There are a lot of reasons why it is a good thing John Weis is in Haiti. Most of them have to do with helping the recovery effort and partnering with Messrs. Clinton and Farmer. But another reason is helping me with this blog as the earnings call last week and the Board meeting next week have put me squarely behind the eight ball. Anyway, there really isn’t anything I can say that matches John’s eyewitness account from Port-au-Prince.
This is day two in Haiti and from what I am told things are getting better slowly but surely. When I arrived I was expecting to see the worst but the first thing I saw was two C-17’s landing from the US unloading pallet after pallet of supplies. There were other nations at the airport as well including Brazil, U.K., Israel, France and Canada all with troops on the ground and ready to assist in any way they could. What was amazing is that as fast as they unloaded, it was being taken out of the airport compound to those who needed it. There were huge encampments of relief workers only dwarfed by the camps set up by the people of Haiti that had lost their homes.
The other thing that struck me was the sheer number of people on the ground helping in the relief effort. Not just military, but ordinary citizens who dropped what they were doing and came down here to help, some on their own dime and some associated with organizations or governments. Three of the people I spoke with had jobs and families that they simply put on hold and came down to Haiti to help people they didn’t even know.
While I thought I was prepared to see the destruction as a result of the pictures you see on the news, being here and seeing it is another story. The destruction in the downtown area was complete and very focused in the area of the government buildings and the immediate surrounding areas, although there is no place you can go where there isn’t some level of destruction by the earthquake.
The pictures fail to capture the magnitude of the destruction and the raw power it took to destroy some of these buildings that had walls 3 feet thick. Many people are living on the streets right in front of their homes because they are afraid to go back inside. Other homes, while still standing have huge structural cracks making them unsafe. Others have had their homes completely destroyed and you see them trying to salvage what they can from their homes taking what they can from their lives before the quake.
As a result, there are literally thousands of people living in makeshift camps in any area they can get a patch of land. Pallets, tarps, plastic, scraps of wood, metal and any other building material you can imagine are being used to construct shelters. Kids are all over the place. As soon as you walk into the camp they are curious and want to know your name and tell you theirs.
You can imagine that water and sanitation are huge issues in these camps. One of the projects that Royal Caribbean has supported was the installation of water distribution centers within these camps. These tanks are 1,200 gallons that are placed in areas throughout the camps and are filled with clean drinking water on a daily basis. I have included pictures of the water distribution tanks, several pictures of the camps and the team that has put it together. Their work has literally saved thousands of peoples lives. This initiative was spearheaded by Maryse and Daniel Kedar who are not included in these pictures but it goes without saying they were behind it all the way.
This is just one example of how two leaders not associated with the government or relief organization made a huge difference with a modest amount of money but a lot of effort and initiative. Other examples of this initiative include temporary hospitals being set up in the streets which are filled to capacity and are not run by the big organizations like the UN or US Military, but by doctors and a few of nurses that lived in the area. It’s very impressive what a few people are capable of doing when they have to and when there are no boundaries established and have to get things done.
On my part, I’ve been working with the Clinton Foundation and Partners in Health on their short term and long term logistics operations in the country. These guys are also doing a heroic job here in Haiti with a lot of work ahead.
I guess the key message of this blog is that there are a lot of people working to improve the situation here and a lot of work ahead. Things are improving but there is a long way to go and the country needs your support.
Interested in helping? Royal Caribbean International is working with Food For The Poor and the Pan American Development Foundation. We encourage guests to make monetary donations to either of these organizations which are currently engaged in the relief effort. For even more information on Royal Caribbean’s humanitarian relief to Haiti, click HERE.