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.

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.

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.

#HODR It’s better to support volunteers than gala’s. NYC #Haiti Benefit to raise Less Cash Than Attention http://ping.fm/R4Ruv

Buy “The Underground Guide to International Volunteering” and Support HODR in the process

The 63-page ebook is aimed at introducing travellers to the wonders of volunteering abroad and to help them break away from the usual backpacker trail, get involved with local communities around the world and make a difference in people’s lives in a variety of ways.

The ebook includes:

  • Help deciding whether international volunteering is a good fit for you.
  • Advice on how to choose a volunteering experience that is right for you.
  • Information on different types of volunteering from conservation to development to disaster relief.
  • Practical information on visas, travel insurance, packing, health and hygiene, living conditions and communication.
  • Nine interviews with international volunteers sharing their experiences, giving advice and offering inspiration.
  • Tips for how to find free and cheap volunteering placements including website reviews that will help with your search.
  • A list of volunteering opportunities worldwide that are free or low-cost with organizations I trust.
  • Fee-based volunteering: Why I would never do it but why it is right for some people.
  • A list of fee-based volunteering companies along with information on whether they donate part of their fee to the actual project.
  • Free updates forever as I discover new free and cheap volunteering opportunities and make other updates.

Nerdy Nomad » The Underground Guide to International Volunteering.

Haiti Recap

Well, I am back in NYC.  Fundamentally and profoundly impacted.

Yesterday was the final day in Haiti and I am so overwhelmed trying to process all that has happened that I feel almost incapable of expression.

On our last night (Saturday), we had a ‘going away’ party and there were many fascinating conversations. Two of our fellow volunteers who are of Haitian descent asked us if we had ever been to Haiti, and if we would have ever come here without the disaster. For most of us (myself included), the answer was no to both, and they expressed how inspired they were that we would choose to volunteer in a place where we had no connection.  I have been thinking about that for the entire trip and the best explanation I can come up with is that my view of the world is like an ant colony – an incredibly complex organism consisting of countless component parts that each have a critical role to play.  The colony can only survive and thrive when all the parts are healthy and functioning well. I believe that it is in my Self interest to contribute in any way I can and in this case, that meant hauling rubble and clearing home sites for new houses to replace the ones lost.

In all likelihood, I will never know the difference it made for those families, and it is hard to think about the 6 sites I worked on relative to the roughly 500,000 structures knocked down.  But I always go back to something that my dear friend Brett once asked – “would you rather be someone who says I could have, or someone who says I did?”  I feel privileged for the experience of being there, and thankful that an organization like HODR will have more than 1,000 other volunteers working  there for the next 6 months, and that dozens, if not hundreds of other NGO’s and non-profits will continue working to build up that country.

One of the biggest challenges we all face is helping out in a time of need without creating a system/culture of dependency where a large part of the country has an expectation of being supported.  That is an immensely complex problem which I could not hope to tackle.  However, I was very impressed that nearly all the organizations (HODR prominently among them) have strict policies in place to minimize that.  For example, all the sites we cleared had family members participating – sometimes more enthusiastically than others, and more often the younger kids than the adults.  But considering that for most of these families, those 37 seconds killed loved ones, wiped out all their possessions, and erased several generations of personal history.  So while I may view each home site as a tangled puzzle of rubble, rebar, and debris, these family members are watching us tear apart and cart away the last evidence of what was effectively their whole world.  For the volunteers, we sing songs and make jokes to ease the back-breaking labor, and it is probably a good thing the language barrier prevents them from understanding our humor.

I will be adding more posts here (some of them back-dated because I did not get them uploaded in Haiti), including pictures and video once I get those uploaded.

Thanks for all your interests and your comments.  I will try to address the various questions over the next several days.

Haiti Photo Album

A selection of pictures capturing the community, the rubble, the work sites, HODR base camp, volunteers, and of course, the kids.  http://bit.ly/b2cHb8

Video: Volunteers at HODR Base in Haiti, enjoying lunch, spouting philosophy

To keep the volunteers fueled up, a full time cook prepares hot lunches and dinners 6 days a week.  This is a great opportunity to decompress and reflect on the project at hand.  Neil is a ‘repeat offender’ with HODR, having done time in a number of exotic locations around the world.  He eloquently conveys his Carpe Diem philosophy in this video.

YouTube: Volunteers at HODR Base in Haiti, enjoying lunch, spouting philosophy.


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