Haiti by Jack Boulware
One million homeless. 250,000 homes destroyed. 53 million tons of rubble. 72% of the population live on less than $2 a day. A country that is 97% deforested.
Almost immediately, the planet is swirling with facts and misinformation and PR spin:
Sustainable engagement. Food-insecure. Donor fatigue. Cowboy adoptions. Family-based solutions.
President Obama announces, “This is one of those moments that calls out for American leadership”…
The day after the earthquake, dozens of countries rush aid to Haiti, including Chile, Nicaragua, Spain, Guatemala, France, Mexico and Russia. An International Search and Rescue Team from Iceland arrives the same day -- carrying tools, communication gear, and water purification equipment.
After three days, the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson arrives. It carries Sidewinder missiles and 19 helicopters. No emergency relief supplies.
After four days, the U.S. military finally allows the World Food Program to bring food, water, and medical supplies into Port-au-Prince airport.
Huge piles of food and water sit on the runway, cooking in the sun. No one knows who is in charge.
[The majority of people are pulled out of the rubble by their neighbors.]
Regular people around the world pitch in however they can -- In three days, more than a million Americans donate $10 by texting from their cellphones. Whole Foods and Safeway collect donations. San Francisco restaurants and bars raise more funds. In New York City, on Super Bowl Sunday, a Hooters donates its profits.
A Wisconsin Rotary Club. A Junior Girl Scout Troop in Georgia. Two Massachusetts sixth graders lead a coin drive that nets $1,300.
So how do we help? You go online, and here are lists – 9 ways you can help, ten ways you can help, 35 ways, pick it and click it -- Red Cross, Salvation Army, Oxfam, UNICEF, Yéle, Partners in Health? While we’re Googling our grief, the media keeps trying to fill more hours of the day:
[Between 1888 and 1915, no Haitian president completes his 7-year term.]
In 1914 President Woodrow Wilson sends in Marines to take control, and they remove $500,000 of Haiti’s reserves “for safe-keeping”
From 1977 to 1988, every pitch thrown in major league baseball uses a ball manufactured in Haiti.
Thirty years ago Haiti imported no rice. Today Haiti imports nearly all its rice.
[From 1957 to 1986, the Duvalier regimes put over $504 million of the world’s donation to Haiti into their own pockets.]
Bill Clinton and George W. Bush meet with Obama at the White House for a news conference, and create the “Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.” Some are reminded of 2002, when the Bush administration blocked Haiti from receiving 146 million dollars in aid. Maybe they could start the fund with that.
Haitians around the world are asked to kneel and pray at exactly the time the earthquake hit. A New Mexico company called “Faith Comes By Hearing” sends 600 solar-powered audio Bibles. The Church of the True Path recommends that Haitians should cleanse themselves by fasting.
Pat Robertson declares that the dead and injured get what they deserved because they have made a “pact with the devil.”
A group of Scientologists working in a hospital courtyard shrug off medicine shortages, saying they are healing patients through “the power of touch to reconnect nervous systems.” One skeptical doctor says, “I didn’t know touching could heal gangrene.”
A 76-year-old man tells a reporter, “I am Voodoo, Catholic or anything if it means I would get food for my family. I believe in any God who fills my stomach.”
We are the world, we are the children.
Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem. Shakira. Ben Stiller. Lindsay Lohan. Ryan Seacrest. Bono. Always Bono.
Naomi Campbell helps auction eight Lotus sports cars, each featuring a color scheme that reflects the flag of Haiti.
[Shane MacGowan, Nick Cave and Johnny Depp team up for a new Haiti single. Black Eyed Peas founder Will.i.am remixes the Who song “My Generation”…Scarlett Johansson designs an exclusive handbag which contains the message 'Supporting the people of Haiti' written and signed by the actress.]
George Clooney organizes a charity telethon and raises more than $66 million. When people call to pledge money, a celebrity answers the phone:
“Hello, it’s Steven Spielberg!….fantastic -- so nice to meet YOU. … really, thank you for the donation that you’ve made to, uh, you know, to the, uh, Haitian relief….
…There’s some really smart people there on the ground helping out. So, you know, I get very encouraged when I see how much intelligence is really operating and disseminating all of the vital materi-ELLS that need to get to the people who need it the most. Every single day it sort of builds my confidence that it’s being handled very well….Have a good weekend!”
[Haitian artists find inspiration amid the destruction. One graffiti artist has taken to daubing a map of Haiti around Port-au-Prince -- a weeping eye looks out from the walls, above the words “We need help.”
Students at the Ciné Institute film school take equipment, hit the streets and immediately begin documenting the quake and its aftermath.
Missionaries now back at home. Scam emails. Counterfeit food coupons. Rain triggers deadly floods. UN aid chief 'disappointed' with relief efforts. America’s best chance at the Winter Olympics medal table will come -- in women’s bobsled!]
Two years ago I traveled to Haiti on a magazine assignment with my friend TiGeorge Laguerre, who owns a restaurant in Los Angeles. We go from Port-au-Prince, to Port-au-Paix and finally, a tiny village on the north coast. This is where TiGeorge grew up.
There is no electricity. But this is not the Haiti you always see in the news. The mountains are green. Water flows in the streams. Children play soccer barefoot in the gravel road. Teenagers talk on cellphones. A woman sweeps the dirt in front of her door. People may be poor, but they have dignity, and everyone says bonjour.
A man sees us admiring his house and comes out to talk. He says he was the former mayor of the town, and is now a philosopher. The entire front of his home is covered with a hand-painted slogan in French Creole, for everyone to see: “Pafebyen Si`W Paka Sipote Engratitid Lom,” TiGeorge translates the message, “Don’t try to do good things if you don’t know how.”
Intro TiGeorge. He has family who are now homeless. Traveling to Haiti this week to bring supplies for family and friends. Starting a new nonprofit foundation to help rebuild his country.