Posts Tagged ‘disaster recovery’

Imagining a New Way Forward

Last week , Billy Shore provided a poignant account of his trip to Haiti with Timberland CEO Jeff Swartz and Earthkeeper Wyclef Jean , among others.  Below, Jeff Swartz shares his own thoughts on the devastation in Haiti, how it redefined Timberland’s partnership with our partner Yéle Haiti … and how innovation is built from crisis.

Please note this is excerpted from a piece which appears on Fast Company today.  Please click here to read the entire entry, and our thanks to the Fast Company team for sharing.

After the earthquake

We reached out, and Wyclef moved from celebrity entertainer to Haitian leader—from rapping out lyrics, to rapping out directions.  He told us from the ground, aid is pouring in, and stalling at the airport. Not a question of good instincts, good intentions, pure hearts—but the issue is not about intention, it’s about execution.  Get the food, get the water, get the medical supplies to the people—period.  And Wyclef was hard but clear: we are a for-profit company, with superb logistic competences, and with a factory for over 20 years in Santiago, in the Dominican Republic— just 100 miles from Port au Prince. He told us to urgently mobilize the trucks, open the warehouse, and get material flowing. Yéle will get the food packed—Timberland has to get it delivered.  And then Yéle will do its magic—mobilizing young Haitians, in neighborhoods like Bel Air and Cité Soleil, to distribute food to the hungry, hope to the powerful souls living in the open after the quake.  Do what you do well—do what a great bootmaker does—work your logistics network, and partner with the right entrepreneurial partner, and together—we can deliver good.

And so we did—we mobilized our logistics team in the DR, and went to work.  And while we are not Federal Express or UPS—we grunted and we got shipments moving over land.

And then Wyclef said—get on the plane and come here, and see the model for building a new Haiti.  A model that is one part the private sector, one part the authentic and effective NGO, and nine parts the spirit of free Haiti.  See Timberland plus Yéle plus the young of Haiti work in a specific, focused way to be part of creating a new Haiti.

So I went. They say journeys are more about who you travel with, and less about the itinerary. On this voyage, I had the company and counsel of heroes —like Bill Shore (the founder and CEO of Share Our Strength, Timberland board member and teacher of mine), and a team from Partners in Health who needed a ride to this island in desperate need of medical miracles. We made our way to Port au Prince. And in the searing humidity, we served 8,000 hot meals that Yéle had found a way to cook.  We served from the back of a truck, in Cité Soleil. We sweated, and cried, and we saw the outlines of a way forward.  One part private sector competence and passion, one part on-the-ground entrepreneurial NGO brilliance, and 9 parts Haitian strength and dignity and grace and energy.  And when we wheeled out of Cité Soleil, while my heart will never be the same, neither will my head.

Spending two days in post-earthquake Haiti does not make me akin to its survivors — but it was time enough for me to develop a new understanding of crisis and devastation and reaffirmed for me, a third-generation entrepreneur, that out of crisis flows innovation.  Before the earthquake, I was the CEO of a for-profit company with strength to share and a passion for commerce and justice.  Planting trees in Haiti felt like, looked like, the right thing to do.  It still is.  Only now, post-quake, I’m a CEO with strength and passion who has witnessed both frustration and amazingly, hope in both a ravaged land and its survivors.  Tomorrow we’ll plant trees … today we’re growing a logistical network from Santiago to Cité Soleil.  Tomorrow we’ll revisit our marketing plans — today we’re leveraging our strategy skills to figure out how to get more food into the hands of the hungry.  Trees, yes, community building, yes — a solid vision for the future is as critical to Haiti’s survival as anything right now.  But before the re-growth, a nation needs to heal, and before it can heal, it needs help.

Jeff Swartz
President & CEO, Timberland

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).

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