Archive for January, 2010

Letter from Haiti

This past weekend, Timberland CEO Jeff Swartz traveled to Haiti via the Dominican Republic along with Haiti’s own Earthkeeper Wyclef Jean and Bill Shore , Timberland board member and founder and executive director of Share Our Strength.  Billy shared the following reflections with his Share Our Strength community upon his return, and was kind enough to also share it with us:

“The most dangerous place in the world right now is the sky over Haiti. It is filled with so many helicopters in a very small space. One has already crashed” warned the airport official briefing our pilot.

The Blackhawk we were supposed to fly to Port au Prince from the Dominican Republic had been cancelled at the last minute but I didn’t mind because the only word I’ve ever associated with the word Blackhawk is the word “down.”  Instead we flew a smaller chopper, low enough to get a taste of the destruction and suffering we were soon to meet face to face.

We’d flown to the Dominican Republic thanks to the generosity of Timberland which lent its plane to shuttle Partners in Health doctors and supplies. We made good use of our layover though.  Haiti’s favorite son, Wyclef Jean, a 12 time Grammy winner who led our delegation had obtained a meeting at the presidential palace in Santo Domingo with President Leonel Fernandez . The earthquake has led to an unprecedented level of cooperation between the two countries. We pressed for even more and he assured us that “stepping back from long term investment in Haiti is unacceptable.”

Afterward, from the air we could see an endless stream of supply trucks slowly making their way to Haiti on the narrow land route that hugs the coast.  Landing in Port au Prince we were met by security and military officials. One told me: “I’ve been to Rwanda, Kosovo, Indonesia, you name it. But this is different. Nothing prepares you for something like this.”

You’ve seen the pictures, more unforgettable than words. Mountains of collapsed rubble stretch mile after mile. We saw only two bulldozers during our entire visit.  The clean up alone will be years, not months.
With Wyclef we went to Cite de Soleil, one of the poorest areas of Port au Prince. We were there to distribute food from a truck stuffed top to bottom with Styrofoam containers of cooked meals. The combination of Wyclef and the food led to an almost instant crush of thousands of Haitian children and their parents for as far as the eye could see.

In our work I’ve often seen the gratitude that comes from families receiving meals.  What I’d never seen before was the panic on the faces of so many people who knew better than I did that the food would run out before we’d served even a fraction of those who’d had nothing but an energy biscuit or power bar in the ten days since the quake struck.

The crowd became larger and surged forward.  A few fights broke out, but there was no real violence, just hunger in the starkest and truest sense. At one point the crowd broke through a formidable team of private security and we were pinned against the truck. Timberland CEO Jeff Swartz and I locked eyes in realization of the fragility of a moment that could go either way. Wyclef grabbed a bullhorn and tried to calm the crowd but even his celebrity was no match for their desperation.  The only option was for the truck, almost empty, to speed away, to another neighborhood, where after restocking we began again.

Before I got to Haiti, Share Our Strength had distributed $145,000 to the most effective organizations on the ground here. More has come in since. I like to think we excel at long term solutions, entrepreneurship, and bold thinking.  The time will soon come when such competencies are invaluable. But none of that was worth a pile of concrete rubble in Port au Prince this week. What was required instead was Mother Teresa’s prescription of hands willing to serve and hearts willing to love, which your generosity has enabled us to support.

Now the real test of commitment begins.  I could have lived with myself if we’d chosen not to make this trip, but having made it I won’t be able to live with not going back to continue what we’ve begun.  The airport official who conducted our helicopter briefing was wrong. The greatest danger is not the sky above Port Au Prince, or Cite de Soleil where there was no violence, only desperation.  The real danger is whether our hearts and heads have the capacity to continue to bear witness after the headlines fade and the benefit concerts end, and our lives once again refocus on the many needs even closer to home.

- Billy Shore

Hope in a Box

There are few things disaster victims need more urgently than emergency shelter – and that’s when ShelterBox USA does their best work.

A “shelter box” is just that – a big green box packed full of essential disaster-survival equipment, including a 10-person tent, a cook stove, water purification kit, blankets, pots and pans, dishes and tools.  When disaster strikes, a ShelterBox response team is deployed as quickly as possible, to get ShelterBoxes to people who need them most.  To date, they’ve sent 900 boxes to Haiti (enough shelter for 9,000 people) and hope to triple that number in short order.

Here’s the kicker: ShelterBox is a nonprofit organization, heavily reliant on volunteers and largely supported by Rotary clubs in the UK (where it was founded), US, Australia, Canada and several other countries.  Each ShelterBox costs $1,000, and their box supplies are running low.

"The need in Haiti is huge. Current estimates are that there are over a million people who have lost their homes. We continue to rely on the support of volunteers and donors to allow us to help them in the days and weeks to come." – Tom Henderson, ShelterBox Founder and CEO

To learn more about how you can help provide emergency shelter for victims in Haiti and elsewhere throughout the world, please visit the ShelterBox website.  There you’ll find out how to sponsor a ShelterBox (smaller donations are also gratefully accepted), learn about volunteer opportunities , and read more about the important work being done by the ShelterBox team.  You can also donate $5 via your mobile phone by texting "Support Shelter" to 20222.

Sharing Our Strength

More than a week after Haiti’s earthquake , the tragedy still remains at the forefront of our hearts and minds.  And while it’s good news that relief and recovery efforts are underway, it’s clearly not enough.  Countless reports lament the fact that critical supplies aren’t being transported or distributed quickly enough, nor reaching those who need them most.  Goods and personnel coming into the island nation remain largely bottlenecked, as Port Au Prince ’s nonfunctioning seaport and many impassible roads hinder relief efforts.

It’s easy to feel helpless in the face of so many challenges … but it’s also an opportunity to think creatively about how you might be able to help.

Timberland knows very little about disaster relief.  But we do know about distribution – getting goods from Point A to Point B is a critical component of our business, and so we have to know how to manage it fairly well.

Another thing we know about is making boots – and one of the primary places we do it is in the Dominican Republic , where we’ve owned and operated a factory since 1982.  Our Dominican Timberland community is 1,600 people strong, operating out of 10 buildings in the Free Zone Pisano in Santiago.

So – if we leverage our experience in managing transportation and distribution, make use of our workforce and facilities in the DR as a means of bringing supplies to the island, and then work with our existing partner on the ground, Yele Haiti – we just might be able to help get supplies into the hands of the survivors who need them most.

We tested the model  a few days ago, facilitating the delivery of 70,000 pounds of food and medical supplies from Toronto to Santiago where it was trucked across the border and into Haiti.  It worked – and now we’re committed to making the model more scalable so that we can continue to use the infrastructure and people power we already have in place to lend our strength in the best way we can.  We have the model, we have the desire … now we simply need to figure out how.

In the weeks and months to come, we look forward to revisiting the original mission of our partnership with Yele Haiti – reforestation – and hope to move ahead with our plans to build a tree nursery and provide both trees and fruit for a region more in need than ever.  For now, we are proud to have found a way to support the critical work they’re doing to bring care and relief to people in Haiti.

You can make a donation to the Yele Haiti earthquake fund by clicking here or texting the word “yele” to 501501 ($5 per text will be donated).

What Haiti Needs

“It has never been able to fulfill its potential as a nation. But I think it can.”

A moving and inspiring piece by Bill Clinton , the UN Special Envoy to Haiti, appears on today … below, an excerpt of his piece.  In times of crisis, immediate response is critical – and in the wake of a tragedy of this magnitude, more is better – but Former President Clinton reminds us that coordination, sustainability and broad vision are key to making sure our efforts to help are truly most helpful.

Click here to read the TIME piece in its entirety (please do – it’s worth the read).

The international relief effort that followed the Asian tsunami of 2004 offers some lessons that can be applied in Haiti. First of all, there has to be national buy-in by the U.S. There has to be a national vision, and I think we have that. Secondly, coordination is really important both within the U.N. and among all the donor countries and nongovernmental groups. There are 10,000 nongovernmental organizations working in Haiti, the highest number per capita in the world except for India. We’ve got to all work together toward a common goal. We have to relentlessly focus on trying to build a model that will be sustainable, so we don’t plant a bunch of trees and then revert to deforestation, or adopt a program to bring power to the country that can’t be sustained, or adopt an economic strategy that is going to wither away in two years.

I’m trying now to get organized to make sure not only that we get the emergency aid that Haiti needs but also that donors come through on their pre-existing commitments. We need to keep the private sector involved. Once we deal with the immediate crisis, the development plans the world was already pursuing have to be implemented more quickly and on a broader scale. I’m interested in just pressing ahead with it.

Haiti isn’t doomed. Let’s not forget, the damage from the earthquake is largely concentrated in the Port-au-Prince area. That has meant a tragic loss of life, but it also means there are opportunities to rebuild in other parts of the island. So all the development projects, the agriculture, the reforestation, the tourism, the airport that needs to be built in the northern part of Haiti — everything else should stay on schedule. Then we should simply redouble our efforts once the emergency passes to do the right sort of construction in Port-au-Prince and use it to continue to build back better.

Before this disaster, Haiti had the best chance in my lifetime to fulfill its potential as a country, to basically escape the chains of the past 200 years. I still believe that if we rally around them now and support them in the right way, the Haitian people can reclaim their destiny.

Bill Clinton is the United Nations special envoy for Haiti.

Helping Haiti

The shock of yesterday’s 7.0 earthquake in Haiti is being felt around the world.

We wait now for news of both damage and survivors … we pray for those whose lives and families have been devastated … and we unite, in concern and compassion and with a desire to do whatever we can to contribute to the relief and recovery Haiti and its community desperately and urgently need.
Waiting is unavoidable.  Praying is, for many, instinctive.  But uniting in common concern and acting, in hopes of turning devastation into renewal, is where our greatest power now lies.

A few months back, Timberland announced its partnership with Yéle Haiti – a grassroots movement that builds global awareness for Haiti while transforming the country through educational, cultural and environmental programs.  At the time, the vision for our partnership with Yele Haiti was one of reforestation – building a tree nursery in Gonaives , a city in northern Haiti devastated by a series of hurricanes and storms; enlisting local farmers to maintain it; and using the trees grown there to reforest the hillsides surrounding the city.

Yesterday afternoon, our partnership with Yele Haiti took a dramatic and unexpected turn.  Many communities in the island nation have been reduced to rubble … and instead of focusing on ways to positively transform those communities, Yele Haiti today is mobilizing medical and emergency supplies to provide them critical relief.

As part of our partnership with Yele Haiti, Timberland makes a donation to the organization for every pair of Earthkeepers™ Yele Haiti boots and every Yele Haiti t-shirt that we sell.  While the original intent for that donation was to support Haiti’s reforestation, we’re now rededicating our efforts – and our donation – to the country’s earthquake relief.

It is good intent and good effort … but undoubtedly not enough.  Should you wish to contribute personally to the massive relief effort underway, this link will allow you to donate directly to the Yéle Haiti organization.  You can also donate $5 to the Yele Haiti Earthquake Fund by texting the word “yele” to 501501.

While the enormity of this earthquake has left destruction beyond comprehension, the will, spirit and soul of people around the globe who are willing to help a nation in need will equally astound.  Together, we can and will help Haiti and its people heal, strengthen and recover.

Jeff Swartz
President & CEO, Timberland

Earthkeeping in India

Rita Kodkani is a member of the Timberland team in India, as well as one of our company’s Global Stewards — a group of passionate individuals who volunteer, above and beyond their regular work duties, to engage and empower fellow employees to take part in community service initiatives worldwide.

A few months back, Rita took a much-deserved vacation … and spent it in her home region of Bundelkhand in central India, leading a tree-planting project.  Over the course of several days, Rita worked with a local NGO and community volunteers to plant more than 100 trees in village and farm areas alike — and also spent time educating community members on energy conservation, forestation and climate change.

Talk about making the most of your vacation.

Our sincere thanks to Rita for sharing her story and the following photos from her tree-planting experience … and for providing leadership and inspiration to other Earthkeepers across the globe.

A Final Word (or two) on Copenhagen

Our Copenhagen correspondent team caught up with Timberland CEO Jeff Swartz when he joined other business leaders at the climate conference last month. As the video suggests, plenty of businesses and their leaders are forging ahead with creating climate solutions — even absent binding legislation.