Friday, February 19, 2010

Stand With Haiti

Concrete Ways to Help Haiti Now

Here's a list of specific things that you can do that will help those in need almost immediately. Anything I've put here (I will update as I find more opportunities and you can subscribe to receive them via email) has been thoroughly vetted and can be trusted as accurate.

Tents and Tarps - 1,000,000 people are without homes and living in temporary shelters made out of whatever they can find, usually sheets. One of the "tent" cities I was in had upwards of 20,000 people with no sewage. When the rains start any day now, these cities are going to turn into breeding grounds for disease and tens of thousands may die if they don't get shelter. In an attempt at full disclosure I found an article on why sending tents may be a bad idea, but having been there and seen the situation firsthand I don't agree with their thinking.

If you have a used good condition tent that is waterproof or plastic tarps in good condition you can send them to the address below. I spent a good deal of time on the phone with the folks at Mark Richey Woodworking and can vouch for them. They are collecting tents, palletizing them and shipping them to Florida. There, Partners in Health, the organization I was with in Haiti, is taking them into Haiti and giving them to people who need them. So far they have sent over 2000 pounds of tents.

If you want to buy a new tent or tarp you can ship them yourselves, or buy off the internet and have them shipped. If you don't know anything about tents, REI is pretty reliable for carrying good quality stuff. Mention that they are heading down to Haiti and you may get a discount. You may want to check Craigslist for used tents and send more. Also Amazon and Sierra Trading Post may offer free shipping.

As far as what to look for, size can go either way. Smaller tents are easier to find places for while bigger tents will keep families together and offer more room during long periods of rain. The main key is that they are waterproof and with tents, the higher priced models are usually the better ones as far as durability, so if you are on a budget, get a more expensive smaller tent that will last as opposed to the same priced larger tent. My non-camping two cents.

I'll update with specific tents in a few days.

Send tents and tarps to:
Mark Richey Woodworking
40 Parker Street
Newburyport, MA 01950-4056

ATTN: Dave Jazz

OR call if you have questions: 978.499.3800

If you have or have collected a lot of money and want to buy a large number of tents, let me know as I have some manufacturers who will offer wholesale prices.

Solar Cookers - Check out the explanation here but simply put, $40 sends a solar cooker, water purification tester and pot to someone who needs it. Its that simple. Click here to donate.

Crayons - I know this sounds nuts but the kids that I saw sitting in
hospitals had very little to do. I mentioned the idea of a crayon drive to the folks at St Damiens Childrens hospital and The Friends of The Orphans and they thought this was a great idea. Kids can do this which is great. Get your school or religious organization to start a crayon drive (used and/or new). Classes can challenge eachother to see who can collect more. Once you have a large box or two, shoot me an email (vegifyatmacdotcom) and I can give you an address in Florida to send them to and they'll send them to the orphanage and hospital with their supplies.

Volunteer - I'm looking into who is looking for what volunteers, but right now, if you are a doctor and can spare time to head to Haiti, Partners in Health has a sign up sheet here. They also need volunteers in their offices in Boston as well.

That's it for now. Thanks.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Memories of Haiti

A number of people have commented on this video, most positive, some negative, largely due to the choice of music. By way of explanation I should point out that i never intended the words to be literal beyond the idea that there is hope and this is what i saw in the faces of the people I met while in Port Au Prince. I guess Imagine has more personal ideas attached to it than I expected. The Haitians are a deeply religious people and in no way did I intend to say that should be otherwise or to say that Haiti is not in a dire place right now. I guess this was just my emotional response and a way to say that i think what will persevere will be the people and their ability to rise above.

Send Solar Cookers To Haiti Today

Many people don't know this but only 1.5% of Haiti's original forests remain. The picture you see is of the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic and sadly it hasn't been altered for dramatic purposes. Due to the overwhelming poverty Haitians have been burning forests and selling the charcoal as fuel for cooking for generations and it has taken it's toll. Soil erosion is beyond belief and what was once an extremely fertile land is now barren.

That's where solar cookers come in. They are completely sustainable, can be used to cook AND purify water by boiling it, and are relatively inexpensive. What better way to help in a concrete way than give someone effected by the earthquake a means to cook and prepare drinking water without it costing them anything. And the best thing of all, it won't cost you much.

For just $40 Solar Cookers International will send a solar cooker down to Haiti and deliver it to someone who needs it. I just got off the phone with them to check some info and they have people on the ground who are delivering the cookers and teaching folks how to use them. There was already a system in place to introduce cookers in Haiti prior to the earthquake so they are continuing to work with those contacts. They are also working with a Methodist Orphanage and several NGOs as well.

So there you have it. $40 and someone has a way to prepare food and water that will cost them nothing and last indefinitely. Your $40 contribution sends a solar cooker, pot and WAPI (Water Pasteurization Indicator) to someone in need. Can't get much easier than that.

You can donate here. And while you're at it, why not challenge your friends to do the same!

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Free Man Can Never Be Destroyed

The National Saying of Haiti


I got back to LA late Monday night and have been home for three days now. I meant to write one last post earlier than this but to be honest it's been a bit overwhelming and i haven't been able to reconcile my thoughts until now.

Being back in "civilization" is a bizarre adjustment. I know how odd this sounds but in a very strange way i miss Port Au Prince. It's hard to walk down the street here knowing that there is no chance a little child you've never met will suddenly take your hand and look up and say "hey you". I miss that simple kindness that they offer. Their smiles, their open hearts, and their incredible perseverance. I sat in the Miami airport listening to a man upset that they were out of his favorite candy bar and wonder where we've gone wrong.

I think the greatest lesson I learned during my two weeks in Haiti was the concept of what is truly important. It's cliche I realize but these people, who had so little before and have so much less now, are truly wiser than most of the people i have ever met including myself. I was and am astounded by their nobility, their willingness to offer you the one chair that they own to sit in, and their kindness. Unlike other poor places I have been in my life, I look back on Haiti and realize that in my time there, not one person put their hand out for money. Not one. And these are people who certainly need it. People asked us for water, and for food, which is understandable, and they asked for work as drivers, interpreters, bag carriers, but they did not ask for money. I think that says a lot. They are a strong proud people who continue to stand up tall every time they are knocked down and i was and am humbled by their ability to do so. I only hope that I can accept that into myself and not forget it as i invariably slip back into the corporate ad driven conspicuous consumption as happiness culture in which we live.

Personally coming back has been tough. For starters, I sit in my house with heat, electricity, running water which honestly confounds me at this point, and food in the fridge and I can't help but feel terrible that i have left friends behind who are sleeping on the street. My kids get up in the morning and go to their school everyday and 90% of the schools in Port Au Prince are gone and will not be back any time soon. I check the Haitian forecast every morning for fear that the rain will start as I know what that will mean to so many of the wonderful people I met. I wish i could do more fore them.

On a small level I have secured some tents and are sending them down for people i know. It will help them but it doesn't seem like enough.

My friend Andre who was there as a photojournalist said that coming back from these situations is always the same. Its like a huge emotional balloon that is instantly inflated and then over a month or so, a slow leak let's all the emotion out again. He's a wise man and I now understand what he is talking about.

I'm going to wrap up because there are things I'd rather not write about. If you have been reading this thank you for indulging me and allowing me to spill. I kept this blog as much for an outlet as I did to let people know what was going on down there and it has helped immensely.

Many people have asked what they can do to help and here is what i have told them. For starters, give as much as you can and continue to do so for as long as you can. Haiti will need help for 10 years and then some. Partners in Health is a great organization and can use everything they get and use it well. In addition, St Damiens, a free pediatric hospital in Port au Prince that i visited and have been sending supplies to is also a great operation. They are associated with an Orphanage called Friends of the Orphans and can always use your help. If you are a medical professional you can sign up with Partners in Health to go assist as well. If you want to do something specific, raise money and donate a Shelter Box which will save lives once the rains start.

But the best thing you can probably do is to help someone and you don't need t go to Haiti to do it. There are people and organizations that need help within a mile of where you live, I pretty much guarantee it. Seek them out and offer your time and actively help someone you don't know. And if you can, try to help people who are as different from you as possible. It will make you realize that deep down we are all human and have the same needs and will help you open up to people that you might not have before. Can you imagine what the world would be like if everyone did this? But of course it can't be unless we all start doing it ourselves first.



Monday, February 8, 2010

Heading home part 3

We arrived at a private airport in Miami and then drove to fort lauderdale to fly home in the am. I'm sitting in the airport hoping to fly standby tonight as I want to surprise the kids to in the am. The rest of the crew opted to head to the hotel and wait until the morning. To be honest it's nice to be alone as we have been together 24/7 for the past two weeks. I figure that even if I don't make it I'll just sleep on the floor until morning. Compared to the concrete I slept on last night carpet doesn't seem that bad. Besides I just talked to the gate agent and told him where I'd been and he seems to think I'll make it.

Being back in "civilization" is truly alarming. For starters I've arrived in the middle of the superbowl aftermath so everyone is talking about the game and wearing all sorts of expensive superbowl crap. Having been out of it for a while the conspicuous consumption is simply shocking.

I'm sitting in the middle of a giant air conditioned terminal that is weather proofed and plumbed and wondering how many people from one of the tent cities could live here. 5000? 10000? I know that seems ridiculous but the way they pack themselves in I'd say it's possible. No rain no dirt indoor plumbing. I know it's ridiculous but if we can build a huge building for transitory travelers to wait for a few hours in comfort can't we do something similar for people who are literally on the verge of non existence?

Anyone who knows me knows I hate bottled water but as I walk through the terminal past fountains that pump out chilled liquid gold and then watch as people shell out $5 for water from Fiji instead I can't help but shudder. What those little kids who hold out their hands and ask for "dro" wouldn't do for a fountain that gave them unlimited water. I'd like to rip them from the walls and send them where they are truly needed.

I don't mean to sound angry but perhaps I am. It's just hard to know the state of things a mere hour and a half flight from here and watch as overweight travelers chug half a bottle of water before chucking it and complain that they didn't like their seats at yesterdays game.

Everything is relative I guess and in fairness I know nothing about these people but it's tough to reconcile.

Heading home part 2

Made it onto a private charter that pih was flying dr farmer out on. He's been talking about working with president clinton the pih philosophy and it's role in Haiti. He's really incredible and makes everything seem extremely simple. Very "this isn't rocket science" about problems. Here's the problem here's a solution connect the two and make it happen.

It's very odd to be leaving haiti on a private gulf stream that costs more than most of the villages will ever see in a lifetime. Last night I woke up as I heard rain on the tent. I had left some laundry to dry and was worried of it rained that I'd have a problem with packing wet clothes. As I got out of the tent it occurred to me that I was worried about the rain getting my clothes wet and less than a mile away 20000 people are worried about the rain for a much more important reason.

It didn't rain very much last night after all. But in a few months time it will and when it does people will die. It's a sad fact but it's just that simple. Unless something is done extremely soon and money says it won't be.

And here I sit reclined in my leather chair texting on an iPhone rocketing through the air at 34000 feet.

Northing makes sense.

Waiting to go home

Waiting on the Tarmac at toussant louverture intl airport because the building is not safe. Just watched a massive china airlines 747 unload an amazing amount of freight. Also for anyone concerned Sean Penn is waiting for his car in front of us so I think the country is in good hands. Housing is going to be a reAl problem but as I've said since day one what they really need is a good method actor with a large knife strapped to his thigh.

I don't mean to sound bitter because he's an activist and ver well may do some good. Along with the likes of Harrison ford who flew in a private medical team yesterday he'll make headlines while the true heroes here are the haitian people and the Haitian docs who are stepping above and beyond what anyone could expect. Yet no one will head about them. Also the docs back at the compound who have come off the night shift at general and are sleeping on the concrete courtyard because the tents are too hot. No one will hear about them either yet I bet every one of them will be back.

But haitis acting future is looking brighter so I guess that's good right.

St Damians

I keep on forgetting to post up that I finally made it to St damians hospital last week. St damians is a free pediatric hospital run by a man named father Rick frechette. I became aware of them through my friend Danielle before I came down. I contacted them
from la and as they were one of the only hospitals left standing in pap they were overwhelmed. They told me they had 120 beds and over 900 patients when I called and that they were in need of everything.

I put out an email to the shalhevet community and within a day had several doctors nurses and pharmacists ready to donate supplies. With the help of Emma, one of our amazing seniors, we were able to send about 100 pounds down on a private jet that flew the night before I left. I then brought supplies with me as well but there were more supplies available that we had not been able to collect.
On my flight down here on virgin I was talking to the stewardess and mentioned the supplies and that I'd have to figure out a wAy to get them to Miami where they could be taken to pap. Within 5 minutes she had spoken with the captain who had radioed corporate and I received an email from virgin in San Francisco who, as of this email and after working with Emma, will be delivering everything we have next week. Very cool.

St damians is being used by everyone for obvious reasons and there are people everywhere. That said it's clean, a very nice facility, and relatively unhurt by the earthquake. I went at night and things were quiet so I just said hello to a few people and left. Still nice to see who we are helping though.

As an aside the us embassy which was built 6 months ago is down the street. It's massive takes up a city block and heAvily fortified. Untouched by the earthquake it's surrounded by rubble.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

February 7th

We slept on the floor of one of the buildings in Cange last night. Definitely more comfortable than the compound in Port Au Prince but as usual I only slept about 4 hours. The problem seems to be that something will stir me awake and then the second I'm up everything comes flooding in and that's it. I'm told that I should expect this for a while as its been an insanely intense few weeks and I have in no way been able to process much of it at all.

At 9 we headed down to the church (it's actually one of the dorms since the church is full of patients) and filmed the church service for 2 and a half hours. It was actually quite beautiful as there were several choirs and a lot of singing in general. That said, some of the speeches went on a bit long and since they were all in Creole they seemed even longer.

Dr. Farmer made a speech which even with the language barrier seemed to me to be quite impassioned and funny as well. He has an interesting manner about him and reeks of sincerity. Joia also spoke and invoked the We Shall Overcome saying and then in a really beautiful voice sang an acappella version of the song in French. It was quite stirring and the entire congregation filled in for the second verse. Pretty cool.

We had heard that there was supposed to be a memorial service but for some reason it didn't happen. The most stirring point of the morning though was communion. As people were lining up a bunch of the nurses got up together. I recognized a few of them and some were new but one in particular caught my attention. A young Haitian nurse all dressed in white missing her arm just below the elbow. It was fairly obvious from the dressing that this was a recent wound. So here is this woman who has just lost her forearm within the last few weeks and who knows what else and she is back to work. It's amazing and truthfully from what I've seen not out of the ordinary.

We then shot an hour long interview with Dr farmer. He's a pretty incredible guy and extremely humble. Pih has hospitals in Peru Malawi Siberia Rwanda and a dew other places I've forgotten. All are in the middle of slums and all are free. It's quite impressive. The whole model revokes around the community health worker idea. Employee and train people to do community outreach and follow up so that patients continue to improve. At the same time work with them to improve nutrition housing and education. And no one is denied. I'm sure the reality is not always as cut and dry but it's extremely impressive and even he admits it's not really all that novel of an approach just no one seems to be doing it. He was asked about the aid coming into Haiti and pointed out that aid doesn't do anything unless it actually shows up. He pointed out that since the hurricane hit in 08 less than 10% of the pledged money has come in.

We drove to la colons to visit la hospital de los cohobes, the hospital we had seen the night before. It's even more impressive during the day. I took a walk through the village to shoot some b roll and as usual found a gaggle of kids who tagged along to watch the video screen. They are always really. Ute and inevitably one or two of them will Come up and take your hand to walk with you. They also all say good morning regardless of why time it is.

I shot a few street scenes and some pics of the kids and then saw a square area with a roaster in it and benches around it. I asked Andre our driver if it was what I thought it was and you guessed it a cock fighting arena. Lovely. I try not to judge but that did bug me a bit.

Were back in port au prince tonight for one last night on the concrete before we head home. I won't miss that much. I also won't miss the 14 hour shooting days, eating power bars, cold showers, washing my clothes in a bucket, the same one we use to add water to the toilets when we want to flush, mosquitos, Exhaustion, heat rashes, chloroquine, death, amputees, destruction, low flying cargo planes, children asking for dlo (creole for water) and so many other things. What I will miss though are the Haitian people and the docs and nurses I've met here.
One in particular is andre our driver. For starters he's a mad man behind the wheel. Safe but he doesn't like to get stuck in traffic so driving on sidewalks going the wrong way and pushing through where a car shouldn't fit are all fair game. He seems to enjoy cutting off UN trucks as well which I find quite funny.
Andre is probably in his 40s but it's hard to tell. He's a hustler, not in a bad way but in a works every angle to provide for his family way. He was telling me about a couple of jobs he has including Amway and how they have all stopped and now he is driving for a tour company. He is struggling as he has three kids who are 18 to 20 and he doesn't want to send them to the states bit may have no choice. His family and house are ok but he has been sleeping outside with them anyway as everyone else is doing. He's taken in several friends as well who have lost family and houses. Scott told me that one of Andre's friends had lost everything and that he was going to ask pih for a tent for his friend. I went up to Andre and said " I hear one of your friends lost his house" intending to then ask what else we could do for him but Andre cut me short and said " most of my friends have lost their houses". It's quite sobering.
He's a great guy though and had a great sense of humour. We've had a lot of talks about Haiti and religion as he is very religious. I asked him bow he could except the earthquake and still believe in god and he said that he doesn't understand it but he knows that everyone has a mission in life and if you were spared there is still work to be done.
He told me about a friend who had lost her husband only to find that two days later he w alive under a building. A huge pylon had crushed him from the waste down and it took another day to get a machine to lift it up. They gave him medicine of sown sort and food and Andre said he was lucid and smiling and everyone thought he'd be ok. They lifted the pylon and he died a few minutes later.
You hear these crazy stories everywhere.
One other thing we heard today is that the us geological society or something like that is predicting a 6.0 here within the next month. I can't even imagine. Andre told me that outside of town people have been flocking to this area where two hills moves so much that they are actually touching now. He said he'll send a pic.

We leave on either a pih charter or a military cargo plane to tomorrow at 1. Depending on where we land (the military takes you where ever they go). I'll be back on Tuesday.

Nothing like a two and a half hour Sunday morning church service in Creole. Beautiful - but a wee bit hard to follow.

Black coffee after 2 hours sleep. Good times.

Feb. 6

Today started off with an interview of one of the Haitian doctors that we have been following named Pierre Paul. He looks like a linebacker but is as nice as they come and a major part of the team here. He was in the states when the quake hit and assumed his family was dead. He said he kept on dreaming that his mother was under a huge rock and that he was the only one who could lift it so she could be buried. Thankfully when he arrived he found that everyone was OK. He's one of the few.

The rest of the morning was a bit slow. We went with Joia to the general hospital, which has slowed down even more since we were there the other day. Sadly, the patients who are still there now are the chronic cases and I some ways are even tougher to see than the quake victims as they are victims of a living situation and not a natural disaster. Lots of infectious disease and lots of problems they can't nail down.

After we left the tent, I asked Joia how she keeps from crying all the time as I had had a fair amount of trouble holding it together while filming in there. She pointed out that you quickly learn that crying in there would be for her not for them and is the last thing they would need. I told her I agreed but pointed out that was the reason why she didn't, not how she didn't. She considered that and the offered up that it was probably related but that it eventually comes out in some form or another as she's doing something mundane like washing her car or opening a letter.

We then went to meet up with Dr. Paul Farmer, the founder of PIH and a real visionary. Dr. Farmer had come in the day before but had been meeting with officials and dealing with the work he and Bill Clinton are planning for the future of Haiti.

From the moment you meet him, you know this is someone special. He's the kind of guy that the room just gravitates to. Says hello to absolutely everyone knows everyone name and always has a smile. When we met up with him he had a small bag of knitted baby bonnets that his mother had made to send down.

Dr. farmer has been in Haiti for 25 years and founded PIH. They have built one hospital in Cange and rebuilt or retooled 10 others around the country that they work with but are publicly run. He graduate Harvard and decided that curing TB was going to be his mission by stopping it. He has been working in Haiti as well as many other countries around the world because he holds that the poor need first class healthcare much more than the rich do.

One of the incredible things they have done is to build a better mousetrap. He pointed out that Cange and mass general back in the states have roughly the same number of patients per year but that Cange has a 5 million dollar budget and mass generals is 2 billion. Something wrong there. He gave us a tour of a hospital they had rebuilt in Beladaire. The facility cost $700000 and was built on 9 months. It's open air except for the personal rooms because sunlight and fresh air are TB’s enemies. I have to say between that hospital and a hermetically sealed one like they have in the us where docs tell you to get out ASAP to avoid infection, I'd take Beladaire.

He took us to the TB ward and pointed out that in the states they have negative pressure rooms that cost $2000 a day. The purpose is to keep germs from leaving the room. Wanting to achieve the same outcome with less money, the rooms gave fans and the hallways open on either end and in the ceiling with fans constantly moving air. As a result all room doors will close after you and air is constantly being pumped out creating a negative pressure situation. Their rates of infection show this to work according to Dr. Farmer.

We ended up coming back to Cange with him and Joia and at staying her place tonight. He told us that in the morning before we had met up he had gone to the US comfort to assist in finding a body of a patient who has been sent there and misplaced. It's amazing that this world renowned doctor who is meeting with heads of state and inning an entire hospital system through his org would take the time to personally look for a body of one of their patients who was misplaced by an entirely different org. He eventually identified who it was.

We drove out to Cange at night and our driver Andre did an amazing job. As I mentioned last time the road is really more of a dried rock strewn riverbed than a road. It's pitch black at nifty since there are no lights except for the ridge fires that are set to burn the trees to make charcoal and there is always the potential of a goat or two at any given moment. Andre is shooting along in our van at around 70 kmh and fishtailing and slaloming as if it was nothing. I took some video and will post when I cam because it was wild.

Tonight we sleep on the floor in Cange as they are full up and tomorrow we will join in a memorial mass being performed for all the doctors here.

Heading to Miami on Monday and then home on Tuesday and I cannot wait to see my family.

Feb. 5

Friday started out a bit slow as we sat in traffic fro a bit. As I mentioned before, traffic has been horrendous. This time there was a reason though, as there were about 200 Christians all dressed in white marching in the street singing hymns. It was quite remarkable to see. I don't know that I would be able to have that kind of devotion after what I've seen here. More power to them.

We then stopped in on two mobile clinics the second of which was set up today in the same tent city we visited yesterday. We followed Joia, the chief medical director, as she saw patients. It was about 9:30 and the clinic had been up for an hour. Everyone stands in line to be seen for medicine for everything and they are all given a number. Joia sat down at a table and I noticed that the first woman she saw was number 215. By the end of the day they saw 1200 patients, as their policy is not to stop until everyone has been seen.

One of the great things about shooting something like this is you get to really check out the details of people. Every patient who sat down was immediately extended a hand and then after a greeting, Joia would continue to hold their hand in both of hers as she talked to them for a minute before starting an exam. It was all in Creole but it seemed to take the same tone every time, along the lines of ‘How are you?’ ‘How are you feeling today?’ ‘How long have you been here?’ - not being asked by a doctor, but by a fellow human being. As I've said before it's what makes PIH amazing: dignity.

We left the clinic around noon to meet up with one of the nurses from Cange who had come back to PAP. She lost her sister and her niece in a church that collapsed and is now supporting her brother in law and his 9 remaining children. We went with her to the church which see saw for the first time and was just gut wrenching to see. The top two floors had pancaked and the only gap you could see was in place because of a school chair that had somehow held up. It doesn't seem like anyone could have even known it was coming. Later she told us that she had talked with her brother in law and they had found an org that may adopt the four youngest children. I can't fathom having to make that type of decision. The strength that I have seen here is like none other.

We stopped into a supermarket to grab some drinks and to my surprise the shelves were stocked. Sort of odd to see.

There were military guys in their teens with ak47s buying junk food, but other than that it could have been anywhere else. Now this is only one store but it occurred to me that people are starving with the shelves stocked because they are too poor to buy anything from a store. I've said it before but the earthquake is only the latest in a long line of calamities to befall this country.

We spent the rest of the afternoon in traffic, literally, and got back to tent city in time to shoot an interview with one of the docs.
The surgeons from Cange have come to tent city as they are heading back to Philly in the morning. There is no room left anywhere so they are sleeping on the steps of the palace. I ask them what their final tally was and they told me that in 9 days, they’d operated on 77 people. That's with only two surgical teams. They said that back in the real world they would do about 50 a month and that's in a big month.

It's wild to talk to them because they are exhausted and dirty and worn down but every single one of them says they would and will do this again in some way and can't wait to come back. Amazing.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Feb. 4 2010

We started out the day today a bit late because our driver, Andre, got caught in a huge demonstration. A huge crowd of people was demonstrating and screaming about the fact that not everyone is getting aid. I have no idea if this was reported in the US news, and I'm guessing if it was, it was blown out of proportion. According to Andre, people were really angry but there was no violence and no destruction of any kind. They just wanted to have their voices heard and that essentially what they did. By the time we hit the streets it was over.

We drove around the city to see different sites for a bit. Every time you think you've become numb to the destruction, something else comes up around the corner and smacks you down. I was shooting on one street and an elderly man took us down an alleyway to see why was left of his house, which was essentially nothing. It's heartbreaking to see. His family was using buckets to try to clear away debris in an attempt - I'm assuming - to reclaim anything they can. Imagine losing everything in an instant.

We then met up with Joia the medical director for PIH and sat in on a meeting with the Minister of Public Health. Most of it was in Creole but essentially he was talking about how happy they were to have PIH involved and how once they were part of things stuff gets done. Joia reminded him that their hope is to help them get to the point where they aren't even part of he picture anymore.

After the meeting I made a phone call to Shalhevet the school I work at in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, it was short as we had to run but they played it over the loudspeaker at an assembly and it was nice to hear all the folks there clapping when I was done. Sorry I couldn’t talk longer!

We then headed to one of the mobile clinics that has been set up that was absolutely mobbed. One of the PIH workers wanted to show Joia another tent city they were going to be setting up in and so they started to walk with me hand holding a camera in front of them walking backwards like I'm used to. Sadly for me, the walk was about a mile and a half! But just when I was starting to feel sorry for myself, I swing around and saw where we were going. It's one of the larger tent cities and based on the birth rate they are seeing, they estimate the population to be between 15 and 20 thousand. Imagine 20 thousand people living cramped together with no sewage, no electricity, nothing except a few possessions and the wood and sheets that form the walls. It's really more like a sheet city.

We followed Joia for a while and then when she was done, we went off on our own to shoot video of the city. Now consider what you have heard and seen on the news about these cities and then listen to the truth. Scott and I walked through these tents that are cramped together by the thousands with about 6 inches in between and not once felt on danger for the 45 minutes or so we wondered around. We had no interpreter and were constantly welcomed and were even invited into a few peoples homes which we took advantage of. It's amazing how people are proud to show what they have done and yet at the same time you can see the trauma on many of their faces at the same time. I know that seems odd but it's all there.
We rounded one corner to find this elderly gentleman working away on an old foot operated sewing machine. He was a tailor and was fixing shirts on the dirt floor in front of his tent surrounded by everyone and working away.

The thing I will never forget though are the kids. They are everywhere and constantly say "hey you" and then want you to take their picture. They also want to high five and knock knuckles all the time. Scott and I spent a lot of time surrounded by hoards of kids, and we even flew kites with them for a bit. They are all so happy and with the exception of occasionally asking for water and food. Even though they were wonderful and so nice, it's heartbreaking because these kids will be living there when my kids graduate day school. They'll be there when my kids graduate high school and they'll probably be there for a while after that. And that's if they make it that long. These camps are essentially permanent and that’s the horrible part of it all. That, and the randomness. My kids are safe at home and these kids are here, and when it comes right down to it, it’s not much more than a coin toss. Crazy.

There was a large group of people gathering in one area with a guy with a bullhorn getting them riled up, I'm guessing over food issues. Even then, though, with hundreds of people chanting, there wasn't any concern of problems. It's incredible and I only hope they get the relief they need.

The one thing I can say with certainty though is that God was in that city. I don't even know quite what I mean when I say that, but it was a profoundly spiritual place that oddly at face level seems like the last place you'd think would be spiritual. I can't really explain it but there was true goodness there and true… I'm not sure.

We heard today that one of the mass graves has 50 thousand people in it. The death toll is now expected to be 200 thousand.

Senegal has offered free land to anyone from Haiti interested in settling there.

I miss my wife and kids more than I can say.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Feb. 3, 2010

Last night we hung out at the university of Miami tents until about 9 pm. The tents are huge, the kind that a circus would have set up, have wood floors and air conditioning, and are packed full of doctors and patients on every kind of bed for as far as you can see. It's quite a site. They have surgical suites radiology and a pharmacy as well as rehab and a whole tent city next door where the docs stay.

While we were waiting for five spinal patients to come in from cange we met one of the guys who was in charge of setting the whole place up. He was about 55 walked with a limp and was delivering water to sick patients. He told me that he had over 100 combat missions under his belt Now one of the guys who is full time with the crisis response team. I asked him if it was hard setting these places up and he pointed to his cap which read US Airborne and said " not with this... I just walk into the army compound and pretty soon we have everything we need.
I guess that's what has amazed me most about this experience. Instead of planning and strategizing like things usually are done there's this we need to get this done so were just going to do it and figure it out as we go attitude. As he pointed out in a tragedy like this there is no use planning because everything changes so fast.
The patients all made it safely from cange although one of the ambulances broke down so they were delayed. Due to the overflow of patients they did not have enough back boards to bring everybody on so they took doors off the rooms and used those. It was pretty funny because one of the docs was having a hard time tracking down the last door and was worried that they'd kill him when he got back if he didn't have it.

One of the great things about being here is getting to watch as these things come together. There is such a great feeling when one of the serious patients is finally in a place where they can get the help they need.

This morning started out with more of the same as we headed to the Airport where the patients who were flown in last night were finally arriving at u of Miami. Again the docs needed to fly them so they started calling around until the Canadian search and rescue guys agreed. While we were waiting they then needed to find transport from the copter to the hospital which was only about 500 yards but with spinal patients and four of them a tough distance. They made some calls and got two American ambulances to come get them. Incredible to watch these things happen.

We spent a good deal of time at the airport after waiting for the medical director of pih to arrive. She was late so I spent some time talking to our driver about Haiti.

The medical director finally arrived and we will be following g her for a few days. We took her to the general hospital which in just a week looks like a different world. No one sleeping on the street relative quiet and a much lighter caseload. Port au prince itself is starting to spring back to life as can be seen by the horrendous traffic and the trucks of rubble driving through the streets.
We were told that right after the earthquake u til just before we came a large area near the morgue held 900 bodies stacked 4 high and that bodys were stacked like chord wood on the sides of the road. It's quite amazing that the government was able to take care of this so quickly and supports the rumours of mass graves outside of town.

We sat in on a few meetings with the med director Joia and some of the hospital staff. Pih feels that the best way to move forward is to get the medical school back up and running and has agreed to turn a hospital they are building outside of town into a teaching hospital complete with dorms etc. That will function as the med school u til the old one can be rebuilt. Thy hope to have it finished in 9 months but want to start classes asap. It's very like them. Find a problem and fix it.

We then went to the minister of public health and spoke with him for a while but his schedule changed so we will be meeting with him in the morning.

Joia told me that 1 penny out of every dollar that comes into Haiti as foreign aid goes to the government and as a result the government has no power and the NGO's are doing everything. NGOs can't run a country there needs to be a strong transparent government to get things done so they are fighting to change this model. It's interesting to here one of the execs of an NGO say that but she's right. I asked her about corruption and she pointed out that the us govt is corrupt and that doesn't seem to stop anyone. She's got a point but it's not quite that simple.

Two numbers which have struck me are that90% of the schools have been destroyed and over 1 million people are going to need rehabilitation of some sort or other. It's incomprehensible to me how they will get out of this.

One of the nice things to see is that the government is starting to build tent cities with some decent looking tents. These will be good for the short run but when it starts raining in march it's going to be trouble.

We are now back at Aristides compound with the docs sleeping in tents on the ground. A few things I have noticed on a personal level since I've been hear. Not looking in a mirror for over a week is a wild experience and worth a try. You can live on only food bars steamed rice water and plaintains and mangos but it gets really boring. Flush toilets and running water as well as toilet paper are things that should never be taken for granted.

But having said all of that and being utterly exhausted I constantly remind myself that I will be going home soon and for many my reality here would be a welcome step up.

Be thankful for everything you have and do your best to take nothing for granted.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Feb 1

Woke up at 5 to film the sunset and then followed the docs on rounds. At one point they came to juanika the little girl singing in the video who lost half her foot. She's simply amazing and has this huge smile on her face all the time. They called in her parents and told them that they had three options to consider - to do a skin graft over the foot, to cut the leg midcalf, or to cut it above the knee. Each has it's pluses and minuses and not only did they take the time to explain the pros and cons but also what the larger societal implications will be regarding how her walk and appearance would be and whether or not people would know she was an amputee. That's what amazes me about these guys. Not only are they giving topnotch free healthcare to underprivelaged people but they are offering them choices just as they would be in any decent hospital in the states. They deserve no less than anyone else does.

Next up we went into Cange which is essentially one dirt street long with vendors and houses on either side. The docs found the parents of a girl in the hospital who had shattered her forearm and was ready to be discharged. They explained that they were doing a preliminary assesment to determine how best to get her home and continue her treatment. This is another amazing aspect of PIH. After a patient goes home a worker from the hospital will check in on them as long as is considered necessary in order to make sure that they are recovering well. n this case they were in Cange but in the case where they are farther out, PIH employs locals that have healthcare training to monitor recovery, help when necessary and phone in so that the patients progress can be tracked. We walked about a mile, up a steep incline to a little series of tin shacks where the girls mother and father showed the docs where she would be sleeping and they assesed how to get her there.

We then went back and they loaded her up in an ambulance and drove her to the base of the hill. Then, with great care, 4 guys took turns carrying her stretcher up this steep terrain and into the house. They set her down on the bed, made her comfortable and gave the mother and father a 20 minute summary of everything they needed to know and answered their questions. As we were leaving I asked when they'd be back and one of them told me someone would be by that afternoon. Can you imagine this happening in the states? And for every patient no less? Aftercare is considered no less important than the initial hospital stay and with houses with tin roofs and dirt floors it may even be more important.

The house itself was really interesting. Made from tin and wood that had been picked from other places using nails that were bent and rusted it consisted of very small rooms that I could barely stand in. That said it was clean, neat and obviously a great source of pride as they had painted it quite vibrantly, decorated it and had several ornate wood cuttings as trim. Very pretty.

We came back to the hospital and did a few interviews with one of the chief docs and a nurse who lost her sister and is now going to be caring for her 9 children. It's incredible how everyone is coping and I have seldom if ever seen the type of strength they have shown. Everyone here has lost someone, some their entire families and yet everyone is here working because they feel its the best way to help.

We also talked with a surgeon her from Philly who could not believe how amazing this place is. He pointed out that if American hospitals ran this way no one would have a single complaint. When i asked him about money he pointed out that the operating budget for the whole hospital is in the low single digit millions yet they treat as many people as some big city hospitals. Go figure. OUr director asked him if there was one case that was the toughest and he told us about an 8 year old who came in with a major head injury. The only way to save him was to open a burr hole and relieve the pressure but that he would need a nuerosurgeons care afterwards and they don't have one here. There was a hospital they contacted in Port Au Prince who could have helped but was not willing to do so. So it was decided that there was nothing to do for him and he died. 8 years old and his mother had just buried his father as well. The docs offered to the haitian staff to say they'd like to pay for his funeral as she had no money and they were told that she had opted to have him go to the morgue where the bodies "just disappear".

Several other tough stories today that I'd rather not go into. Terrible things have happened here but wonderful ones as well. It's an odd place.

This evening we met with the priest who started this place back in the 60s before he asked PIH to get involved. He explained that there was nothing here and he came when thousands of locals were displaced by the flooding of a valley for a power generating system. Of course they got no power from them. Anyway he described the begiinings and getting water up here. He mentioned that where there is water there is life and finished by saying in spite of it all he was happy because he had been given the ability to make others happy. How cool is that. Through all this, that's his feeling. My grandmother would have liked him very much because that was her philosophy as well.


The size of my fist. That's all I'm saying.