Monday, March 1, 2010

Back to Haiti for Phase Two

Hey People,
So we've all had a week off. Me from living in Port-au-Prince and you from my incessant blogging. But now I'm back and I hope you'll continue to join me.

I'm kind of thinking as these next three weeks as Phase 2 of the operation. Last time down we did basically what we wanted to do in a hurried frenzy. We got ourselves linked in with the UN, got a warehouse, distributed the first wave of supplies to the roughly 25 new hospitals and clinics we met, and got started thinking about our long-term strategy. Essentially though, we were running around with our heads cut off for 3 weeks trying to get the products out as quickly as possible and didn't have much time for reflection or long-term planning.

This time around I'm hoping to have some time to get out of Port-au-Prince to potentially assist some of the large hospitals around the country that have been inundated with patients who fled from PaP. I'd like to head out on Thursday to visit some of Partner in Health's facilities in and around the central plateau and then head east to visit a hospital called St. Bonifice who are receiving a great deal of post-op patients coming off the USS Comfort (the Navy ship off the coast where they are bringing people who need major operations). From there, I hope to head north, possibly up to Cap Haitian on the far north coast to see some large hospitals in that area. Me and my driver Pascal will bring a tent and some food and have our own little road-trip.

I'm also going to try to connect up with other non-profit groups who are working to provide shelter and water to all the people living in these tent cities all over the capital city. Direct Relief has received a great deal of products like: toothpaste, soap, shampoo, lotion, diapers, sheets, and towels and these items would be perfect for distribution within these camps to people who are literally without any possessions besides their clothes on their backs and tarps over their heads. So we may look to work with groups like Oxfam and Save the Children if to see if we can't assemble and distribute these personal hygiene kits to the hundreds of thousands of people who need these items.

And finally, we've been invited by the government to be a part of their working group to create a strategy for caring for the handicapped and disabled. There were already a large number of handicapped people in Haiti and the earthquake has made amputees out of countless more. This New York Times article spells out the dire situation for these individuals. It is a great honor that they invited us to play a role in the five-year plan and I'm going to represent us at these meetings in the upcoming weeks.

After spending an amazing week back in California splitting time between Tahoe, Sacramento, Santa Barbara, and Ojai, I can't say it's good to be back in Haiti but I'm not bummed about it either. Between the guys at the warehouse, the new office and apartment we are setting up, the house I'm staying at (and the food the women here cook), my awesome driver Pascual, and the variety of interesting people I'm meeting, I'd say that overall it's not that uncomfortable. Of course, every day you get gigantic pangs of sadness and guilt for the absolute poverty and dire conditions that you see. The kids are the hardest to deal with but today I saw a woman on the sidewalk trying to sell her few pieces of fruit and she had her head buried in her arms and you could just understand the hopelessness she was feeling. And when she looked straight at me and held out both her arms with her palms upturned it was all I could do to not give her all that I had on me.

But every so often you feel great about the work people are doing down here and feel hopeful that the conditions might improve. I was looking back at my pictures from last time and remembered this school that had been set up right in the middle of this gigantic tent city. All the kids were uniformed and smiling and there was a huge line of parents trying to sign their kids up. It wasn't much, but it was clearly a beginning.

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