Posts Tagged ‘Haiti’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dear Twitterverse, I can’t keep watching this on the news or trending on Twitter without doing something. I woke up this morning with the idea that together we could make a book and donate profits to help relief efforts in Haiti.
His dream: to publish a collection of short stories — “stories with a lot of HEART, a dash of COMPASSION, and unmeasurable amounts of HOPE … stories that leave you feeling as though life really is worth living” – to be sold as an ebook and in paperback, with proceeds going to the Red Cross for earthquake relief.
McQueen issued his call for submissions via the internet and was rewarded with more than 400 submissions in the span of one week. A team of editors promptly reviewed and narrowed the mass of submissions to select 100 for the book, which will debut on March 4th — a mere six weeks after the project’s inception, and seven weeks after the earthquake struck Haiti.
And they say writers procrastinate.
A full month has passed since the major earthquake that rocked Haiti and devastated its people. In its wake, much of the world has shifted its focus to the need for aid and relief for Haiti’s survivors. The need for basic necessities – food, water, secure shelter – remains critical.
Equally critical is a vision for Haiti’s future … and as part of that vision, a sharp focus on the country’s environmental state. Haiti suffers one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world, thanks in large part to the need for energy (Haitians cut and burn trees in “raw” form or turn the wood into charcoal). Wood accounts for more than 70 percent of all fuel consumed in the island nation … but with fewer than 100,000 acres of forest remaining, Haiti’s deforestation problem is poised to become yet another crisis for the country.
Satellite image depicting the border between Haiti (left)
and the Dominican Republic (right), 2002.
Deforestation is a serious problem anywhere – but particularly alarming when you consider the effects in a region that has in recent years suffered several natural disasters. Without trees creating any sort of a natural barrier or holding soil in place, flooding, mudslides and landslides become severe threats, impacting everything from infrastructure to agriculture.
While we’re currently supporting relief efforts underway in Haiti , we haven’t lost sight or passion for the reforestation project we’re undertaking with our partner Yele Haiti. In fact, the current state of affairs reaffirms our commitment to helping rebuild the country, one tree at a time.
Stay tuned for more details of our reforestation projects, in Haiti as well as other regions of the world
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.
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.
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.
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.
President & CEO, Timberland