Sunday, February 28, 2010

Am heading back to Haiti next month to help with installation of solar panels for water filtration system. Will post more details as things develop. Also be able to let anyone who is interested know what they can do to directly help those ion need.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Leaving for Buenos Aires... Will post pictures from Haiti as soon as I can.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Last night we had dinner at a private home in the hills above PAP. The host told us that the day of the earthquake, his neighbor had just returned from a trip abroad. He called a friend and asked him to meet him at the Hotel Montana. They found the body of the neighbor several days later and his friend they could not verify if he was there or not until rescue workers found and arm and in the arm's hand was a cell phone and it was his.

When you hear them talk of a building pancaking, that is exactly what they did. Five story concrete buildings smashed into roughly one story. Building after building like that. Others slide down hills taking houses further down with them. It's surreal.

On the way to the airport, we passed a food and distribution point. Thousands in a line snaking through a tent camp and along the road. Very orderly and people very patient. The heat just adds to the misery. Coming down from the hills, we passed rocks and boulders which were in the road. It seems like every aftershock sends more stuff tumbling.

At the airport now and the morning flight from Miami has arrived, relief worker after relief worker coming in. I really don't think people back home realize the magnitude of this. It isn't as if this was a modern country or that people have financial reserves or family abroad or some means to get them through a temporary disruption in their lives. It's the complete breakdown of everything. It's a very, very poor country. People traditionally selling coal in large bags on the streets with which they cook. It's not even as if they have electric or gas stoves. What I'm trying to say is the level of living was so unbelievably low and then have this basic level ripped apart... You look for words... Crushed comes to mind just like some of the injuries they have.

It will take much time, much committment from the international community from individuals to stay the course and keep the life lines going. Whether that is $5 a month $50 a month, whether it is sponsoring a child so he/she can go to school or a family so they can eat or fundraising to buy solar panels for a village or water filtration system or a goat every other week so that orphans can have some meat every now and then with the rice and beans, whether it is buying school
supplies or sending a manual sewing machine to a woman who has lost her legs so she can earn a living and feed her children. It may be someone retired coming here and going to a mission orphanage and spending a week holding children, playing with them, washing them. Maybe it's a fundraiser to help a small parish in the country side buy a Toyota 4x4 so that a priest or a community can transport goods, supplies and even injured people miles to a clinic. A Toyota pick up is a life line.

The need here is beyond what can be imagined. The challenge for us is to make a committment, no matter how small would make not just a difference, but help someone to live. That's what people back home need to understand, whatever we do no matter how small, profoundly helps people and in many ways helps them to live.

After 5 days here and meeting numerous people and talking late onto the night, I've had the opportunity to learn much of what can be done. It's really so very simple.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I continue to meet the most appreciative, grateful people here. Dieubon Lucien is a man in his 30's. His wife and three daughters survived the collapse of their house. All they have are a few clothes and some photos they pulled from the rubble. They were a middle class Haitian family. Dieubon is a driver for a businessman in Port Au Prince. He had his own home.

His wife and girls live on the side of the street in PAP under a piece of plastic. I gave him some coloring books and crayons for the girls, he picked out a shirt for each one as well as his wife. I gave him some energy bars, tuna fish, crackers and each of them toothbrushes and toothpaste. I also gave him some St. John Mercy Hospital canvas bags so that they can carry belongings they acquire.

Dieubon's family has friends who moved to Montreal several years ago. The woman in Montreal is very ill with kidney disease. None of the family in Canada is a match for a transplant. Dieubon was asked if he would test, he did and is a match. He and his wife were going to go to Canada for the operation, but now everything is delayed and they are unsure when they will go. They hope that the Canadian government will expedite things and also allow the whole family to emmigrate.

It's sad to see people in a state of limbo knowing their future and the future of their children are just hanging there and could go either way.

Port au Prince center city is in ruins. There are collapsed buildings everywhere. Tents are pitched whereever there is space. Some buildings are pancaked, some are twisted and some pulverized. Some areas look like those pictures after a tornado has gone through with personal items lying everywhere. The difference is that it's an entire city and there are over a million people surviving in the streets.

As we drove up into the hills, you could better see houses that had slid down the hills.

Tonight I talked to several businessmen. Their biggest fear is that people in the US will soon forget about their country. They asked if we knew in the US how much CNN was charging advertisers for a minute spot during the height of their earthquake coverage. They weren't sonmuch pessimistic as much as realistic. Some other event will replace the horror in Haiti and the help will dry up.

We talked about Haitian independence from France in 1804. In exchange for thst independence, Haiti paid France the equivalent of US$ 27 billion in today's value. After the earthquake, France pledged $500,000,000 of aid.

Many nations have pledged tents before the rainy season, they still haven't arrived to meet the need. Cuba has 500 doctors in Haiti. One of the business men I spoke with today has warehouses in PAP. Today the Cuban government sent in containers of medical and school supplies. The Venezuelan government forgave Haiti tens of millions it owes Venezuela for subsidized petroleum prices.

I hope the Pope comes forward and announces that the catholic church will rebuild the country's national cathedral. With all the money Rome has, you would think they would step up. Wouldn't that be something to start? A petition to the pope asking him to rebuild the national symbol of his faith in Haiti? Hmmmmm, anyone like that idea?
Does anyone have or can get those old pencil sharpeners we used to use in school? The hand crank ones That are screwed onto walls? Please let me know.
Right now, I'm in Hinche. Rahab is running errands, changing money, dropping off money to families, buying things to take to Port au Prince. I've popped into the local chuch to continue typing.

From the orphanage, we went across town to the hospital. It was late afternoon and anne and Patrick still had 4 large suitcases of medical supplies to leave. The hospital was surreal. As the darkness closed in, the dimly lite wards took on a strange glow. In one ward, family members were trying to help a patient move in his bed. In another, a woman was in labor. She was in her street clothes and laying on a bed. I couldn't help but think of the sterile environment I experienced last summer at Barnes. Clean sheets, equipment in sterile wrap. None of that here. There is no food service either. If you don't have family to bring you something, you are out of luck.

I saw amputees from the capital. Ward after ward was full and whereas in an American hospital there are nurses and doctors running everywhere, there were few here,

Patrick who is an orthopedic surgeon in Missouri asked about the operating rooms. He was told there is one. This hospital serves a normal population area of over100,000. Add the people from the capital.... He asked what if there is more than one person needing an operation, the reponse was the other(s) will probably die.

Back in thomassique the clinic there serves over 60,000. Peter said that when he leave for church every morning at 5 there are already 50 to 75 people waiting to be seen. They walk from surronding villages which are 6,7,8 miles away.

He told me last year a man walked 5 hours to see a doctor after he was struck by lightening. He had waited to long to go for help and by the time he arrived the gangrene had set in and amputation was all they could do.
Sorry for the typos in the last posting. I'm trying to do this in the truck on bumpy roads and the editing feature will not let me get into the second half of the message to clean it up on this iPhone. I'm sure there is a way, but as I try to figure it out the battery is being used up and recharging is not simple.

I don't care what any says, the iPhone is great if you want to dick around with applications, but the keyboard sucks.
I had intention to write something last night, but after showering, eating and what had happened during the day, I just crashed. I have a sinking feeling yesterday was preparing me for our trip into central Port au Prince today...

Yesterday began at 5 am with the church bells ringing for mass. I really didn't sleep as the humidity and mosquitoes were brutal. I went to church and the children singing was moving. A gentleman named Peter from the Medical team I was supposed to travel in with through the DR back in January was there. I had met Peter the day before when we went to the thomassique clinic to bring supplies Patrick and Anne brought in from Cape. The clinic has two medical students from columbia university and temple. There are Americans who come down for 10 day periods: doctors, nurses, contractors, computer geeks, handymen, people who are helping with constructing additional rooms, installing and maintaining solar panels, water systems, etc. Etc. One guy installs swimming pools and is a plumber back in virgina. Any skill is useful here.

Peter and I walked back to the clinic from the church. He had offered me gold... A mosquitoes net! I'm not too worried about malaria. I'm taking pills and you can be treated. But quite frankly, dengue fever makes me a little nervous. I also had already given away all the Tylenol (thank you Sue Englert. That supply of generic Tylenol is a godsend for many people) and I needed some for my back pain.

While there, there was a little scene when one of the med students realized the scratching noise in her room was a good sized rat which came running out of her room. A chase began with people crashing through the dining / living area, brooms swinging, things being knocked over. The rat comes running by Peter and me and dives under a washing machine. I was actually more surprised to see a washing machine and while they were pulling it out trying to get the rat, I was more interested to see if it was actually connected to a water line than whether the rat was behind it. I started to laugh to myself thinking how strange that was. The rat didn't phase me, yet I was captivated by seeing this big American washer and thought "wow, how cool, a washing machine!"

I guess it sounds strange but when you witness how the most simplest things are an arduous task (making fire to cook, cleaning clothes in a river, you get it....

So I walked back to the church rectory with the net under my arm thinking I had just scored big time. I then took thd pictures and noted all the dimensions as well as checked the solar panels.

Father Rahab and the other priests had this great idea of setting up a soup kitchen for locals as well as the refugees coming up from the capital. They feed around 200 people, rice and beans. Some of the children had not eaten in over a day. The intention is to set up the kitchen every other day. In other words, people can at least count on one meal every 48 hours. Later that night we talked about buying s goat once a week so that there would be at least some meat once a week mixed in with thd rice and beans.

During the day, whenever we moved through town, we had bags of what many people donated. We would stop when we saw a child sitting naked in the dirt and give his mother a shirt. Othervtimes, we would stop znd inflate a soccer ball and give it to a group of kids. The coloring books and crayons were great! Kids with nothing were open mouthed with total surprise.

We then packed up to head to Hinche. There is a mission by nuns from India and rwanada that we wanted to leave things. Patrick and anne had brought do much stuff, I had some of thd things you all donated. We arrived and entered an oasis of calm, cleanliness and hospitality. There we had a soda and talked to the nuns. I inflated a soccer ball and shortly after it started to rain.

After a while we went up a large concrete set of stairs to where the children are. This was the most difficult part of the trip so far and I'm a liitle apprehensive because I really believe it was to prepare me for today in the capital.

Everyone (rahab, banife, anne, Patrick and the nuns) were ahead if me. By the time I got to the landing they had already gone in and standing in the doorway in sn orange shirt was a little boy about 2 years old. As I approached, he broke into this smile, ran to me and thrust his arms up. I picked him up and he grabbed my shirt so tightly pressing his head against my chest. Itvtemindwd me of shen I was a teenager teaching little kids to swim. They would cling to me so tightly.

For the next 20 minutes, I could not put him down. Every time I tried to pry him away he would look at me wide eyed, grip
my shirt tighter and his lip would quiver. Other children were climbing up my legs, arms grabbing me wanting to be held. At one point I had one in each arm, one one each leg and children everywhere. I looked through a door znd saw Patrick and anne swarmed by children begging to be touched and held. The rooms were full of cribs, lined up children standing teaching out. Other cribs there were babies, children skin and bones. Some you could tell the damage from malnutrition had already been done. Some laid there lifeless, some with no strength to get up.

The little boy, Charles, fell asleep in my arms and I brought him back to his crib and laid him down. I wandered through the wards and touched every child and spoke to them in French.

I'm going to have to stop here as I have to go visit father rahab's mother. I have the details of this mission. I know ehat they need and if anyone is interested, you can help. The thing that sickens me is that this is one of hundreds, if not thousands of places where these children are surviving. I find it hard to use the word living. People fo not live in Haiti. They survive in Haiti.

We left Thomassique after I had measured the water filtration room, cables, storage ta

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Well it's almost 8.30 at night and I am in Thomassique. Today started around 7.00 am when I just could not sleep for all the animal noises coming from outside the window! I never knew barnyard animlas could make so much noise all night long. For those who live in TGS and have chickens, if any turn out to be roosters, pack them off to a farm... Good Lord, the racket they make. Thank God, no one has donkeys in TGS. Those beasts like to talk all night....

I went to mass today. I was a little reluctant because even though I am catholic, I'm not an every sunday kind of guy. What an experience. It was 2 hours long and I enjoyed every minute. The singing was incredible. The church was the most basic you can imagine. I sat on a plank support by two cement blocks. Everyone was dressed in their best clothes which I can not understand how they get them so clean with such little to work with. It is their one day of the week when they wear these clothes.

Afterwards, I sat on the roof of the rectory and watched the people start to walk back to their homes along the dirt paths, many singing. The sounds of children breaking branches for kindling, men chopping wood, women beating clothes on rocks filled the air (along with the sounds of all those animals...)

After something to eat, we packed up items to take to the town of Thomassique. The journey was long in that we crossed streams and swampy areas in the 4 x 4's and travelled roads that were at best trails. I am not exagerating but my back hurts from the bouncing and neck jerking ride for well over an hour.

I can not count how many naked children I saw, how many barefoot people, how many people (women and children) carrying 5 gallon buckets of water on their heads...

We arrived in Hinche which is a "city" about an hour and a half away where we met up with Dr. Patrick Lecorps and his American wife Anne. We had all traveled together from Miami to Port au Prince and then separated at the airport. Patrick wanted to visit family that survived as well as see a cousin whose wife and two children were crushed to death next to him in their home. He was buried next to their bodies for 5hours before other family members dug him out. Patrick and Anne spent yesterday in PAP and met us in Hinche as they had medical supplies to deliver in Thomassique. We then convoyed with another vehicle picking up hitch hikers along the way.

They told me that I had to go into central PAP before I left to see and witness what had happened. They said the smell of the decaying bodies in the rubble was overbearing. From what they say, the entire central city is completely destroyed. There is not one government building standing and nothing is functioning. Patrick is an Orthepedic Surgeon in Cape. He is very concerned about the rate of infections and the coming rains which will make the misery even worse. People in hospitals are not fed and depend on family, friends or aid agencies to bring them food.

I had seen some tent cities as we skirted the capital Saturday. Anne said that the rest of the city is just a jumble of clear plastic supported by whatever and people are just living like that. We are going early Tuesday so I will be able to see and write about it then.

Thomassique has about 60,000 people. We went to the St. Joseph clinic to deliver medical supplies. There are Americans there: medical students, retired people and Engneers who come down every couple months to work on constructing the clinic, setting up water filtration systems, maintaining the solar panels. The Medical students are there for a year. I asked what they needed and they told me Amoxcilin (sp?), vitamins, pill form antibiotics. They took my e mail address and are going to put together a wish list for when I come back on March 27th. Its a very basic clinic, but it is all these people have for any kind of illness or injury. 60,000 people.... a clinic the size of a suburban house. The waiting room is 4 posts hold up a roof outside...

From there, we came to the Rectory at the church. We ate a small dinner cooked on charcoal. And there is elecricity here! The solar panels are larger and more numerous than at the rectory in Colladere where I spent last night so the lights are slightly brighter. I was able to charge my phone and pee without using a flashlight!

I can not remember what I have posted as it costs alot in battery to review what I wrote and several times I lost service after typing for 20 minutes and using up roaming charges. What I want to say is that for $50, people here can buy a goat. A goat helps a family to survive. It provides milk and if several families in a village have males and females, they can breed them and then create a source of food.

They eat everything of a goat. Head, feet, everything. Last night dinner was boiled goat blood which coagulates into like ground beef. With spices, it tastes very good. I was not too impressed though watching it boil when it was bright red.

When I get home, I will post some pictures and it will help explain what I am having difficulty putting into words....

Tomorrow we deliver items some of you donated. I hope there is still interest in helping here. I'm coming back in March with an Engineer. We are going to install the solar panels that will operate the water filtration system. If anyone is interested in helping pay for his ticket down, it would be appreciated. He is on disability from an accident and has limited income yet comes down when he can to help with getting this water filtration system commissioned.

It's very warm and humid here right now. There are lots of mosquitoes and malaria is a big concern. My best friends the last two days are a small flashlight, the bottle of OFF, hand sanitizer and my beloved roll of toilet paper...

When I was a kid, my parents would say "Eat all your food or be grateful for what you have, there are children starving in the world" It took me 40 years to truly realize and appreciate those words.

Good Night.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Really tough getting a connection up here in central Haiti. All I want to say right now is that I've been here less than 12 hours. These people are poor beyond your wildest dreams. Yet, they are the most friendly, helpful, polite, respectful, resilient people not just to me as a foreigner but to each other. I've seen it extended to strangers all day through the truck window. We, as Americans, can learn a lot from Haiti starting with simple acts of courtesy and respect to each other. You would think with such little there would be so much anger. On the contrary.
It's almost 4 am Saturday morning. I met with Father Rahab Isidor and Dr. Patrick Lecorps last night at the airport here in Miami. It took over an hour for them to sort out tickets for Dr. Lecorps wife. All three Haitians are going back since the earthquake to see family that survived. Dr. lost family when an office building collapsed. They both were very talkative last night and over beers I learned more of Haitian history. I don't have time now as I've got to take a shower and get to the airport...

Our plan is to spend today in PAP. The Doc (as Rahab calls him) wants to check on his mother and they both want to see how badly PAP is. Sunday is the ride out to Thomassique and I was told it will take all day as we will stop in many villages to leave money and some supplies. Both men said they already checked in 5 large suitcases (I couldn't do that as I bought 2 separate tickets; one to Miami and back and the Miami / PAP one). These guys are very anxious and desperate to get home and see for themselves what is left.

If I can connect there, I'll post as I go.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Can not believe I actually was able to get so much stuff packed into the checked boxes (50 pounds in each) as well as two good size stuffed carry ons. The interesting part of this trip is going to be 6 days with 3 underwear, 3 pair socks, one jeans, 2 T Shirts and a STL Cardinals baseball cap.

Meeting Father Rahab Isidor tonight in Miami. Flight tomorrow morning to PAP.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Well, I have selected the lucky clothes I am taking to Haiti. Several people that have gone down have told me to spray the clothes with an insect repellent. The travel department at Barnes gave me a prescription for this stuff that has more warning labels on it than a 2010 Toyota. The only thing missing is that skull and crossbones symbol on the iodine bottle at Grandma's that used to scare the shit out of me when I was a kid.

So the clothes are in the dryer and will be hanging on the fence for the spray down in a few. Everything else is pretty much ready to go including my food supply. I just need to be prepared to feed myself. If the situation is what they say, I really don't want to be eating food that local people need to survive.

I knew I would never be a mule for drugs...not my style, but never thought I would be a mule for soccer balls, toothpaste, crayons and lots of $5 bills!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Well, it appears that we are actually going to be flying into Port au Prince (PAP) this coming Saturday morning. I've packed a good amount of the items people have donated and a small bag for my personal items and food. Father Isidor and I will be traveling together from STL. I was called this past weekend by Lou Hagler who is a founder of OPTE. He was hoping to travel with us, but the tickets are too expensive and he has a business to run in Cape Girardeau.

Lou explained to me that when OPTE decided to build a school, they also identified infrastructure needs. One is clean drinking water. The town of Thomassique does not have electricity and the drinking water comes in to town via a 15 mile pipe. By the time the water arrives in Thomassique, it is contaminated. People draw from the pipe and store water because the flow is not consistent. While stored in plastic containers, the bacteria and parasites in the water grow. People are constantly getting sick and many die from the diahrea they get from the water.

Lou and others from OPTE have trained on how to install a water filtration system created by Living Waters. These systems have been installed in many countries and there are over 300 world wide. There were 20 in Haiti until the earthquake destroyed 6. The units operate by use of a generator. Generators are a good source of energy, but have inherent problems. They are easily stolen, they are frequently disconnected from the water filtration system to provide electricity, but they also require fuel to run.

Living Waters has decided after the Haiti earthquake to convert its water filtration systems from generator fueled to solar fueled. The filtration system for Thomassique is in the early stages of development and installation. The team heading up the installation are now switching gears to make this a solar powered unit. I will be taking pictures and assessing what work on the system has been done by the Haitians in Thomassique so that the Engineers in Cape can begin planning what they will need and what they will do on their next trip to continue the installation.