The Haiti Initiative

Haiti …what can we do

When people ask me “What is Haiti like?” I can only say it is a life changing experience. Many times I am at a loss for words and can only hand them my cell phone with the pictures of the trip.  Here it is six months after the earthquake and Haiti on July 10, 2010 looks like Haiti on January 10 2010. Overall nothing has changed and some things have. Changes include a landscape of blue tents in which thousands upon thousands of Haitian families live.  Whether in the city of Port-au prince or in the country side (where people have moved to be safe) port-a-potties and tents are part of the changing landscape of Haiti. What has not changed is the overwhelming post-earthquake dust that fills the air, the lack of electricity so people walk the streets in the dark only guided by headlights from vehicles, the lack of sound roads, the mounds of rumble, the multitude of collapsed buildings (except for the UN, the US embassy, the Canadian embassy and Honda car dealership) and homes in which thousands are buried under rumble that took only 35 seconds to create. Many of the dead are still dead under the earthquake rubble because no bull dozers are available to remove the slabs of concrete and if removed, no one has any idea where to put the rubble. Haitian men and women used their time pounding concrete slabs measuring the size of a standard office floor in NY with a household hammer. There have been some high brow technical ideas as to how disperse of the concrete rubble but many of these ideas are not cost effective and do not considered the urban challenges of the country.

What has not changes is the poverty, the need for help and a need for infrastructure and leadership. What has changed is the enormous amount of relief workers presence in the country trying to make a difference without the media attention, i.e. Doctors without Border, Disaster Relief, Grassroots, Housing works, and of course the UN. Much of the visible UN presences includes foreign soldier in full combats gear in a country where survival and finding clean water and food are more of a priority than looting. Many of the relief organizations are just trying to do their best with their own infrastructure and so small enclaves of organizational infrastructure have developed visa vi these international relief organizations. The communities surrounding the relief enclaves receive a watershed benefit but so much of the country does not fall into these watershed areas. In addition, because the infrastructure has collapsed some of the aid that has arrived in Haiti has not been distributed. But a governmental response which would provide the infrastructure is either lying under the rubble or pre-earthquake was non-existent.  My organization Globalscope as a community based organization joined with Diaspora Community services and Housingworks to provide watershed relief and rebuild some of the healthcare infrastructure. Globalscope team toured three separated clinics and spent the majority of time in Centro medico Clinic in port-au-prince. We spent the majority of our time unpacking boxes of medication organizing the clinics pharmacy, cleaning and preparing treatment rooms, and providing some technical assistance to the laboratory. We also inventory supplies to report Housing works and Diaspora community services current needs and supplies. Healthcare support from Outside organizations to Haiti is also not new.

But what of the children…Children have returned to schools and some schools have been rebuilt. But many children are orphaned because parents cannot be found. Many of the children dressed in uniform every day with big white bows in the hair of the girls and the boys in slightly dinged but somewhat pressed white shirts, still playing soccer and sing schools songs. However when you look closely some children are too tired to pay attention to the lesson because the sleepless night of a flooded tent kept them awake. Some children just sit daze in a surreal posture completely traumatize and somewhat catatonic. There is a great need for mental health professionals to provide emotional support to a trauma that would devastate anyone even with resources.

However some children can’t pay attention because they are just too hungry. The one problem the Haitian people do not have is childhood obesity.  Everyone has several gathers in their pants and newly formed holes in their belt buckle. Globalscope focused on a public school located directly across from the clinic. We participated in a Saturday afternoon after school program that was organized by the clinic in which food, games and books are distributed to the children. After a long meeting with the Principle we established a list of supplies i.e. …which through fundraising we will try to meet the needs of this public school in port-au-prince. There are no school records for these 1000 students since prior to the earthquake school records were maintained manually and stored in a file cabinet. Some of these school children have never seen a computer.  This school and clinic represents Globalscope’s watershed effort. Globalscope will be sending books and school supplies on regular bases.

But in spite of our small philanthropic gesture the true heroes of the disaster are the Haitian people maintaining a dignified posture as they bear their burden waiting on the world to give them the aid that was promised. Much has not changed in Haitian because the aid that has been promised has not materialized and if the aid is in the country it has not been distributed to the people. What has not change is the Western world’s ability to help one of the poorest countries in the world.