I know we all ring in the new year on Jan 1st… but over the past 5 years another date has surfaced as a more significant marker for me - January 12th, the day a 7.0 earthquake decimated Haiti.
My Dad has a saying – “Everything is fine until it isn’t”… One moment life is happening just as it always has, and then within 45 seconds it has changed forever. Such as the case in Haiti…
I arrived there about 3 days after the quake struck… it was nothing short of a war zone. Port au Prince was a city left in shambles, with unimaginable scenes around every corner… that first week was the hardest, seeing bulldozers scoop bodies into mass graves is something that is forever burned into my memory. Waves For Water was in its infancy. I went on a whim, mostly just because I had the opportunity, and then stayed for two years. I’ve said this many times before but EVERYTHING that we do today is a result of what I learned there in those years following the quake. That was the proving ground for everything…
Being that it quickly became the epicenter of the aid world, I got to see first hand what other org’s/groups were doing right, but more importantly what they were doing wrong. I didn’t come from the aid world so I obviously had a lot to learn, but I also had ‘fresh’ eyes. I couldn’t believe how many org’s were paralyzed by their own bureaucracy… it didn’t make sense. From an outsiders perspective the problem set related to a disaster seemed fairly easy to understand. It was pretty fundamental problem solving, really – food, water, shelter, medical, rubble & debris removal, and so on and so forth… all the basic human needs that had been stripped away by the catastrophe. So why the bureaucratic gridlock?? A question we are still puzzled with today… and I now know there are many contributing factors… but the short answer is that most of the existing models are outdated… similar to what has happened with Wall St, politics, real estate market, or even the Arab Spring. All are examples of antiquated models that have recently come to a head and in some cases exploded into change. The aid world is no different… with the current level of connectivity at our fingertips, newer (more decentralized) guerrilla models are emerging. And many of them are extremely efficient and most importantly – transparent. It’s a new paradigm… and it’s wonderful to be a part of.
Professionally speaking, this is just an example of some of the things Haiti taught me… but, on an internal personal level, no single place in the world has contributed more to my growth. The changes I went through there are unparalleled. It was the ultimate initiation into my truest self… an unveiling… an awakening of a beast, full of light. This is why Jan 12 is a much stronger new year marker for me – it represents a rebirth. That said, I am in no way implying that this is the case for anyone else… everyone who was touched by this event has a different relationship with it… and the overarching theme is utter devastation and loss… something that should never be forgotten.
So, as we are now approaching the 5 year anniversary, I am inspired to look back at all that has happened since I first arrived there. As I sit here and marinate on what a tremendous global impact we’ve had, I am reminded of certain stand-out moments that have helped define everything:
- Responded to 12 global disasters – Indonesia, Haiti, Japan, Bosnia, Pakistan, India, Philippines, etc…
- Created and implemented the first military/civilian partnership of it’s kind in an active war-zone in Afghanistan.
- Launched our DIY driven volunteer program called, Clean Water Couriers, in which we arm travelers with water filters that they offload to communities in need, along their journey.
- Provided 100k people with access to clean water in one single day, through our “#100kWorldWaterDay” project in 2014.
- Domestic rain-water harvesting project with Native American – Lakota tribe, on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota.
- Helping to reinvent the way “CSR” programs are done with corporate partners such as – eBay, Hurley, Mitsubishi, Ambev, PayPal, Nike, Red Bull, The Meatball Shop, Nextel, etc…
- Unprecedented programs in “high risk” territories such as Syrian refugee camps, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and North Korea.
- “Sede de Vencer” World Cup 2014 project – in partnership with Brasilian soccer star Neymar Jr and PayPal, that provided access to clean water to underserved communities in all 13 cities where Cup games were played.
- Partnership with the ASP (Association of Surfing Professionals), in which we created the “positive footprint” to the tour by implementing our clean water program in nearby areas of need to all 12 stops throughout the year.
- Provided millions of people with access to clean water through our long-term development programs in over 15 countries.
These are some of the highlights that are standing out to me right now, but the real magic is what happens within our community, day in and day out. Our fearless team that works tirelessly to improve quality of life for people all over the world. Our local networks (aka the unsung heroes) in all the countries we work, consistently raising the bar and fighting for their people. And lastly, all of our supporters out there who stand up, time and time again, in the name of clean water. It’s all really inspiring!
I will be arriving in Haiti tomorrow to support and facilitate a first of its kind anniversary event happening in Leogane (actual epicenter of the quake). It is a five mile run, in which thousands of Haitians and internationals will be participating in solidarity and remembrance of all those lost in the 2010 quake. We are also tying a clean water activation around it, so should any of you feel like supporting it, here is the link.
Thanks and wishing you all a kick-ass 2015!!