Sunday, March 21, 2010
Day 10, 3/21: State of the HODR
Yesterday I signed up to 'play with kids' in the afternoon, as I had finished a project earlier in the day, needed a break from rubble, and, well, felt like it would nice to play with kids (when not otherwise committed). How Fun!
We played duck-duck-goose (at insanely fast speeds), blew bubbles, scrimmaged soccer (limit of du blanc's per team, no shoes allowed), and performed a variety of circle-dancing games. Perhaps I can get Berhleen to teach me the lyrics before next Saturday. All in all, its amazing how little you need to prepare (grab some bubbles, a jump rope, and a beach ball), before you have 300 kids descending out of the nearby camps and markets amped up and ready to go. I was surprised to recognize atleast 25 kids from my stay here, and remember 10 names (....maybe).
Last night we also heard an informal address from the Executive Director, David Cambell, which was wonderful. HODR is a very new 501(3c), that was unofficially constituted in Thailand, and then officially incorporated following Katrina. It has 6 staff, and is currently running projects in Indonesia and Haiti. My post yesterday was my impression of HODR's role following a disaster, but last night's talk confirmed/clarified their belief that HODR's greatest strength is quickly mobilizing willing volunteers to enter a disaster and take on meaningful roles that otherwise are not addressed. Through an organization-wide 'can-do' attitude, HODR can build bridges (figuratively), and fill those gaps that otherwise might not be under the purview of the Red Cross, the Korean Army, Doctors without Borders... and has begun to be noticed. Following from this, the World Food Program (the largest humanitarian organization in the World) just announced that HODR will be managing its logistics base here in Leogane. Big Deal.
One of the things he emphasized, in addition to giving a state-of-HODR, was the sheer magnitude of the disaster. The Haitian government just released its assessment- and has laid out a 10-year plan for recovery of the estimated $10.5 B in damage. There is also an evaluative tool called DALA- which calculates the net impact of diasters relative to GDP, and it has concluded that the Haitian earthquake is the worst event recorded in its 35 years since it began. Unlike a disaster like the Tsunami, or Katrina.... this event had almost every risk-factor for collapse working against it. Economical frailty. Highly urbanized. A mountainous island. 35% of its residents live in P'a'P, and yet the city accounts for 85% of its GDP.
Recovery to the now infintely-distant status quo would still mean a severly diminished standard of living, so many are seeing this as an opportunity for transformation. The Hatian government is actually looking at this disaster and pursuing "devolution," or what might more readily be understood as de-urbanization. By strengthening some of its other cities and rural communities in Jacmel, Leogane, Gonaives.... they hope to spread risk and development, while providing incentives to invest outside of P'a'P. I wonder what the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings would think of this...
Last night ended with a trip back to 'Massage' with a more generous window before curfew to relax and hang out. We were lucky enough to witness a case of 'Prestige' beer being brought out of the hallowed back of the bar- a brew that all acknowledge as Haiti's best beer, and many testify to being a world-class lager. You have to pass a litmus test of trust just to get a bar-tender to relinquish one of these sweaty-gems, but its worth it.
I also took a little solo-diversion up the street to find a few table games (such as a Haitian version of Roulette) being played by oil-lamp. I talked to a guy named 'Kerry' who was very passionate about Jay-Z, Neyo, and even Kanye (which seemed appropriate since he was also sporting an Argyle sweater- very K'West). A few fights broke out, but I was told they were between brothers (which seems healthy enough :p ).
Answers to the Commented Questions:
I can't upload more than one or two pictures per post because our sattelite connection is super-slow and we have to ration our 1G of bandwith for the entire base.
Sanitation in the camps is all over the place. The Canadian base was distributing 40,000 pot-toilet-platforms, and the local hospital supplies clean water at the perimeter of its walls. Basic education initiatives are still very important though (hand washing, disease education), and HODR is about to launch a malaria intervention program that wilkl include sending people around the community to educate and install bug nets in the homes of the Haitian community.