated to Tara's marathon fund!


Anonymous said...

Great blog entry! I made a donation to Meds & Foods for Kids. Thanks for the eye-opener. Keep up the good work.

Jenn Lerz

Wendy Huning said...

I just kissed my son's soft, clean-smelling and plump cheeks (we adopted him from Mali 10 months ago) with tears in my eyes and a heavy heart for all those children, and made a donation through the Livesay's blog. Thanks for giving me this opportunity.

Christina said...

Carma, I don't see your comments as "dissent" -- I see them as another part of the dicussion, and a very important part. But this blog post had a particular purpose and that it did not address *all* issues merely means that there was one, very personal, issue that Heather and Braydon wanted to address. It doesn't make other topics unworthy.

H&B, I cannot give until payday, in about 10 days. But I won't forget.

Sarah Carlson Arndt said...

Heather and Braydon, The pictures and words moved me to tears. How incomprehensible this is to me and my boys and I thank god for that everyday. You have really opened my eyes. I made a donation and was thrilled to see that Tara has surpassed her goal. There is nothing more devastating than children that are starving.

Sarah Arndt

Amy said...

Your words and photos moved me to tears. I have been following the Livesay Blog for some time and made my donation just now through their website.

My son was adopted from Guatemala a year ago. Luckily, he never had to suffer in this way.

Thank you for your thought provoking posts!

Anonymous said...

Have been enjoying your posts for years. Made a donation through JustGive.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for caring enough to ask without apology for the help these kids deserve. None of them chose to be born in these conditions, no matter what circumstances caused these conditions to be in place.

There is indeed a tremendous need to analyze the "BIGGER PICTURE" - ALL the problems, their causes, the global role in this country's demise, possible long term solutions...........but these kids need their basic needs met TODAY while all of the bigger picture gets sorted out.

Sadly, change comes slowly, if at all, in the third world. But for these kids taking Medika Mamba, change is WEEKS!

Our daughter is from Haiti as well and we have had many conversations with her birth family about what was and is best for each of their children, for their family, their community and their country. NO easy answers on any of those fronts, but the discussions help us all learn more about one another, about the real issues at play and most importantly, to recognize where we can affect change.

Medika Mamba is working miracles in the lives of children. I will never apologize for any effort, tiny or gigantic, made to support that.

Our family is on a very tight budget with one spouse in grad school and the other a stay-at-home parent, but we got creative! Our daughter had a Pop and Water Sale which raised $42.00 for Tara's brave run. We also committed 1/2 our sales to the cause and have already been able to give over $100.00, with more to come until the big run in October. I say these things to challenge others to think creatively about how they can give. I have a goal to give at least $262.00 - 10 bucks a mile, or even better, $300.00 - our monthly food budget for our family of three. What a blessing to know that what we spend for the three of us to eat for just one month could literally save three lives! WOW!

Keep up the good work raising those three beautiful children! Don't end your strike too early on this one!
It's a tremendous cause!

Rachel in MN

Alexandra said...

Dear Heather,
thank you for sharing your story and through it trying to reach out to as many people as possible. My husband will be donating through the livesay blog this evening.
Best regards from Germany,
Alexandra, Ralf, LĂ©ane and Davidson

Patricia said...

I emailed you, but I forgot to leave a comment here. I donated to the marathon campaign. xo, P.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for opening my eyes. A donation is on its way to Meds and Food for Kids. You are such an extraordinary family and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing yourselves with those you don't even know.


Rachel said...

I am at a loss of words. I had no concept of how bad the situation is in Haiti, and I can't thank you and your wonderful family enough for opening my eyes. I have made a donation with love to the Livesays.

With my '9-5' hat on, this is a remarkable story of the power of social media. With your permission, I would love to write an article for my news site on your silent protest.

Lucia Martin said...

Hi. Just gave a little something to Livesay. I live in Puerto Rico, and we have worked with a community in haiti called le genevive. I am the Academic Dean @ a local private school (TASIS, we have sister schools in Europe and I am looking for a community project in the Carribbean that I can work through my High School. Haiti and Santo Domingo are very close to us and I would like to explore options. Do you have any contacts I could explore options with. I a,m also a college counselor and have visited Lehigh and loved it. Please contact me if you can help me. Lucia Martin

Martha said...

I've never donated like this before, but I did after reading your post. I donated to Tara because her both of your stories have touched me very much.

Anonymous said...

Dear Heather,
Just donated $20 to the Livesay's Marathon Fundraiser. My mind's working in terms of Namibian dollars these days, so let's say I gave N$163. Every purchase I make here in Namibia goes through the following calculation:
1.) That item is N$163.
2.) For me, that's 20 bucks.
3.) For a white Namibian, that's 20 bucks.
4.) For a Black Namibian, that's 163 bucks.
Namibia has THE highest Gini measure of any country in the world(.707 -where 0 means perfect wealth/income equality and 1.0 means 100% of the country's wealth is resting in ONE person's hand)- not exactly a statistic to be proud of. In fact, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say it's the most shameful statistic a country can claim. And to be at the top of this list is an absolute disgrace. I'm talking diamonds, 90210 mansions, Mercedes...schools without a single book, 40% unemployment nationwide, kids playing among broken glass and camelthorns without shoes...
It's such a complicated mess. And although Namibia has a very different history and a very different set of problems than Haiti, I GET IT. I look it in the face everyday, and I cry, and I struggle to see how this place can ever be repaired. But then (and this honestly happens at least once a week), a little kid, a total stranger, comes up beside me, takes my hand and holds it, and walks me down the street. She smiles at me and waves goodbye, and without saying a single word to each other, I absolutely know that every answer to every problem of this country is right there in those bright eyes. These kids are wise; they know SO MUCH MORE than I do. And they deserve EVERYTHING that we can give them.
Thanks for leading the charge for the kids in Haiti, Heather. It's so cool what you're doing, and it's 100% right.

Themia said...

First post on your blog, but I've been lurking for some time. I have a 4+ yr old son who I brought home from Ethiopia 16 months ago and you touched on something in this post that has been bothering me all to make my child feel safe and yes comfortable with beds and refrigerators stocked with food and plenty of water to drink and toys, lots of toys, and at the same time, make sure he understands the condition of much of the rest of the world. It's a difficult task, and I was glad to read about how you're doing it, and how your beautiful boys are reacting to it. My son unfortunately does remember quite a bit about the poverty and the hunger, so it's a delicate balance in allowing him to forget enough to thrive in his new life.

Glad to have the chance to say hello and thank you for sharing your story with us all. Donation made to Meds & Food For Kids.

Themia said...

I already posted once, but wanted you to know I left a link to this on my Facebook page...hopefully a few more donations will roll in.

Abby said...

I just gave through Meds and Food for Kids. I hope it makes a difference.

Chelsea said...

Thank you for this post. Donated to Meds & Food for Kids through Just Give.

rmfox said...

J-M family, We also have a lovely daughter adopted from Haiti in 4/08. She was born without an anus and came to us for surgery in 11/06 at 8 mos old. She is an extremely resilient child, most children would have succumbed to such an ailment. Not our Alivia, she is tough!! We are also from the same hometown as the Zachary's. We have given to Tara's run for Medika Mamba. I LOVE to read your blog and learn about your lovely family.

Kelly V said...

I will be donating to medika mamba when i get my next paycheck. i don't have enough money for me to live on right now much less to donate via the internet/mail.

Maggie said...

Hi guys,

I read your blog all the time, and it means so much to me. I wanted to let you know that our family has decided to sponsor a child in Haiti through WorldVision in response to your blog post asking readers to give. Thank you for the encouragement! My burden for Haiti only grows as you continue to share yours.

Our new little family member is named Cheslito, and he is four years old. We are so excited for our daughters to write him letters and get to "know" him. Perhaps someday we will be able to meet him in person.

Bless you,
Pasadena, CA

Anonymous said...


Kristen said...

COME BACK, please? Love your blog! Just made a donation through Meds & Food For Kids. Thanks for taking a stand & encouraging us to act!

Heather said...

Thanks for this, Heather. I sent you an e-mail last week.


MorMor said...

Donation made via the Livesay website. Thanks for this post. It's very powerful.

Haitian-American Family of Three said...

Its so hard to have been in Haiti and seen the tiny children with big bloated bellies and not feel moved. We donated over 2300 worth of medicine, food, diapers, clothing and cleaning supplies to our creche and yet it is absorbed and the needs continue. I feel strongly that education about agriculture will be the saving grace to Haiti food crisis. Food grows fast and well in the warm and wet climate, its just about providing the basic tools, and seeds...and a lot more, but that is a post of its own. Thank you for calling attention to my daughters birth country. We've been there four times and plan on taking her back when she is around five-what are your thoughts on taking the boys back there for a visit?

Kori said...

Donation made. Thanks for the post. We are in the process of adopting from Haiti and are so grateful for those who are giving of themselves to serve the children in Haiti.

Leslie said...

So true. I gave through the Livesay's blog. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I am also a follower of the Livesay blog and of course have sponsored Tara in her run for Medika Mamba. Keep on blogging! We miss you!!


Elyssium Earth said...

"Alive at five", that is just frickin heartbreaking, FIVE!!! Don't come back til we've all woken up. Your readership is strong enough and for that you should congratulate each other. Sheesh. Tryna make it to just FIVE Years Old. Sigh.

Rhonda said...

It's done - and thanks for your challenge to blog readers....though I don't get to do this often, I'm estatic to of found my way to your blog today after sending Braydon bday wishes via facebook.

I've donated to Livesays & Food for Kids!

Have a beautiful rest of the week into the weekend Heather! Love you all!

Rhonda Wampler

Christina said...

Made my donation! I had to wait until payday, but I made it through Meds and Food for Kids.

Burney Pirosko Gang said...

I just donated toward Tara Livesay's marathon fundraiser for Medika Mamba- thank you for allowing this forum to contribute. My girlfriend is in the long process of adopting siblings from Haiti. She led me to the work of Paul Farmer (a living saint), Arthur Fournier, the amazing women at Real Hope for Haiti, and now your beautiful family! There IS HOPE for Haiti!