Friday, July 2, 2010

End of Another Trip

Once again I find myself sitting in a Florida airport contemplating the trip I've just returned from. This one-week trip absolutely flew by as compared to the past few where I've spent three weeks down there and usually had at least a bit of down time to process some the things that I'd been through and experienced.

First off, and on a totally different note, I should say that it's extremely unfortunate that Brazil just lost to the Netherlands 2-1 in the World Cup. Haitian people are completely obsessed with Brazilian football and the country has been in a fervor as they've been winning over their past games. It really seemed like it was one of the few things keeping many of those people upbeat. The first night we got there, we almost couldn't get to our house because of the parades and parties in the streets that thronged late into the evening. The past wins and future predictions were on everyone's lips and I'm sure the country feels like they've just suffered another huge letdown. It sounds strange to say but anyone who has experienced the World Cup outside of the Unites States will know what I mean.

Ok, back to my contemplation in the airport...

The big question on all of our minds during this trip now that we are nearing the 6 month anniversary of the earthquake was, "are things any better now than they were 5 months ago when we first got down there?" On the surface, it appears that they really are not. The tent cities seem to have grown even bigger since the last time I was there. Actually, a 'tent city' doesn't really describe it very well but I'm not sure what else to call it. Basically any open space the city has to offer, from the park in front of the collapsed presidential palace, to the median in the center of the highway, to ravines where the rain water flushes thru after any heavy rain, has turned into a place where people have either put up a tent or a tarp so they can have a place to sleep. For the first few months, there often weren't toilets or running water for these people to use so the hygiene was appalling. Typhoid has now broken out in many camps, as has outbreaks of scabies and TB. Violence and rapes are on the rise and families have taken to sleeping in shifts so they can keep watch for each other.

Six months on, the larger of these camps are much more organized and sanitary now because most of the larger tent camps have been taken over my at least one NGO that usually provides water, toilets, and possibly a health clinic. However, the fact remains that it has been 6 months and people are still living in appalling conditions.

Food provisions have been cut off so as to limit dependency yet there are almost no options for employment (aside from the "cash for work" programs for which the lucky few Haitians can earn $5 a day cleaning the streets, piling rubble, or cleaning the latrines in the camps). Schools are back in session but they are asking parents to pay for the 5 months that they weren't operating. And hospitals are functioning again yet many facilities are so poor that patients are required to not only buy their medicines and pay the doctor visit, but also buy the latex gloves the doctor uses to examine you with or the needle and syringe he uses to treat you with.

Rubble removal throughout the city is almost non existent, and since the government has been so slow to provide any help or guidance on rebuilding people's homes, people have begun to do it on their own using whatever wood, concrete, and bent rebar they can find.

So yes, things are still quite bad and it's both appalling and tragic that the government remains basically silent in the aftermath of this tragedy when they possibly could have galvanized the support of the entire world to rebuild Port au Prince and encourage decentralization by upgrading the infrastructure of the outlying cities. As it is, the opposite is occurring. People who initially left the city to live with family or friends around the country are now moving back into this city that was built for 500,000 that now hosts over 2 million people and counting. It seems that no matter how bad the outlook is in Port au Prince, prospects for jobs outside the city are worse.

However, despite all of this, I truly don't leave Haiti discouraged. To be quite honest, I don't think you can expect that after the largest natural disaster in the Western Hemisphere in the poorest country in the same region that things will be better, or even back to normal, within 6 months. I'm fairly certain that some people in New Orleans were still living in asbestos filled FEMA trailers years after Katrina hit and it took almost four years to start clearing out and rebuilding the Lower 9th Ward. It might be overly optimistic to think that Haiti, with the host of problems the country was already facing, should be able to move people back into their homes in that amount of time.

And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I've gotten to meet and spend time with some incredible and dedicated Haitian people who are absolutely committed to lifting their country up from it's current state. These doctors, politicians, philanthropists, and activists have not given up on their people or their hopes for a better Haiti. They are frustrated by the Haitian leadership and by the soaring budgets of many of the large international NGOs in Haiti who are not focused on sustainability or empowering the Haitian people. But they are encouraged by the sad fact that as a result of this event, many of their hospitals are now better equipped, their schools are being rebuilt better, and the world may actually remain focused on Haiti for years to come.


  1. Great work you've been doing over there. I checked out your organizations website and some youtube videos and am wondering if there is anyway someone could volunteer, since help is still needed in Haiti and other places around the world ? Ive studied, volunteered, interned and drank myself to oblivion...oops, forget that last one... internationally in the last 10 years (wow, I am so freaking old...but still drinking...damn, i said it again!) Would love to assist and I have a masters degree, no job and always find helping those in need to be a calling in life that I would love to do more of. Thanks for any information you can provide. Cheers ! ....dang....


  2. Andrew;May The Lord Creator Christ Bless You and Yours Forever,Amen/amen :-) Leland Luster/LVNv. Can you place your blog about Haiti (story)onto my social web site? at>