Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I procrastinate

I have been back in the US of A since the end of April. It’s been a strange couple of weeks, and a bit overwhelming at times. Mostly though, it’s been great to be home and reconnect with friends. My flight was originally scheduled for April 12, but I extended two weeks while we waited for four more water purifiers to be released from customs. Unfortunately, they never were released for one reason or another, and there’s no estimate on when they will be available. I can only speculate as to why the units were not released after a month of being in customs, but I’ve heard some compelling theories. We were told that the president of Haiti’s father in law is in the water business so that could be one motivation to prevent free water. It could be that the units are being held as long as possible in hopes for a bribe.

Luke and I were able to take the Haitian family that we lived with to the beach for a day. The three little boys we lived with had never seen or swam in the ocean despite spending their entire lives in a port city. We loaded up two cars full of people and drove the two hours up the coast to the beach. The little boys were the most fun to watch. They hesitated not going very deep into the water. When we held them and brought them into deeper water they clung to our necks and climbed us to ensure their safety. They started to relax and we tried to teach them to swim. Then they spent most of the day running up and down the sand at the water’s edge. We had a sand fight and they were covered with sand that they just left, content to be covered with mud. That day at the beach is one of my favorite memories from the whole trip.

For my last week in Haiti I had a change in living situation, and I camped at SOS Children’s Village. I did maintenance and worked in the warehouse and other odd jobs for the Village, it was great to have an added experience and meet even more interesting people. SOS is a worldwide organization and they have nearly 200 children’s villages worldwide. The model is numerous homes throughout the village with a “mom” and a few kids. Before the earthquake there was 8 kids to every “mom”, now there are nearly 30. One of the tasks SOS has taken on since the earthquake is finding the children’s families and reconnecting them with the kids. In many cases the kids are forced to live in worse living conditions than at the village so that they can be with family members.

I met a lot of great people at SOS. Most of the short-term volunteers spoke Spanish so it was fun to practice my espanol. SOS’s regional headquarters are in Costa Rica so many of the volunteers were from there and other parts of Latin America and Spain. The village is divided into two sides, one with the homes for the kids and the other side for the school and volunteer living space. I think it’s wise to separate the volunteers from the kids because it’s so easy to become attached and then have hearts broken when it’s time to go. That being said, I was sad that I was unable to spend more time with the kids.

Flying away from Port-au-Prince was very emotional as my mind raced through too many thoughts to make sense of. We took off and I watched out my window searching for familiar sights. I could see the chaotic roads that I was able to get to know all too well. Here’s an excerpt from my journal that I wrote as I was flying away:
My mind fights between two thoughts. One side is thoughts of relief, the joy that comes from knowing I’m going where I can have warm, daily showers, whatever food I want, functioning traffic, and limited corruption. I wonder why I didn’t do this a long time ago, in only minutes I’m away from the chaos and in a couple of hours I’ll be with family, we’ll laugh and speak English and drink beer and eat good food.
Then there’s the conflicting thoughts. I fly over tents and broken buildings and know that each hold more lives than could be healthy, let alone comfortable. I leave them knowing I didn’t do enough, that I could’ve done more, so few did I even have the privilege to actually meet. I imagine they look at planes taking off with different thoughts than when I do. I see a plane and know what it’s like to fly, I know what it’s like to go, to do, to travel, to live life fully. I guess they see planes fly off and few have had the experience, most never will. Few can ever afford the cost and fewer will get passports, visas and legal documents necessary to leave. I want to stay and help and do what I can to help, but I just go.

I was talking with some friends about Haiti the day after I got back. I told them that it was really hard for me to have hope for Haiti, it seemed like things were getting worse instead of improving. The chaos, the corruption, the lack of leadership, the lack of jobs, money and resources, all seemed to being winning out over the good that is being done. I thought about this conversation later and how depressing it is to say there’s no hope for a place. In saying that I failed to remember the bigger picture. I failed to remember that we serve a God that is greater than what I can see, we serve a God who is in the business of restoring the world, and we serve a God that is reigning over the chaos.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

the last week

I can't believe it's been nearly a week since I posted. Time is really flying and I know the next two weeks will fly by until I leave. I am a little sad about leaving, I feel like I could stay longer, but that changes hourly. This week I am a first grade teacher, substituting at Child Hope. It's only a couple of hours each day, but it feels like a days work. I have a new found respect for grade school teachers. While it is hard work it's also so rewarding and I'm so glad to have a flexible enough schedule that I can fill in. There's only six kids in the class, but they are a handful. I think they are just pushing to see where the limits are. The kids actually speak really good English they just have trouble with pronunciation and sentence structure so we worked on that most of the time yesterday. They are really sweet kids, and smart too.

I heard a story from one of the house moms at the orphanage that I think is worth sharing. She told me that there are few brothers that were given a home at the same time. The brothers look after each other more than most because they have experienced life on the streets together. She said that when she gives one of the brothers food that boy won't eat until his brother gets one. Or if only one boy is given something he will wait to eat it until they are together and give him half. I want to know love like that. Love that refuses the self until it knows another is taken care of.

Luke and I have found a new hang out at our house, the roof. Where we are staying is up on a hill already so once we're above the height of the other houses we can look down on the city and then the port. The other direction is a backdrop of mountains. The sunsets are magnificent from that vantage point so I'm making a point to watch as many as I can.

Last Saturday, we helped unload a shipment of donations. It was a rather hilarious sight watching the drivers try to back a semi through this tiny gate. First a tree branch had to be cut down to make room, which was done by a barefoot guy who climbed into the tree with an axe. After using an axe for a while the strategy shifted to a machete hacking away at this thick tree branch. Once the path was cleared it took the driver nearly half an hour to finagle the truck in. This stopped traffic in both directions creating a line of honking cars for as far as we could see. Some of the guys put twigs and small rocks in the road to block traffic, a good strategy, but I think the semi would have sufficed. Meanwhile a crowd of probably 50 people had gathered to find out what the commotion was. Apparently it was more entertaining than anything else because the group stayed to watch us unload.

As we unloaded the goods, mostly food, water, clothing, and a few crutches and wheelchairs, people sat around asking for things and making jokes. It was so frustrating working hard to unload all of this stuff when the people it was intended for just watched. I am ashamed to admit I lost my cool and yelled at some guys at one point, I yelled in English, but I'm pretty sure they got the point. It started raining as we finished and by the time we got in the car it was pouring, that's when I realized the keys had fallen out of my pocket. It was dark by then so we searched in the rain by car headlights for the keys ("karma", I thought as I stood scanning the ground in the downpour). We didn't have any luck so someone hot wired our truck for us- another life skill I'll leave here with. Luckily the key was found the next day.

We have also continued maintenance on the sun springs and more importantly trained Harry, the maintenance man when we leave. Harry's a great guy and we've got to know him really well in working with him. He is really helpful in learning about this culture. He showed us his house, at least what's left of it, and we got to meet his family. Harry's using the wooden boxes that sun springs are shipped in to build a house because his was destroyed in the earthquake. Thankfully none of Harry's family was harmed in the quake. He did show us a tiny hole in the rubble of a neighbor's house where he had climbed in and tried to help get her out. They were able to get her out over a week later, but she didn't make it. While the new house is under construction Harry and his family stay in a tent in front of their old house.

The house we are staying in has gone from house to hostel and now to warehouse. Many of the goods from the latest shipment have come here until they are distributed to the community, and the boys we live with have benefited. They now have new clothes, shoes other than sandals, and a variety of new food to try. It's really cool getting to see people's donations being used first hand. Although the boys did spend more time playing in the empty card board boxes than with their new toys, oh the joy of simplicity.

Well that's it for now. Thank you for your prayers and encouragement.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Shit water

I got out of the car, took a step without looking, and walked into the gutter. The water should have been less thick, less smelly. "Is that shit?" I asked. In a thick Haitian accent, "Yes, that is (eez) shit (sheet) water (wata). But it's ok", said a Haitian man nearby. This is the reality of Haiti right now, shit flows in the streets, but it's ok. I am continually struck by people adapting to their circumstances and making the most of them.

Over that last week or so we have been checking in on the Sunsprings that we have installed and doing routine maintenance. We are training Haitians to do maintenance for when we leave. It is really fun to see all the people that are benefitting from these things, I'm so glad I am able to play a part. We are waiting for four more to arrive and Luke and I will install those. We have also been able to spend time down the street at the orphanage, playing basketball with the kids, substitute teaching, and leading a rec time. I love the balance of the two places I'm spending my time. There's the practical, but impersonal side with the water, and then a chance to just play with kids.

I bought my plane ticket and I'll be back in Denver April 13. I actually wasn't as excited as I thought I would be when booked it, I could stay longer. There's a chance I'll be coming back, though, but we'll see. For now our work here is winding down and I'm excited to go home.

Oh and by the way, to add insult to injury, I dropped a water bottle in the shit water and splashed on my legs. This is Haiti.

Friday, March 19, 2010


I was riding around the other day really feeling sorry for myself because I had been in the car all day, it was hot, the fumes were making light headed, and I hadn't had lunch. Then I smelled this horrible smell. Outside my window was this raw chicken that looked like it had been out all day in the heat and now flies swarmed it. On the same table as the chicken rested a woman's arm and on her arm rested her head, face down. She was clearly exhausted from the heat and probably discouraged that her product hadn't sold. Just past this woman on the opposite side of the road we passed some women covered head to foot in black soot. They were selling charcoal and sat right on their stockpile staring at the ground. Past these were men scooping a massive pile of trash that had collected in the street, like it so often does in Haiti. After they scoop one pile they jump in the back with all the trash and sit right on top until the next pile. Then on the same street a little further down a team of students was cleaning rubble, entire buildings worth of rubble. They were moving the debris using only shovels and wheelbarrows. Ive been told they make roughly five dollars a day. This is all on one street in Port-au-Prince.

Needless to say my day started looking much better once I became more aware of my surroundings. I hope I will remember these people the next time I go to a job I don't really care for, or the next time I'm tempted to complain.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Today I spent the day studying because I'm taking a couple of online classes and needed to catch up. I also went for a run and stopped along the way to hang out without some kids which was great. When I run around the neighborhood I get alot of strange looks and a few people shout things at me, but for the most part people are really nice once I stop and say hi. Yesterday I taught a class at Child Hope and then got to help with their feeding program, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday they provide a meal for neighborhood kids. It's a great ministry, over 50 kids come each time. Afterward, I got to play basketball and soccer with the kids.

Sunday night Luke and I were downtown by the capitol and ventured into a tent city that's nearby. It was late, around 11 so we were apprehensive at first, but we decided to go ahead. Everyone was really friendly we ended up hanging out with a few of the people. We talked with them as best we could, bummed a couple cigarettes and then played some music and had a quick dance party. People started coming out to see what was going on, around 20 or 30 people were hanging around. It was such a cool experience, one of my favorites of the trip and there has been many. I felt for the first time that I was on the same level as these people who now find themselves homeless, we were able to connect as people and as friends, rather than someone coming to do a job.

Tomorrow we are going back to a few of the sights where we have installed Sunsprings to train people on maintenance of the machines.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Outside the City

This week I was able to get away from Port-au-Prince a couple of days. The first time on Wednesday when I visited Albert Schweitzer hospital to do a site evaluation for a possible location of a Sunspring. Most of the week was spent visiting sites where we have installed Sunsprings or evaluating possible future sights, while we wait for more units to be shipped. Albert Schweitzer is a couple hours from the city, it's a beautiful drive up the coast to get there. Once there, we got a tour of the community and then the hospital. The hospital, I'm told, is one of the biggest best in Haiti. They have experienced a larger than usual amount of patients since the earthquake.

As we were shown the facilities we saw burn victims, amputees, and sick patients, the sights were devastating. Patients laid in the hallway because of a lack of rooms. Most of the patients care was left up to the families as the staff was too busy. We were told that the hospital has been forced to turn patients away because of a lack of resources to care for all of them. My heart broke for all the injuries we saw but the most heart-wrenching came at the sight of the newborn babies. In one room there were 6 newborns, not more than a few weeks old. Most of them were born prematurely and it showed in their size. Some of them looked as if they could fit in the palm of my hand. All of the babies had tubes and monitors coming out of them and we were told that some weren't expected to make it. I did not ask what caused the babies to be born premature or where their families were, I was too overwhelmed to speak at all.

The hospital also had an area the was separated from the rest of the hospital that was home to the tuberculosis patients. It was hard to see people kept isolated from the rest of the world because of a curable disease. The sights of the hospital and the emotions they evoked are difficult to describe because they were so powerful, yet our stay was so brief. It was an unforgettable experience nonetheless.

Luke and I got motorcycles to make it easier to get around. On Friday, we put the bikes to the test and headed up the coast away from Port-au-Prince to the beaches. Getting out of the city was a mixture of fear and excitement as we weaved in and out of the hectic traffic on the lawless roads. Once out the city though, we were able to relax and enjoy the countryside. We saw mostly dry, dusty hills, however in places we saw areas that epitomized the tropics with fields of banana, mango, and coconut trees. It was evening while road so we were able to see the sky turn from blue to pink to red before the sun sank down into the ocean.

Saturday and part of today was spent relaxing on the beach and swimming in the ocean. I am so thankful for the rest after the craziness of the last month. We drove back today renewed for continuing our work here. We made it back to the house with only one near death experience. This week we will be preparing and then installing more Sunsprings. Four more are set to arrive this week and four more the next. Hopefully, more will be donated so that we can continue to provide safe water for those who are without.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

From Oswald Chamber's "My Utmost For His Highest":
Acts 20:24 "But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself."
"It is easier to serve God without a vision, easier to work for God without a call, because then you are not bothered by what God requires; common sense is your guide, veneered over with Christian sentiment. You will be more prosperous and successful, more leisure-hearted, if you never realize the call of God. But if once you receive a commission from Jesus Christ, the memory of what God wants will always come like a goad; you will no longer be able to work for Him on the common-sense basis."

I read this a couple days ago and it has occupied my mind ever since. I am the "leasure-hearted", I seek first to be "more prosperous and successful", and "common sense is (my) guide". I dance around the call for my life so that I may use the excuse of uncertainity. My life is about me far more than anyone else. I have never been more aware of this fact than here, amongst the mass destruction and suffering. I see people starving and homeless, yet I worry about my own mere discomfort. I view the need here as somehow secondary to my own. I say that I want to change my heart, but do I really? These are simply words. Please pray that I will one day give up and surrender so that I too may experience what it is to "neither count I my life dear unto myself."
Here's a link to a blog that I've been asked to work on for the Sunspring. It's a more in-depth look into what we have been working on over the past week.

Friday, March 5, 2010

quick update

I don't have a ton of time, but I just wanted to add a quick update. This week has been really busy as we are trying to install five water filters in five days. We have done four so far and today the fifth is scheduled. It's been a lot of work, but so rewarding. The hard but is not the actual assembly, but the logistics. We have to find the location, make sure it will used and secure, and then find a raw water source. Yesterday we installed two, one of those being at Steppe Theological Seminary. They have a walled off facility and outside the wall is a massive slum surrounding the area. The filter is inside the wall with a line going out to serve the community. Within a minute of finish and having clean water people were running (I'm not exaggerating) with bottles and buckets to get water. A huge line formed, there's little doubt that this system will be used. It was so gratifying to be a part of that and see all those that would benefit.

Besides water installation, we've spent a little bit of time at the orphanage playing with kids and leading activities. The few hours we have spent there are much more exhausting than all the hours installing water systems, but in a different way. The kids are so hungry for attention and they crave someone to simply play with them and spend time with them. It is exhausting, but time well spent for sure. I hope to have a bit more time this weekend to post more.

Sunday, February 28, 2010


I realized recently that I have done a poor job of introducing the characters of this story. I have mentioned people here and there, but I have not taken the time to tell about them. First there's Joel. Joel's official title is Director of Haiti Operations for Esperanza, a broad title for a broad job. He does so many things, he is constantly on the phone or computer coordinating people. Joel is in charge of all the food distributions, donations and Haitian Operations. He grew up in Port-au-Prince then moved to the Dominican Republic for college and work, he moved back here when he took his current position. Joel is fluent in French, Spanish, Creole, and English, though his English slang needs some work, his efforts are entertaining.

The owner of the house we are staying in is Dr. Elly, but we just call him Doctor. He sent his family to live with relatives in Canada after the earthquake, he chose to stay and help. He's a busy man and we don't see him much, most of the work he has been doing lately is all volunteer. One of the first days we were here we were driving with the Dr. and we went to a second house he owned and rented out. It was the first time he'd seen the place since Jan 12th and it was completely destroyed. He walked around assessing the damage and taking a few photos, then he got back in the car and just laughed. I asked how he could laugh at something like that and he said, "Well, I can't cry, I still have my family."

Then there's "the driver", or at least that's what we called him until recently because we couldn't understand him when he said his name. It's Jaw Marie, apparently a common name in Haiti. He is the father of the three little boys we live with. He practices his English all day when he's not driving, just reading straight out of the dictionary. It's really impressive, I think he's learned more English since we've been here than I have Creole, and I think I've made good progress.

The three boys are Samuel, Uro, and Benjiang (I'm sure they'll forgive my spelling), and they are 4, 6, and 8. They are the funniest little boys, and I think they're my favorite part of Haiti, they're always ready to play when we get home. It's amazing how well we've gotten to know each even though we can't speak each other's language. Their mother we call momma partly because we can't understand her name and partly because she likes it. And she really is our Haitian mom, making sure we eat enough and drink lots of water. She always goes on and on to us in Creole, which I like, it's a needed reminder that we're in their country and their culture and we need to learn the language. Momma also has an older son, he's 18 and I'm ashamed to say I don't know his name. I've asked him a hundred times, but it's too hard to understand and now I've been here so long it'd be embarrassing to ask, but we're still friends.

There's another family that lives on the property here in a separate house. All the locals that were here for the initial earthquake sleep outside, except the Dr., but he doesn't really sleep. A couple other people have come to live with us, Jack who we're working with installing water filters, and Joel's sister, Katie. People come and go regularly, it's like living in a hostel. I thought this would be uncomfortable, but I actually love it. It's a beautiful thing when people from different cultures, nationalities, ages and races live in the same house, sharing meals and bathrooms and living spaces. Not only do I not mind, I prefer it, I think people should live together and share their lives.

The past few days we have done quite a bit of work, installing a water filter at Port-au-Prince General Hospital and preparing to install five more over the next five days. On Friday we hung out with kids at Child Hope. We were supposed to be leading activities, but the kids sensed our weakness and chaos ensued. Kids were marking the cement with chalk, but that quickly turned into face paint. Before long kids were running around with faces colored, shirts coming off. I'm not much of a disciplinarian so I just let it go and broke up fights, I think it's good to go crazy sometimes. I feel really good about finally having a busy schedule and forming some resemblance of a routine. Routine is comfortable, but I don't know that it is always a good thing. I hope that I never grow comfortable seeing refugee camps or homeless people. I hope that Haitians don't either. It's so tempting to look at the situation here and become hopeless, but the individuals that I have already gotten to know so well restore my hope in people.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

I can't think of one

Today, I got peed on by a four year old and was in a car that hit a 107 year old man... today was a great day.
Hitting the guy was really scary at first, but ended up somewhat funny. Pedestrians do not have the right of way in this country and there are no stop signs or stop lights, so it's actually surprising this doesn't happen more. Anyway, we were driving along and this old man with a cane started crossing the road. Our driver slammed on the brakes and was almost stopped then hit the guy, when he went down I thought he was dead (I didn't see it well because I was in the backseat), people around started telling us to back up so we did. I was so scared he was stuck under us or something. The next thing I know the guy is up walking in front of the car, then he got in with us! There was lots of yelling in Creole that I didn't understand and this guy just got up from the dead so I was trying not to laugh, plus he looked like a black Yoda. We drove around to a couple health clinics until someone could see him, they said he was fine, but gave him pain medicine just in case, which our driver paid for. While they were checking him out he said he was 107! I think maybe he didn't know and 107 was his best guess. We dropped him off at his house and he got out and walked away just fine. We drove around stunned that we had just hit a guy.

The rest of the day we moved a Sunspring water filter to the site we will be installing it tomorrow at Port-au-Prince Hospital. Afterward, we checked out a future sight for one of the units. The second will be installed at a sports camp where kids go to play sports and get counseling. Most of the kids who go there are living in refugee camps.

Yesterday (Wednesday), I spent most of the day working at Child Hope, the orphanage near our house. I built a small lean-to for some teachers who lost their homes in the earthquake then led activities with some of the kids. It was great to be able to help over there, they have a very well-run facility.

Well, that's all for now.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Two weeks in

We had our first near death experience since we arrived, or I should say Luke did. Saturday we were driving across town and I was sitting in the back seat and Luke was in the middle beside me. I was staring out of the window not paying attention and I heard a scream of shear terror. I looked thinking we were about to be in a head on collision. We pulled over and Luke and Joel jumped out of the car, I was still oblivious. It turns out a spider had landed on Luke's leg...

Last night I experienced an earthquake for the first time. I am told that there has been a few in the two weeks since we arrived, but this was the first one that I didn't sleep through. It's a strange and awful feeling awaking to a shaking house. There was two within about an hour of each other. In the morning I was told it was a 4.0 magnitude. I can't say whether there was further damage in the city, there didn't appear to be as we drove around today. I think that there's been so many aftershocks since the initial earthquake that what is still standing is strong enough to withstand the smaller shakes. I really cannot imagine how traumatizing the earthquakes must be to those who have experienced all of them.

Yesterday, Luke and I were able to be a part of some really exciting work. We helped install a water filtration system called a Sunspring that will provide 5000 gallons of clean water a day, and it is designed to last for years. The Sunspring has a solar powered battery that filters water from any raw water source through two filters. The inventor of the technology is staying in the same house we are for the next two weeks while he installs more of the systems. We will help him and learn the set up process so that, hopefully, when he leaves we'll be able to assemble the filters. The Sunspring we installed yesterday was for an orphanage that is home to 600 kids, and will be growing to over 1000 in the near future. As we built the system people started bringing the 5 gallon containers and the moment it was ready the machine was put to use. I am so thankful I got to be a part of that.

Later in the day we had the opportunity to play basketball at the orphanage near where we are staying. On Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays we'll be leading activities for the kids in afternoon. Also, we will be filling in as teachers when needed. Tomorrow, I'm teaching an English class to 3rd and 4th graders, that should be an adventure.

Today we were supposed to install another water purification unit, this one at University of Miami Hospital, but the site was not ready so we must go back tomorrow. The hospital is a few tents set up on airport property, but they are seeing hundreds of patients a day. The big tents are the hospitals and surrounding smaller tents are the temporary homes of doctors and nurses. One tent serves as a morgue.

Sunday night I had the opportunity/misfortune of having a conversation with an assistant to the Prime Minister of Haiti. The other night he was over at the house that we are living in with Joel's sister. When he left Luke mentioned that he would like to speak with him, implying an informal conversation. Joel's sister's English isn't great and she took this to mean he wanted an appointment, so she set it up. Luke and I were both surprised when she came and told us he was here so see us. We stumbled at first trying to explain that we hadn't intended for him to come over just for us (this through Joel's interpretation because the assistant speaks French). Finally, we decided that it would be better to pretend we weren't wasting his time than send him away so we told him we wanted to interview him.

So here are two Americans dirty and in T-shirts and shorts faking an interview with an important political figure. We asked hard questions and I think we may have offended him, it's tough to say with the language barrier. We did learn alot though. He claimed that 70% of all aid money sent from America ends up paying staff and other costs and that only the 30% remaining go to help Haitians. He also said that before the earthquake there were 4000 NGOs in Haiti and only 400 had the governments approval. He recognized that Americans do a lot in helping Haitians, but that America is also a major cause to Haiti's problems because over half of Haiti's GDP is given to the US in loan repayment. I can not say whether his claims are true, but he certainly gave me a new perspective on the problems in this country.

We are still working on our old water project of making chlorine. Eventually we'll be attending meetings at the UN to coordinate with other NGOs (non governmental organizations). We will also be helping with more food pack distribution, as well as some of the organizational end of things. We are finding more and more exciting ways to serve, hopefully we'll be able to maximize our time here.

Thank you for all of your thoughts, prayers and words of encouragement, it means so much.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The UN

Yesterday, Luke and I went to the United Nations logistics base near the airport. We were supposed to be attending a meeting between NGOs to coordinate efforts and hopefully pick up resources for Esperanza. Right now we have reached the capacity of food packs we are able to give out and some organizations at the UN have the necessary supplies. Unfortunately, the meeting was cancelled. We spent our time walking around the UN instead. All over the base were hundreds of people not really doing anything. There were troops representing countries from the US, Brazil, Israel, Canada, and others. We also saw a storehouse full of clean water, I'm not sure why that was being stored rather than handed out. The sights at the UN summed up our view of the disaster response so far, including our end, there's so much being done, but if there were more organization it could go much further.

Just outside the airport and UN is the largest tent city I have seen so far. I won't try to guess at how many were living there because it would be just that, a guess. The night before was the most substantial rain since the earthquake, so we're told, and it did quite a toll. Most of the tents we saw had no floor, so people were forced to sleep in inches of mud. A medical tent that had been set up in the tent city is now a foot in water. At a gas station in the city we saw three huge hummers carrying US troops and they were filled top to bottom with tents. So while it's great that America is sending its soldiers and donating these tents why did it take a large rain before they were handed out?

Today we went back to the UN to try and go to a different meeting, this time however we sat in traffic a couple miles from the base for an hour until we eventually gave up. There's NGO meetings nearly everyday so I hope we'll make one eventually. For now, we learn a lesson in patience.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

One week

Hello, first of all thank you to everyone for reading this thing. Well we have a been here a week and it has been quite an emotional ride. Friday, our first full day in Port-au-Prince was spent mostly driving around the city. We had plans for some work that needed done but there was a national holiday so streets were closed off and stores were shut down. Driving around the wreckage was very depressing, it seemed that no one was making any attempt to improve their situation. As we drove through the city, on the roads that were open, it was mostly one-way streets, the other half of the street was lined with tents in which people were now living. In many places rubble spilled into the roads as well. Friday afternoon we were able to accompany a doctor (who's house we're living at) to an orphanage. The kids there were so joyful and just wanted to play with us. We were told that the home had grown from 60 to 150 children since the earthquake.

A little on our living situation. We are living in the house of a Haitian doctor, his family went to stay in Canada with family after the earthquake, he chose to stay here. Another Haitian family has moved in because they lost their home and two year old daughter in the disaster. Also, Joel lives here, he works for Esperanza and is who we work with closely. The Haitian family has four boys of their own and a daughter they have been looking after since the earthquake. The boys are age 5, 8, and 9, and you would never know they had been through such a great tragedy. They are full of energy and love to play, they love to climb on Luke and I the moment we get home. The boys are my role models, I hope to live as care free and happy as them some day.

The living conditions are much better than we prepared for. We have a toilet, but we have to flush it by dumping water in the back. There is electricity a few hours a day whenever the generator is on. Internet is hit or miss, and we're sharing a computer so it is limited. We are living like kings compared to most Haitians, I try to constantly remind myself of this. We eat with the family for most meals and our house mom always prepares the food. She is so kind, she is always offering us something.

Last Saturday we got to learn a little more about the work we will be doing. Right now Joel is working closely with his brother, Tony, whose a Pastor of a church. Together they are organizing with local pastors to get food to their congregations. They have also been working with a company called the Pure Water Foundation, who has developed a system to make chlorine which is used to make clean water. We have spent quite a bit of our time making chlorine. Basically the process is add salt to nonpotable water then send this through a charge from a battery which is solar powered. Then by some sort of magic chlorine is made. 1 Liter of chlorine will make 500 gallons of drinkable water.

In the morning on Saturday we stumbled upon quite the celebration, I guess part of the holiday that was going on. We were driving near the capitol and we saw masses of people so we went to check it out. People in every direction were singing and dancing in Creole. There is a large monument near the capitol so Luke and I made our way to the top, pushing our way up the stairs. From there we could see people in every direction singing and dancing, it was more people in one location than I think I have ever seen. I got a video just to show the amount, but I could not figure out how to post it on here (i'm just not that tech savvy yet), it's the last picture under the Haiti file on my picasaweb, there's a link on the right hand side.

It has been a very surreal feeling being here and seeing all the damage, it's difficult to imagine the city being rebuilt. In some places there are more houses ruined than intact. Every where we go there is people walking and standing around, few have anything to do with schools being closed and so many businesses no longer standing. We have passed a few food distribution lines and they stretch farther than we can see, I can't imagine how long it takes to get the food. I am told that doctors are still mainly focused on life-threatening cases so many who need medical treatment are being turned away. The need is endless and it's important to reming myself to focus on the small things I can do.

Yesterday Luke and I were walking through our neighborhood and we met a few people. Come to find out just a few houses down is an orphanage, called Child Hope. We were able to play basketball with some of the kids, which will hopefully become a regular thing. Talking with some of the staff we were told that they are trying to get some classes going for the kids since their schools were ruined and many of their teachers were killed. They asked us if we would be interested in teach a couple classes a day. I am very excited about the possibility, but nothing is for sure yet. It would be possible because most of the work we're doing with Esperanza is flexible and can be done anytime.

Thanks for reading. Hopefully in the future I'll be able to post shorter and more frequent messages.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Recently, I decided to take a trip to Port-Au-Prince. A friend of mine, Luke, and I wanted to go and assist with the earthquake relief in any way possible. We began sending out e-mails to places that might put us to work. We received a good response from a few different places. One of those included an organization called "Esperanza International", a non-profit specializing in micro finance ( Luke connected with the founder and spoke with him about our trip, he in turn set us up with their people on the ground in Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic. They arranged to pick us up at the airport and put us to work in Port-Au-Prince.
I am writing from Port-Au-Prince now. Luke and I arrived a few hours ago after an eight hour bus ride from Santo Domingo. I arrived in Santo Domingo on Tuesday just before midnight. I was greeted by two men who were arranged to pick me up, neither of them spoke English so I was able to put my Spanish to the test. It was a quiet car ride. They took me to the hotel where I met up with Luke. On Wednesday I went to the office of Esperanza (Esperanza is Spanish for hope). While looking for the office I got lost and had to stop and ask for directions. "Donde es la Esperanza?", or "Where is the hope?", I asked the man, thinking I was making sense. The man seemed confused and directed me to a building a couple blocks away, but I knew that wasn't it so I kept looking. I came to another man and again asked, "Donde es la Esperanza?" He directed me to the same place as the first man had done so I went to see the place. It was the U.S. embassy.
Eventually, I found the office where I met a few of Esperanza's employees, learned about the company and then filled out some paper work. Esperanza works primarily in the Dominican Republic, but they also do some work in Haiti. Since the earthquake they have partnered with other organizations to distribute food, tents, and water, as well as set up temporary hospitals. At the time they only have one person working for them in Port-Au-Prince, that's who we'll be working with.
Later Wednesday afternoon we explored Santo Domingo, a beautiful city, rich in history. We visited the first church in the new world, as well as Christopher Columbus' house. The rest of the day we just relaxed and went to dinner with a few of the employees from Esperanza.
This morning we went to the bus stop at 10:30 to catch our bus to Haiti. The ride was beautiful as we watched the green hills roll by. People sat at the edge of the road watching the cars go by, and many of them would wave when they caught our eye. After a long wait at the border we came into Haiti near sunset. The sky was picturesque, the air cool and peaceful, it was difficult to prepare ourselves for what lie at our destination.
As we came nearer to the city we could see the effects of the earthquake, first in the people then in the buildings. Sidewalks were filled with people just wandering around or sitting in plastic chairs or on the ground, all of them wearing hopelessly blank faces. Traffic was packed and crawling in the opposite direction. The roads were lawless as people drove wherever they pleased. We passed buses and trucks filled past capacity with people, I can only assume trying to leave the city. Then we started to see structural damage as brick walls and houses were collapsed. Buildings that stood leaned and threatened to tumble. More and more people milled about on the sidewalks and in the streets, seemingly aimlessly. We passed a tent city, with make shift homes as far as we could see.
We met with Joel, the man we'd be working with, at the bus station and he drove us from there. Joel is from Haiti, but he's been living in Santo Domingo the past few years. He speaks French, Creole, Spanish and English fluently. He told us a bit about the work he had been doing and how we would be assisting him. Distributing food is a challenge because of the security problem so he has been meeting with pastors of churches who find what their members need, maybe food, water, shelter, counseling, medicine, etc., then the pastors tell Joel who tries to get them what they need. We will be helping Joel organize supplies so that they get in the right hands. The need is so great that it is impossible to just take a truck into the city and start handing out goods, a riot would break out. Also, Joel is working to set up water purifiers that can provide water for 5,000 people a day.
A lot of the details of the work we will doing is unclear because of the lack of organization. Eventually, Joel would like to do the work that Esperanza does best and help people to start small businesses and become self-sustained. But for now it is just about getting by.

Monday, February 8, 2010

I am now a blogger, some how making me more nerdy and more hip at the same time.