September 27, 2012
Haiti is a place that I have been to many times before. I wanted to keep a journal this time to record our daily activities, so that I could share them with you. I went to Haiti with Martel Alliance and Hope for Haiti. I am honored to be involved with both organizations.
My Trip to Haiti
10:00 AM: Flight from O’Hare International Airport, Chicago, IL to Ft. Lauderdale, FL.
On the flight I was thinking about the fact that I was missing my college homecoming this weekend. I particularly wanted to not only go to the parties and football game on Saturday, but wanted to see Dr. Cornell West speak Friday night on Social Injustice. He was speaking there because, not only was it part of a year long program about Race and social equality, but it was also the 27th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s acceptance of the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award that he received on that very campus.
I thought about that a lot on the plane and how ironic it was for me travelling to one of the most impoverished nations on the planet. I thought about how Dr. King might have treated the situation in Haiti today, and others areas of the world, which are victims of social injustice in their own right.
12:30pm: Arrive in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
I have two beers with the leaders of the team at the hotel lobby bar. We make plans to meet up with the other 16 people (all Canadians) for dinner in the lobby at 6:00pm
3:00pm: Listen to a 1 hour talk given by Jim Rohn on the principles of success…then take a 90 minute nap.
6:00pm: Meet the team from Canada down in the lobby and have dinner, going over the schedule and planning for the next 48 hours. We then coordinate all the school supplies that we brought down for distribution for the kids. It’s close to 10:00pm, I head upstairs to my room, answer a few emails, call Heather, and go to bed. The alarm goes off at 4:00am
September 28, 2012
4:00am: Wake, Shower and get down to the lobby with my backpack, ready to go to the airport to fly to Port Au Prince, Haiti.
6:30am: Scarf down some fruit and coffee and board the plane to Port Au Prince, Haiti. On the Plane, I listen to more Jim Rohn regarding the principles of success. Wondering how what I am listening to could apply to the Haitian people.
8:30am: Land in Port Au Prince Haiti. The newly built terminal since the earthquake in 2010 is a vast improvement from what I remember (my last trip was 2008). Our three armed bodyguards escort us, and the rest of the Canadians, out of the airport to our passenger van. If you have never been to the Port Au Prince airport, it is a little overwhelming. As you leave not only are hundreds of people asking if they can carry your bags for money, but they are almost desperate in their begging.
We loaded the vans and started our journey to Gonaives, Haiti; this is about a five-hour trek. The trip is only 100 miles, but the condition of the roads makes travel more difficult than what we are used to. We had several stops, and went through some very desperate areas of Haiti. The several “tent cities” that we passed were mind-blowing. The country is still affected by the 2010 earthquake that killed about 800,000 people. After the earthquake, many charity groups, news teams, etc. rushed to help. Now, they were gone. It is almost as if the Haitian’s were forgotten about, just because the newness of the situation was over. Much was still to be done…
2:00pm: Arrive at an orphanage built by Hope for Haiti. Hope for Haiti was started by our good friend Scott Bonnell. This particular orphanage houses about 25 children, most which were left alone after the earthquake. Martel Alliance, headed by Steve Martel, donated money to the orphanage to finish building the facility. This included a roof, railings and a few buildings (one used for cooking, and a small first aid center. We ended up touring the facility (when I say facility I mean four cement block walls with a tin roof), serving the kids lunch, and then eating ourselves. I had an inner battle accepting and eating the food that they provided for us. Knowing that they are so poor, and yet so proud to serve us lunch (which was delicious). It was a very cool experience as we sang songs, and watched the children open their gifts.
5:30pm: Exhausted from our day, we arrive at our hotel (Hotel Paradise; Gonaives). This is not a hotel like we would find here in the United States. It is clean, but only has the bare essentials. I shower, take a short nap, and try to call Heather several times with no avail. The cell coverage and Internet service has been skittish at best. I head downstairs at 7:00pm to meet the others for drinks and dinner. Their drinks included their Haitian beer and Rum. Options for dinner included chicken, goat, rice and plantains.
7:00pm: We head to the hotels 12-foot high fenced-in courtyard. We drink a Haitian beer called Prestige and rum called Barbancourt. While we are waiting for dinner to be prepared, we review the day and discuss how things could change in Haiti. We discuss things like the local government, lack of Internet service, and how to create jobs and opportunity for Haitians.
11:00pm: It’s now getting late, and after eating I head to my room for a good nights rest. My alarm clock will be sounding at 6:00am for yet another day in Haiti.
6:00am: Alarm goes off. Shower, get dressed, have a banana, energy bar, and a bottle of water.
7:00am: Jump into the van and head out for our 2.5-hour journey to Anse Rouge, Haiti. It is a very rough journey, as we cross mountain ranges on paths that in no way resemble our modern roads. These are basically paths mostly used by people on Enduro off-road motorcycles and jeeps.
During the way, I noticed how much Haiti has to offer with respect to biomes. It goes from desert to jungle then back to desert and finally to beach. It is very cool and diverse. We passed through many towns along the way also illustrating Haiti’s extreme poverty.
10:00am: We arrive at Anse Rouge where we are building a comprehensive village. There will be fishing cooperative and homes. Our first phase is 40 houses. Thirty have been completed since June. This is pretty impressive for an operation so remote with not a lot of resources. As we drive up to the villages, the new houses out shadow, the old shanty’s and huts, that the people were living in before. The first to come running out are the children. They are clapping and singing songs.
As I get out of the van, I have goose bumps. It was worth the trip for just that moment. I pause, soak it all in and for a moment; everything seems to be good in Haiti. But, that moment quickly subsides when I consider, we are making a small dent in the massive need that Haiti, and frankly other areas of the world need.
We walk through the construction of the homes, check their progress and make plans for the rest of the fishing cooperative. We figure that we can make the village sustainable if we can “teach them to fish” in a way as they can sell these fish as enterprise to other parts of Haiti. An enterprise that on the surface seems much easier than it really is. Haitians work to survive, not for business success. However, the thing I like that they have is a hard work effort, pride and passion. Long term, I feel they will not only survive, but also thrive.
12:30 pm: We leave the fishing cooperative village and head to the Good Samaritan Orphanage in Anse Rouge. This was a facility that was just discovered by our good friend Scott Bonnell from Hope to Haiti. They have 34 kids that share seven beds. The seven beds are basically pallets with sheets. Quite jarring. The children have one meal, three times a week. Again, quite jarring. A lot of the orphanages have popped up as a result of the massive casualties of the earthquake in 2010. You can find these types of situations all over Haiti.
Our next mission is to help the orphanage to get beds and provide meals on a regular basis. We strategize as far as budget and monies needed. It takes about $1500 per month to support an orphanage properly like that. The beds will cost around $10,000 to outfit the facility properly for all of the children.
The children sang songs and we handed out different colored watches for them to have. Their eyes and faces changed as they had just been given a gift of prestige in their eyes. That is the glimmer of hope that I have for Haiti. It is “that look” when they see their new house, or receive a small gift. That is the opening for the future. It was almost as if the watches were a symbol for “time for change”.
We toured the rest of the facility as it was getting late. We would now be driving back in our van the 7.5 hours back to Port Au Prince. Part of our journey back would be in the dark, when safety becomes a little more of an issue. We stopped a couple of times for gas and water without issue. We finally arrive at our hotel that was built for the UN Soldiers by the airport.
10:00pm: Arrive at UN Hotel by Airport in Port Au Prince, Haiti. We had a large table where we gathered for dinner. We discussed the things that Haiti desperately needs for change. We came up with three ideas.
1. Clean Water – Water is Life.
2. The Internet (Country Wide) – Look what that has done for countries like China, India and the Philippines. The Internet would provide: expression, knowledge, communication and maybe most importantly, a business platform.
3. Governmental Change – Not an easy thing given the country’s history. Nothing sustainable as far as growth can happen without a good leader. While it seems like the government is improving, it has to stay that way for future success.
12:00am: Finish my sandwich and head to my room. Wake up is coming at 6:30am for our flight back to the US.
6:30am: Alarm goes off, shower and head to the restaurant to meet up with others. Drink a bottle of water and eat a banana.
8:00am: Check in for the flight to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Port Au Prince International airport has 5 screening points, not just one. It does take some time to get through to board the plane.
10:00am: Plane takes off to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
12:00pm: Arrive in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. After going through customs, and saying goodbye to most of the group, we head to the Hilton in Dania Beach to have lunch and debrief from the trip. My flight isn’t until 9:30pm to head back to Chicago. We talk about the successes of the trip and make plans for the future and what our action plan is. We break and I am left at the hotel until my flight.
3:30pm: I take a nap until 5:30 where I wake, shower and write about the trip. I check and reply to emails until I head to the airport for my flight to Chicago.
9:30pm: Board my flight to Chicago O’Hare airport.
11:30pm: Land and finally get to see Heather. I hugged her until she popped. Realizing what we, and I have with life. When you go to a place like Haiti that has nothing, coming home is jarring.
My final thoughts…
I can’t help but go back to the thoughts I had about social justice going into the trip. I feel like I have played a part in that. Social justice should not be a scenario that you turn on and turn off. It is a constant thing. My advice? Pick an issue, and stand up for it. There are so many. Animal rights, hunger, clean water, gay rights, race, etc. Picking an issue makes your human experience more vibrant. It makes your time here on earth more valuable.
In business I would ask you if you add value to the marketplace? With social justice, I would ask you if you are adding value to the people or animals that are deprived of basic rights? And it doesn’t have to be in Haiti. There is opportunity in every part of the world for social justice, and probably even in your own backyard.
I think the world needs more people to make a difference in not everything but in something. Together all of these “something’s” become everything! After all, it’s time for a change!
I’ve taken some videos and photos, Please click the links to view! Orphanage in Anse Rouge, Haiti or Fishing Co-op in Anse Rouge, Haiti
“Remember, wealth has nothing to do with money, success has everything to do with failure, and life is as simple as you make it!” – John Dessauer