Our Program is for Angena

Written by T. Livesay

Recently I wrote the following:

We're hoping to raise money for the vehicle that we so desperately need, we're hoping to bring attention to some of the needs in Haiti. But more than that we are hoping and praying that along the way many of you will begin to follow these stories of strength, endurance and redemption - each woman we serve has a story to tell - each woman needs our love and prayers.

Sometimes when working in a place like Haiti, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by the needs. This is especially true when so many of the people we meet share a similar story and a similar LARGE need.

It has been our goal to get to know each woman in our program and to glean a little bit of her story - to take the time to understand specific details about her life and her situation. We want to know more about them than, "they are poor". Whether we can help in each situation or not - we truly desire to know about the ladies and their lives.

Today I want to share Angena's story of strength and perseverance under difficult circumstances.

Angena is 28 years old and has four children. They are Angelo, 6 years old, Erna, 5 years old, Woodson, 22 months, and Rose Gerlande, 5 months.

Angena first entered our prenatal program in late 2007. At that time we were still very young and in a development stage. She was given prenatal vitamins for a couple of months and her baby boy was born healthy at home in February of 2008.

Angena had attempted to benefit from our sewing school but unfortunately she was unable to keep up with the requirements. It was very difficult for the sewing school director to make a decision to remove her from that class.

After that, Sheila (sewing director at the time) took a special interest in looking out for Angena and attempting to find ways to support her. Angena continued coming to the Early Childhood development classes with her new son, Woodson.

In our program we cover many topics. Some of the topics we teach about are: parenting, bonding, public health, hygiene, breastfeeding, STDs, birth control, and first aid. Some of the teaching is fairly basic and aimed at changing long-held cultural beliefs, and misconceptions due to rumor and superstition or lack of education. (For instance, most Haitians believe if the mother has a cold, she can pass it to the baby through nursing and she will not nurse her baby while she has a common cold.)

Many (if not most) women do not have a lot of power when it comes to choosing to say no to intercourse. Because of this lack of power women find themselves pregnant over and over at a young age. Often times by the time the baby is born the father of the baby has moved on to a new relationship - leaving the woman to fend for herself and her baby without help.

Teaching about birth-control is very important for this reason. We hope to empower the women by giving them at least a few options to try to reduce unplanned (and mostly unwanted) multiple pregnancies. We cover the health benefits for spacing children and we offer them a couple of family planning/birth control methods.

Despite our best efforts and Angena's plan to use birthcontrol, she found herself pregnant again just 8 months after Woodson was born. Angena was devastated. She told us that her husband lives and works in Santo Domingo and just comes home occasionally. He sends money from his job when he can. She is left in Port au Prince to handle the children alone.

Angena desperately needed our encouragement and support. We encouraged her to start coming to prenatal class again . She re-entered the prenatal program in November of 2008. For the next 27 weeks we were able to see her on Thursdays. Each week were able to remind her that she was not alone and that we cared for her. Angena was able to receive prenatal vitamins that allowed her better health throughout the pregnancy.

At times Angena was very depressed, and understandably so. During those low times we were careful to pray for her even more and to remind her that we care and will continue to help her whenever possible.

On June 13 Angena delivered a healthy baby girl. She had her baby with the help of a friend in her small home. The father of the baby was still out of the country, as he was for the entire pregnancy.

Since late June she has been back in the Tuesday Early Childhood Development Class. The benefit for her is to meet other Moms and to learn better ways to raise her kids. She is supported by people who love her. She is able to have her kids looked at by a missionary nurse when they are sick. This saves her a lot of money that the "village doctor" might charge to guess at what is wrong with her child.

I think it is easy to fall into thinking, "Why did she get pregnant again? Doesn't she learn?" Some might even think, "Well she got pregnant - it is her fault she is so poor." While a small portion of her situation *might* be a direct result of her own choices, the fact is MOST of her life circumstances have much more to do with the culture and country she was born into.

Our program does not exist to fix Haiti or change Haiti's culture. We won't do that successfully no matter how hard we try. We can change a few misconceptions. We can make a dent here and a dent there in long-held incorrect beliefs. But we won't always succeed in convincing our Moms to use birth control or to plan ahead or to breastfeed their newborn.

Our program exists to love and serve ladies that "don't learn" and that have incredibly hard challenges with very little hope for an improved living/financial situation. Our program exists to show mercy and grace and love to the forgotten and to be to them a little bit of Heaven on Earth. We hope that by feeling unconditional love, they might desire to know the unconditional love of the Father. We pray to that end.

Jesus came not only for me and for you, but for Angena. He loved the prostitute, the unclean, and the serial mistake-makers. He did not give up on them or turn away. It is for this reason that we won't turn Angena away. We hope and pray she does not have another pregnancy again in 2010 - we're doing what we can to educate her about that - but if she returns to us, we will love her and serve her and see her through another pregnancy.
In January, fifteen of us will run with endurance for the women of Haiti who live every day with great courage and endurance.

Please help us share their stories by passing this blog address to your friends. Because - we are hoping and praying that along the way many of you will begin to follow these stories of strength, endurance and redemption - each woman we serve has a story to tell - each woman needs our love and prayers.

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