"Ask not what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive...then go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."
Howard Thurman

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Today is a holiday in Haiti, so I'm working from home (work easily justified because we leave on R&R on Saturday!).  I was just struck by one of those moments when I again realize how lucky I am so I thought an early list of all that I am thankful for is appropriate: 
My thanksgiving list in no particular order:

#1:  All morning I have been glancing out the patio doors of our apartment watching all the different birds and geckos on our patio and in the trees around our apartment.   I just read an article last night about how Haiti's remaining birds, frogs and animals are heading towards extinction at a faster rate than any other country in the world due mostly to the fact that there is only 1% left of Haiti's cover of trees.  
My Thanks-giving: How fortunate are we that we (a) regularly have birds and frogs to watch in our own backyard here (b) someone somewhere is working to slow and hopefully stop the extinction and (c) that we have an apartment and it has a patio!

#2:  One of the projects I need to finish is a draft of a Livelihoods project, meaning that my organization will be looking for funding to do a training and work integration program to work towards solving Haiti's economic crisis and incredibly high unemployment rate.
My Thanks-giving:  Based on my most recent knowledge, almost all of our friends and family that would like to be employed currently are - it might not be in a dream position, but at least it's an income and an opportunity to work.

#3:  Another project I am working on is trying to find partners and funding for a teacher / tuition assistance (education program).  In Haiti, with 90% of schools private education spending accounts for 40% of family revenue yet 52% of Haitians are illiterate, perhaps because 79% of teachers have no formal teacher training.
My Thanks-giving:  With one of our kids graduated from college two more are deep into it and will hopefully have the perseverance to finish - at least they have the opportunity to even attend.

#4:  I may not always agree with the direction the U.S. government takes but compared with what I witness here every day I will take it.
My Thanks-giving:  I am a citizen of a country with a true democracy and citizens that, for the most part, understand the power of their role in it.

#5:  Watching others diagnosed with typhoid, anthrax, hepatitis, malaria, dengue fever, now a horrible Cholera outbreak which is sometimes difficult to discern from the diarrhea that is everyday life here... 
My Thanks-giving: Health and access to preventive medicine and, when needed, quality health care.

#6: Above all else, My BIGGEST Thanks-giving: Friends and Family - Thank you for being there to support us along this amazing journey!  And for Al for alternately enjoying, enduring but ultimately appreciating every moment we have together.

#7:  Oh, and I also have to give thanks to Pasha, the owner of the amazing French Bakery in our neighborhood that feels like a combination of New York and Europe and provides a little normalcy to the day AND has the most amazing Almond Croissants that are second only to an actual Patisserie in Paris.  Really!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Prosthetics in Haiti

The group of Healing Hands employees that Al has been training for several years are doing amazing work... one of our neighbors is a freelance journalist who visited and added some photos and his thoughts to his blog.  His thoughts are here:



Tuesday, November 9, 2010


I've been asked to do a few interviews at work - here are a sampling:



The video on this (scroll down to the middle of the page) features yours truly and will provide a glimpse of some of my frustrations with the situation here and the Cash for Work program that has been a big part of my job (you'll need a whopping 14 minutes for this one):

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Relatively little damage from Hurricane Tomas!  We have a day off and are hoping the sun will shine so we can get outside and take some deep breaths before bracing ourselves for whatever comes next.    

Without journalistic abilities myself, I keep searching for someone that will be able to capture the   overall essence of the biggest problem here in Haiti and I think this editorial is close:


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Another Disaster?!

Hard to believe we are facing another possible disaster here, but we are doing what we can to prepare for Hurricane Tomas.  I have spent the last two days at one of the camps we manage and have helped to remove every possible object from the common areas that could become a missile.  I hope we did all of that work for nothing, the storm misses us and we can move everything back in and set up all the tents again!  Despite all of the warnings and information about the storm very few people are leaving the camps.  Some don't believe the storm will hit (let's hope they are right), for many there is nowhere else to go and some are reluctant to leave the only possessions they have left.  I am very worried for them.  

It was extremely windy earlier and now it is calm but has started to rain.  We were told we needed to leave work by 3pm today - the UN closed their base at noon and the Haitian government asked schools and businesses to remain closed today and tomorrow.  Along with the work in the camps, I had several news outlets call for interviews.  Here is one that is online already:


I am at home and Al just called to say he is on his way. We have plenty of food, water and movies as long as our electricity and / or laptop batteries hold out.  I will post updates as soon as I can after the storm.  Keep your fingers crossed for a big MISS!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Over the Mountain

What a great hike!  We left Port au Prince Saturday morning at 6am to drive up into the mountains with five friends.  We set off at 8:30 and followed a path we'd taken a few months ago.  This time we continued to the top of the mountain.  At 6,000 feet, one of Haiti's two National Parks contains one of the only forests left in the country.  We stayed overnight at a small lodge there.  They fed us well and Sunday morning we were on our way down to Jacmel and the beach.  We covered the 6,000 feet down in 5 1/2 hours on what the lodge owner called a "goat path".  It was one of the hardest hikes we've done but definitely worth it!  Our days at the beach were cut short by the need to get back to Port au Prince for hurricane preparations.  Hopefully we won't have much to write about for that.  Stay tuned and keep your fingers crossed.

Lots of people and these donkeys were loaded with carrots on their way down to Port au Prince.  Not surprisingly, we had them for lunch and dinner at the top.

Look closely - the baskets are full of live roosters hanging quietly.

La Visite National Park.  Despite the big road, there are no vehicles other than the Ranger and a few motorcycles. 

10 miles and almost 5 hours to hike up - we were glad to arrive at the lodge.  The Calla Lilies in the vase on the right are growing wild all over near the lodge.

Wood (made into charcoal) is still the most widely used fuel source and as you can see from the photos, deforestation in Haiti is very real.

The top 1/3 of this photo shows the river coming down from the mountains into the sea.  We were warned to get across the river before the storm hit.  When we arrived at the bottom we rode in a tap tap across it - water came into the back of the truck and it hadn't rained the night before.  Hard to imagine the amount of water after it does rain.

Al posed with coffee beans growing just for him.  He loves his Haitian coffee!

One of the many things we hiked through or past was this banana grove.

While hiking down the edge of the mountain a herd of cattle with big, sharp horns were coming up.  We teetered on the edge of the path hoping they wouldn't get too excited about us being so close!

Finally at the beach!  This beach house has been rented by a friend of a friend for a few years.  It was amazing to sleep so close to the water.

Other friends had driven the four hours from Port au Prince (it is a different route, but it's crazy that we hiked there in 10 hours) on Saturday and had food, water and a cold beer waiting for us at the beach.

Our friend Leah (second from the right with her husband Jake) loves Halloween so for the first time since we've been together Al and I dressed up - we carried our mummy costumes up and over the mountain so we could wear them for 10 minutes.  We had some good laughs.  I'm second from the left and Al is in the middle.  Our friend Ann is on the far left.