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and I now know there are many contributing factors… but the short answer is that most of the existing models are outdated… similar to what has happened with Wall St, politics, real estate market, or even the Arab Spring.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

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

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