Saturday, June 19

Had my RedR security training course last week which involved me getting kidnapped – yes I was the lucky one with the sack put over my head and dragged off, then car jacked and a passer by in cross fire. It was useful to be reminded of much of the advice and we also did hurricane and earthquake preparedness.  I now need to prepare ‘hibernation’ boxes for the teams in Leogane in case there is a hurricane and we have to stay in our allocated hibernation room for several days.  Monday we had a tropical storm alert, but by the afternoon it had gone from red to orange alert.

Sunday two of us went up to the church associated with the orphanage on whose land we camp in the Uplands.  It was a Saints day, St Augustine de Padoue, mostly in Creole but I did manage to keep track of bits of the sermon and what was said.  At the end of the offering a group of ladies came down the aisle with large baskets of items for the offering on their heads.  There were chickens and a turkey amongst fruit and vegetables and even a bottle of rum.  If you’d like to see some photos they are on Picasa

We got a special mention for helping the nuns, orphanage and the area, including helping with rebuilding the road to the church.  I’m currently sitting in a plywood and corrugated iron cabin that has been erected on the orphanage site.  It provides an area for work and relaxation (tables and metal fold out chairs) for those living up here which isn’t a tent.  I’m back to my tent that I spent 2 months in earlier in the year.  My thermarest almost looks welcoming.  The latrine we dug is good but not so inviting!

Monday I went to the Uplands site for the first time.  Before setting off at 9.30 I had a manic couple of hours trying to make sure that the staff were all sorted for the next couple of days.  We are still trying to recruit for some positions, especially skilled construction workers and need to set up systems to make the vehicles, purchase requests and stock systems work better.  We have also had a couple of staff bereavements.  The father of a staff member died last week and Monday afternoon a son of another died from meningitis.  Another staff member has a child who has been very sick and this morning a staff member asked for prayers for his cousin.  She was pregnant and now it has been said that she will die.  It is certainly a sobering reminder of the frailty of life.  I’ve order 20 first aid kits and first aid training for our construction sites, to include supplies for breaks and traumas.

Once up at Tom Gato (our site in the mountains) it was a bit calmer.We are sharing an office building with another organisation.  It is rather cramped working conditions but is a permanent structure.  It was the first time that I had met my staff up there and I am hoping to appoint an assistant, to the logs officer, this week to help with the stock movement.  It is increasingly important to make sure everything works properly for warehousing as we start bringing in materials for housing construction.  I had notification that we were allocated 1,000 tool kits and 4,000 mosi nets.  Today I got an email asking if I could arrange a crane for containers for storage at both sites.  Another thing for the ‘to do’ list!  Everything takes up so much space and when it the wood, concrete etc arrive in a couple of weeks it will take all the space we have.  A rub haul is also on my shopping list for storage.

It is a beautiful site coming out of my tent in the morning.  Even when the rain has poured down during the night, the mist across the hills in bright sunshine is very beautiful.  There are clear scars on the mountains from the earthquake.  It is much cooler up in the mountains, I even had a sleeping bag over my shoulders at night, but hot by 6.30am.  The second evening it was just me and some national staff there in the evening, my French is taking a bit of a battering. It may be execrable to listen to for Haitians but I have had to explain all manner of things and my vocab is improving for financial, HR and logistical matters!  I was due to start French lessons with a couple of nuns in the evening but that isn’t now happening until next week.

The education team have been incorporating world cup activities into many of their lessons and have been doing a lot of disaster risk reduction training.  They have been working on material for earthquakes and hurricanes which we have talked of trialling with staff first.  Sadly some are still quite traumatised by all that has happened.  The construction teams are waiting for treated wood and plywood to arrive before carrying on with shelters.  Currently latrines for schools have been their main focus.  I attended a shelter cluster meeting today.  It was good to be back with my favourite cluster, getting ideas and listening to others.  Also they had wireless internet which was very welcome as ours has been on the blink for the last few days in the Leogane office.

We have some beds and even a sofa in our house now.  Still no kitchen so have to go next door for that.  Sheets arrived this week which was exciting.

Please pray for staff over this weekend as we have the funeral for the little boy on Saturday and a major meeting to agree a proposal for institutional funding which needs to be submitted in just two weeks, lots of work to agree all the programme details and budgets.

Sunday, June 13

Plans and Progress

After 2 nights in Port au Prince I spent half a day in the office catching up on logistics, sorting currency, meeting up with national staff again.  It was lovely to see them and I got a great welcome. Arrived in Leogane just before the end of the office day so had time to count the cash box, meet everyone and then the day was at an end. The Area coordinator and I were the only expats there and were able to move into the house next door to the office.  As we each carried a bed in they were still trying to wire up the lighting.  We ended up with none in our rooms or the bathroom.  Some lights were on and attracted a lovely lot of bugs for us to go to bed.  There is still no more furniture as yet though we are hoping for some at the end of this week.

Many homes have been doing rubble clearance which means that a number of roads I have travelled along are now half their original width due to rubble spilling into the roads.  I’ve tried asking a number of people but no one has any ideas as to where it is all going to go. Washing and cleaning facilities are still a challenge for many people living in the temporary settlements.  It is a common sight to see people washing their clothes and themselves in steams of water at the edge of the road.  Some of it does not look too clean, especially as it mixes with the potholes in the tarmac and the debris as it flows along the road.

Tearfund’s programme in Leogane and Gressier is focusing on education, shelter, livelihoods and water and sanitation.  We have currently exceeded our target for latrines and the education programmes are going well with schools clubs now operating in many areas. Livelihoods supervisors start next week and the construction teams have been working hard.  Getting supplies in is a challenge for many INGO’s.  To get treated wood, suitable for construction takes time to get it into the country.  I heard today of some toolkits available as a gift in kind.  Hopefully we may be able to get some of those, the challenge will be getting them through customs.  We still have a number of vehicles that we are waiting to clear customs.  They have been here since around the time I last left Haiti but each week we are promised it will be soon that they are released.  Please do pray that this happens as it will reduce our costs for rented vehicles and will give us the ability to access some of the areas that are difficult to currently reach.

Each week I will be spending two nights up the hillside at a place called Tom Gato, which is our upland base.  This will be in a tent, as hurricane season approaches, at least it may get rid of some of the mosquitos!  There is currently no consistent management support for the site up there so I am covering Monday to Wednesday morning and then the area coordinator will cover Wednesday to Friday morning. I'm quite looking forward to seeing the programme from a different perspective.

Tuesday, June 8

Back in Haiti

Currently sitting in the team house in Petionville.  The rain is pouring down outside and the lightening has been crashing round the house.  It is probably good not to be in a tent.

It seemed to take a long time to get to Haiti.  I left 10am Friday and arrived here 9am (3pm UK time)  Saturday.  I did have an overnight in Miami but it was good to finally arrive.  Flying straight into Port au Prince you get off the plane through the one tunnel into the airport building, go down a quite smart arrival tunnel, like any airport in the world but as you go down the escalator, where you would turn into the arrivals hall, you go out of the building, catch a bus across to the American Airlines cargo hall and enter the bedlam that is customs
and baggage reclaim.  The driver had forgotten to pick me up so had to wait around for about an hour before I finally set off.  Two of the drivers that I knew came to pick me up and it was lovely to be greeted by big smiles and welcomes and them saying how good it was to see me back.

The rubble in Port au Prince is in even bigger piles.  Some buildings that had to be demolished have been taken apart, manually, with pick axes and now lie in huge piles of debris ready for the sites to be cleared.  I saw today one site, that I had previously seen as a spontaneous camp with many tents, now just one  enormous pile of rubble.  Where it will all go to eventually, or when, I have no idea. Some people have now gone back to their homes but there are still many living in the camps.  There have been some evictions from private land.

The life here for the team now is very different from when I was here before.  It is very surreal to be in a house, but see the same items that we had in the camp, the storage boxes, plastic bowls, water filter etc now in very different surroundings.  In some ways it makes me feel very uncomfortable to be in such different surroundings, so removed now from those who are still living in tents, but necessary for the health and safety of staff.  I've been having briefings on HR, finance, security and then logs tomorrow.  I'm hoping to leave for the programme site in Leogane tomorrow (Monday) lunchtime.  I have to come back to Port au Prince for 2 days of security training for NGO staff on Thursday and Friday.  I think I will feel more comfortable at the
programme site, where I will be based, and am looking forward to seeing the programme staff and advisors again.  Lots of work to do and a number of issues to resolve.

Went to church today, where we camped previously.  Saw a number of people who I had known previously and caught up a bit with their news.  Looking forward to more catching up tomorrow