Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Finally wrote the book

I have been working for months on a book about the Haiti earthquake. Specifically I have been trying to separate the experiences of disaster relief from those that have taken over: working to help Haiti in general.

Disaster response is an effort that stands alone from any perspective in a person's life. It is like nothing else one can live through as one leaves the normal day to day of one's life and walks off of an airplane into total social chaos. One does one's work gets on an airplane after a day or week or month and steps off of that airplane back into the land of Wal-Mart.

So here is what I have done: I took the January blog and put it into a book. I wrote an introduction and an afterword. I then went through each blog post and added commentary where needed and scattered three dozen photographs throughout the manuscript. It ended up being 96 pages in and 8.25" X 8.25 " picture book. It is surprising to me how readable it seems to be. test readers who have reported back have been laudatoryhowever one questions motives when one's friends and family do this sort of review. A couple of acquaintances, Haiti veterans, have also been complementary so I feel good about it.

The link is the book on Amazon. Because of the color photography the book is, in my opinion, very expensive. I have priced it as low as I am able. This evening the self publisher (CreateSpace whom I love) is updating the cover so it shows out of print. That should be resolved tonight. If anyone gets the book I would enjoy feedback. An e-book is available at smashwords.com search 'Callout:'


Regards to all. happy holidays and remember give until it hurts then give some more.

http://www.amazon.com/Callout-Haiti-Earthquake-Response-journey/dp/1456421212/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1291543206&sr=1-2&tag=533633855-20

Thursday, August 5, 2010

There be angels

So as anyone who follows this blog knows (or should know darn you!) I have been laboring to acquire infrastructure for Haiti. Technology infrastructure. There is plenty of content here on my ideas of an information economy for Haiti. A lot of stuff about technology for education. A lot of stuff about the academy to turn out thousands of technologists every year and to provide gainful employment for those graduates.

So these are ambitious plans, goals and dare I say dreams? I know how to build the infrastructure however as I know as well as anyone on the planet knows this stuff is expensive. Really expensive. Once you have the stuff you have to have the skilled people to do the work. Expensive again.

Much of what I have done on Haiti in the last three months has been associated with this overall idea of building a technology infrastructure. To that end I have bothered and pestered and cajoled people to help. That has not yielded a whole lot of tangible progress. Yet chance encounters and conversations have led to the point achieved this day August 5 2010: In a warehouse in South Daytona Florida is enough equipment to build the foundation of an information society in Haiti. No exaggeration and no hyperbole.

A guy by the name of Rob Degnan found out what I was doing in Haiti and sent me some surplus gear a few weeks ago. He turned around and told a friend of his name of Lou what was going on and Lou contacted me. Lots of surplus equipment available in excellent shape was I interested? You bet. I took a look and said 'let's do it send it to me." Ah. Shipping.

It turned out to cost $ 3,000 to ship a full semi trailer load of technology equipment. I don't have the money. Lou picked it up.

I need to spend a month or so going through this equipment; setting up operating systems; configuring equipment to the particular project of which there are more than a dozen; I need warehouse space and work space.

I spent a month asking around for donated space. No go. The truck left NJ on Tuesday still no place to do the work. Andree's brothers said we can put it in our warehouse thanks a ton guys. That was fallback position but the work couldn't be done there not enough space and more importantly it would interfere with their day to day business.

I met a guy by the name of Dwight Selby at, of all places, a garage sale last Saturday. It turns out he owns a warehouse complex. He is also involved in a Christian mens group that does good works. They do not appear to be affiliated with any particular faith or church. Just good people trying to make a better world. Dwight was in Haiti in June doing just that. We had a lot to talk about. Being who I am with no compunction about asking for help I asked Dwight for help.

Dwight gave us an amazing space to work in. Warehouse space to hold a space shuttle it seems and an air conditioned office area in which to work. When the truck showed up this afternoon Dwight spent three hours sweat in the 105 degree heat with me to unload the equipment.

Andree came by and went right to work. Of course.

So tomorrow the work begins to build the equipment out to the specifications need for almost a dozen projects in Haiti. We have a place to work; we have the gear; there are volunteer engineers ready to get to it. In a month we will load this stuff into a shipping container and it will go to Port au Prince where the volunteer engineers will stage it and set it up. The government will have capabilities never before even dreamed of. Education will be available in ways never envisioned. Property records will be available in ten milliseconds instead of ten weeks. And a bunch of other capability that has been a pipe dream for the folks in Haiti who thought this stuff up.

So whatever your definition of angel know that angels walk amongst us. They have skin of every color. They do their daily work and then they step up and do more; tired and hot and exhausted they stand up for other humans.

There be angels and it is my honor to have met so many.

Rob
Lou (and the team)
Dwight
Noel
Laval
Joe
Andree
and so many I haven't named.

Friday, July 30, 2010

July

No post for a month hard to believe.

Work continues and is accelerating on rebuilding (or creating) Haiti's infrastructure including communications and computing. The world's donors (governments and NGOs) continue to ignore pledges made in the winter and spring to Haiti. 2% of actual dollars committed have been delivered and that is terrible.

A datacenter in a semi is on the way to Florida where I will service the equipment and package it for Haiti. More than a dozen projects are depending on this equipment. Exciting times but challenging as well. Everything cost money and there's not any of that left. I will figure out a way.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

CARDICIS III

I am in Santo Domingo at the CARDICIS III. To know what the conference is about go to the website:

This conference proposes to take a look at the recovery of the Haitian nation and peoples from new perspectives. It is incredibly productive. A presentation of recommendations will be made to the Presidents of Haiti and the Dominican Republic on Friday afternoon.

First session ran over ten hours. Tuesday and Wednesday will be the same.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Working in Port au Prince

I am in Haiti again, I arrived Friday afternoon. I will be here until mid-day Sunday then on to Santo Domingo for the CARDICIS conference through Friday night. Look it up; it is an interesting event.

Today I got the Hotel Oloffson's media hotspot up. A little more work by the broadband vendor Monday morning and media types will be able to do useful internet from Port au Prince. This is a joint project of Wired.com; Conde Naste magazines; MultiLink and the Hotel Oloffson. You should have seen all of the NGO folks staying here today when I told them that there were three Apple laptops for use by anyone. Keys have been clacking nonstop. Richard Morse, owner of the hotel, is being really generous in letting people use the hotel's communications. A lot of NGO and UN folks stay here so it's a valuable infrastructure to relief and recovery efforts.

This afternoon and evening I am going to the Salvation Army HQ to plan a broadband installation there. Bob Poff, the guy who brought me to Haiti in January, contact me last week. The organization is moving into permanent HQ finally and have no internet. No emails; no browsing nothing that we all consider basic to the functioning of any office. I have enough computers and servers to build them out so that will probably be a July project.

The IBM donation to Save the Children/Ministry of Education finally got approved. That equipment is in transit to a freight handler in New York and will consolidated into a single shipment next month.

It looks like July onward will be very busy coordinating installation; volunteer engineers; physical plant stuff.

It is good to be back.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Got a wonderful donation today

I inventoried donated computer equipment from a company in Piscataway New Jersey today.

Great equipment. About 70 desktops; 25 or so servers; two self-cooling data center racks and a bunch of ancillary equipment. This stuff is some of what I mentioned in Thursday's posts. The equipment is used but in great shape.

This technology infrastructure is going to fundamentally change a lot of lives. I am very excited. Combined with donations from individuals and companies including IBM I now have about one full twenty foot container of equipment to get to Haiti.

Compared to securing the donations and moving the equipment to Haiti the deployment and installation will be fun.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A missive from Jordan

Jordan Allie is one of the two former Marines whom I met in mid-January. Jordan and Josiah did the standard Marine gig in Haiti: saving lives and being quiet about it. We stay in contact a bit. He sent me this piece from Robert Service. I know I have seen it before but after the last five months it strikes a chord with me. I do not feel that failure is a consequence of failing to fit in but it is deeply moving to me. To all who pick up and go and to all of our families who suffer because we do; if I may be so arrogant as to include myself in this group.

The Men Who Don't Fit In By Robert W. Service:

There's a race of men that don't fit in, A race that can't stay still; So they break the hearts of kith and kin, And they roam the world at will. They range the field and they rove the flood, And they climb the mountain's crest; Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood, And they don't know how to rest. If they just went straight they might go far; They are strong and brave and true; But they're always tired of the things that are, And they want the strange and new. They say: "Could I find my proper groove, What a deep mark I would make!" So they chop and change, and each fresh move Is only a fresh mistake. And each forgets, as he strips and runs With a brilliant, fitful pace, It's the steady, quiet, plodding ones Who win in the lifelong race. And each forgets that his youth has fled, Forgets that his prime is past, Till he stands one day, with a hope that's dead, In the glare of the truth at last. He has failed, he has failed; he has missed his chance; He has just done things by half. Life's been a jolly good joke on him, And now is the time to laugh. Ha, ha! He is one of the Legion Lost; He was never meant to win; He's a rolling stone, and it's bred in the bone; He's a man who won't fit in

Donations!

I have a round 11 technology projects in some stage of completion in Haiti. NGOs and government ministries.

I have been beating the bush to secure equipment donations and all I have managed generally is a bunch of thorns from the bushes.

This week I have received donations of the following:

Cisco networking equipment
SAN storage gear
A bunch of monitors for desktops
A large brand new UPS unit
At least 80 desktop computers with fresh Windows operating systems and monitors
Quite a few servers


This equipment is going to do three projects in total and contribute equipment to three others. Schools are going to be the recipients of the bulk of the gear; adult literacy programs are the focal point.

This is exciting. Now the challenge: I have to get the equipment from the US to Haiti. I am working on donor transport but right now it looks like it's got to be payment for shipping. Oh well.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The shelter question


The NGOs and the UN who are running the shelter cluster (UN speak for the agencies making sure that the homeless in Haiti have a place to live that is dry and safe and free of intrusion by mosquitoes et al) decided a couple of months ago that rather than providing tents to the homeless that they would use tarps.

I have yet to find anyone in the system who can explain this decision to me. The subtext is cost. A tarp cost about $ 30 delivered to Haiti. A decent durable tent cost about $ 500. There is a need for about 400,000 shelters. Now remember that we aren't talking about permanent homes. I am talking about immediate shelter needs for hungry injured people; one third children.

So the powers that be; primarily the Red Cross; decided that tarps would be the answer. While some staff were and are on the ground in Haiti the decisions are made elsewhere.

As noted on this blog by a representative of the American Red Cross (ARC) hundreds of thousands of Haitians made homeless had been provided shelter.

Bullshit.

I dug into the numbers. 560,000 tarps to house 1.5 million homeless. 60,000 tents.

I pressed and finally got someone who actually had some numbers.

The site surveys by the shelter cluster tell us that between 3 and 5 tarps are required to produce a viable shelter. There are other components: the shelter cluster tells people they need to access local resources to build a frame for the tarp. No floor of course and forget keep mosquitoes out.

So the media relations folks at the ARC say the population has been served above the 90% level.

Bullshit twice. Take a look at this recommended shelter construction picture. It is helpfully written in Creole.

Imagine you are a mid-30s single parent with one elderly parent to care for. Of the five people in your family group one has significant trauma from the earthquake perhaps an amputation. The children have been living in the dirt four the past five months. The job you counted on to provide money to buy food disappeared 12 January. Most of the food aid to the camps has stopped. Water is hard to find. Everyone is sick. Depression? You can not even imagine. Every day the struggle is to find food and water for your family. Dry clothes are a thing of fantasy because it has been raining for two months. And the people responsible for dispensing the hundreds of millions of dollars of aid that the world donated tell you to do the following:

1. Find open space of about 200 square feet.
2. Find four or five tarps.
3. Locate structural lumber to build a frame.
4. Locate a shovel
5. Locate various fastening items such as clips; ropes; hammer; nails
6. Build a frame that is properly cross braced.
7. Build a peak roof on the frame.
8. Properly attache tarps to the frame for side walls.
9. Put the roof on the structure (guess you need a ladder)
10. Assure that all materials are firmly attached to withstand torrential downpours and high winds.
11. Find mosquito repellent because even if the thing stands up you can't secure it against bugs.

Do all that while trying simply to survive. A good tent cost $ 500 and will house ten people with stand up headroom; a waterproof floor; ventilation via screened windows. The citizens of the United States donated $ 400,000,000. Of which over $ 300,000,000 remains unspent. Enough to buy 600,000 ten person tents that at half occupancy could hold three million people.

The Red Cross would rather keep the money in the bank and turn out this sort of drivel. No awareness of the real situation on the ground. No sympathy to the victims. Just bureaucratic crap that some think tank put together in their air conditioned office in Geneva or Melbourne or Washington. This is so shameful it approaches criminal liability.

With no further ado here is the shelter cluster's recommendation on how to shelter yourself in Haiti. Let's all build one of these so we can live in sympathy with Haiti eh. Yeah that won't happen in my lifetime.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Tech-Assist-Haiti

Andree and I went ahead and spent the money to form a not for profit on Haiti. The name is Tech Assist Haiti. Web site coming soon.

One of the primary reasons I did this was that I can deduct my own expenses on the Haiti stuff. I did my tax return last month and realized that I couldn't take any of the money we have spent off of income. Argh! So the corporation is formed and the application for 501(c)(3) designation is in process. So anyone moved to donate money to a reliable cause will have a place to put it. And equipment which can be donated; a fair value letter will be provided; bingo a return of some of your taxes paid.

Projects

Here are the current projects that I am work on. I can't get anyone to spring a single penny to move stuff forward but the struggle will continue until I am successful or I drop. Right now put your wagers on dropping but I am buying lottery tickets regularly.

• Save the Children-Computer labs in schools. Need computers.
• Ministry of Education. Two projects: computer labs in schools and building tech infrastructure for the ministry. Need computers. Funds for various logistics activities.
• Salvation Army: computers in their schools and putting broadband connectivity into their facilities. Need computers, funds for volunteer travel.
• MultiLink: Helping with engineering assistance and looking for funding to put their nationwide broadband buildout into operation.
• Ministry of Public Works and Ministry of Energy: Strategic planning conference on building Haiti tech infrastructure properly. http://haiticon.ht we need a sponsor to pay for the facility and prep work.
• Ministry of Public Works, Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Education, IBM: Building an academy to house/feed/train technology works. Build a datacenter to host outsourcing. Huge project, $ 8 to $ 10 million next two years.
• Grand Chemin Project: Community building project to create business center, clinic, school, farmer’s coop. Need computers. Need funds for various logistics activities.
• Conde Naste Magazines and Hotel Oloffson: Build a reliable internet cafĂ© for the use of all journalists (this one is almost finished)
• Richard Morse and Jimmy Buffet: Community building in the countryside to bring jobs, technology to underserved population. Don’t know what is needed there.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Rant: 48 hours on

So my rant or fit of anger or pique or whatever it is called is 48 hours old now. I have had time to calm down from the sensory overload that I experienced Thursday to Monday.

Going back and forth between the US and Haiti as I have been doing is a jarring exercise. The fact I am doing this every few weeks is creating a cumulative effect on me. My frustration with the lack of activity on the part of every segment of my home society is growing by the hour. There is a humanitarian disaster (as opposed to a point event disaster like an earthquake) evolving less than two hour's flying time from my house. That really bothers me.

It bothers me because for the first time in human history the facts of an imminent disaster are available to everyone who cares to know. This is not the early Soviet Union where Stalin killed 20 million and no one knew. This is not Nazi Germany where our leaders knew that the government of Germany was killing millions of innocents but the population did not know here. This is not Rwanda in Bill Clinton's term where people sort of knew something was wrong but the tribal complications and distance created indifference. This situation is simple; the facts are out there for everyone; the situation degrades every day.

I have come to the conclusion that the US is comprised of a bunch of hard working people who care deeply about a lot of things. People who look themselves in the mirror and tell themselves that they are contributing members of society. The totality of this culture is one of giving and compassion. The problem lies in that totality.

We seem to think that our government will take care of things like Haiti. Our government will make sure that tens of thousands do not die of malaria. Our government will 'do the right thing' and make sure that things are OK for the Haitian people. After all, we tell ourselves, the US gave billions in aid after the earthquake so we have done our part. Many of us donated money to the Red Cross for Haiti. We can feel good about that.

That sort of group think collective avoidance of individual responsibility for action is directly affecting the people of Haiti. A nation built on the principle of individual responsibility and individual action has become a nation that wants reality TV and delivery pizza.

What is our individual responsibility? We all have our own answer to that question. Based on the comments I have received from my rant two nights ago I pissed off a lot of folks. I think that is wonderful. According to the site counter there have been just under 200 readers of that page since I put it up. 200 folks; the few who reached out to me were angry. I hope I made 200 angry. Maybe one or six or thirty will take action.

The next rant is scheduled for the 24 hours following my next return from Haiti if not before. Fair warning.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The reason for the rant...

I live in Florida and work in New York. I had seven client meetings yesterday it was a very long day.

One of the meetings was at a company (I can't say the name) that has, hands down, the most opulent facility I have ever seen. Fifteen or twenty floors of office building. On every floor two, not one, food/coffee bars. Everything free. All of these people rushing around doing their work and stopping to get a coffee or juice or something to eat.

I sat there for half an hour waiting for my meeting. Watching all of these people go by. Thinking of the streets of Port au Prince. Knowing that if we transported 1,000 Haitians into that building they would think that aliens had abducted them and taken them to the mother ship of Doritos and Coke.

It weighs on one. A lot.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Rant

Fair warning. This is a rant. For a lot of reason I will not explain I am fairly well placed in a space where I am fed up.

I was just on my balcony have a cigarette before going to bed. My balcony looks across the Hudson River at the World Trade Center. I was comparing in my mind the events of 9/11 and the Haitian earthquake. Then I thought about Katrina.

In Katrina we lost under 3,000 Americans. On 9/11 the death toll was about the same. Between these two events the US government and US charities spent a lot of money. $ 300 billion dollars perhaps?

We are failing our brothers and sisters in Haiti.

$ 300 billion dollars would feed the population of Haiti, pre 12 January, for 60 years. If every single Haitian sat down on the ground and did no not do a thing our expenditures for the two events here in the good old USA would feed them all for sixty damned years. Two generations.

People I knew died on 9/11. i was as upset about that event as anyone. I went to Katrina and spent all of my money helping people. I borrowed everything I could and spent that too. I still haven't paid off those bills. I feel that I am justified in commenting on those events and on Haiti.

The ugliness in our society has just simply reached a level that I am not able to tolerate. People in Haiti die every day. And in Sudan. And in Yemen. And in Uruguay. And in West Virginia. And in Miami. Mumbai. Name a place.

We live our lives of indescribable luxury. We do our little bitty things to 'help' and go on with our soccer matches and our lunches at work and our prewashed blue jeans. And we ignore the suffering on our planet.

I watched a man die on the streets of Port au Prince yesterday. Nothing special except to those who loved him and trust me there were people who loved him. Children starved to death today on this planet. Mothers cried that cry that is unique; most of us here in our pampered palaces do not know that sound. I do.

Haiti is one hour and 20 minutes from Miami by air. At least four airlines fly to Port au Prince on a regular schedule these days. It cost me $ 160 to fly to Port au Prince last week.

So tell me good and caring Americans: why aren't those airplanes full of you going to Haiti with your baggage full food? Why are there tens of thousands of people in Haiti whose minds have broken wandering around without a therapist to counsel and heal them? We have lots of shrinks here. Why aren't they there?

So we argue our silly political arguments. We actually give a rolling shit if Rush Limbaugh really speaks for the right. People spend millions of dollars arguing over a woman's right to an abortion.

Get over yourselves. You are spoiled. Your concerns are just about 100% childish. You won't go hungry in America. Your biggest concern will be the wound to your pride if you have to get food stamps. You can go to a hospital and get treated; if you do not have insurance you may get nasty telephone calls from a bill collector. Oh goodness, a bad phone call.

Live in a tent during a six hour torrential downpour. Do that when your four year old child has pneumonia. And your elderly mother (old at 50 in Haiti) has one leg because she got slammed by a concrete block on 12 January. Know that whatever you do your child will probably die and when your mother is too much of a burden that you will turn her out on to the street because you simply can not take care of everyone around you who is in need.

You are spoiled rotten. That's not your fault your parents, your society, did that. You are an adult. It is your responsibility to live your own life now. Care about others; care about strangers. Spend all of your money and walk away from your job and abandon the competition with who has the nicest car or the prettiest dress or the best record on liberal social causes. Get over yourself you are not all that important.

You do not matter any more than the naked woman walking the crowded streets yesterday or the nice man who fell over and died while I looked in his eyes. Yesterday. The people who never had a chance because they have had bad government and bad schools and bad luck.

Shut up about what matters to you. I don't care. I am sitting here watching Keith Olberman and if I had the opportunity I would walk in his studio on-air and ask him 'what have you done for Haiti?'.

What have you done for Haiti?

I have the answer: nothing. If you had I would have met you there because you know what? I have.

Shame on you.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Woke up with a song in my head

Nice day here in Haiti. I woke up this morning after a 20 hour day with a song in my head. Don't know the tune I think it is something like Jimmy Buffett's Havana Daydreaming.

Haitian Tears

I smoked too much dope
Never snorted no coke
Didn’t have the money
Rode some waves
Loved the babes
Tried to find what’s funny

Somewhere there in my life
I got old
My hair fell out
My friends moved on
And I just made money
53 years and all I had
Was a family that loves me full
I thought life was bad
Didn’t know what I had
Fishing for reds and reading some books
What more can there be?

I smoked too much dope
Never snorted no coke
Didn’t have the money
Rode some waves
Loved the babes
Tried to find what’s funny

Dad and granddad to the kids
Son and buddy and brother
Haiti got hurt and I got called
Left Memphis and didn’t’ go home
My pack weighed my back
Old bones ached with every step
Delmas 2
In January
Nothing could really be this bad
Sat phone rings
The wife says hi how are you are you alive?
Yes I am fine I have to go
The kids have no water
Aftershocks and MREs and bonfires in the night

I smoked too much dope
Never snorted no coke
Didn’t have the money
Rode some waves
Loved the babes
Tried to find what’s funny

Leave and return it’s in my skin
I can’t explain don’t want to explain
No one understands
The kids are hurt the mothers are sad
We gotta help them out
Money is easy time is scarce
How can I find the balance?
Wife says OK you go away
Don’t forget we love you and come home soon
Mom says you may die there I say I know
And I will be proud of you , you gotta go
Everyone says you have work the team needs you bad
I say OK I’ll do it someday but right now the rucksack is packed
Call you later if the cell phone works take care of things my friends

I smoked too much dope
Never snorted no coke
Didn’t have the money
Rode some waves
Loved the babes
Tried to find what’s funny

I get it now what I needed
It’s all right there at home
Love and time and smiles and tears
They filled up all those years
They made me strong for the days so long
To wipe these Haitian tears

I smoked too much dope
Never snorted no coke
Didn’t have the money
Rode some waves
Loved the babes
Tried to find what’s funny

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Humbled

I have been working on a number of projects in Haiti. Anyone following these infrequent blog posts know what I am doing. I am doing quite a few posts on Facebook simply because it is easier than doing a blog update.

I have been working with an individual in Haiti to get broadband into his hotel for a public access internet cafe. It is 80% public service and 20% for his clientele. I am going to Haiti this week to do the site survey. The logistics are all in place. The provider is set. I have to find a few desktops to set up in the hotel for public access; that will not be a problem at worst case I have an inside source at IBM that gets them for right at $ 200 each.

So the reason for this post: We were emailing back and forth on details. The guy asked me a question about streaming video (the question was actually generated to him by Jimmy Buffet) and I answered the question.

So two things humbled me:

1. Jimmy Buffet (who I admire on all levels) is involved in this discussion. Way cool.
2. Richard (the client/customer/user/friend) asked me "Are you a technology Angel"

The caps were his.

Wow. I am head down working details to get stuff done. Anyone who knows me knows that is what I do. If I was a mule pulling a plow in the Delta I would probably run into the oak tree at the end of the row. I spend so much time in the weeds I sometimes just don't realize that some of this stuff is important on an individual basis.

You can approach the level of sadness despair death and anger in Haiti in two ways. You can get there and lose yourself in the simple fact that many people die every day. Things that we here in the US don't even think about kill people. A scratch on the leg from a piece of reinforcement bar sticking out into the sidewalk. A drink of water from a dirty source. Spoiled food. A mosquito bite. That is if you did not get squashed on 12 January or in the aftershocks in the following 10 days.

A hundred other ways to die. You can lose yourself in this; Sean Penn is doing that right now. I admire him like few people I have ever witnessed but the man is killing himself saving lives. That is one way to do it. The other is to write them all off. Accept that many will die while you working to resolve the infrastructure problems that cause the poverty that is the foundation of everything. That is how I view it. I have to step back and say 'I can't save them all so maybe I can save the next generation.'

That is an arrogant attitude and of course I can't save the next generation. The principle is valid. Most of the humanitarian assistance people I know have developed deep capability to ignore individual suffering. At least on the conscious level. I will never tell anyone of the nightmares. It is the only way to stay sane and do the work.

Then some guy who you have met twice who is trying to do good things for his nation calls you an angel. Wow.

When the day job is killing me and my wife is yelling at me because I am neglecting my kids and grandkids and she is scared I will die in Haiti I don't have a reply for her. This is tough stuff to do. It was tough the first week and it is tough now after four months. We are now into the deep grind period. The media are gone. No telethons this week; some other disaster has taken the stage. I could have gotten on an airplane to Chile or to China in the last two months. Logistics and communications are the closest things disaster response has to a religion and I guess I am a high priest. Haiti is going to be my last. It may be the end of me but that is Ok because in the end we should be measured not by what we put in the bank but what we give away. All the people who love me are reminding me constantly that I am giving it all away and my response is 'go with me and see why.'

It's my blog so I get to pontificate any way I want.

Poverty has been with us forever. My Baptist upbringing says that the poor will be with us always. I reject that statement. We can break the back of poverty. We can end hunger. 1,200 children a day die on this planet from prevantable causes. Tweleve hundred!

When you brush your teeth tomorrow morning look in the mirror and think about the 400 children that died while you were alseep. The 400 who will die while you work at your stamping machine or desk or gas pump or fly your airplane. Another 400 will die while you have your after work drink and your dinner and watch American Idol. 50 will die during the show. If you are disturbed by these facts and toss and turn all night another 400 have died. If you are blessed to be a parent think about the fact that every hour 100 parents have had their dearly loved expire. Died. Gone.

I don't need a zero percent financed new car every two years. Neither do you. 1,400 square feet is fine for a family of five you do not need 3,500. I know people who handle it in 40 square feet of Coleman tent. Turn off the air conditioner. Cook your meals instead of spending a thousand a month eating out. Give to Doctors Without Borders or Oxfam or Salvation Army. Don't give to the others because, despite the posts below, those are the international NGOs I believe have it together.

I am no angel. I am a spoiled narccistic self indulgent spoiled brat. We all are.

Richard you paid me the highest complement of my life but I am not worthy.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Getting a project organized

I have been working a lot since Monday to get the Ministry of Education infrastructure project organized.

Infrastructure is one of the buzz words running around our world these days. It really means the back end of a computing center. You access infrastructure when you go to Google to look up something; when you sign on to a bank; when you use email or SMS texting. The work is actually done on banks of servers. That is the infrastructure. I have made a living for 31 years building the stuff. It's not very interesting work but it is a good living.

The Haitian government had IT infrastructure before the earthquake. When the Ministry of Education's building collapsed it crushed all of the servers. The desktop computers, laptops and printers as well. When Andree and I met with the Director General of the Ministry he identified the creation of a new ministry infrastructure as the most critical function that was yet to be restored.

Restoring schools to function is a high priority of the Haitian government as well as with many of the NGOs operating in the nation. Without access to student academic records the school system is hamstrung.

I have presented the technical requirements for the infrastructure to IBM for provision of the equipment. I have not had a response yet I hope to get that in the next days. I have also reached out to some additional suppliers if that source of equipment does not work out. I will get this done.

I have located one of the very important pieces of equipment: a brand new 10 KVA UPS system. That is an expensive proposition and all I have to do is get it shipped. This is probably the most expensive individual piece of equipment. Total cost on this project is going to be in the neighborhood of $ 200,000.00.

I have volutneers in line to do the technical engineering. Our analysis of the requirements (the tech design is about complete) is that it will be about 12 days of work.

I am working on acquiring some cash dollars to cover the volunteers' expenses. All of the volunteers are willing to cover their expenses but based on last week's trip I want to try to cover those costs. A week in Port-au-Prince is costly these days when one considers air travel, driver and car, hotel, food and all of the costs that go along with travel.

So I will let everyone know how things go. It is an exciting project with high value to the people of Haiti. My target is project initiation by the first of May with completion by the end of the month.

Rick

Monday, April 12, 2010

A comment from the Red Cross

Gloria Huang posted a comment to today's post clarifying the shelter situation from the Red Cross perspective. I thought that it would be courteous to reproduce the post on the main blog so that everyone will see it without clicking on 'comment' on the original post. I want to thank MS Huang for the clear report.
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Gloria Huang said... Hi Rick,

I work at the American Red Cross headquarters and am hoping that I can help clarify the tent issue you mentioned above.

I think that the report you are referencing actually states that we have provided over 1 million people with shelter materials, which include tents and tarps and other shelter supplies. Our goal has been to provide emergency shelter materials to all of the estimated 1.3 million homeless by May 1st, when rains are expected to reach their peak.

We also plan to help construct transitional shelters out of timber or steel as soon as possible, as more rubble is cleared and other factors like land ownership are resolved.

As far as tarps versus tents goes, Red Cross workers on the ground are conversing with survivors to decide whether to provide a tarp or a tent. Factors in this decision process include: amount of rubble in the area, size of family unit, who is most vulnerable, the survivors’ needs, and which item would work best for them as a transitional shelter until a more permanent one can be found or built.

Shelter is definitely a priority right now. We actually just released a three month report on Haiti relief, which I hope will help provide you with more detail: http://bit.ly/ARC3monthHaiti

Feel free to also email me with any other questions you have, and I will do my best to find answers for you. Thanks,

Gloria Huang

We are back in Florida

I had to cut the trip short because of a couple of urgent day job items so Andree and I flew out of PauP Sunday afternoon. Landed in Miami took a cab to Ft. Lauderdale airport picked up the car and drove home. 13 hours total travel time a tremendous improvement on previous trips.

We had a bit of a problem getting across the city to the airport because suddenly in the last couple of days there are dump trucks and small bulldozers (mostly Bobcats) everywhere. The rubble cleanup accelerated in the four days we were there and by Sunday morning the dust in the air was as thick as it was immediately after the earthquake. That is a positive. Roads that were clear six weeks ago now have rubble piles in them as the people of the city move rubble from the collapsed buildings to the roadside. That is the sytem the government has set up: move the rubble to the roadside and the government will pick it up. That is the same process used for removal of bodies immediatley after the earthquake; it seems to be working.

We saw a number of frame buildings being put up on cleared city lots. Frame construction with tin roofs.

Today is when schools have been told to reopen. There is a lot of anxiety for people on this; they want their children to go to school however many of the schools are private and charge fees and most of those who had jobs no longer are employed as most businesses shut down due to either destruction of the business or loss of customer base. Another concern is that it is very difficult to move around and transporting students is going to take hours back and forth every day.

On the negative side I read a Red Cross report last week that more than one million tents have been distributed and most of the population has a tent. We went from PauP to Leogane to Jacmel on Saturday (a very interesting trip) and the majority of the population is living in makeshift shelter still. I have no idea where all of these tents are going.

Even with a tent the living conditions continue to be horrible for the displaced. The tents are right next to the roads; sometimes in the roads; and are covered with thick dust. Even with daily heavy rain the dust is pervasvie I have a sore throat just from breathing it for three days. I can not imagine having a small child living in a tent at or on the road breathing that all of the time.

This, my third trip to Haiti after the earthquake, was the first trip where it was necessary to have money. There are hotels and restauraunts and taxis. Not many and there are waiting lists for rooms. And things, for us at least, have gotten very expensive. Three nights in a hotel and two meals a day cost us just under a thousand dollars. A couple of club sandwiches and Coke for lunch runs around $ 50 without tip. Ouch. For what we spent on this trip we could have had a nice vacation. Drivers and ancillary costs and airplanes and all that and it got expensive.

I am of two minds about spending money like this to stay in a hotel I would not even go near here in the USA. On the one hand I do not like the high prices however pumping $ 1,000 a day into the tourism and hotel economy can not be a bad thing for Haiti.

That's all for now.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Three days in PauP

Andree and I have spent the last three days going from 6 AM until 11 PM. An amazing amount can be accomplished if you do not sleep.

We are still in Haiti at the Hotel Oloffson (Google it a very cool and funky place) and will fly home tomorrow. We made amazing progress on the infrastructure projects.

We visited a small orphanage on Friday afternoon. Michael and Mathieu had been there and provided initial subsistence aid. Andree and I went there with a couple of duffel bags of things for the kids. Get this: A young Haitian couple is caring for 39 children around the clock. They live up a small hill from blasted ruins that you have to climb over to get to.

I aggreed to help Jean Prospere Alneus

He and his wife do this on their own. They have nothing. Yet they feed house wash and educate 39 resident children and another 46 day students. We took a few small things and gave them all our cash when we left. Amazing place.

We need to help them. I will set up some web assistance.

I will post (when we are back in the US) some video of this group. The children are clean and happy and they would be stone dead without Jean and his wife.

Friend him; he is posting updates on Facebook.

A great trip. This nation and this large city are still mortally wounded. There are still huge problems in delivery of basic subsistence to hundreds of thousands. Haitians are essentially saying 'screw the international community and 'our own government' and going forward with rebuilding. That is bad because they are just trying to survive and will make bad choices in the construction.

More Sunday or Monday when I am back in the US. Send me an email if you want to help Jean Prosper and his wife (I did not get her name damn it) and I will let you know how to do it. 39 beuatiful kids.

Rick

Friday, April 2, 2010

Technical Academy of Haiti (Tech-Haiti)

Here is the startup phase action plan for Tech-Haiti. Comments welcome.

It is a large task and is going to take a lot of time, a lot of people and a lot of money. The payoff is tremendous. Formatting does not seem to work in this blogger post.

Building an information economy in Haiti This project is an ambitious endeavor to build an international information economy in the nation of Haiti. Haiti has numerous advantages as a location to construct a vibrant information economy that is capable of providing excellent technology services to the worldwide customer base at a very reasonable cost. By combining the very low cost to employ an educated workforce there is the potential to transform the lives of many of the citizens of Haiti. The construction of an information technology infrastructure that will provide for well paying jobs for hundreds or thousands of Haitians is not a simple task. To be successful this project will require significant investments of funds, time and expertise. Success will be achieved on that day when all international entities involved in the construction of the various components of the project have exited operational activities and the employees/owners of the Haitian corporate entity have assumed responsibility for the future success of all involved entities. This project will encompass a number of phases. Each phase is critical to the overall success. The phases as presently envisioned are:

1. Startup Phase
a. Create operational entities
i. US 503 (1) C to fund startup and construction
ii. Haitian for-profit corporation
iii. Empanel boards of directors for operational entities
iv. Empanel advisory boards for operational entities
b. Secure startup funding
i. Hire project executive
ii. Locate and secure temporary facility
iii. Hire Haitian student instructors
iv. Fund expatriate instructor corps
c. Create mission statement
d. Secure operational integration of Haitian entities
i. Ministry of Education
ii. Ministry of Commerce and Technology
iii. Education entities in Haiti
iv. Community and citizen groups
e. Solicit proposals from educational design sources for curricula
i. English as Second language (ESOL)
ii. Fundamental literacy skills
iii. Call center skills
iv. Programming skills (JAVA)
v. Server operations
vi. Networking
f. Design candidate entrance exam-preliminary
g. Solicit candidate applications
h. Design permanent infrastructure
i. Technology
1. Computing infrastructure including storage
2. Network infrastructure
3. Operating systems
4. Application software
ii. Facility
1. Create detailed specification for permanent facility
2. Solicit design proposals for facility including housing, technical, power, water
and sewer.
3. Determine location of permanent facility
4. Solicit construction bids from contractors (prime to be Haitian)
5. Develop capital budget for permanent facility
6. Identify sources of capital funding

Thursday, April 1, 2010

News events and other things

I see it has been six weeks since I posted.

Haiti has fallen out of the twenty four hour news cycle. A bit of coverage this week as the UN Donor conference was held in New York.

Living conditions are horrible in Port au Prince as had been predicted. I am not working that much but rather putting lots of hours into long term planning. There is great concern everywhere that I go that the money Haiti will recieve be used properly.

The government of Haiti is slowly putting together the broad outline of the reconstruction plan. That is not an accurate name as the initiative is to build a totally new Haiti.

The picture on technological infrastructure and operations in Haiti has cleared up somewhat. There are a couple of broadband vendors in operation: AccessHaiti and MultiLink with whom I worked in February. Inveno, a telecoms charity, has a rural broadband project in conjunction with MultiLink. That project is in need of funding. The dollars are low ($ 300,000) in comparisson to the hundreds of thousands who will receive service. That project is 'shovel ready' so to speak so if anyone knows of a donor interested in fundamentally changing the future of tens of thousands of people let me know. I can make the connection.

I continue to work on the plan for a technical academy for Haiti. This academy will train Haitians first to teach other Haitians. The technical focal points will be skills necessary to provide outsource technical services to clients around the world. There is an excellent article on the power of broadband to change a society in the Economist of London newspaper (it's actually a weekly newsmagazine) this week. That project will be submitted to IBM Corporation's community and humanitarian organization for funding. I expect IBM will come through on some of the project however I will have to find funding for a lot of it. The phase one plan is finally complete in draft and out for comment to the Haitian government and some interested parties. Once that document is in 'gold' state I will post it here and on Facebook.

Lastly I am working with Save the Children and the Haitian Ministry of Education. The project there is two part: There is a need for technological capability in the Minstry itself. The earthquake destroyed the building and computers of the Ministry therefore they need the whole infrastructure. The second part is to put a 20 computer lab in each of 150 schools in Haiti. Again I am going to IBM for their KidSmart program; I haven't had any response on that project as yet. I did meet with IBM's VP of corporate giving in February and was given strong encourgement both on the academy and on the children's computers for schools. Take a look at IBM's KidSmart devices they are fascinating. Google IBM KidSmart.

I am planning to be in Port-au-Prince late next week for meetings with Save the Children; the Ministry of Public Works ( on the academy); the Minsitry of Education (Ministry infrastructure and school labs); a small orphanage that I a going to look at and assess need.

I will try and do a better job of keeping this up. I am using Facebook as a consolidator of Haitian and non-Haitian contacts so anyone wanting to keep up daily is welcome to friend me. What a term eh?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Haiti's spirit


I realized this morning that I have not posted much about the spirit of the Haitian people. Occasionally I have referenced individuals I have met. I recorded the singing in the camp the first week.

I want to talk about Georges Doemicke and Albert Donald (pictured above.) Georges is on the left Albert is on the right.

These two gentlemen are antenna technicians for MultiLink the internet service company. I worked with them all day on Monday to get connectivity in place at the Universitie.

Last Saturday was their first day off since the earthquake. They have been working every day to get some sort of capability back in place to critical entities such as NGOs, the United Nations, police and government. Their work ethic is impressive and their attitude is amazing. They drive their little white van all around the destroyed city and do the work. If it is scavenging equipment from former customer sites that fell that is what they do. If it is find a post or a pole or a tree that has a line of sight to a transmitter they will crawl and climb in manners that would make their mothers cringe. It is important work so they do it. All along there is laughter and discussion. Both Albert and Georges are hungry to learn more about their profession. Both aspire to become CCIE certified; that is the professional certification for Cisco networking equipment. Given an opportunity I know they will excel.

Well into the day after we had gotten to know each other we were stuck in traffic. Albert turned around to me (I was in the back of the van sitting on a spool of cable) and asked 'do you have tents?'

The question confused me. Once I understood he was asking about tents to live in I told him no. I asked the living situation of each.

Albert lives with his mother, father and five siblings. Georges is married with two young daughters. Both lost the dwellings in which they lived. Since the earthquake both family units have been living, literally, in the dirt.

It just amazes me. These two guys are out doing their work. They have jobs and that is a good thing for themselves and their families. They aren't running around trying to find housing for their families they are doing the work that is important to the nation and are tolerating their living conditions. They also, I assume, ask anyone they encounter if they have tents.

I connected Georges and Albert with a couple of sources of shelter. I hope that they can get their tents.

The spirit that puts the need of the nation ahead of this sort of personal discomfort is impressive. This story is being repeated thousands of times over in Port-au-Prince, Jacmel, Legoane and everywhere else. Look at the people who dug the hole for the telephone pole. Everyone who has worked in Haiti over the last five weeks has the same story: Haitians want to make things better.

The international community and individuals who want to assist must be certain that when aid is given that the spirit is enhanced. Those who want to go to Haiti and dicatate to Haitians what is best for the nation and its people are misguided. Let those of us who have now become involved with this wonderful culture and its hardworking faithful people respect these people as we wish to be respected ourselves.

Georges and Albert have earned my respect. As has nearly everyone I met.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A very special moment




In a world where there is destruction everywhere that which is trivial elsewhere can have a larger-than-life impact. On Monday I experienced one of those moments. No lives were saved; no smiling children to grace my memory. I did not facilitate the acquisition of millions of dollars of aid or supplies. It was all about a telephone pole.

I posted earlier today about putting a WiMax antenna on a tree at the universitie. The universitie was to host French President Sarkozy for a web conference with students and faculty. With this being the very first visit by a French president to the independent nation of Haiti to say the government and universitie folks were anxious that things go well is quite the understatement.

On Saturday before we installed on Monday I had made a site visit with Paolo Chilosi of MultiLink. We picked the proper spot for installation of a pole so that the antenna would have a good view of the broadcast tower on the mountain-top. I marked the place for the pole.

In most of PaP we have these antennas on scavenged 2x4 lumber; 12 or 16 feet pulled out of destroyed building. That was what I expected. When Georges and Albert and I arrived with equipment we removed from a damaged building by the National Palace to do the install there was no pole. Oh well. I sort of expected that to be the case improvisation is the name of the game. We found a tree that would serve and moved forward with the installation pictured in the earlier post.

We had finished the install and gotten good connectivity. The universitie folks were very happy that the connectivity was up.

Into the drive turns a large truck. Really large. On the truck was a brand new creosote covered telephone pole. The truck had a crane.

A bunch of Haitian men, not affiliated with the universitie, scavenged broken metal out of hte buildings. They hand dug a hole for the telephone pole. Fingers and bits of metal for shovels. Someone came up with a shovel head and a guy put it on a piece of pipe. Those guys went down 8 or 10 feet.

When they were done the truck maneuvered around the tents in the lot. The two guys from the truck lifted that telephone pole and dropped it right in to the hole. Everyone went to work and back filled the hole and there it was a brand new telephone pole.

I turned to the chair of the economics department; one of the few living faculty. He was smiling big. I said 'this is building. A month of death and destruction and this is the first step in building the future.' A few tears around the parking lot or, as the chancellor told me, 'the world's first digital tent university.'

An incredibly moving moment all about a silly telephone pole.

Back home


Just a brief update. Lots of things to do; one of the main tasks has been to catch up on the job.

We put up a WiMax circuit on a tree at Universitie Quisqueya fairly amazing. Internet broadband in the parking lot of a blasted university for the President of France to do a tele-conference. Hey whatever works eh?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Back in the US Tuesday February 16

Very long day Monday scavenging equipment to set up an internet point of presence at the Universitie in advance of the visit of the President of France on Wednesday. Georges Albert and myself worked it til almost dark finally getting the installation done using a tree as the anchor for the antenna. Emergency measure for emergency times. Pictures to post of that tomorrow.

Lot sof wonderful things going on in Haiti as respects how the reconstruction of the physical. technical and social infrsatructure will occur. I was honored to have the opportunity to meet with and share ideas with a nover of individuals at the minsterial level. There are very good Haitian minds taking a look at the past the present and the future. I am excited about the future of Haiti to create significant good from the dust and rubble of this terrible tragedy.

I found out the hard way the US government is not doing evac flights any more. Very few if any seats for citizens who show up at the airport. The airlift into Haiti of supply is over from the US government's perspective therefore not any available seating for ordinary citizens. I have the sore back and mosquito bites of another night trying to sleep on the gorund (actually a row of disused waiting room seats) inside the airport compound last night. I paid highway robbery procies for a seat on a turboprop to Las Isabella this morning, $ 60 cab ride to Santo Domingo Airport then a las tminute American ticket to Miami I don't even want to think of the cost of that one. I do not mind the feds/Air Force stopped the flight program. I just wished someone had put out that information so I and the hundreds out at the airport this morning could have made initial plans for alternatives rather than just being told' no you can not get on an airplane' by a sulry asshole of a US consular official. Unpleasant and uncomfortable.

More tomorrow I am worn out.

Rick

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sunday 14 February

Spent today doing technical assessment at the location where the government will be moving; they need a lot more space than the damaged HQ of the national police. We also did a driving evaluation of previously selected WiMax antenna sites. Some are gone so MultiLink will have to re-engineer those locations for coverage that matched the pre-earthquake plan.

MultiLink has a plan to provide high speed Internet to the entirety of PAP in 12 months and the rest of Haiti in 2-3 years. This plan, two years in the making, was finished in December 2009. Now the destruction of the infrastructure the following month. Strange. The technology is straighforward there are business hurdles only. The institution of top shelf Internet capability can not help but create economic (and therefore social) opportunity that did not exist in the past without regard to the earthquake of 12 January. I expect to continue to provide whatever assistance I am able in this project.

Tomorrow I will be PMing the installation of the infrastructure at the Univerisite so that classes may resume on Wednesday following. I expect to be finished early enough to catch a 4 PM Air Force flight to Miami. That is the plan now; one must be flexible in this environment.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Today in Port-au-Prince





Photo 1: Integration Systems at work. Figuring out best line of sight for WiMAX antennas. Ihave to lose five pounds.
Photo 2: Universitie building. Six floors before the earthquake
Photo 3: No one faint but in the top right of the photo is a green traffic light.
Photo 4: Now that's a view. From the top of the mountain SW of the city looking down on Port-au-Prince. Airport in the center of the photograph.


All I can say is that this city has returned to life.

I am staying with the owner of MultiLink and his wife in their home in the hills. It is a very nice place and comfortable.

Paolo and I were all over the city today doing quite a few things. Some related to MultiLink's network architecture. We spent half the day at the Government of Haiti's office. In all of the driving around I noticed a number of things have changed:

People are smiling on the streets quite a bit.
Much less horn honking in the traffic and the traffic is flowing much better.
One reason the traffic is flowing much better is the traffic lights in many intersections operate now on a solar panel/battery system. Traffic lights make a big difference.
Aid distribution points are literally all over the place. Lines are long at some (perhaps 100 people?) but appear manageable. People seem to be getting what they need.
A lot of electricity scattered down the hills into the city. A month ago the center of light in the city at night was the airport complex. That is still bright but there are lights scattered all over. Some are generators some is actually utility.
I was at a small field hospital at the site of the collapsed Universitie Quisqueya. A terribly tragic story there as all of the buildings collapsed and scores died. The field clinic had one patient come in during the 90 minutes we were there.

Many many changes of course and many tens of thousands of people still in tents in every park and empty space. One of the differences in the month is that all over those camps one sees big 50 pound bags of rice with the old red white and blue courtesy of USAID.
Water tankers seem to be on every corner; I know that is not true but there is water being delivered. I saw a number of places where people were washing cars; if there is enough water for that it is an indicator that problem has been reduced.

As I said we were at the office of Haiti's government today. Multilink is providing internet capability to the temporary office in the headquarters of the national police. There were some problems this morning and I went over with Paolo and we figured out what was going on. We got with the Cisco emergency response team that is working wit Multilink and got the problem solved. That's not bad for a days work along with the technical assesment I gathered data for today.

It is time to start getting the world community serious about the next stage. Haiti can be helped to become what it can be out of this situation. What better memorial to those who died than to rebuild Haiti for the future of all?

Back in Port-au-Prince

After some delays and miscommunications yesterday I flew from Miami to Port-au-Prince on a Medishare flight carrying a replacement staff for the University of Miami hospital. 100+ volunteers anxious about what they would have to deal with and anxious to get to work helping.

Landed well after dark and was met at the airport by Paolo, onwer of MultiLink the internet provider here. I am staying at his home in the hills over the city. A lovely and comfortable place with the amenities of home.

Impressions of the city one month after I left:

It is much quieter
We drove through a lot of hte city and I saw many less people living out on the street.
Electricity is much more common. Quite a few lights.
The airport did not have a crowd outside of the security gates.

Things seem to quite a bit better. Now that the aid is flowing in for basic subsistence the care of the Haitian people and the construction of physical assets must begin.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Nora story

I have been posting for a month and have managed to avoid telling any Nora stories. For the uninformed Nora is Aaron and Evelyn's oldest child and my grand-daughter. She is four years old going on 40.

Nora helped me pack my backpack this afternoon. Nora understands that Poppy went away to help the children. She asked today why I had to go away again and I told her I was going to help the children again.

One of the items that Nora put in my pack is a one pound bag of peppermints. I keep some in my pocket and hand them out to the kids I run into. I started doing this at Katrina and have found I am rewarded with a lifetime of smiles. Nora likes her sweets. She held the bag and asked me why I was taking it. I explained that I give the candy to the children. I told her that many of the children had never had candy.

Nora looked at me and put the candy in my pack. She said 'Poppy next time you go to the store can you buy some candy for Samantha and me?'

What a kid.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Just installed a web counter

Kind of curious if anyone is reading this thing.

Excellent article by Paul Waldie

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/haiti/good-intentions-gone-wrong/article1462227/?cid=art-rail-world

A new mission

I have a new mission in Haiti.

There is one Internet Service Provider (ISP) operating in Haiti. This ISP is providing services via WiMax wireless. The IT infrastructure is pretty bad off. This ISP has been tasked by the government of Haiti with building out services for the entirety of the government.

I am going to be going back to PaP to perform an assessment of the infrastructure. I will then work with my team and others (all volunteers) and put together the architecture. Once that is done I am assembling a group of engineers to go back in and build the design. I am working with a large blue firm to donate the equipment I have no doubt we will be provided everything needed.

I don't want to just rebuild what was there before. I am hopeful that this will be a permanent relationship wherein the team of my employer Integration Systems, the volunteers, big blue and others can actually transform the technological landscape of Haiti's capital.

It is important that in this time those who are making decisions on how to rebuild Haiti make the decision to not restore the problems that existed prior to 12 January 2010. A central component of any viable economy is robust and reliable communications. I expect to design an information technology core that will allow Haiti to compete on the playing field of other nations from the perspective of technical architecture.

One piece of this mission is to train Haitian IT engineers and I am particularly excited about that. The old proverb that ends in teaching a man to fish comes to mind.

This project is already initiated. I will make a quick trip (two days or so) to PaP to do the assesment and then return to do the design. It is really nice to have a mission that is so alligned to the work I have done for the last 30 years.

Updates as I have information to convey.

Rick

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sanjay Gupta said it very well on Monday

He put a blog post up about his return to Haiti.

When I told my wife I wanted to go back to Haiti, she had the reaction I expected. “The girls really missed you when you were gone last time,” she said. “I am worried that you lost too much weight down there,” she added. And, “what about your safety, physical and mental well being?” she concluded. They were all the reactions I expected. The car was then silent as we were driving through our neighborhood on a rainy Saturday morning. In that quiet, we both realized something essential. I knew she was right, on all counts. And, still, she knew it was the right thing to do. She was the first to speak and break the silence. “Truth is, I would go with you,” she whispered. “I would like to help as well.”

Dr. Sanjay Gupta in Port-Au-Prince hospital.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta in Port-Au-Prince hospital.

I thought about that conversation a lot on the middle-of-the-night flight to Florida, a connection to Santo Domingo at 3 a.m. and then finally the early morning arrival in Port-au-Prince. She has seen the images on television of the unfathomable suffering over the last month, and she was affected by it in more ways that I realized. Over the few days I was home, we hardly talked about what I had seen in Haiti. I felt the need to protect her from those stories, some of which I may never share with anyone - and she was cognizant of the desire to not re open the emotional images. She also knew that while I was physically home, my mind never left Haiti.


He is right your mind never leaves Haiti.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Food is flowing

Mathieu and Michael have done their job. The Salvation Army is supplying the orphanages and the 82nd Airborne is delivering. 120,000 meals this weekend. The guys are heading home having had a massive positive impact on thousands of people who had no one else.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Michael and Mathew again

The food and water supplies are flowing freely in Port-au-Prince. Michael and Mathew work with the Salvation Army and the Canadian military are getting supplies to all of the unidentified orphanages. Good news.

The next stage that the guys are working on is clean water and clothing.

On the clean water side there is a factory on site that is making ceramic water filtration systems. The system costs $ 30 and will support an entire family's water needs. Michael has made an arrangement with the company for people to buy a filter unit online and it will be distributed by the 82nd Airborne division of the US Army.

This is a great way for anyone to contribute directly to the need. No scams, no administration cost and no transportation costs. If anyone wants to spend the $30 here is how you do it:

1. Go here: http://www.filterpurefilters.com and select the 'Donate Now" blue button
2. In the second address line of the checkout write "for Michael's Orphanages"
3. The filter system will be delivered to a family who needs clean water

Secondly there is a huge need for clothing. One million people are homeless. Not only without a home but without clothing or shoes.

Michael has asked me to get together a load of clothes. New clothes not used. Anything for a hot climate for children, women or men. Flip flops are a great item as well. The vast majority of the homeless do not have shoes and the ground is littered with every sort of sharp and broken material you can imagine. Tetanus is killing people.

I will work on getting a clothing load together and figure out some way to transport it to PaP. Anyone have a jet they want to loan me? The 82nd Airborne is again going to do the distribution.

So to anyone who has been wanting to give to a direct need here are two ways to do it and know for sure the entirety of whatever you give will go directly to families that have lost everything.

If you ware trying to decide which of the two initiatives to support the water filters are most urgently needed.

Email me or post a comment if you want further information.

Rick

Since Tuesday...

Off topic but important to our family.

Friday afternoon Andree's younger son and my stepson Aaron got some bad food in a restauraunt here in Port Orange. Long story short he got a bad case of food poisoning that went into his blood stream and he went in to sepsis.

Aaron spent three days in the ICU and made it out not a terribly common outcome in these cases. He is home now recovering his strength. It was a close thing though and we are all grateful he will be around a lot longer.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Stealing the children

I, as have many I presume, have been following the story of the Baptist church group who decided to move a bunch of children to the DomRep for their own good.

I grew up Baptist and feel like I understand that community. I doubt there was any nefarious intent in this but my goodness what a bunch of silly people. According to news reports some of these children have existing families. I find it very difficult to believe that they just drove around PAP asking if anyone wanted to leave the country. Some Haitian person or group must have helped and to me that is the scary part of this. Did they buy the kids?

One of the very few out and out belly laughs I have had in this entire situation was when I read in a number of news reports that one of the lawyers representing the arrested individuals complained about the conditions under which the detainees were being held.

He complained, from the Dominican Republic, that the detainees were being held in terrible conditions without, amongst other things, air conditioning. Or electricity.

Here we have a bunch of well meaning fools who went to do something none of them knew how to do. The Haitian government rightly stopped them. Now the world media is concentrating on this sidebar story while people die of thirst starvation and untreated wounds. The belly laugh stops quickly when one thinks of the actual situation.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Walking the walk

Mathew and Michael are coming up on their second week in Haiti. They have persevered. The people of Haiti are benefiting.

I wrote yesterday that the Salvation Army had provided 11,000 meals for distribution to the need that they had identified. Today that number is increased by 47,000. Distribution will be with the assistance of a Canadian armed forces unit that is working in Haiti; the unit has manpower and transport but no significant supply of aid.

This is what happens when caring people stay after the problem. Mathew and Michael have confronted significant challenges from simple transport to apparent (but not factual) indifference from aid entities. They have struggled with horrible living and environmental conditions. They have pushed through it now tens of thousands of people will have food and water because of their work.

Many people have worked behind the scenes outside of Haiti to get aid to these people who are in such dire need. Telephone calls and emails and appeals to everyone from USAID to Unicef to large church organizations to individual donors. As Michael has documented in his blog there has not been a lot of movement out of all of that effort. What has worked has been these two volunteers just staying after the issue on the ground.

The established disaster relief protocols that are followed by just about every established aid delivery entity worldwide are wonderful at helping populations once the local environment has settled down. Sadly for the affected population (in this case two million people in Haiti) that establishment of framework and process take a very long time; life-and-death long if you haven't had any water for a few days or you are a young child who has not had a meal for ten days. This is not an indictment for the established government, UN or NGO agencies. They are staffed by some of the most dedicated people I have ever encountered. There is an aid gap that I have noted in my experience in these situations. That gap runs a few weeks for provision of minimal life sustaining aid. The gap was filled after Hurricane Katrina, in my experience, by volunteers not associated with any aid entity. I observed the same in my time in Haiti and by second hand have experienced it with Mathew and Michael.

We humans must work hard and better to make sure that aid gets to those who need it as fast as humanly possible. These two men have shown how much can be accomplished by caring people whose only desire is to relieve suffering.

Well done guys.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Finally relief getting through.

Michael and Mathew have persevered and are having success.

As documented in Michael's blog they have identified dozens of communities of needy children. These communities have not had food water or supplies delivered. The media has plenty of information on why this is happening; the firsthand information is in the early days of this diary.

The Salvation Army allowed Michael and Mathew to stay at the camp; very good as they asked us all to leave a week ago. Maybe things have settled down in the administration of the SA there in PAP. I do know that Bob Poff has returned as of Saturday.

Michael and Mathew have been able to secure small truckloads of supply to deliver to the most desperate people they have located; supply from the SA. They have made deep contact with a Canadian Army unit to provide manpower. Now the Salvation Army is providing a significant aid flow to these two caring and dedicated volunteers. Great news for the people of Haiti especially the children who have had so much devastation visited upon them in the last three weeks.

Keep it up guys wish I could be there.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Verizon redeems itself

I got my cellphone bill the other day from Verizon. Mnay hundreds of dollars in roaming and long distance charges.

I dropped an email to customer service and explained what I had been doing. I requested a credit if possible. Within 24 hours I had a credit for the full amount on my bill. So thanks to Verizon it's a small part of this thing that I will not have to pay.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Some photos from Josiah





Picture 1: Me (Rick) at the desk at the UNDAC reception office in Santo Domingo.
Picture 2: Josiah Magnusson flying in a helicopter in to Port-au-Prince
Picture 3: Jordan Allie carrying aid in Port-au-Prince

Michael and Mathew continue to work

Michael and Mathew continue to identify unmet needs specifically under-served or un-served orphanages.

On Wednesday they actually took a pickup truck of supply provided by the Salvation Army to a group of 200 children living on the ground outside of town. Great that the SA is working with the guys. They are still bunking in the tent in the courtyard.

Meanwhile I have been able to get a solid contact with USAID who says that if we can provide specifics (location, population, supply status, medical needs) of these orphanages he can assure us that USAID will get to them.

If this actually pans out Michael and Mathew will have accomplished the near impossible: they will have gotten a major aid delivery organization to listen to a couple of volunteers who are out there on their own trying to save lives. It looks good right now but in this situation an arrangement can fall apart in an instant due to bureaucracy or other external events.

Wish the guys well.

Rick

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Singing in the camp in the night



I was most blessed to be able to record this. The picture is dark as there is very little artificial light in the night in Port-Au-Prince however after about 45 seconds the audio is quite good. Please listen and appreciate as did I.

A poem

My sister Carl Ann Davis is a professor of creative writing (I think I got that right) at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. Her son told a friend that 'Jesus died of natural causes in his sleep' and it was such a wonderful statement she did what she does: she built a poem around that seed. What she did not realize until the next day was that she had been following this blog and it had influenced the poem deeply.

The words she put down capture so much of what is important about helping our brothers and sisters in need. It is, to me, simply beautiful but since she is my sister I may be a biased judge. So here it is:

Jesus Died of Natural Causes

Jesus died of natural causes in his old age,
and received a proper burial. Before that, a certain amount
of dew turned to frost, right under the noses
of those waking to it. Just the right number
of thoughts occurred, and one by one
fell off the radar, the radar of what
was not worth asking, and no one thought to. No one
went hungry at 2 a.m. or died of thirst
at noon. The orphans harmonized
just beyond the gate, a harmony of orphans
and a gate clanking, the noontime thirst
of the orphans at the closing of the gate. Enough to slay him
on a normal day, but Jesus had grown
hardpan heart, a deaf ear, and a limp. At the temple
it was he who stayed late,
listening to a child of twelve
speak in riddlelike parables.
He hallucinated a destination
and walked to it, hoping to be blinded.
When the earth shook, he thought finally,
this is what it was for,
the something I came to do.
But that something was done to others, not him,
and among the lucky ones,
he lived sorting through rubble—an eternity,
it seemed— until help arrived.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Jordan and Josiah

I just heard from Jordan. He is at PAP getting on a freedom bird; Josiah is already back. I look forward to speaking with them soon. Great guys. Glad they are safe.

Michael and Mathew

Michael and Mathew are still in Port-Au-Prince. They are collecting information on orphanages that have no relief. So far they have located 10 such facilities.

Mathew is Hatian-American; his family is still there and he/Michael are taking advantage of having transportation to go into the community.

Now that need has been identified Michael and Mathew need supply. They need food, water, medical supplies tents etc to deliver to these orphanages.

Anyone who knows an organization that is collecting supplies let me know. It is possible to get a private aircraft into PaP without a lot of grief (we will have to organize the logistics but I can do that as well as get someone to pay for the aircraft) and deliver the supply to the general aviation terminal. Mathew and his extended family can take it from there.

Anyone want to help?

Monday, January 25, 2010

By the way, one picture of me...


Waiting at the airport to head out. Six days, 14 hours total of sleep I usually am much more dashing in my appearance.

Photographs and some thoughts

Appeal for food and water


10,000 gallons of purified water a day using table salt to chlorinate from the good people at Edge Outreach


Destruction on the Street; the car was (and still is) occupied

















The bad

The destruction of humanity that this earthquake caused. Physical pain, psychic pain, the fear of another earthquake. Fractured families that will never be reunited.
The sounds especially at night.
Dust all of the time. Concrete dust is like a fog much of the time. Any breeze stirs up billowing dust.
The odors that are never far away and at times are overpowering.
The sadness in the eyes of the victims and the exhausted relief workers.
The despicable pettiness that is so endemic in the NGO community.
The profiteers of whom I met a couple. I think profiteering from this thing should be an immediate capital offense.

The good

The indomitable spirit of the Haitian people
Children, children children. Smiles at a simple 'Ca va?' Kids kicking a ball around trying to have a normal afternoon pickup soccer game amongst the broken concrete, trash blowing in the dust, noise and heat and constant reminders of death all around you wherever you stand.
The way the whole world responded. Dozens of nations represented by hundreds and thousands of volunteers and professionals.
Medical people working in inhuman conditions to save lives and constantly doing just that.
Aid workers screaming at each other as they try to figure out one more way to get desperately need supplies to desperate people; voices raised in passion because each wants so much to prevent that next death from thirst or that next infection from killing.
The people I met and hope to remain in contact with.
Thousands of Haitians asking 'what can I do to help?'

I told Andree that I will go back. I will as soon as I am needed to do something that I can do well. The temptation is to just go; I know that well. Going to Haiti right now requires that you carry your own sustenance. Anybody who goes to help and does not take care of their own food and water is taking those out of the mouths of the population and that is as bad as profiteering.

Some photos.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Been home 24 hours

Larry King on CNN is running a two hour celebrity telethon. Lots of Hollywood types trying to get money for Unicef and Red Cross. Unicef is great; the Red Cross spend a very small percentage of donations in actual delivery I am not a fan.

I spent some time trying to get information on Jordan, Josiah, Michael and Mathew. No news yet. That's causing me some concern as there was a 5.x aftershock again today. I hope someone will get back to me soon.

Lots of things to think about on an individual action basis (did I do anything of value) and watching the coverage and wondering if the administrators of the various entities trying help really understand that food and water must get into the destroyed neighborhoods soon. The Larry King show has a couple of folks who get it, so maybe so. Tia Leoni really understands and Alyssa Milano knows what is going on. That is heartening.

Media seem to think the population is moving into the countryside. That's not what I know and I do not understand why that would be a good thing. Efforts need to continue and expand to get aid delivery and medical care into the neighborhoods. I don't care what Wycliff Jean says. You aren't going to depopulate an urban population while a government with no money and an international aid community with no interest try to do a half-assed job rebuilding the city. People in the countryside are hungry they just aren't as hungry as the city. Unless an extra two million people move out there. Let the citizens of Port-au-Prince rebuild their city themselves. The Haitians I met are proud and hard working people they can get it done if they have the funds. And they are staying outside their destroyed homes.

I am probably going to stop posting in the next couple of days unless something significant happens. I was really happy to see the Globe and Mail article on the overland distribution of aid I think that is the real short term solution to supply. I was involved in the initial discussion with Chris and Ray so it is good that information is getting out. The pipeline is functioning.

Vegar has been moved out of the Airport into a Santo Domingo office of the UN and he is going to PaP in a couple of days. I know he will do well for the people of Haiti.

Brian is home I haven't heard from him.

I spent the morning with Nora and Samantha what a healing process being around those miracles can be. Lunch with Mom James JR and Carol talking about Haiti; everyone at the Beacon coming over and giving me a hug. JR came over for the afternoon and provided me some good talk. That was great for me and I am feeling fully integrated back into the world.

I will sign off for tonight and thank everyone for their support.

Rick

Good article by Paul Waldie

Toronto Globe and Mail article on moving goods from DomRep to Haiti. This is the process I spoke about early it is now functioning.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/haiti/dominican-republic-becomes-haitis-hope-for-swift-relief---and-its-biggest-hurdle/article1437200/

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Siting on the porch...

I was siting on the porch having a drink a while ago. Quite naturally my thoughts turned to the last few days. I was deep in thought and was startled by the cry of a great blue heron. They sound like what a pterodactyl would sound like I have always thought.

I woke up last night about 2 AM. I listened to the other guys sleeping and wondered if sometime in the next ten seconds or ten hours if the ground would start heaving and the remaining buildings collapse. I thought about the millions of people who have blocked half the width of many roads in Port-au-Prince so that they can build tent cities and actual wooden and tin structures. They will not be moving back into the few remaining buildings very soon.

As I lay there in the heat I heard a moaning; it probably was coming from the clinic 150 feet away. The moaning was profoundly distressing as I understood it was someone fighting to live. After a while it stopped and for some reason I thought then, and think now, that he had finally given up the fight. Another life gone in this unfolding example of nature's lack of interest in our individual or collective survival.

A little later a parade went down the street. I got up and watched a few hundred people walk down the street carrying candles and singing in Creole. It's was not by any means a protest I had the sense it was something like a religious observance and an appeal to some god for relief to the people who were suffering. Very moving.

I smoked a cigarette and went back to bed wondering if I could get back to sleep. Just as slumber stole my thoughts I heard the most blood curdling scream I have ever heard in my 53 years. Again from the direction of the clinic. Half a dozens screams to freeze your heart and in the middle of the last an abrupt cutoff. Another soul blanked out? An emergency amputation without any anesthesia? There have been a lot of those I know. I do not know which and will never know but that man's voice is forever part of my history. Maybe that is why I awoke to record his last uttering.

I will sit here on my dock and drink my scotch and enjoy the love of my family and the safety of my life. I will know that I am very blessed and that somewhere a man is screaming for relief; a group of people are marching in the night for justice; thousands of strangers are dropping everything and going to a strange land to help strangers in a time of urgent need and somewhere a man is giving up the good fight because the burden for him is simply too much.

We humans have such varied daily existence that when we are exposed to something so fundamentally different from our norm we have a problem understanding that yes those are humans just like us. They want the same things: security and food for their families; the opportunity to contribute to the community; the knowledge that they will leave the world to their children a better place than that which they themselves entered.

The information I have seen on CNN since I got home a couple of hours ago is a very distorted picture of what I saw. The news folks run around in $ 80,000 Range Rovers with drivers and armed guards and drop in on various 'news opportunities'. I helped change the diaper of a little guy today who was saved from starvation at the SA clinic in the last few days; great glad to do it everyone knows I got that particular activity nailed. What I did not like was the ten or so news cameras clicking away at a dozen frames a second. I understand the need for information but let us get the work done eh? Stopping clogging the already blocked streets; stop eating food that should go to the needy and stop running around like you are what is important. I met one reporter from the Philadelphia Enquirer that was fantastic; I am really sorry I did not get her name. She was reporting but not intruding; contributing if it did not violate her professional code. Well done. I also met a reporter from the Toronto Globe and Mail and he spent most of a day with Vegar and myself while we set up the SDQ to PaP trucking operation. Another good guy. I will leave the jerks out of the list.

All of us who ever do this sort of thing have these memories. I think I mentioned early on that Andree was concerned about the emotional impact on me of the experience. I will remember the night; it was the same each night I was there. I think it is worthwhile to me that I have those memories and I can better appreciate what I have in my life.