Sunday, January 31, 2010

Almost There...

Hi there,
We've made it most of the way. After an overnight flight to Miami and then another short flight to Santo Domingo, we are staying overnight at the "Fiesta Hotel" in the capital of the Dominican Republic because the UN flight into Port-au-Prince (PAP) doesn't fly on Sundays. So we are booked on the 1pm flight tomorrow which will get us into PAP at 1pm (something about a one hour flight and going back in time by an hour).

We are lucky to have a guy named Chris from the Santa Barbara Independent with us for the first week to write his own blog and then a feature story when he gets back to SB. So now there are 4 of us and we're actually going to meet a photographer tomorrow who is going to document some of the shipments arriving into the hospitals.

At dinner tonight, we met a group called "Firefighters for Christ" who have been down in Haiti for 10 days in a city just south of PAP. They had some interesting stories to tell about their time down there but the gist was:

1. This experience is going to change our lives
2. The need down there is tremendous and everything helps
3. They got into a couple of tough spots with some rowdy crowds (who may or may not have been carrying machetes) but in the end their prayers made them get through it.

I guess I'll take all the advice I can get...

Saturday, January 30, 2010


Hello out there. Thank you for visiting my blog. Just before I go into my thoughts and feelings as I sit here in the Los Angeles International Airport awaiting my flight to the Dominican Republic (the airport in Port-au-Prince is still closed to civilians), I should make a few things clear:

1. I have never been entirely sure what a blog actually was until my wife recently forced me to watch "Julia and Julia" and I got a better understanding of the idea.
2. I've never known why anyone would read a blog from some unproven and un-credentialed writer blathering about their feelings on a new technology or the state of the world.
3. Hitherto, I'm not entirely sure what to write or how long to blog for. I just figured that this was the best way to give people an idea of what is happening on the ground in Haiti in the aftermath of this tragedy.

With all that said, off we go...

To provide some context for anyone out there who I don't know, I've been asked by my former employer, Direct Relief International, to travel to Haiti with two other guys to establish a warehouse, office space, and provide logistical support to the hospitals and clinics that we support. Actually, let me take a step back.

Direct Relief International is a non-profit organization that donates medical supplies, pharmaceuticals, and equipment to hospitals and clinics all over the world. For the past 60 years, they have been providing these essential medical items (that are donated by large medical and pharmaceutical companies) to locally-run health facilities to enable the doctors and nurses to do their jobs better. They don't send doctors or start their own hospitals like other organizations. They simply provide the supplies to the people on the ground who are treating the sick in their communities. They do it in over 60 countries worldwide and have recently begun a large program to provide this same kind of assistance to free clinics in the USA.

When the earthquake struck in Haiti, a unique opportunity presented itself. Since Direct Relief International (DRI), has been supporting a number of hospitals in Port-au-Prince and the surrounding areas for many years, they were in a unique position to send large amounts of medicines and supplies to these partners very rapidly. Air-freight shipments were flown in and delivered in the days following the disaster. However, as many of you have seen, this event has struck a nerve with people and the support from both private individuals and the medical industry has been overwhelming. DRI has opened up two more warehouses just to store all the products that have come in for Haiti. Therefore, a decision was made to open up our own warehouse and office in Haiti (something DRI has never done) to receive and store all of these products and deliver them to our partners as they request it. This will take the burden off them and enable us to get the products they need much more quickly. Since my background with DRI has been both in the logistics side and the program side, (and since I have just gotten my Master's Degree and am currently unemployed) I am in the unique position to help them accomplish this.

At this moment I feel a mixture of excitement and trepidation. I am glad to be able to help the people of Haiti in a way few others can. I understand the goals, think they are achievable, and know what success will look like. However, there are so many unknown variables that make me slightly anxious. For example:

1. None of us speak French or Haitian/Creole
2. None of us are doctors
3. We don't have a place to stay (but are stocked with camping gear)
4. We don't have any security (as of yet)
5. We don't have a warehouse or any trucks

As with anything in life, we'll just do our best, play it by ear, and go with the flow. I'm hopeful that soon after we arrive, we will make contacts with other NGOs and local Haitians who can help connect us to what we need. We don't have long to figure out however, as numerous trucks and planes are arriving loaded with supplies on February 4th. We have to make sure they can get to the people who need it as quickly and safely as possible. Should be a piece of cake...right?