Monday, April 12, 2010

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.


  1. 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:

    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

  2. I read your rant today in the Daytona Beach News-Journal. My turn - Umm...who do you think you are? Shame on me? You don't even know me. I am a stay-at-home mom of a four year old and one on the way. My husband is a teacher and coach. We make every dollar stretch to it's limit so that I can stay home with my child(ren)to be the best mom he deserves.

    I suppose that you expected me to drop my whole life when the earthquake hit and run down there to Haiti while I was in the first trimester of my pregnancy, oh and leave my four year old son at home alone so I could go be a savior? As a mom, don't you think my heart breaks for every mother on the planet who has lost a child? It is for that reason that I can not just run off to the next disaster and leave my kid at home in the care of someone else.

    Get over yourself dude. You have a nice life. Not many of us can work in NYC and then spend our weekends in Florida. I'm from NJ. I know what it costs to live up there, let alone jet-set to FL every weekend. It must be nice to have your life, being able to just stop working whenever there is some tragedy so you can go in and help people to make yourself feel important. It's great that you can go into debt to help other people, but I can't.

    So I do what I can. I go to church. I pray for them. I donate money, clothes, food whenever I can. I don't have the luxury of donating my time, but I do what I can.

    I'm not saying that what you have done for others is insignificant. I'm sure you have changed people's lives in ways that they will always be thankful. How dare you, though, assume that others can afford the luxuries that you do.

    Shame on you sir for judging others.

  3. Hi Rick,

    Thanks for your wonderful editorial in today's News-Journal. I agree with you and wish I could do more for Haiti. My husband and I were active for years in an organization called HOM (Haiti outreach Mission) out of Detroit, and we went to Mirebalais, Haiti 4 times where we built a clinic, an orphanage, and repaired 2 schools, but health issues prevented us from going recently. Would like to get involved in a local FL organization now that we have settled here. We are leaving for MI in 2 weeks (we're snowbirds) but will be back in Oct. Good luck to you in all that you do for others. Ronaele Bowman, Palm Coast FL

  4. To the first Anonymous commenter:

    I am pleased that I have aroused your passion. I wrote this and stand by it. Shame on all of us (I said in the editorial) and shame on the world for neglecting those in need.

    I did not suggest everyone jump on an airplane. I suggested that our entire community get deeply involved.

    Lastly my life is as far from jet set as can be. I live in a corporate apartment as sterile as a hospital waiting room. I am away from those I love five or six days a week so that I can make the money I have to make to support my family. For us, as well as you, we have to stretch every dollar. Fifteen hours (in a good week) waiting for airplanes; siting in airplanes; driving to/from airports. On top of very long workdays. I drive a ten year old Japanese compact car. I do not live a luxurious life.

    To Anonymous 2: I applaud your work. I wish I could point you to a Florida organization with whom you could work; I only know of one in Ocala personally.


I welcome comments, questions or anything anyone wishes to post on the situation in Haiti.