The return to HaitiFeb 15th, 2010 | By admin | Category: Haiti
Two weeks ago, I returned to Haiti for the second time since the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake. The first time, it was an emotional journey to find my mother, which I did. And on Feb. 1, I went back for 10 days to provide what humanitarian aid I could with friends Charles Douglas and Jeremiah Rygus; from New York, Marly Pierre-Louis, Qaid Jacob (pron. Kah-yeed), and Jesus Gonzales; and a documentarian from the Production Foundary.
I’d originally intended to blog and tweet our progress, but the sheer logistics of what we’d gone to do as well as reliable Internet access made that difficult. And so, I wanted to fill you in on what happened during that visit.
People were really confused. Communication is scarce and it’s difficult for them to know when and where they will receive aid. For example, no one in my mother’s neighborhood, Turgeau, knew where to go to receive food or why they were being left out of the information loop.
Fragmented communication between organizations on the ground is also distressing. At one point, I tried to talk to a representative from World Vision about their water program, but getting her to tell me where they were placing filters so we could avoid duplicating efforts was all but impossible.
After much haranguing, she finally gave me a contact with her organization. When we met with him he said, “You guys are way ahead of me” because we had already installed two community water filtration systems serving 1,200 families or about 7,000 people—one at my mother’s house and Delmas 3, a “tent city” of 900 families in a former Olympic training center. We had also set up a trade system where people could bring in unfiltered water in return for purified water. I was definitely not happy to hear that we were ahead of an established aid agency.
While I’m there, there’s no time to feel. All you can do is do, help as much as resources will allow, make the necessary sacrifices, and keep it moving. When you get back, that’s when you can feel.
The happy moments come in providing people with the resources we brought with us. We bought one man’s entire inventory, more than 525 lbs. of rice, to his amazement. Not knowing when he would sell another bag of rice was a reality, especially since it seemed that the United Nation’s World Food Programme didn’t seem to be buying the food they were distributing from Haiti.
We also bought all of a pregnant woman’s sweet potatoes; she was clearly trying to make ends meet to take care of her family. When drove down the street delivering the food, people were grateful and happy. When we ran out of food and were no longer able to give, people were sad. And so was I.
I’ll never forget how happy the lady in charge was when we installed the water filtration for Delmas 3. It was a scary feeling when it began to rain because so many people are still without housing, sleeping on the ground in front of their destroyed homes. This prompted our early departure from Haiti to the Dominican Republic to look for tents.
One of the most rewarding parts of the trip was getting people to believe in the movement. They understand what it means to be empowered and they understand what it means to be united. The awesome thing about the Haitian culture is that we don’t beg. Everyone was doing something or trying to do something to aid in their survival.
Like Richard: A business owner and a friend of my Mom’s. His motel/pawnshop was completely demolished, but he was already working on his business proposal to rebuild, and men were working on breaking up and removing the rubble of his shop with sledge hammers.
Our time in Haiti was short, but here’s a brief diary of what we got done while there. (We plan to return in March.):
~ Fundraiser in New York at Questans
~ Raised $200 and gathered notes from school children for Haiti
~ Landed in Santo Domingo where we connected with Marly Pierre-Louis, Qaid Jacob, and Jesus Gonzales
~ Went shopping for additional medical supplies, food, and supplies for Haitian communities
~ Left for Haiti
~ Reconnected with partners at Hotel Oloffson to get up to speed with the latest local goings on
~ Established base camp
~ Began assessing the situation in Turgeau for installing the water filtration system
~ Divided medical supplies for distribution to local to clinics
~ Distributed the first round of tents to needy families
~ Connected with the Turgeau medical clinic managed by Humanity First
~ Installed first water filtration system at base camp in Turgeau
~ Started the water trade program
~ Established relationships with NGOs at U.N. meetings and at food and shelter meetings
~ Bought food: 525 lbs. of rice, 600 lbs. of beans, 118 lbs. of cornmeal, 155 lbs. of barley, and 120 lbs. of pasta
~ Organized a Medical Clinic administered by New York partners (Marly and Qaid) in conjunction with doctors and nurses from Humanity First
~ Met with head of World Vision’s water program to discuss their plans for providing clean water to areas
~ Provided additional medical supplies to the Clinic in Turgeau
~ Distributed food to families in Turgeau’s 3rd Avenue de Travaille neighborhood
~ Installed water filtration system at Delmas 3
~ Bought art from local artists to be sold in Seattle at a March fundraiser
~ Departed for Santo Domingo
~ Bought 100 large temporary housing structures made with canopies (10ft x 12ft) and tarps
~ Shipped structures to contact in Haiti
~ Our one-man staff in Haiti–fondly called, Luxon–delivered water truck of 1,800 gallons of filtered, potable drinking water
~ Luxon also distributed 25 percent of temporary housing
~ Silent Art Auction in Seattle raised $765
~ Departed for Seattle
~ Luxon distributed remaining temporary housing
~ And delivered water truck of 1,800 gallons of filtered, potable drinking water
~ Luxon delivered water truck of 1,800 gallons of filtered, potable drinking water
Thank you for staying up-to-date with our efforts and for supporting the Haitian people. Stay tuned for more details on fundraising efforts in the U.S. before our return to Haiti and more on what we plan to accomplish.
Remember, there is strength through unity,