Everyone is trying to come to grips with the immensity of the challenge that now presents itself in and around Port-au-Prince (PAP). We are enormously relieved that Maryse Kedar, President of SOLANO, our Haitian subsidiary, is okay despite having been in PAP at the moment of the earthquake. She is a phenomenal lady, one of the most impressive people we know anywhere in the world. While her safety is great news, her recitation by email of how many good friends she has lost is both stunning and chilling. She is one of the best networked people in the country, so when she lists the friends she has lost it is a who’s-who of Haitian government and society including key UN personnel.
Our good friend Dr. Barth Green of Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami and the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis was in PAP by mid-day Wednesday. He was one of the first – if not the first –outside medical professionals on the scene. Barth has been a driving force behind the University of Miami medical clinics that have been in Haiti for years and he cares very deeply about the country. I’m sure Barth will do miracles in PAP but Haiti probably needs many more than just him.
The meeting with President Clinton is proceeding today in NYC so I am here. The only difference is the Prime Minister is obviously in Haiti rather than with us as was originally planned. The agenda would have been about economic progress and investment. Now it will be about disaster response. When I was on Governor Bush’s Haiti Advisory Group about four years ago, we identified disaster response as one of the top three priorities for rehabilitating the country. There have been several disasters since that unfortunately reinforced the priority. But no one ever imagined a disaster like this.
Back to John:
No news directly from Port-Au-Prince but we have received word indirectly that the relief efforts are ramping up from all international sources. From our standpoint, we have received and loaded the first relief supplies on Independence of the Seas, which will be taken to Labadee and distributed through Food For The Poor. We are also in the process of coordinating additional relief supplies that will be loaded on Navigator of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas, and will be taken to Labadee on Monday and Tuesday of next week. My thanks to our suppliers and members of our supply chain team for coordinating this, specifically Tom Weiland, Laura Pullens, Lisa Guia and Don Cope. The supplies we are sending include rice, dried beans, water, dried milk and a variety of other canned items. This effort is going to be a marathon, so we will be partnering with Food For The Poor on the back-end distribution in Haiti.
I am getting a lot of questions from everyone about how they can help. I have asked them to go to Food For The Poor and make a donation. This is the best and most effective way to assist in the relief effort right now.
Finally, I am happy to say we are committed to continuing calls to Labadee with Independence of the Seas tomorrow. There were a lot of discussions about this, but in the end, Labadee is critical to Haiti’s recovery and hundreds of people rely on Labadee for their livelihood. In our conversations with the U.N. Special Envoy of the Government of Haiti Leslie Voltaire, he notes that Haiti will benefit from the revenues that are generated from each call, which is critical to their recovery. We also have tremendous opportunities to use our ships as transport vessels for relief supplies and personnel to Haiti.
Simply put, we cannot abandon Haiti now that they need us most.
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.