Posts Tagged ‘disaster recovery’

Turning Trash into Sustainable Treasure

There are plenty of media reports today about the lack of progress in Haiti … and it’s true that 6 months after the country was rocked by a devastating earthquake, there are still too many people suffering and too many critical needs that continue to be unmet.  But there are also many organizations working hard to help Haitians get back on solid ground and, importantly, prepare for the future.

Earthship Biotecture designs and builds self-sufficient houses that:

  • are constructed using natural and recycled materials (such as cans, bottles and tires),
  • heat and cool themselves naturally via solar and thermal dynamics,
  • collect their own power from the sun and wind,
  • harvest their own water from rain

“Earthships” have been built all over the world – and just a few weeks ago, a small team from Earthship Biotecture traveled to Haiti to start a project there.  What started as a reconnaissance mission turned into full-fledged construction, with the following Earthship built in just four days:

The entire building was constructed from garbage found within a mile of the build site; 40 Haitians from the nearby tent city helped to build the earthquake and hurricane-resistant structure, and learned the skills they’ll need to replicate the construction on their own.

The Earthship Biotecture team will return in October to integrate Earthship systems into the structure (water harvesting, solar / wind power, heating and cooling, etc.).

To learn more about the good work Earthship Biotecture is doing, both in Haiti and in other parts for the world, please visit their website.

A Textbook Example of Commerce and Justice

I walked off Bryant University’s commencement stage in May of 2009 with a diploma in hand, a wealth of fundamental marketing knowledge and an internship getting my feet wet in the boot business. Like every graduating senior, I thought I knew exactly what to expect from the “real world.” I’d read the textbooks (or at least the chapter summaries), listened closely to my professors and tried to soak up as much knowledge as I could. Excited to start my career, I hoped that my internship at Timberland would put those fundamentals to the test.

Once I got into the swing of it, working in corporate America wasn’t all that bad. My college education had given me a good start and for the most part, I found that this “real world” was fairly controlled. But in January of 2010, that sense of control seemed to vanish.

As a true millennial, I don’t read the newspaper, so I first heard about the earthquake in Haiti through social means, followed by a Google search. The boot makers I worked with were passionate about helping Haiti, and we had committed to reforestation projects there just months earlier. Word of the earthquake spread fast around Timberland headquarters and, naturally, rumors started swirling. But one outstanding question left me profoundly worried: did the Haitian artists that designed the artwork for our Yéle Haiti t-shirts perish during the disaster?

The “Five Musketeers” — FOSAJ artists that designed the artwork for Timberland’s Yéle Haiti t-shirts.

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Haiti Dispatch #3: First Steps

Below, the final installment of our Haiti Dispatches — a 3-part series documenting the recent journey to Haiti made by Timberland’s CEO Jeff Swartz and other leaders seeking to leverage their strength and create a positive impact.

Amidst continuing hunger and homelessness, the group did find signs of hope — examples of innovation, collaboration and indomitable human spirit that will help to take Haiti take its first steps forward into a more sustainable future.

Haiti Dispatch #2: Preparing for Rain

Video#2 of the Haiti Dispatches … a 3-part series chronicling the recent trip to Haiti taken by a delegation of leaders committed to helping the nation repair and rebuild.

Personal accounts of the trip, written by Timberland’s CEO Jeff Swartz and others, can be read on huffingtonpost.com.

Haiti Dispatch #1: A Persistent Need

In April 2010, a delegation of leaders traveled to Haiti to bear witness to the post-earthquake devastation and share their individual strengths with a country in need. What they found 3 months after the natural disaster was overwhelming hunger and homelessness, as well as devastation of both the land and its people.

The following video is the first in a 3-part series documenting this group’s journey. Stay tuned for additional videos … and visit Huffington Post’s Haiti Blog for additional commentary from Timberland CEO Jeff Swartz and others.

Letter From a Quiet Workshop in Haiti

Following his first post-earthquake trip to Haiti in January, Billy Shore (Timberland board member and founder and executive director of Share Our Strength) shared his experiences and observations with us here on the Earthkeeper blog.  We’re honored to share the following update from Billy on the heels of this week’s journey back to Haiti:

We returned to Haiti this week, on the three month anniversary of the earthquake, to try to keep some of the promises implicit in our first visit. Once again, Timberland CEO Jeff Swartz made it possible for us to bring a delegation that met with everyone from the Minister of Health to the World Food Program. There’s more to tell than will fit here. Not all of it is hopeful.  But one moment was and I wish you’d have been there to see it.

At a crowded intersection in downtown Port au Prince stands a building not damaged by the earthquake. On the wall is a painted sign that says Handicap International. In front of the building the chaos of the capital plays out as cars race by and people swarm through the streets while others stand waiting for the packed minivan buses known as tap-taps.  Inside the building it is also crowded but very, very quiet.

The first two rooms on the ground floor are unlit and dusty, with work tables and machines and electric cords snaking across the floor. A few lanterns are hung from the ceiling. This is one of only two workshops in Port of Prince responsible for making prosthetic limbs for the several thousand new amputees recovering from the trauma sustained when crushed by falling buildings.  A dozen artificial limbs in various states of construction are leaning against a wall, as if dancers on prom night taking a rest. Technicians at lathes stare at blueprints and specifications to make sure the next limb will fit the next body.

We are being led through the building by Antoinne Engrande, a 35 year old from France who came here after spending two years working with victims of mines in Sierra Leone, and before that Iraq and before that the Mideast.  There is not much he hasn’t seen, but he says this is the worst.  The waiting list for limbs numbers more than one hundred some three months since the quake.

In the back is a sunlit open courtyard with benches that line the perimeter. There sit at least a dozen Haitians: men, women, boys and girls who have lost one or both legs in the earthquake.   Some have family members with them who seem to hang back as if realizing that they will never truly understand that one their love one is going through.
An elderly woman in a green dress is being coaxed forward to take her first steps on her temporary prosthetic device. A somewhat angry young man in his early thirties is sitting and waiting for a technician. A beautiful dark haired girl of thirteen or fourteen sits in a clean red dress sits with her eyes cast down toward the ground as she gently rubs the jagged scar at the stump of her right leg.  A young boy of about eight is in a chair and having the stump of his leg eased into the soft socket of the artificial limb.  He is wearing a Star Wars t-shirt whose bold logo suggests that anything is possible though it is far from clear that he can lay claim to such optimism. I don’t know his name but let’s call him Skywalker.  Another dozen amputees sit in chairs waiting and staring into the distance.

Gripping a set of parallel bars a middle aged woman who lost her leg almost to her hip is trying to bear weight on her new device.  Success will be partly a challenge of technology but mostly a matter of trust.

Even before the earthquake Haiti had almost no capacity to handle rehabilitation after amputation. The technicians and therapists working with the patients are volunteers brought in from El Salvador which is home to a prominent prosthetic training school. They speak neither French nor Creole spoken throughout Haiti. Their patients are having the most important conversations of their lives through pantomime and hand signals. But what they lack in language they make up in tenderness.  One young woman whispers something soothing to the girl whose face seems more stricken than her injured body. A volunteer from Australia gently taps Skywalker’s stump to probe for and be able to protect the areas where he will feel the most discomfort.

I’ve come to visit with former Senator Bob Kerrey who lost his right leg in Vietnam and has been active ever since in helping build prosthetic clinics in places that have none.  He is talking to the young man in his thirties and it is not clear that he is getting through to him. I see Bob do something I’ve only seen him do once in the 26 years we’ve been friends. He pulls up the cuff of his right pant leg and shows the man that he too has a prosthetic limb.  It’s not clear whether the gesture has its intended impact but across the room, the young girl who has been sitting sadly sees this out of the corner of her eye and becomes suddenly animated. Her hand shoots out, flutters and grasps to grab the attention of the therapist with whom she cannot speak. She points toward Bob, insists that the therapist look to, and for the first time that day her face breaks out in a huge grin.

Meanwhile eight year old Skywalker is now being lifted up to take his first step since he was injured months ago. He is trying to be brave but he winces a bit with the pain of using new muscles. No less than four technicians are kneeling around him, one helping him balance, another assessing his step, another whispering encouragement. He tries again and his eyes fill with tears. There is bravery and determination in this action that most of us take for granted. My memory flashes back to Neil Armstrong taking that first tentative step on the moon. I think about what a powerful a moment that was, and how it was nothing compared to this.

I’ll write again soon to tell you more about the conditions here and the progress we are making. Some problems, like those here in Haiti, are so complex that they almost defy response.  They leave us feeling almost helpless with options that are not governmental but personal, not strategic but instinctual.  They reinforce the often underestimated value of just a little tenderness.   More than anything they remind us that of all the challenges that still lie ahead, sometimes the greatest courage of all lies in taking that one first step.

Billy

Headed Back to Haiti

Early next week, Timberland President and CEO Jeff Swartz will return to Haiti for the second time since January’s earthquake. Jeff will travel with a powerful team of individuals representing a variety of industries and specialties, united in their desire to contribute to supporting Haiti and its people – both today, and looking into the future.

Among those joining Jeff next week:

Bill Shore, founder of Share Our Strength
Cat Cora, founder of Chefs for Humanity
Stephanie Dodson, co-founder and director of Strategic Grant Partners
Former Nebraska Governor and Senator Bob Kerrey
Winifred Danke, executive director of the Prosthetic Outreach Foundation

Hunger, prosthetics and economic development are three very different but very real needs that have emerged in Haiti in the wake of the earthquake, and the team traveling to Haiti next week will work to assess those needs and help create actionable, sustainable solutions to each. Specifically, they’ll be meeting with NGOs and Haitian government officials providing prosthetics and rehabilitation for injured Haitians, visit schools with the World Food Program and hospitals where Partners in Health are working, and see first hand the progress being made through agricultural initiatives being implemented by our partner Yele Haiti and Chefs for Humanity.

Stay tuned for an update from Jeff next week after his return; until then, please join us in thanking this group for their commitment to creating a positive impact for Haiti and its people.

Helping Haiti from the Streets of Taiwan

Timberland Earthkeepers in Taiwan took to the streets last weekend with their “Help Haiti Road Show,” designed to raise support for relief efforts in Haiti. A team of models dressed in Timberland Yele Haiti gear paraded along streets in Taipei, accompanied by Janet Hsieh – actress, musician, designer and host of the travel show “Fun Taiwan.”
  

Minister Mario Chouloute, the Haitian representative to Taiwan, was also on hand to give a status update on recovery efforts in Haiti:

Our thanks to the Taiwan team for their efforts to raise awareness for the ongoing needs in Haiti. To learn more about how Timberland is contributing to Haiti relief efforts — and how you can help – visit our Help Haiti webpage.

 

Helping Haiti’s Children

Marie Jose Poux is a busy woman: the Haiti native now lives in New Orleans where she’s a hospice nurse and also owns an art gallery where she features the work of Haitian artists.  She’s also the director and founder of the Hope for Haitian Children Foundation HFHCF(HFHCF) – a nonprofit organization working to provide support and care for orphan children in Haiti.

Through HFHCF, Marie Jose operates Foyer Espoir Pour Les Enfants — an orphanage in Port au Prince, Haiti.  She travels to Haiti several times a year to bring supplies and donations to the orphanage – and was there on January 12 when the earthquake struck.

Some of the children of Foyer Espoir Pour Les Enfants

Like many individuals and organizations that were serving the people of Haiti long before January’s disaster occurred, Marie Jose’s mission now takes on (if that’s possible) greater importance and critical urgency.  HFHCF has facilitated the collection of desperately-needed supplies – enough to fill at least three 40-foot shipping containers – and last Saturday, the first container was packed and prepared by local New Orleans volunteers.  Our own partner Yele Haiti sponsored the cost of shipping the first container to Port au Prince (each container costs roughly $7,000 to ship, transport on the ground in Haiti and unload).

HFHCF is seeking support for their effort – most immediately, sponsors to help pay the shipping fee for the second and third containers full of supplies.  To learn more about the organization and how you can help, please visit their website.

Bearing Witness to Haiti

The following is an email sent by Timberland President and CEO Jeff Swartz to Timberland employees worldwide, chronicling his recent trip to Haiti.  We’re sharing it here on Earthkeepers because we believe it stands up to its name — “bearing witness” — as a powerful account of destruction and survival in Haiti … and provides perspective for the important work that lies ahead as the nation rebuilds.

Team Timberland,

So, what’s so hard about this note, which I have intended to write for a week?  Last week, I visited Haiti, in the company of Bill Shore , the founder and executive director of Share Our Strength, and a Timberland Board member, and chair of the Board’s Corporate Social Responsibility Committee, and in the company of Wyclef Jean , a 12 time Grammy award winner, a Haitian musician and activist, Timberland’s partner in an effort to plant trees and reforest Haiti, as part of our global Earthkeeper efforts.  The visit was in response to the earthquake that struck Haiti 3 weeks ago; our visit was an attempt to focus Timberland’s Earthkeeper resources temporarily on disaster relief.  The trip was emotional and powerful; I left Saturday night and was back in the office Tuesday.

So, what’s so hard about a brief note that describes the heroism of the many doctors we saw, the heartbreak of the destruction we saw, the inspiration I felt with Bill and Wyclef, and the indignation I felt at the world’s well intended but inept efforts to cope with this disaster?

Maybe it is the scale of the disaster, in the context of a country already ravaged by history.   Maybe it is the raw, emotional experience of being amidst death and destruction, and in the presence of the dying.  Maybe it is the feeling  of futility, the ultimate experience of the City Year “Starfish” story , that  waited for me at each stop we made in Haiti—yes, we made a difference here,  but wow, we did not even scratch the surface of the pain and agony here…

For all these reasons and more, I have not done my job by you; I have not been able to bear witness to you from Haiti. So, below, I have tried to right that wrong.  Call this note, “bearing witness”–but “bear with me” also works–it is a very long note. Long for the reasons I cite above, and long because it is hard even now for me to say simply why a bootmaker flew to Hell and how the experience of that Hell affirmed my belief in the mission of commerce and justice. So, here goes.

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