5 Years Later // Haiti Earthquake

Rubble

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Friends,

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…

Cracked Street

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today… and I now know there are many contributing factors… but the short answer is that most of the existing models are outdated… similar to what has happened with Wall St, politics, real estate market, or even the Arab Spring.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.

Fallen Building

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!

Meeting in Tent Camp

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!!

Peace out!

JR

IDP Refugee tent camp

Cholera Outbreak in Haiti

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I wish I were writing under better circumstances… most of you have probably already heard that there has been an outbreak of Cholera in Haiti.

All reports say that it’s potential is of epidemic proportions. The death toll is growing hourly and all of it can be stopped by providing clean water and basic hygiene education. I’m gutted by the reports I’ve gotten by close personal friends of mine that are there.

Once again this is another example of how dire the situation is down there… Cholera is preventable, treatable, and manageable and that’s why it is such a shame to see all of these senseless deaths happening. This all stems from lack of clean water and basic hygiene education. This means the work we have been doing down there has never been more important. That said, we have a good plan in place with the UN & Ministry of Health to get a bunch (2500-3000) of filters to the regions in question. I am flying down to PAP tomorrow with my Father to put this plan in motion.

But there ARE winks from the universe that are encouraging and serve as inspiration for us to stay the course. For example, we learned two days ago from the filter manufacturer that there is a stockpile of (unclaimed) filters already in a warehouse in PAP. Half the battle of the work we do is the logistics of getting the filters in country and with the urgency of this outbreak we weren’t sure what to do – nothing seems fast enough in this type of situation. So, all these filters are now going to our UN partners… and together we’ll be distributing them to the outbreak areas by mid-week. The fact that those filters are already there directly translates into lives saved. Period!

Lastly, I’d like to briefly speak about a revelation I had earlier… I was scheduled to be on a plane to Indonesia at this very moment. I woke up this morning feeling heavy and anxious.. and didn’t know why. Once I reached into my gut it became clear – I needed to be in Haiti. That was my truth…end of discussion. The significance of this story for me is the realization that we always know the right thing to do if we just slow down and listen. Listen to our hearts… our bodies. The physical symptoms alone, that I felt, were enough to stop anyone in their tracks. Simply put, when we have a choice in front of us and the physical feeling we have towards it feels light, the answer is YES – if it feels heavy, NO.

Obviously this was a decision that is specific to my personal journey, but I am encouraging all of you to dig into your gut and get in touch with your truth… with your light. It’s these choices that define who we are and where we’re going…

Please help me spread the word about this Cholera situation so we get an influx of the resources needed to help nip this thing in the bud.

More from the road…
Thanks!
Jon

Nike Game Changer Kits

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W4W / Nike – GameChanger Kit from Waves For Water on Vimeo.

Give Now

Well— back in Haiti and since I was here just a week ago its safe to say everything is a bit blurry.

It’s weird now though, I’m starting to feel more relaxed here than at home. I have felt a lot of things since my first mission here, but relaxed has never been one of them. I think because when I’m here I am focused on just one goal and at home I am coordinating more like ten. This last week at home was extra intense due to our recent commitment to launch a project for the flood victims in Pakistan. It’s a beast of a project and on top of our ongoing Haitian and Indonesian initiatives it is a lot to handle. That said we have great individuals stepping up to help— and frankly the result will be a lot of people, in a lot of places, getting access to potable water.

This trip down here is an exciting one— For months now, I’ve been working on a few projects for Haiti that are all seeming to climax now. This one in particular is a pilot project that I started to develop with Nike a few months after the quake. They sent down a few delegates to scout out some programs that they could potentially get behind. Because of my Hurley partnership (Hurley is part of Nike Inc), the delegates were pointed in my direction as a resource once they were here. Short story long, one of the delegates, Tom De Blasis, and I began talking about a way to combine my water program and their interest in sport based community programs. We felt that the bare essentials for survival were health & happiness, i.e. water & sport. The result is a concept called the “Game Changer Kit” — a first response kit (combining our filtration system with a sport element) that we intend to pilot in Haiti, and then implement around the world. The kit is based off our existing two-bucket filtration system that normally includes one filter/spigot/sock— but now also includes, a tarp & rope for catching rain, a soccer ball (deflated), cones (to mark the field), and a ball pump. To top it off, the ball pump also doubles as a pressurization tool for the filter— it mounts to a little hose on the filter bucket to create manual pressure that triples the flow rate of the existing gravity fed method.

So Tom and I worked on this concept for the past few months are finally bringing it to life on this trip! We made 30 sample kits and will be distributing them this week to two small communities in Leogane (quake epicenter)— through one of my existing networks — Thank you Fritz!!

By the time we actually give a filter system to a family in need there is so much that has gone into getting it there. So many steps and hurdles to overcome just to get this simple solution into their hands and I really want to take this moment to thank the special individuals along the way that help to make this a reality. At the end of the day we can all stand together and say that we contributed towards giving the greatest gifts of all — Health & Happiness!

Attached are a few pics from of the kit’s just after we assembled them and also the logo that Tom came up with for the project.

The Nike Game Changer Kit

What is the definition of a game changer?

For me, it is the moment when a significant shift is made in what seemed to be a certain fate. It is a new direction… a new path.

We just finished the distributions of our sample Game Changer Kits to two small villages in Leogane. The first one we went to was a little refugee outpost on the beach… and the second was a little mountain village that was only accessible by driving up a riverbed (pending rain of course!) with a 4×4 vehicle.

The state of things in Haiti is still as bad as ever. It doesn’t matter where I go – the center of Port-au-Prince or a rural village in the North that was virtually untouched by the quake… It’s all incredibly gut wrenching. The sheer magnitude of despair is mind boggling. People are existing under such extreme circumstances and bearing witness to it always dwarfs any sense of strength I may think I have. The truth is, I can only feel an emotion related to what I see. I have no real clue what it’s like to experience this way of life. My decisions are more like WHAT am I going to eat, not IF I’m going to eat. When I’m thirsty I reach into my bag at will and grab my water bottle. They are huddled around a broken pipe that is spurting water that they think is clean… what they don’t realize is that all the pipes are fractured under ground, including the sewer lines. You do the math! Their kids are malnourished and riddled with skin disease because they can’t properly bathe. To top things off, the rains have come… and are relentless… everyday, they soak the makeshift tents that these people call home. Overall sanitation challenges are incomprehensible.

Really, I could go on and on about the everyday challenges with their basic survival. I will spare you. I am just very impacted with all of this, yet again. I have felt all of these things in past trips but over the last few months down here I have been in development mode, with projects such as this GameChanger Kit concept, and my tunnel vision has kept my emotions somewhat at bey. But this trip was climactic, in that we were able to give two small communities the gift of water and sport. It feels obsolete to think that we only gave a few hundred people these things but I also guarantee each of them would disagree with me. It is this math that tends to stifle any sense of accomplishment I have… it has been this way for me since day one.

Contents inside the Game Changer Kit.

So, back to the game changer… I had a breakthrough on this trip that changed my path down here. I know that bringing people water is an incredible gift… a true game changer. But by adding the soccer element with these kits really changes the community dynamic. There is an innocent excitement that you just don’t get with giving water, food, or shelter. Those things are SO needed but they are still reminders of how challenging their lives are. The soccer is a step through the doorway of their shattered existence, to a new place where the weight of the world is not on their shoulders. It is a much needed departure filled with camaraderie, union, and laughter.

I come from a sport background… and that foundation has always been and continues to be my north star. So even though I am most likely the worst soccer player on earth, I can very much relate with their passion. And though food, water, and shelter is the obvious framework for survival, I honestly believe that a community based activity such as sport is the vehicle that will pull them through the hard times.

We need something to bring us together… and sometimes we just need a healthy distraction from the everyday challenges we face.

I’m so proud of this project… and I have a new found respect for ANYONE who can play soccer well!!

Jon

UN Military – Haiti

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Touring Peruvian base in border town, Malpasse.

Just finished a day and a half with URAMAR (Uragauyan Navy) and once again my expectations were exceeded. This project really is set up for success. Here’s the brief synopsis of how it works following my existing model for distribution, the military units I visit introduce me to the key leaders in their area. People running schools, church’s, hospitals, local (Haitian) NGO’s, youth groups, etc. Then I do a demonstration for them and gauge their response. Usually they are very receptive and I give them each a small amount of filters for a test.

Demonstration at Nepalese military base in Mirebalais

My goal is to never have the general population see me that is not the point! The leaders that I teach know their communities and where the needs are most desperate they know how to navigate the web of local politics they know what is fair. I’ve always said that this is an empowerment project first and the fact that they get clean drinking water from it in the end is a wonderful by-product.

After distro at Nepalese military base in city of Hinche.

After a few weeks pass the UN officers then go and visit each of the prospects we tested out. It’s always very clear which one (or two), rose to the occasion and distributed the filters to the right people in the right manner. Those that shined then become our formal distribution network for the region. They will always be the one to empower their communities, we (W4W & UN troops) will just facilitate the process from the shadows.

Jon & Peruvian UN military officer

As I’ve said before, there are many great byproducts with this program beyond just giving people access to clean water. But really, all sides have virtually everything to gain and nothing to lose. The UN gets a REAL reason to have ongoing relations with those leaders we selected and it builds a rapport around a sustainable solution that ultimately supports the growth and development of these regions for years to come. Obviously, Waves for Water gains from this partnership because it allows us to get filters to regions we didn’t know about or didn’t have the resources to visit. Lastly, the local people get the real gold at the end of the rainbow . . . clean water! So as you see, this is no different than what we have been doing on our own down here since day one, it is just allowing us to scale our operations to the next level.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the UN reps who helped make this project a reality MAJ Brian Woolworth (US), MAJ Brian Roach (Canada), and our newest addition MAJ Ashish Upadhyay (Nepal). Thanks boys!!

Jon with local leaders after demo at Uraguayan Base in Port Salut.

If the ultimate goal is to get every person in Haiti access to clean water then partnerships such as these, are the framework to do so. Our mission will have many players, over a long period of time, but in the end I feel the goal is attainable.

I have eight more UN military units to visit across Haiti before this project is done. I look forward to every last one!

Jon & MAJ Ashish, our new UN project rep, in chopper.

It is invigorating to feel like you are a part of REAL change. That’s what’s happening here.

Humble & grateful,

JR

Please see links below to view more posts of UN Missions:

Port-Au-Prince & Cap Hatien Mission

Port Salut Mission

UN Mission / Port Salut

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View form chopper of city, Jeremie, in Southern Haiti.

On my way to the South, a place called Port Salut… to connect with the Uraguayan Navy battalion of the UN Minustah Military for what will be the second trip of our water filter pilot project. The first, if you recall, was in the North (Cap Hatien) with the Chilean battalion last month. We have 8 more locations until this project is complete and its safe to say that by then, I will be well versed in Haitian geography… and in global military culture. For 2-3 days I get to live with the troops of each battalion and see what their approach is to relatively the same topics. It’s a crash course in human nature, organization, methodology, and of course humor. I feel so fortunate to have this opportunity and proud that our partnership will result in getting clean water to communities that I would have never even known existed. In my opinion, this is the true definition of a partnership – multiple entities coming together and sharing their resources for the greater good.

I am tired from the very movement that I so desire… and right now, it is perfect.

Inside UN Chopper in route to Port Salut.

I need movement. I’ve realized this about myself… and especially regarding my work down here. There is so much to be done and it kills me when there are viable solutions just idling as a result of bureaucratic protocol. High level organizations having meetings about meetings and so on and so forth. It f$%#ing kills me! Not coming from a traditional humanitarian background has served me well. It allows me to look at existing models with a fresh eye and a sort of naive intelligence… which is where my best ideas have come from. And it has also been the source of my biggest challenges. But, this is how I see it – people are dying. Kids are dying… and we have a way to stop that. Period! We can talk about it all we want, but in that time more senseless deaths will have occurred, that could have been prevented. There is certain information out there in the world that is so simple, yet so powerful, that once you’ve been exposed to it – you have a responsibility to it. You are accountable. This work is that way for me… We go into a villages where one out of two babies die from waterborne diseases, then we do our program, and they stop dying… it is as simple as that. This is the information that in my opinion will keep you up at night once you know it. That said, people can do with it what they want. There are so many ways for people to help… even if it’s just a shift in their personal consciousness that organically begins to inspire those around them.
- Jon Rose

Hurley H2OPEN Event

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Waves For Water at the U.S. Open of Surfing, Huntington Beach, California

The U.S. Open of Surfing, Huntington Beach, California

Bob Hurley & Jon Rose at the U.S. Open of Surfing, Huntington Beach, California

Turning contaminated water into safe water, turning death into life

Can see Hurley/W4W exhibit @ the U.S. Open all week

To the question, “What can I do?” . . . we have the answer.

By carrying a bunch of filters when traveling to remote areas of the world, one person can bring people a new source of clean drinking water.

ONE PERSON CAN CHANGE THE WORLD FOR AN ENTIRE VILLAGE.

Save a family for an entire year for only $20!

Imagine millions of travelers doing this. Now we’re changing history.

Enormous Opportunity in Haiti

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My experiences in Haiti have taught me a boatload of things, but one of the more unexpected by-products has been a new-found understanding and appreciation for the global military community. In the first month after the quake I worked closely with the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division and was blown away day in and day out by their incredible discipline and stark efficiency. They were such a great group of guys that genuinely enjoyed helping the local people through such a rough time.

Fast forward – I’ve spent the last two days living with the Chilean battalion of the UN Minustah Military (Minustah is the name for the UN’s Haiti operation). The Chileans are in charge of patrolling and securing the North section of Haiti. My stay here is part of a preliminary mission to start laying the foundation for a collaboration/partnership between the UN Minustah operation here and my water program. The idea is to utilize the Minustah Military’s knowledge of this area to help us establish and operate our program. It is an exciting step towards our goal of getting everyone in Haiti clean water; this kind of support is the very backbone of such a goal. The Chilean soldiers are hospitible and genuine people. They have let me in to their world and I will never forget it. Especially their cook, who insists on calling me “California!”

It’s been nice to be away from the intensity of PAP. However, the day before I came up here to the North I visited two camps in Cite Soleil – Haiti’s most desperate and crime-ridden area. There is a project going on there, spearheaded by Patricia Arquette, that involves our filtration systems. She has created a testing facility in one of the tent camps to try a few different sustainability concepts. Patricia and her team have mainly been addressing the sanitation challenges of this area – human waste, trash, etc., all of which are on the verge of creating a secondary disease-driven epidemic. She is incorporating our filter model into her program to combat the potable water challenges, but her main focues have been on composting, recycling, and bio-digesting. It was an incredible project to see and I’m honored to be a part of it.

I really believe that there is such enormous opportunity in Haiti right now. We have a chance not only as foreigners, but as humans, to try aggressive solutions here, solutions that in the future could end up being benchmarks for the global community. There are amazing people here doing amazing things, and once again I feel confident in our ability, as a species, to collectively change our destiny.

More to come…

Humbled and grateful,
Jon

Sweaty & Sleep Deprived – Haiti

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Where do I begin? I’m sweaty and sleep deprived but the work is good. I’ve had a 13 hr day yesterday with Fritz in Leogane. Like I said in my last update my networks have been exceeding all of my expectations. Mainly in their organization and persistent work ethic. Coordinating and operating a filter distribution is HARD work and they are not getting paid. They have truly embraced the empowerment aspect of this program.

Yesterday I went to some villages only accessible by a 4 wheel drive up a riverbed. In each mud/stick hut there was our filter systems… Operating perfectly! One mother said that her baby had severe diarrhea and now with the filter, it has stopped. It really is that black and white…. They say the differences in their health are nothing short of extreme.

There has been more civil unrest in PAP. Organized crime is getting more organized… And there are more and more reports of kidnappings and killings. Some aid workers have now been victimized. Which, is unsettling since I have been out in the thick of it almost everyday. I am relying on trust and quick wit… Psychologically, that’s all I have.

About to crack into my trusty Jack Daniels stash. I’m banking on it to make the bags under my eyes feel less heavy.

Signing off cause this update is now making me sweat more….

Jon

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