Empowering Communities in Haiti

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Good morning!

Been here for 2 days now and finally starting to adjust. Its a weird sensation for me to be back. On some levels I feel more comfortable than ever but there’s also been a lot of change. Mostly good changes – debris removal, better structures in the tent camps, and definitely a resumed sense of commerce and low level economic growth. But there has also been a vibrational shift within the people that is very noticeable. The sense of emergency has subsided and with that comes two things – most feel gracious for what seems to be a return towards normalcy… But for others, that normalcy is a return to a very unpleasant reality. The quake brought so much destruction and loss but it also brought people together… and in some ways, served as a distraction from what was already an incredibly hard life. It put a freeze on a lot of the existing problems because everything was about basic survival. Plus the amount of international attention and support. Now that the dust has settled the old issues are resurfacing in a sobering fashion.

For me, The experience this time is completely different. My sadness for their situation is the same except it’s not as specifically focused on quake victims, but rather the bigger picture – jobs, upcoming election, and corruption.

The focus, with my work, has shifted in he same manner. Less disaster relief — i.e. “band-aid” type solutions — and more long term ideas such as rain harvesting or potential well digging sites. Also looking into natural spring sources in the hills that could be contained and then piped down to villages.

On my way to Saint Marc with my bro/driver/comedian, Sylla. So great to see him. He’s been taking me to some of the regions he’s distributed filters to and I’ve been seeing firsthand the evolution of this program. He has done a fantastic job! The filter systems are in people’s huts and working great! These are all people I never demonstrated for and that is exactly the point. Sylla has taken the knowledge and started empowering his communities… Just as I’d hoped.

Please continue to spread the word. It DOES make a difference.
Much love!
Jon

You Ready? – Haiti

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There’s really no substitute for putting in the hours. The only way to have an even semi effective operation down here is to personally oversee every stage. Simply put, it just comes down to time spent. There’s so much chaotic energy that it’s so easy for good intentions to slip through the cracks a fall apart.Yesterday was a good day. I was finally able to return to the northern region and deliver the filters I had promised Scott Bonnell’s group. When we arrived to the church the main pastor, Albert, who manages 130 churches, greeted us. It was Sunday morning, so church was still in session. Because Albert wasn’t able to attend my filter demonstration a couple weeks ago, it was crucial that he was here today. We unloaded the goods and he said “You ready?” I replied “sure”, not really knowing what he was talking about. I followed him and all of a sudden I was standing at the podium with the local pastor in front of everyone. He said, “You ready to teach?”. I was planning on just dropping the stuff off, but since the entire community was there for Sunday service, why not use the opportunity to demonstrate. It was classic with a PA system and everything . . . was such a moment.”¨To truly connect on a grass roots level with the community is what this whole thing is about. I felt so damn good to deliver on my word. Everyone really had a look of surprise on their faces when I returned.On the way home my driver/translator, Sylla proceeded to give me a history lesson on the tremendous violence that has plagued his country for generations, and has only recently (past 3-4 years) slowed down. We drove through an area that he said is (still) considered the most dangerous part of Haiti. I might add that the prison was ruined in the quake as well, and 4000 inmates lived through it and were able to escape. Sylla mentioned that most of them would certainly be hiding in this area, as they have always claimed it to be theirs. He said that four years ago he wouldn’t have dared drive through there, but it has since gotten better and with the earthquake things have slowed down even more. It sounded much like the violence we Southern Californians are so aware of in Baja. This area is on the outskirts of PAP and no police ever go there. He said they used to hide in caves in the neighboring hills and would set up road blocks for ambushes on passing cars. Kidnapping was the primary business. A little unsettling since we were passing directly through it. However, I have still yet to feel unsafe. I really believe that in doing this work, I am protected. and everything will work out for the best. It’s just a feeling . . . hard to describe.

Looking up right now, my mind is adrift. Nothing but stars!!!
Its a new day . . .
- Jon Rose

Tents, Rice, Water – Haiti

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Happy Superbowl… I think it’s today? Who am I kidding, I don’t even know who’s playing!
Made another food drop yesterday. Six bags of rice – to a tent community that has seen little to no support. There were only four of us so we had to be smart. You absolutely can not just rock up and start passing stuff out at random. The plan was to 1 – follow up a lead we had for a particular representative that the community would listen to, 2 – give him the bags as quickly as possible, and 3 – get out. We found him, and though his trustworthiness was questionable, we stuck to the plan.

Later I took a walk with a couple UN reps down into the tent city just below our camp. It’s population has grown almost 20k since my last trip down here… which has only been one week! The entire camp is pushing 50k now. There is even a bit of commerce starting to develop. There are tents where people can buy snacks, or get their hair cut, or nails done. I even think I saw some sort of a red light district made from a special grouping of tents … which, if I’m right, is an incredibly heavy concept.

The main topic of conversation between all of us was – what are all the people going to do when it starts to rain? This particular camp is located along a hillside, with clusters of encampments in a gulley below. Rainy season starts in a month or so. Makeshift tents held up by sticks and separated, mostly by thin bed sheets – the issue is not only sanitation, but the high possibility of all the tents simply washing away. There has to be a solution … I am just unable to think of one. I do have faith that people who specialize in stuff like this are working tirelessly to help remedy this intense situation.

There’s just so much devastation … It really is hard to feel like you’re making a dent. Over the past two days I’ve been all over the city, and even in the bordering provinces. It doesn’t matter what street we walk down, they’re all thrashed. I keep hoping to turn down just one alley and find some unaffected pocket, but haven’t yet. If I sound a bit somber it’s probably more exhaustion than anything.

Here’s the deal – I’ve said since the beginning that it has been real hard to ever feel satisfied with our efforts, simply because of the numbers. For example, we may save two lives, but that’s instantly overshadowed by all the ones in front of us that we couldn’t help. But then today I had some new perspective creep in – How much do I cherish my life? How much do each of us value our individual lives? A LOT!! Right? Most people I know won’t argue with that. So if we each represent just a single life, then saving even a few lives starts to feel a lot more significant. I keep reminding myself of this … I have to.

Much love! — Jon Rose

Fighting for Survival – Haiti

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Yesterday was gritty. We received a new shipment of medical supplies and food the night before. It was going to be our first attempt at doing a food drop in one of the tent cities, called San Teresa. We tried to drum up some ideas that might help us organize the distribution prior to getting there. Something like a number system, etc…because if you don’t have a handle on things it will turn into a riot in the blink of an eye.

As tension increases men fight over food & supplies

Most of these people are surviving on one meal, every 3 days, and under circumstances such as these, people will do almost anything for that meal…and unfortunately, we came very close to seeing just that. We had people line up in specific lines — such as pregnant women, or elderly, etc. But as soon as we’d start to pass out food to one line all the people from the other lines would rush towards it, stampeding everything in their path. We had a lot of food to pass out but not enough for the entire tent city. So we wanted to make sure that the pregnant woman, children, an elderly got the first rations.

At one point, we had to make a wall with our bodies, standing side by side and locking our arms together, so that the pregnant woman could grab food and get through the crowd safely. It took every bit of strength to hold my position as we got pushed and pushed by the massive crowd. There were a few times where we all got nervous because of fights almost breaking out. We were severely outnumbered and would have had no way to truly protect ourselves. We did the best we could and got food into the hands of thousands of people, but as we headed back to camp we all agreed that our system could be refined for next time. The whole thing was a gut check for me because it clearly reconfirmed the fact that just surviving the quake won’t be enough for some of these people. The fight to stay alive now and over the coming months is an even bigger challenge.

I’m writing this post from the floor of a army cargo plane. I had to wait at the airport for 6 hrs but finally found a spot on this plane, along with 180 other people. Most of the people are Haitian/Americans that were checking on family, etc. Everyone had the same look on their face — one of utter disbelief. I’m headed back to the US to regroup and recharge the batteries. I’ll be going back sometime in the next couple weeks to manage our next shipment of filters. It’s crucial that the distribution networks I set up actually get everything I have promised them. So much is happening down there that aid shipments can get lost or stolen very easily. You really have to walk it through every stage until it is in the hands of those in need…something which I am more than proud to do.

It’s surreal sitting on the floor of a giant cargo plane with no windows. Especially under these circumstances. None of it feels real.

These posts have been my therapeutic platform to process what I’ve experienced. I’ve looked to them as a way to exhale from one day to the next. If the byproduct is such that you have been inspired to contribute, in your own way, then great! But, know this: I’m honored to share this with you, and I am humbled by the good nature of humanity. I witnessed it, in its purest form, and it warms my soul. The people of Haiti have an incredibly hard road ahead and I feel like my heart was left behind with them. I’m dedicated to this cause and will be working with this country for months, if not years, to come. If anyone has questions or input please feel free to reach out. This whole thing is symbolic, in so many ways. But if there was one thing that consistently cried truth, it was this — We… as a people… are not alone.

Thank you! — Jon Rose

Hope, Help & Dispair – Haiti

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The lack of sleep is starting to take its toll. Plenty of time to sleep when I get home though. Another incredibly productive day yesterday. I went to Jacmel with David Belle to demonstrate our program to his network. The leader of this group used to be the Minister of Agriculture and has a lot of influence within the communities. He runs a network, called KROS, that helps manage all sorts of humanitarian aid projects. He is the guy!

On the way to Jacmel, we stopped by the town of Leoganne – epicenter of the quake. David had been working for a few days on getting a young girl transported from the makeshift tent hospital there to a proper one in the states. She needed urgent care due to a completely shattered pelvis. She had been laying on a funky mattress in the medic tents, which have been enduring 100 degree temperatures for two weeks now.

We found some Israeli medics in P-A-P that agreed to take her, so we had them follow us to Leoganne. When we got there the local medics in charge said we couldn’t take any of their stretchers…making it awfully difficult to transport someone with a shattered pelvis. The Israeli medic and I had to carry the girl in a blanket to the bed of a small pickup truck. Though we had to keep the tailgate down, we were able to place a crusty old mattress in the truck-bed. I fastened some rope around the end of the mattress and secured the bed so she wouldn’t slide out on the bumpy 2 hr long drive back to P-A-P. She was in immense pain because there were very few pain meds left in Leoganne. The Israeli medic gave her some morphine so she could handle the long ride.

When she left we all felt good about our efforts, but that brief highlight was quickly overshadowed with thoughts of all the people in the camp we couldn’t help — a reality that makes it very hard to ever feel satisfied. In 30 minutes I saw the human life cycle in its simplest form. Case in point – just after we moved our girl to the truck I witnessed an elderly women start throwing up blood and cry out her last cry. Her body lay motionless and peaceful. Right now, everything happening here is on a very concentrated level. Like I said, in just a half hour we saved one life, just to watch another pass. Intense!

In Jacmel I gave a very organized demonstration of our water program to the leaders of KROS. After I was done they asked two things. “How many are you giving us?” I said, “3000!”. They answered with, “Can we get 10,000?” That was a great sign that my demonstration was well-received. I answered, “Yes! Over time, with the help of the American people, we will get you 10,000!”.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you for your support. It IS making a difference.

Cheers! — Jone Rose

A Day of Hope & Progress

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Wow… Lots of progress in one day. Still awaiting the next shipment of filters but have tapped into another great local network via David Belle. He is from NY but lives here part time and is the founder of a film school in the southern part of Haiti called Jacmel.   He has a very strong and established team down here that he’s worked with for over a decade. With the help of the David Belle and Scott Bonnell teams we should be able to spread our program across the entire country.

Today I traveled with the mobile medical team to assist them in the field. They setup a station next to a tent city and a paramedic and I set out through the tents to do basic wound redressing and to look for people in serious trouble that couldn’t walk over to our temp. medical station. We went with a translator who would call out for people in need as we walked through the aisles. The smells were intense!

The first woman we came across was sitting on the ground of her tent with her family around her. She had a big bandage on her foot that obviously needed to be changed. We unwrapped it and found that the entire top of her foot was gone. You could see every bone and tendon in her foot. It was now infected and she said that she was afraid to go to the medical station because she didn’t want to be told she was losing her foot. But she didn’t realize that if untreated, the infection would surely move up her leg and probably kill her. We talked her into it and carried her over to our station to wait for transport to a hospital.

We then treated more people throughout the crowded tent city and when we got back to base, once again, I felt incredibly humbled and inspired by the experience.

Thank you for your continued support.

— Jon Rose

Jacmel Film School | Haiti earthquake: Jacmel film students document city’s desperation

Incredible Success – Haiti

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Greetings! Yesterday was an incredible success. Scott Bonnell and I ventured to some of the outer regions (that are getting less attention) to link up with his network of churches and schools. I was really looking at this network to be a potential plan for the distribution of our filters etc… We needed to find people that were trustworthy… with a far reach… and in addition to themselves, have the drive to help their fellow people.

We went to St. Marc and met with Scott’s pastors and teachers. I gave a full fledged seminar inside one of the schools, demonstrating the assembly of two complete systems – one with a power drill and the other with my knife, just to show how easy it is to build one. I had about 500 filters but, because of limited access to the marketplaces, and part of our original shipment not making it, we did NOT have any buckets. So we had all the people at the demonstration run home and grab buckets from their houses. The 5 gal buckets needed for our systems are widely used here. They all assembled their own systems, with my guidance, and ultimately became our first group of instructors that will assist in teaching others throughout various communities. It was truly a collaborative process and exactly what I hope for in a place like this.

At the end of our workshop the new teachers gave us a formal thank you in which each said some words. Organically, and from the heart, they covered everything I could ever hope to achieve with this work. Their vocabulary was such that I knew we had sparked change that would influence a positive change in their community for a long time to come. They said, “Thank you for this unexpected gift. Thank you for your program. The water in Haiti is poison. Thank you for teaching us this program so that we can help our people. This will save thousands if lives … Thank you”.

They absolutely get it and are now clean water teachers that will show others how to set up and use this amazing filtration system – using the loads of inventory we’ve just hand delivered. I am humbled … and witnessing miracles daily.

I am also getting more and more confident in the potential for our friends in Haiti to fully recover from this. It will be many years but they are a strong people that are very experienced with surviving.

Much love … Talk soon,

— Jon   Rose

The Country is Sleeping Outside – Haiti

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Day one we felt two more decent sized aftershocks. Everyone in this country is sleeping outside. Most buildings that were left standing are still considered hazardous and will probably collapse within the next few weeks. Most businesses are closed and there is still no electricity in most areas. Our base camp is running off one generator and the entire team is sleeping outside in a yard. No showers since I got here. The devastation is like nothing I’ve ever seen. It looks like the structures were blown up by dynamite. I really question what the ultimate rebuilding solution will be. There’s almost no choice but to relocate everyone and just scrap the city. We’ll see…

I linked up with rev Andre Louis yesterday and gave him an in depth demonstration on the water filtration systems. He is a sweet man in his 70′s. He’s in charge of 30+ churches and we developed a distribution plan for the filters with that network. It was great! I gave him a bunch of inventory to get his operation going. Today, I broke away from the crew and am in route to some of the more out of the way villages with an American pastor named Scott Bonnell*. He has a network of 115 churches that he’s been working with for 3 yrs. We are hoping to use his network to distribute 3000 filters and Raincatchers amongst the entire country. I’ll know a lot more after today. The people are great here. I feel safe and completely grateful about having this opportunity to help them.

People at home need to know that their support is making a difference. As fellow humans, it is our duty to help facilitate in their recovery. They are beautiful people!

Keep you updated… Thanks, Jon

* Scott is the founder of Hope To Haiti, which has been bringing needed relief to Haiti since 2007.