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.