Archive for the 'Haiti' Category

Mountain Bike Haiti – launching in November 2011

Whether you are a hard-core mountain biker, an adventurous historian, or just someone who likes to explore *truly* off the beaten path, here is an experience that will live with you forever.   Take a wild guess at where this picture is from.  

Would you have ever guessed Haiti – literally “Land of Mountains.”  It is one of the least explored countries in the western hemisphere, and offers thousands of miles of epic trails for hiking, climbing and mountain biking.

Through our partnership with Extreme Bike, we can offer fully inclusive tour packages.  Click on facebook.com/MountainBikeHaiti to join Haiti with a new chapter in sustainable adventure tourism.

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Video story of Haiti family – I worked to clear this home site with HODR @hodropsin

This was one of the home sites that I had the honor to help clear.  We were very fortunate to have Brian, a videographer, to document the project and Nancy, a native Creole speaker, along with us to translate, She was able to share with us the story of the collapse from the matriarch of the family.

With more than 250,000 homes and structures reduced to rubble, it is easy to dehumanize the process of clearing rebar and concrete.  Videos like this are invaluable in reminding us of the personal impact of those 37 seconds – and of the value to each family of our volunteer efforts.

Plan Calls for Rebuilding Haiti Away From Port-au-Prince

NYTimes.com

Prepared by a group of urban planners from the Haitian government agency responsible for the country’s development, the plan is built around a bold central idea: to redistribute large parts of the population of Port-au-Prince to smaller Haitian cities, many of them at a safe distance from areas most vulnerable to natural disaster. In the process the plan would completely transform Haiti from a country dominated by a single metropolis to what the planners call a network of smaller urban “growth poles.”

Architecture – Plan Calls for Rebuilding Haiti Away From Port-au-Prince – NYTimes.com.

Videos from Haiti volunteer project with HODR

I shot a fair amount of video in Haiti using a simple, low-end flip digital video camera.  I have loaded a number of the raw clips online, and I have an ongoing project to edit them into vignettes capturing the Haiti experience.  While that is ongoing, here are a couple that  I have found, and even in their raw form, are pretty cool, funny, insightful, sobering, etc.

1) Lunch at HODR – 6 days a week, volunteers are hard at work, and stop only briefly at lunch time to refuel and avoid the most intense sun of each day.  On this day, two videos document

  • Laura enthusiastically describing the delicious buffet that has been faithfully prepared by Venus (our chef),
  • while Ben posits on what the meat might actually be, and Neil waxes philosophic about life at HODR  in Leogane versus other operations.

A microcosm on the insanely complex Haiti challenge

This article closely resembles the personal experiences I discussed in my post about the local bar adjacent to the HODR camp in Leogane

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March 27, 2010

Quake Accentuated Chasm That Has Defined Haiti

By SIMON ROMERO

New York Times

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The lights of the casino above this wrecked city beckoned as gamblers in freshly pressed clothes streamed to the roulette table and slot machines. In a restaurant nearby, diners quaffed Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne and ate New Zealand lamb chops at prices rivaling those in Manhattan.

A few yards away, hundreds of families displaced by the earthquake languished under tents and tarps, bathing themselves from buckets and relieving themselves in the street as barefoot children frolicked on pavement strewn with garbage.

This is the Pétionville district of Port-au-Prince, a hillside bastion of Haiti’s well-heeled where a mangled sense of normalcy has taken hold after the earthquake in January. Business is bustling at the lavish boutiques, restaurants and nightclubs that have reopened in the breezy hills above the capital, while thousands of homeless and hungry people camp in the streets around them, sometimes literally on their doorstep.

“The rich people sometimes need to step over us to get inside,” said Judith Pierre, 28, a maid who has lived for weeks in a tent with her two daughters in front of Magdoos, a chic Lebanese restaurant where diners relax in a garden and smoke flavored tobacco from hookahs. Chauffeurs for some of the customers inside lined up sport utility vehicles next to Ms. Pierre’s tent on the sidewalk near the entrance.

Haiti has long had glaring inequality, with tiny pockets of wealth persisting amid extreme poverty, and Pétionville itself was economically mixed before the earthquake, with poor families living near the gated mansions and villas of the rich.

But the disaster has focused new attention on this gap, making for surreal contrasts along the streets above Port-au-Prince’s central districts. People in tent camps reeking of sewage are living in areas where prosperous Haitians, foreign aid workers and diplomats come to spend their money and unwind. Often, just a gate and a private guard armed with a 12-gauge shotgun separate the newly homeless from establishments like Les Galeries Rivoli, a boutique where wealthy Haitians and foreigners shop for Raymond Weil watches and Izod shirts.

“There’s nothing logical about what’s going on right now,” said Tatiana Wah, a Haitian planning expert at Columbia University who is living in Pétionville and working as an adviser to Haiti’s government. Ms. Wah said the revelry at some nightclubs near her home, which are frequented by rich Haitians and foreigners, was now as loud — or louder — than before the earthquake.

The nongovernmental organizations “are flooding the local economy with their spending,” she said, “but it’s not clear if much of it is trickling down.”

Aleksandr Dobrianskiy, the Ukrainian owner of the Bagheera casino here in the hills, smiled as customers flowed in one recent Saturday evening, drinking Cuba Libres and plunking tokens into slot machines.

He said business had never been better, attributing the uptick at his casino to the money coming into Haiti for relief projects. That spending is percolating through select areas of the economy, as some educated Haitians get jobs working with relief agencies and foreigners bring in cash from abroad, using it on housing, security, transportation and entertainment.

“Haiti’s like a submarine that just hit the bottom of the sea,” said Mr. Dobrianskiy, 39, who moved here a year ago and carries a semiautomatic Glock handgun for protection. “It’s got nowhere to go but up.”

Sometimes the worlds of haves and have-nots collide. Violent crime and kidnappings have been relatively low since the earthquake. But when two European relief workers from Doctors Without Borders were abducted outside the exclusive Plantation restaurant this month and held for five days, the episode served as a reminder of how Haiti’s poverty could give rise to resentment and crime.

The breadth of Haiti’s economic misery seemed incomprehensible to many before the quake, with almost 80 percent of the population living on less than $2 a day. A small elite in gated mansions here in Pétionville and other hillside districts wields vast economic power.

But with parts of Port-au-Prince now in ruins, tens of thousands of people displaced by the quake are camping directly in the bulwarks once associated with power and wealth, like Place St.-Pierre (across from the elegant Kinam Hotel) and the grounds of Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive’s office.

The city’s biggest tent camp, with more than 40,000 displaced people, sprawls over the hills of the Pétionville Club, a country club with a golf course that before the quake had its own Facebook page for former members. (“Had the best Citronade; I bet I drank thousands of them, no exaggeration,” one reminiscence said.)

Pétionville’s boutiques and restaurants stand in stark contrast to the parallel economic reality in the camp now at the Pétionville Club. Throughout its maze of tents, merchants sell dried fish and yams for a fraction of what the French cuisine costs in exclusive restaurants nearby like Quartier Latin or La Souvenance.

Manicurists in the camp do nails. A stylist in a hovel applies hair extensions. The camp even has its own Paradis Ciné, set up in a tent with space for as many as 30 people. It charges admission of about $1.50 for screenings of “2012,” the end-of-times disaster movie known here as “Apocalypse.”

“The people in the camp need their diversion, too,” said Cined Milien, 22, the operator of Paradis Ciné.

Still, a ticket to see “Apocalypse” is a luxury out of the grasp of most people who lost their homes in the earthquake. Some of the well-off in Pétionville who have reopened their businesses have done so cautiously, aware of the misfortune that persists on their doorstep.

“It’s kind of hard for people to dance and have fun,” said Anastasia Chassagne, 27, the Florida-educated owner of a trendy bar in Pétionville. “I put music, but really low, so like the people walking outside the street don’t hear, like, ‘Hey, these people are having fun.’ ”

Not everyone in Pétionville has such qualms. Mr. Dobrianskiy, the casino entrepreneur, said he was pleased that Haiti’s currency, the gourde, had recently strengthened against the dollar to a value higher than before the quake, in part because of the influx of money from abroad.

And on the floor above Mr. Dobrianskiy’s casino, a nightclub called Barak, with blaring music and Miami-priced cocktails, caters to a different elite here: United Nationsemployees and foreigners working for aid groups. They mingle with dozens of suggestively clad Haitian women and a few moneyed Haitian men taking in the scene.

As hundreds of displaced families gathered under tents a few yards away, the music of Barak continued into the night. A bartender could not keep up with orders for Presidente beers.

“Those who are gone are gone and buried, and we can’t do anything about that,” said Michel Sejoure, 21, a Haitian enjoying a drink at Barak. Asked about the displaced-persons camp down the street, he said, “I would want to help but I don’t have enough, and the government should be the ones that are actually helping these people out.”

“But,” he said over the booming music, “they’re not.”

Grant Fuller contributed reporting.

#Haiti update on current HODR Projects

Working with Hands On Disaster Response at such an early stage was a distinct honor, and we got to not only clear the foundations for new home sites, but also lay the foundations for many HODR programs that are now blossoming. They are scheduled to be onsite in Leogane through at least the summer, and possibly beyond, so apply for a slot at www.HODR.org

Enjoy this video update from Marc Young, HODR Operations Director

HAITI: Project Leogane 30 Day Report (from HODR)

I am very honored to have been part of the early stages of the operation in Haiti, and it is inspiring to see how expansive the operation has become in a matter of a few weeks.

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It’s been 30 days of Project Leogane, and we’re off to a running start! Check out this brief video recapping our first month of programs, as well as our Haiti photo collection on flickr.

Here’s a quick look at what we’ve been working on and how we’ve ramped up.

Rubble

In one month, we’ve cleared over 30 slabs! Land is extremely limited in the urban/semi-urban areas most affected by the earthquake, so each home that we clear is a chance at a fresh beginning, a jumpstart to the rebuilding process. Our volunteers have thrown themselves into the work, sledge hammering concrete roofs and columns, hack sawing twisted rebar, and pushing loaded wheelbarrows. Also emerging from the rubble are the stories of each family who lived there; they’ve worked alongside us to clean up, salvage what they can, and begin rebuilding.

Special thanks to the kids of Leogane who work cheerfully and energetically with our teams each day! Their attention to safety is rewarded with a wheelbarrow ride through the neighborhood. The Canadian army has also been a tremendous asset to the city of Leogane with their heavy equipment and can-do attitude. Once HODR teams fill the streets with rubble, they arrive to truck the debris away.

read more here -> Hands On Disaster Response.


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