Posts Tagged ‘Haiti earthquake’

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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).

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 TIME.com 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.