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HAITI EMERGENCY RELIEF BLOG
CTV News Channel: Joey Adler, ONEXONE Interview
The founder of OneXOne went to Haiti to deliver aid on the ground, and describes a completely devastating scene. She explains that after the emergency relief, there is a lot more rebuilding that will need to be done...
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An Awakening- A Journey to Port-au-Prince, Haiti
April 2nd , 2010 - 3:45 pm, est.
My name is Sam Gilbert and I just graduated high school and am on my way to college. I am told often, that I belong to the generation with the power to change the world. Since grade school, I have been exposed to many of the world’s hardships; whether it be the 9/11 terrorist attacks, hurricane Katrina, the Tsunami in Asia or the most recent earthquake in Haiti. I am not sure I ever really saw it, or understood it for that matter until I traveled to Haiti on March 22, 2010.
My first ever visit to the Haitian capital city, Port-au-Prince began even before I stepped foot outside the plane and onto the tarmac. On March 18th I found out at around 10am that my aunt Joey would be making yet another trip to Haiti on Monday. This being her eighth trip, my aunt was going on the trip in order to make sure a cargo load full of supplies made its way over safely. By roughly 8pm that same Thursday night I was told that I would be joining my aunt along with Mr. Frank McKenna and eleven other dedicated philanthropists, all of different professions, on this journey to the earthquake ravaged Haiti.
Seeing as how my aunt had been back and forth from Haiti on numerous occasions, I had seen countless photographs and heard many stories all over the world news as well about the devastation that had taken place in the poorest country of the Americas; however, nothing came close to what I was about to see live in person.
Our day began at 4:30am before the sun had even risen with the piercing sound of a blackberry alarm; time to get ready and head for the airport. Joey and I boarded a 6am flight from Montreal to Toronto where we met up with: Mr. Frank McKenna, Vice Chair of the TD Financial Group and chair of the ONEXONE Foundation, Ms. Judith Irving, Mr. James Dodds, Mr. Jude Welch, Dr. Maingi, Amgad Shehata, Vikram Khurana and Ajay Virmani; Ajay and Vikram both part of the incredible South Asian community who share so much heartfelt compassion with the people of Haiti. These very special individuals, all of who are tremendously accomplished and successful in the business world, all came together on this day to travel to Haiti under the umbrella of the ONEXONE Foundation, willing to donate whatever resources he or she had to the arduous relief effort at hand.
As we approached our destination, I stared out the window, being told to watch for the clear distinction between the Dominican Republic and Haiti who share the island called Hispaniola. From a bird’s eye view it was easy to see the devastation of deforestation; that being the main reason why flooding is that much more disastrous in Haiti. We stepped off the plane and walked down the tarmac towards the cargo jet loaded with supplies that had just arrived minutes before us. As we watched the goods being loaded off the plane in bundles, we were greeted by our friends from Partners in Health. Partners in Health, who are lead by Doctor Paul Farmer, are ONEXONE’s main partners in Haiti. I was told Partners in Health operates ten health centres of their own throughout Haiti along with helping run three government hospitals since the earthquake.
View more photos.
After about twenty minutes at the airport, making certain all was ok with Haitian customs, with all the goods being unloaded, our group headed for the cars parked out front that were waiting to take us to the Canadian Embassy. Never in my life had I envisaged such destruction, the first bit of road was somewhat deceiving as the terrain seemed to be in pretty good condition and the few buildings along that strip were still intact. It was once we began to enter the city, however, where the aftermath of the earthquake became all too apparent. It was shocking to come to the full realization that there were so few buildings or structures that still remained standing. For those few houses that still remained standing, the inhabitants could often be found living in small tents just beside the structure for fear of the house’s eventual collapse. Nothing was more shocking than the beacon of the country of Haiti, the Presidential Palace, what they refer to as “The Whitehouse”, in complete ruin. Throughout our route to the embassy, it was amazing to see how every square inch of what had been empty land, or parkland, was now covered with tents and tarps. Still driving through these streets, I came to realize what I had been told earlier, that being there, no matter how helpful, was also very difficult on the dignity of the Haitian people having them exposed in their most vulnerable state.
At the embassy Canadian Ambassador Mr. Richard Lacroix graciously greeted us as soon as we exited the vehicles and proceeded to take us on a tour of the entire facility. A modest structure built on somewhat of a hill, sitting in the midst of all the worn down buildings, tents and piles of rubble, the embassy seemed as if it was Buckingham Palace. Although at first it did not seem as though there had been any real damage to embassy’s structure whatsoever, the Ambassador brought us to a section of the building where the entire roof had shifted and where construction was being performed in order to prevent its collapsing. Mr. Lacroix then brought us into a conference room on the upper floor of the building where we were briefed about the true extent of the damage and what was needed at this point in time. One particular scene described by the Ambassador that continues to resonate in my mind is that of 50,000 people living on top of each other in small tents on a golf course, being forced to live knee high in the mud after a rain shower. On a tight schedule we did not stay much more than an hour at the embassy, thanking Mr. Lacroix for hosting us and continuing on to perhaps the most difficult point of our journey.
After leaving the embassy we returned to the vehicles and headed for one of the Government Hospitals, which Partners in Health is helping out in. In North America, a trip to the hospital is never a pleasant one as we constantly find ourselves dreading the trip to that immense building, usually housing upwards of seven floors, for whatever the purpose may be. When we arrived at the “hospital” or health care station in Port-au-Prince, my eyes could never have enough time to adjust to what I saw. Filthy sewer like streets, surrounded by old buildings with bars on the windows were encompassed by tent after tent, resembling what one would see on an old army base. The smell of urine and human excrement stung my nostrils as we walked through both the maternity and pediatric wards. Peering into the tents one could see young children whose bellies swelled as if they were carrying a child due to their lack of proper nourishment, babies who could not have weighed more than half a pound, who normally would be inside an incubator, just lying there on tiny beds in the open.
While my mind was still trying to process everything I was witnessing before me, a young boy, maybe four or five years old, with his head rapped in bandages, ran out from under the tent to greet us, wearing a pajama top, dark pants and sneakers. This boy was not shy in the least bit, following our group while jumping around laughing with a giant smile on his face. While he ran around with not a care in the world, I couldn’t help but notice him tugging at one side of his shirt sleeves constantly and it seemed as if one arm was shorter than the other but it was too difficult to truly tell; that was when one of the volunteers from the facility lifted his bothersome sleeve exposing a stub where the boy’s hand had been amputated. As the little boy continued to jump around, giving everyone of us hugs and attempting to take pictures with our cameras, it was right there and then when the whole experience began to take affect on me. Like the spirit of this underdeveloped nation, despite all the pain and suffering this little boy had endured at such a young age, he still continued show his amazing spirit through his smile and inspiring attitude.
My voyage to Port-au-Prince truly puts our privileged world into perspective. While most of my daily occupations include schoolwork, hockey and spending time with my friends and family either out at a restaurant or within the confines of a cozy house, a young man of the same age living in Haiti now wakes up everyday underneath a sieve like tent, leaving with shovel in hand attempting to move rubble maybe in search of a loved one or just trying to return their home to normalcy. These images which we often see on the television or photos in the news may be tough to stomach but there is nothing like being there first hand and getting a real glimpse of the suffering and destruction caused by the 7.0 magnitude earthquake which struck Haiti January 12th, 2010. Even after being there, at the end of the day we all still returned home to our over-privileged world without truly being able to understand what it is like to endure the daily suffering like the people of Haiti do now. This now has motivated me more than ever to do my part and help make a difference.
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Haiti Forever - Mission 7 - A New Perspective
March 31, 2010 - 3:45 pm, est.
Joey texts at 10:02 am: Maria, there is another flight to Haiti, if I can’t go would you like to go with Jude?” I will never forget that text. When I called Joey, instead of asking how she was feeling, the words “Of course” immediately escaped from my mouth.
The journey begins. In Toronto, Mr Ian Clarke introduces everyone and I finally meet Jude, Alain and Loune; together we head for the AC jets. I can now feel the adrenaline start kicking into high gear as we prepare to board. Loune explains she took a short break away from Haiti but is going back because she knows how much needs to be done. Loune’s job is to analyze all emergencies within the area and allocate the proper resources.
Ian Clark, Executive VP & Chief Financial Officer for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment created a committee of six people to spearhead this mission. Together these gracious people sponsored the flight, gathered supplies, and donated half the cargo to Partners in Health with the help of ONEXONE.
Ian worked with Gary McInerney and Malcolm West of Greenfield Ethanol Ian was able to gather 325 tents, ethanol sanitizers, Apollo Shampoo, baby formula, diapers, chocolates and drinks. Twenty skids of product and 5000 pounds of clothing in all.
View more photos.Landing in Haiti, we are informed that prior to our arrival yet another earthquake, with a magnitude of 4.2 on the Richter scale, has struck the people of Port-au-P
We wait attentively on the tarmac in order to secure the 9000 kilo load of goods and are met by Guilene Viaud from Partners in Health.
Ian was very efficient in unloading all the goods, thanking everyone who contributed and making sure the product was divided properly between ONEXONE, Partners in Health and a church he promised to help . Once a product came off the belt, Ian knew exactly where everything went.
Loune and I walked over to meet Kathryn from Partners in Health who brought a truck . Ian and the crew quickly fill it to the brim . The truck then departs from the tarmac and Kathryn informs us that she will return once they have dropped everything off at the clinic.
Haiti Free Clinic
After loading into a van with Jude and Loune, I am introduced to John Bopp, a clinic volunteer, and Alphone Edouard. The clinic is surrounded by walls that help prevent overcrowding. My first perception of my surroundings is that there are too many sick people and too many worn out doctors. After meeting and speaking with several of the international doctors,, they all ask me “is the blonde Joey coming back?” . The Greek doctor informs me that his wife has gone back to Greece due to exhaustion and is currently being replaced by another woman; he tells me that the woman has just finished tending to 150 patients and to please allow her sit down in order to talk.
Jude then runs into a sweet little man, who he introduces as Carlos. That day approximately 300 people were treated. I witnessed a doctor draft and remove a cyst or piece of debris from the inner shoulder of a woman under one light bulb that went out much to his frustration. The surgery looked so neat under the circumstances and the woman completely poised and relaxed.
In another tent I could see a doctor from Asia taking notes on many of the patients, trying to communicate with each of them in order to better understand the cause of their illness. After clearing out the first rush of people, it is only a matter of seconds before the second wave of people begins to assemble outside the gate.
View more photos.
The late lunch finally arrives along with the thirty orphans that come to the clinic everyday to take a break from their daily hardships. The tiny children are happy and seemingly carefree as they eat their meals within the confines of a dirt yard, if this isn’t a glowing sign of resilience, I don’t know what is.
Amidst this jam packed day we are called in by the captain who informs us it is time to leave. I had hoped to have the opportunity to visit the Partners in Health clinic but there simply was not enough time to make that possible.
BACK AT THE AIRPORT
Upon our return to the airport we run into Kathryn again standing by with a van, she is waiting for a water purification system a young gentlemen named Jamieson Slough has offered to donate to Partners in Health. Together, we help lug this heavy system stored in big black trunks out of the truck and are educated by Mr. Slough on the machine’s operation.
Another incredible human being I had the pleasure of encountering, Mr. Paul Jones, the voice of the Raptors on Fan590 and Sportsnet.ca told me just how jolted he was bythe whole situation and how leaving Haitiawas going to leave him wanting to tell more. People like Mr. Jones are important in keeping the flame of hope and survival lit for those devastated by the earthquake.
The scene on the plane as we come to the conclusion of our mission is one of mixed emotions. Gilles Charette tries to keep the moral upbeat. It is now 7:45 pm and we are on our way back home safely. Alain and Jude begin planning how they will round up yet another mission I guess it is safe to say there is never a last flight; with monsoon season soon approaching many issues are brought up; such as what will be done for the people in terms of shelter and care.
Our flight back to Montreal through Toronto is delayed, while waiting, a familiar face, Debbie Travis, enters the room with a big smile. I introduce the Air Canada group to her, Debbie seemed to be very enthusiastic as I continued to ramble on about the mission and the relief we continue to provide Debbie makes it clear that she wants to help out in some way, she gets on twitter after I finally give her a break she is able to write “just landed & knackered but just met a group enroute from Haiti -have just promised to help rebuild their hospital - they are the heroes-( via web)”.
-Special thanks to Joey Adler-our visionary
-Ian Clarke ,along with his sponsors and crew for making this flight possible
-The Air Canada team-security and logistics.
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Haiti Forever - Missions 6 - Chapter 3 - The Finale
Feb 23, 2010 - 9:45 pm, est.
On the flight coming down were some very nice people from AirCastle, the large corporation who lease airplanes to Airline companies around the world. The plane we flew down on Tuesday was their contribution to the Haiti missions and they would like to do more.
One of the most important messages of the last 4 weeks is that “Business” have used their existing business model to make a difference. It wasn't just about writing a cheque - although ultimately the financial implications are the same. It was more about using their core values and their particular resources to help. This is truly an important message for all of us.
Canadian Tire is an example of a company that worked within their model, by supplying tents and flashlights, perfect items that were needed.
Apotex, the pharmaceutical company was able to give us life saving medicine. This company is a beacon of their industry. They came forth at once with supplies that were needed. Other suppliers of necessary medicines were hospitals in Montreal and the Maritimes as well as Medimart.
Pepsi supplied water; The Bay supplied blankets and all the other incredible partners whose participation made these 6 flights possible.
As I have written Air Canada came forward initially with all of the flights. More important is the implication of the employees and the management of Air Canada whose 26,000 employees followed these missions on their web site. Every time a request went out they mobilized their network. These missions were a true team effort in every way possible.
View more photos.
Back in Haiti for this sixth Mission, we bring Ron and his team from AirCastle to the clinic and we give them a history of what we have been through and the needs.
At the clinic it becomes apparent that food is running short and we are all concerned of what the future will bring.
As we unload Davinder and Ajmer introduce me to a young woman from Khalsa an organization that reached out to their communities around the world. Davinder and Ajmer have brought down the crutches (which they share with us) we have brought tents that we share with them. They have brought food and given us food. We fill a small truck for the Khalsa team. They have installed themselves in Lagoune (which they tell me was one of the hardest areas hit) and the help has just started getting there. She asks if we will help, we exchange email address and I promise to do whatever we can.
PIH has arrived again with a complete group of staff and trucks and we all help including a couple of members of the Canadian forces. 35,000 kilos is unpacked and re packed in a matter of a couple of hours.
View more photos.
I suggest Jude builds a “how to “ manual. I know its morbid and I don't ever want to think about the possibility of another disaster like this, but we have learned so much and we have achieved much. Would it be wrong to write it all down?
We are picking up approximately 100 passengers; the commercial flights will start again shortly but for now Air Canada's doors are open to all who need a lift home to Canada.
The last two trips have come in a short time span and I am truly tired, everyone is tired. There are a handful of us who have made all 6 trips. Jude, Doug, Gilles and Myself. Carl and Julie and Duncan made 5. But when we think that Air Canada is in the middle of flying thousands across the country to Vancouver, it’s a testament to Air Canada’s CEO Calin Rovinescu and the COO Duncan Dee along the whole organization for having made this last mission.
We will be posting a list of everyone who participated on these flights on the ONEXONE web site, because they gave themselves wholeheartedly for their fellow man, their company and their country. Because it was the right thing to do.
When we land Wednesday at 3am we who are headed back to Montreal take a 630 flight home and I get home take a shower and go to the office.
It seems strange to have completed such a circle in such a short time.
I have said it so many times what this experience has meant to all of us. We are not finished not even close, we have huge opportunity to continue to do good work and already Khalsa has sent us a list of their needs. PIH is also in need of certain medication and we want to see how to get it there in the next short time.
I wish everyone could have had the opportunity to make one flight and take one box off the plane and transfer it to PIH or carry one child to their new parents or share the camaraderie of the group I was so honoured to travel with.
ONEXONE is made up of volunteers, board members who have given their time to support us in this effort, even though I had the privilege of making all the flights, we needed Frank McKenna and Edward Rogers to lead the charge. We needed Peter King and the team from Rogers who helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars. We needed our USA Foundation with Marc Joubert, Rob Broggi and Skylar James for all the funds they have raised. We needed James Dodds and Roger Rai to help put things together, Judith Irving and the Irving family to mobilize the Maritime Provinces. Dr. Gosevitz to make the connection to Apotex and guide us on many issues. Dale and the Pepsi team for the Water and the introduction to Canadian Tire with Duncan Fulton and his team. We needed Bruce Goodman to manage the Web, Geoff Dawe and Wendy Muller to edit my blog and correct my horrible spelling. We needed all the hospitals whose logo's are on this site to donate so much. We needed the Bronfman Foundation to help facilitate the Nurses and Doctors we sent for one week to help. We needed Elisa to hold down the fort in Canada while she fed 2200 First Nations Children across the country with our ONEXONE Breakfast program. We needed Maria who keeps everything running perfectly at the Canadian Foundation. Particularly, we needed Jude who pushed the envelope and whose incredible personality and dedication are beyond words.
These missions could never have happened without the staff from AC who manned the flights: Gilles, Carl, Doug, James, Jay, Julie, Pricille, all the guys at Cargo.
Most of all we needed Partners in Health to look up to, their work and history in Haiti and around the world made it easy to gather everything we needed, Paul, Ali, Kathryn, Ted, Megan, Loune and everyone on the ground, what an unbelievable organization. As we write they are overseeing 13 hospital centers, and will continue to need our help.
We can not close this story as yesterday Monday Feb 22nd, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment along with Air Canada flew a 7th mission, I was not there, an ear infection after last week's flight grounded me. Maria led the charge for ONEXONE. Jude along with Alain from AC Jets, AC and the great group at MLSE were on this mission.
Through all the support from the major corporations of which we appreciate, I am also especially proud of the stories from individuals who have raised money for ONEXONE and Haiti. From the employees of LG in Canada who raised individual donations, to the little girl Jillian, who had her birthday party and used it as a fundraiser for ONEXONE and to Alex Ikonikov who raised money by creating a marathon From Barrie- to Haiti for ONEXONE because as Alex says “ At the heart of ONEXONE is the belief that each person can make a difference and by joining together we can achieve great things”.
The eyes of the world have moved their focus, and Haiti is no longer the lead story. This was expected and truly the press for the most part did an amazing job keeping it at the forefront, allowing many of us to raise much money.
Haiti needs us more now than ever. We at ONEXONE, along with Air Canada and our partners aren't finished. We have hopes and aspirations to continue our work and make a truly profound impact.
The world has opened its hearts and wallets at a level never seen. We all need to do what is right and make sure we maximize every cent donated. Especially the dollar donated by the child from the USA Midwest or the Prairies in Canada .We must not let that child grow up to learn that his or her dollar went to waste.
Everyone’s life is Precious and Everyone can make a difference in another person’s life - ONE BY ONE
"Together we can save the World"
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Working together, we can make a difference
Feb 17, 2010 - 3:36 pm, est.
Mission 6 chapter 2
We are on the flight. Jude has just introduced me to Davinder who is a businessman and Ajmer who is a recently retired Air Canada employee. They are both part of the International Punjabi Foundation. They were approached by an organization in UK to help get crutches to Haiti. They called all the big NGO’s for help but were not helped. Then they reached out to ONEXONE and Air Canada through the web sites. Given Ajmer is a past employee, he was able to get some help from Rick Tanner, Paul Roach, Steve Tang and Peter Hurst, all of whom are AC employees who helped him connect the dots.
View more photos.
Last week Jude helped by getting half the shipment of crutches down and the balance is now being delivered on this flight.
But this is just the beginning of the most incredible story.
You see Davinder and Ajmer heard yesterday, (Monday) that we needed food. Some large food people for a variety of reasons had refused us. We asked Davinder and Ajmer for help; unfortunately everything was closed in Toronto yesterday, but that didn't stop them, they went on live radio and made an appeal to the Indian and Sikh communities asking people to drop off everything they could to their nearest temples and they then sent trucks all over the city to pick up. 12,000 lbs later we have food for PIH.
Davinder and I talk and I learn he lost a son 7 years ago and his wife last year. I tell him that I too lost my husband 7 years ago and it is clear to me that we are similar. We are driven to doing something positive to honour the people we loved so much.
We all decide our work is just beginning and it seems we have another partner and friend. I have also come to a conclusion over the last few years that I am so blessed in that I keep meeting the most incredible people, who are like minded and whose incredible passion to make a difference constantly amazes me and inspires me.
"Together we can save the World"
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Our Sixth Mission to Haiti - with an even Larger Load of Supplies
Feb 16, 2010 - 7:23 am, est.
Mission 6 chapter 1
If anyone had told me on January 16th that after the initial flight to Haiti we would make 5 more for a total of 6; well, I would never have believed it.
This flight is the 6th and probably the last humanitarian flight run by Air Canada. They have delivered close to 500,000 lbs of which 70 percent was ONEXONE aid for Partners in Health; medicine, medical equipment, tents, food and water.
View more photos.
The dedication and commitment by Air Canada is 100 percent the reason we are here today for another flight. From the top management to the flight attendants to the folks who pack and load, this has been a labor of love.
The plane is more loaded than the last, the whole back end is full and water is on this one again.
We are all proud, every single person and organization who has taken part in this is bursting with pride. What was achieved was amazing, but our ability to truly help in such a way remains humbling and a true privilege.
As we are ready to leave, I look around and see the same group, Gilles, handsome Carl security, Anup and Brian from in flight service; Doug and his guys, Julie from systems, we are missing our Doctor Guy and Nurse Jocelyn. This time we have a doctor and nurse from Toronto. Jude is here, he has worked harder than anyone and he gets it; he is truly an angel for the people of Haiti. Then we are missing our fearless leader Duncan who is the spark plug of these missions, he is on the way to Vancouver as Air Canada is the official airline of our games and the workload is heavy. Duncan ( COO of Air Canada ) and Calin (CEO of Air Canada), have shown tremendous leadership and vision. They deserve maximum respect for these flights. They did the right thing and maximized the initiatives to a level rarely imagined let alone seen. I've said it over and over again. In the background we must never forget PIH from Paul Farmer to Ali to Megan to Ted to Kathryn to Loune and Lody and the whole team. We know that every pound of help is being utilized by an organization with the most integrity possible and whose need to do the right thing in Haiti began 25 years ago.
Unfortunately millions of humans have been profoundly affected by this tragedy and hopefully from this incredible tragedy the Haitian people will once and for all know that the world cares and is there for them for the long haul.
Flight 6 is about to take off this isn't the end; it’s just the beginning of chapter 2.
"Together we can save the World"
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Our Fifth Mission, Our Biggest Load of Supplies
Feb 10, 2010 - 1:21 pm, est.
Mission 5 chapter 1
I am actually in a great mood as I leave Montreal at 5:30 am to catch a flight to Toronto, its Feb 10th and we are headed to Haiti for Mission number 5.
There are over 33k kilos of goods leaving today, which is our biggest load to date. There are meds left from Apotex and Novapharm We have tents again. Lots and lots of Diapers, (out of the boxes and into plastic bags) we had these delivered through the generosity of the Irving family a few weeks ago. They are now in hot demand from both PIH and also the Air Canada Clinic. We also have food, rice and lentils and lots of food, which Loune had sheepishly asked for last week. I know medicine and medical equipment was our first priority but now we are really seeing an evolution of the needs.
We are all together for the most part it is the regular crew, the only people not on this flight are James our trusted weight mathematician and Carl our handsome security expert.
Judith has joined us again and I'm glad to share the experience with her.
We have some new friends, Alain senior director of Jetz- they are the division of Air Canada which flies many of the professional sports teams. Alain in conjunction with Maple Leaf Sports are sending a flight down on the 22nd and have thankfully agreed to help ONEXONE and Partners in Health, in large part because of the great work on the ground by PIH. Alain is here to see the symphony on the ground and Jude and PIH don't disappoint.
Also along are Yves, Lucy and Maxine, this is their first flight and everyone seems in good spirits. As with every trip, there is a different atmosphere on the plane, this time there is more of a sense of happiness. I don't want this to be misconstrued, because it is not about being happy to go to a ravaged area, its more about seeing the people on the ground, our friends from PIH and then little Carlos and John at the AC Clinic. We have built relationships and it is becoming harder and harder when we leave.
The flight down goes quickly, we are planning the next two loads. It seems the flights have less and less time between them. The requirements are more varied and obviously this poses more of a challenge, but Alain is committed and Jude is pushy as always, in a nice way of course.
When we land its really quite routine, the Canadian Air Force is there ready to rock and roll with the volunteers and Air Canada crew who are unloading the top and separating the goods going to the AC clinic.
I have gotten a message on my Blackberry that CBC wants to interview me; the Globe and Mail did a story where they quoted my frustration on the amount of goods strewn at the airport and not moving. The Associate Producer, Patricia Rowland calls me and explains that Mark Kelley (Connect with Mark Kelley) would like to interview me via Skype. I explain that we will try our best but couldn't guarantee that we would be able to easily make the connection. We agree to try later and then make a decision.
Within an hour the top of plane is unloaded. PIH's stuff is being trucked down to the end of the tarmac in the same place as last Saturday.
Already a few pallets have been unloaded and so PIH sends its trucks in to start loading.
View more photos.
The goods destined for the Air Canada clinic are going into a dump truck, yes a dump truck this is what Alphonse and his team have been able to commandeer. The picture of the goods loaded to the top of the dump truck is quite something and fits with our motto here which is; “any way it can be done”.
As we are all milling about, the fuel truck arrives to refuel the plane. I am not watching but all of a sudden there is a bit of commotion; the man in charge of the fuel doesn't close a valve and there is a fuel leak, all the fuel is all over the tarmac and the fuel truck. This is very serious. The truck cannot move because a spark could set off a fire. The plane has auxiliary power on and that can't be shut off either. The fire trucks surround our plane and everyone is taken off the plane. I ask why sand can't be put down to absorb the fuel; one of the pilots explains that the sand on the tarmac might get kicked up into the engines when we depart. The water truck comes and they hose down the tarmac, it is then that I realize a whole lot of fuel spilled.
We all get into our trusted van driven by our friend Burman and we pick up Loune at the end of the tarmac; Loune is coming to meet Carlos. We have asked Loune to see if young Carlos might find a place with PIH or one of their partners, Carlos is the young man that has found his way into the hearts of Duncan and Mary and pretty much all of us. When we arrive at the clinic there seems to be some tension between two different groups and this is upsetting to all of us. Alphonse is trying hard to organize a sustainable medical clinic and it is clearly disheartening to him that while people are suffering and starving these people are fighting over who is in control. This is the main problem in the world of NGO, whether people want to admit it or not, irrespective of their intentions, and people who give their lives to helping others have the best of intentions, however, sometimes the power struggles in the NGO world make many board rooms look like a picnic.
Alphonse quickly makes peace, he brings everyone together and harmony is restored.
John the young paramedic from Boston is still at the clinic and Duncan has asked him to keep an eye on Carlo, the two of them are sharing a tent. Duncan is visibly happy that John has taken a big brother approach to Carlos.
John is a special young man, if you all remember he flew down after the Quake to help, he has tremendous integrity and at some point he embarrassingly has to admit he no longer has any money left. Duncan takes some US money and hands it to him. The silence is palpable, John is clearly very touched but he is also proud he is obviously a well brought up young man, who has never ever had to depend on the generosity of other. This life he is living is as far away from his realities as he could possibly imagine. Life turns on a dime, and even though John will one day go home and back to school, this will have changed him forever. The way he looks at things, what he let's affect him, and when things will be difficult he will have one of life’s reality sticks by which to measure the degree of difficulty. I hazard to guess, hopefully, that somehow it will never reach the level of what he has just experienced.
Judith who has been taking pictures comes to me and asks me to come take a look at a young girl. Judith is almost in tears. I am not sure that I am up to doing this; Judith is asking me to do something to help these girls.
When we go to the tent to see the young girl I am aghast, her back and spine seem deformed and she has what appears to be protruding bones. She is very skinny and unable to walk. She is in need of surgery. At the clinic there are 3 doctors from the USA (Lansing, Michigan) they are nice and I ask them to maybe give us a full diagnoses of the young girl, and maybe Loune can organize something. The child is in horrific pain and for us who are there leaving her like this is not an option, we will try to do whatever we can to help.
When we are leaving we wait for Duncan; he is talking to Carlos, it doesn't take much to fall in love with a child, and to leave that child every time I know is hard for Duncan. Carlos is in good hands with John and the leadership at the clinic and we depart.
When we get back I am happy to see the tarmac is clear of fuel and we have a long line of evacuees who are finally coming home.
As we are boarding I get a phone call from CBC Mark Kelley, who wants to do the interview over the phone. Although Duncan got the Skype going the reception was spotty and so I go into a bathroom in the back of a plane and talk to Mark.
Mark is asking the questions, everyone wants to understand; 1) why is help not getting through fast enough 2) what is the situation of goods strewn at the airport 3) is Haiti over NGO'd.
I answer as best as I can, yes up until last week there were hundreds and hundreds of pallets, I was not able to go around today but I explain that is important to separate the process at the airport with the process going out of the airport. Both the US and Canadian Military are doing an amazing job landing the aircraft and off-loading the Cargo. Once they get the cargo into the yards; well that's the issue. There is not always the infrastructure to pick up and distribute hence the stuff is sitting. After the interview I find out that there has been a new decree, anything sitting more than 3 days is being confiscated and moved into distribution by the Haitian Gov't so this is a positive decision. At the same time I am told that there are mayors of towns who have started to charge for the food, as much as 5 dollars per bag of rice, so here is a problem. To charge now when food is being donated is an abomination. This information is coming from someone at the clinic, whether it is true or not I cannot confirm. The thought does revolt me.
Is Haiti over NGO'd; all I know is that previous to the quake, having been on the ground numerous times, it was apparent to me that there were many NGO's and much duplication. Right now it seemed even worse. I tell Mark that there are people who hit the ground day 1 after the quake with full camera crews and had never worked in Haiti before. Meanwhile I believe most have great intentions, all we need to do is find the mechanism to work together and illuminate duplication.
I finish by pleading that people not get discouraged, the people of Haiti need us more now than never and mistakes are going to be made. Yet we still need to continue to support and accept that human beings are fallible even when their hearts are 100 percent in the right place.
There will be many a story after all of this and some will be true and others will be stories leaked to stir discontent. People will stop their support but they will also think twice about helping another time and this is a serious issue that we cannot let happen. We must keep our eye on the ball and accept that something of this magnitude can never be without some missteps.
We have another full load of evacuees and the flight is uneventful.
Judith is creating another great video and Jude and I serve snacks.
We are on the bus heading to Montreal, we will get home very late and I don't care, I'm just happy to be home. Jude will send the list forwarded to us by PIH. We built the list on the plane. We haven't finished one mission and we are already aggressively planning for the next.
It's dark on the bus to Montreal and Gilles is making us laugh, I wonder how everyone feels. Alain is clearly energized we spoke; it is truly a privilege to be on these flights I will never stop saying it. We have gone first hand and made a difference in the lives of so many, collectively and with the support of our partners and our supporters.
So many moments, so many thoughts, so much potential. The World has a real opportunity to rebuild a country whose history is rich with art, music and culture. Who were the first colony to gain independence in 1804 and who at one point was wealthier than the USA. Haiti has the most resilient people I've ever seen and a great majority of its population below the age of 14. With every crisis comes opportunity; I hope we can all work together and not fail the Haitian people again.
"Together we can save the World"
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With the Fourth trip, we see progress and hope
Feb 09, 2010 - 12:47 pm, est.
Mission 4 chapter 4
When we arrive at the Air Canada clinic the changes we see in one week are stupefying, there are more tents and the whole area seems more organized. We meet the director of the clinic who is a woman living in Greece, by way of Scotland, so the accent is quite charming. We have brought a truck almost completely full of food and medical supplies. Mary – Duncan’s wife has the biggest heart she has again brought duffle bags full of shoes and soccer balls and books. The little guy Carlos who has been at the Clinic is becoming an important dream for Mary and Duncan, they want to do everything they can for this little man.
View more photos.
Carlos was orphaned young and went to live with an Aunt and Uncle and his cousins, they were six in the house, the day of the Quake Carlos left to go buy himself a drink, in that instance his life was destroyed, he lost his entire family. Carlos wandered the streets and came upon the clinic and has been there since. Carlos his highly intelligent and has a bright smile and tremendous charm, when we get there he announces he wants to be a doctor. I see the faces of Mary and Duncan and I know that whatever they can do for this little guy they will do.
We spend a little over an hour at the clinic and help unload the truck; Gilles (trusted Air Canada Security Guru) is leading the unloading. He is being guided by John the young paramedic from Boston who has decided to stay for 6 more months. He has taken charge of Carlos and he is truly one of those heroes.
The light is fading and we need to get back, I see Duncan give Carlos a cell phone and teach him how to text and contact them if he needs to. We also get another list from the Clinic including a can opener; they have been using knives to open cans.
We make our way back to the plane and as we approach the airport we see that the area where our palettes were is now completely empty. I cannot believe it. Loune had sent me an email telling me that there were a lot of trucks pulling up and I couldn’t believe it in basically a little over 2 hours they had done the job. Now I know the AC staff helped and that again shows the incredible commitment and compassion of everyone at AC. As well, you have got to give kudos to PIH, they are a so responsible. I had explained to them that we had medication and a lot of it and they were ready.
I am sorry to say goodbye to Loune she has become truly a sister; and I adore her, every time we leave there is a tug at my heart, because I really want to stay and help more. I know this is not the right moment for me, I think we will try to organize a volunteer program with PIH and send people and I hope they will be able to accept them. We are getting dozens and dozens of emails and calls everyday from people who want to volunteer and we want to help but we will need to organize this.
The flight is full as we have over 100 evacuees. Again they are quiet and clearly they have been through some very difficult moments. This is my fourth flight and it still pains me to see our evacuees. The history of the world is full of examples of people forced to leave their homelands. Irrespective of what the nationalities of our evacuees, some are Canadian Haitians who were in Haiti for the Christmas holidays. Then there are parents of Canadian citizens who have been rendered homeless. There are single moms with 3 children who are coming to Canada because they have nowhere else to go. The single mom is pretty and one of her sons is not feeling well, I am helping her to fill out her customs declaration. This is something the whole team is doing, there are two customs and immigration officers on board but with the number of evacuees everyone gets on the job. I ask the pretty Mom for an address and she says she hasn’t one. I ask her if someone is meeting her and she says no. I ask her if she has a phone number of someone we can call when we land, she says no. She is coming to Canada without anything or anyone greeting her. She will land like all of us at midnight in freezing temperatures in Ottawa and she will have no one there for her. The full reality of this hits me and I am saddened, because no matter what the future will bring and we hope and pray that her children will get the benefits of all Canada has to offer; her life will never be the same again and she will have made the ultimate sacrifice for her two boys. I ask the immigration officers what will happen to her and they assure me that they will care for her and find her a hotel for the first little while as she settles. I am curious where she will go, Montreal. Toronto will she stay in Ottawa, I don’t know but as I deplane in Ottawa I look back at the plane we just landed in and pray that all the evacuees will find peace and happiness as quickly as possible.
Judith and I make our way to the bus which is going to take us to Montreal, the ritual continues and we have finished another mission. There are no surprises now we have another flight on Wednesday and only 2 days to turn it around. I am happy as I know we still have medication from Apotex as well as tents and Loune has requested food, no longer is it; “IF IT’S SATURDAY IT MUST BE HAITI, this week it will be Wednesday.
We at ONEXONE can’t say it enough we are blessed beyond words to be able to participate in these missions. We will continue as long as we can and as long as Air Canada and all our partners continue to support us. The eyes of the world are awaiting the results of this outpouring of love, we have an obligation to use our resources and our donations wisely and we need to make sure that people who have given to us feel good about having done it, so we move forward because stopping to look back is not an option.
"Together we can save the World"
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Landing for the Fourth time - reality sets in, again
Feb 08, 2010 - 7:29 am, est.
Mission 4 chapter 3
The Canadian Air Force is now overseeing our rides, and the lady in charge is Captain Van Kemp. She has been very nice, last week 2 of our pallets disappeared and we are not sure what happened. Captain Van kemp tried this week with Loune to find them but to no avail. Last week we had both the USAF and the Canadian Air Force moved some pallets and truthfully I can't get upset, we have had little or no problems and hopefully they will turn up soon. This time we have landed much closer to the field, all the way down walking distance to where the Canadian Flag is blowing in the wind. There seems to be less activity at the airport. I hope the help is not slowing down.
We explain to Captain Van Kemp that we have medication that cannot sit in the sun and we really need to move it quickly. She assures us that it will be done quickly and efficiently.
Alphonse has arranged for a truck, there was some confusion at the beginning but quickly we figure it all out and we load all the Clinics items on their truck and it all fits. We then load all the medication (children's anesthetic) onto the PIH truck. In the meantime Jude, Judith ,Loune, Lody and I go down the field where almost all the pallets have already been unloaded. Loune can easily see all the ONEXONE stickers on PIH pallets and this time there aren't any mixes so it’s easier. Loune is ready and I tell her I will be back after we go to the clinic and unload. I am assuming that they will still be in full force. As I turn around I am hit by the vision of 3 coffins draped in Canadian flags, there are military personnel standing at attention and I take my hat off and say a little prayer, no matter how much we do and how time and life continue the scene reminds us poignantly that many lives were lost, and that we will be bringing Canadians back in coffins.
View more photos.
I ask Jude to come with us to the clinic; in all these trips he hasn't left the airport, he wants to stay and help PIH move the goods so everything gets to them.
I could spend paragraphs upon paragraphs highlighting Jude’s greatness, suffice it to say his heart is as big as his spirit and I am so happy that I have met he, Duncan and Mary as well as all the other people who work for Air Canada that I have had the opportunity to meet on these missions of hope.
We all hop into the Van to go to the clinic. As we get to the gate to leave the airport, the loader is passing with the remains of the 3 Canadians. At that point someone in the van suggests we get out and stand at the side, at attention to show our respect. As we stand with hats in our hands and tears in our eyes we note the juxtaposition as the makeshift hearse makes its way beside the aid we have just deposited. We came down full of hope, we are leaving with 3 remains and the full understanding that the pain is deep and crosses all borders.
We board the van because we have more people to help. Bruce from GAP travel is with us, this is his first trip, he asks me if this is my 2nd trip, I raise 4 fingers, its seems surreal.
"Together we can save the World"
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Loading the Plane with Supplies and Help
Feb 06, 2010 - 10:12 am, est.
Mission 4 chapter 2
We got to the airport last night (Friday); we had gotten back from eating a very late dinner.
Jude tells me that we will all leave the following morning at 730 am as we will have to load the plane. Not the bottom of the plane but everything that goes on top, there is again a tremendous amount of goods for the Air Canada Clinic- as well as some very special medication for PIH anesthetic for Children. The vials are glass and the boxes need to go up top and also they can't be exposed to heat.
Judith our trusted board member from the Maritimes is making this trip, Air Canada wasn't sure if anyone else could join us, as we never know how many passengers we will be bringing back. They had told me that we might be able to bring two extra over and above me. But by Thursday morning they cancel the possibility because we might have more kids on the return flight. Yet by, Friday am the number goes back to one. Judith has raised more medical equipment and goods then we could put on all these flights, we will be shipping by boat as soon as the ports reopen. Judith is also a great photographer so when I call her Friday afternoon to tell her she's on I say camera and passport after that you are on your own. Judith meets me at Four Points and we go with Alphonse. So Alphonse has basically left his hedge fund job and he has adopted the clinic and is working hard to have them survive.
View more photos.
The plane is loaded again on top; nets have been thrown over the seats to keep the goods in place during take off and landing.
The back doors are open and it is FREEZING, but again there is a full complement of Air Canada volunteers.
Someone has brought doughnuts and although I know I shouldn't, Tim Horton's beckons me and I cannot resist, I am wondering if on these missions there are no calorie accumulation, we can always justify all. Glazed regular TH and I love it.
We are gabbing away, Duncan comes to tell me that there is a reporter from the Toronto Star Jennifer Wells. She is doing an in depth story on the future of Haiti and the rebuilding of Haiti, she would like to speak to me and to Dr. Lambert; she has done an incredible amount of research and I am thoroughly impressed at her attention to detail.
She asks me everything, she wants to understand what I saw, what I felt, but then she asks pointed questions about what the possibilities of the future of Haiti. We talk; my opinion has evolved over time, I realize now that Haiti is a sovereign state that we must support, and help not use this disaster or the future financial aid to force our will on them. My belief is qualified with the point there should be an appointee who would act as a liaison between the donor nations and Haiti ensure transparency in all fiscal matters. We talk about potential manufacturing and my thoughts on how “fair manufacturing” can be established. We talk about the positive feeling there was in Haiti before the quake, and how people were counting and believing in President Clinton's path. She is really in depth and I enjoy my time with her. She moves to sit with Dr.Lambert to get some insight into Dr. Farmer.
We are a while from landing and I hunt for another doughnut, I am so tired, I think I need the sugar rush. Mary and Jude and I have had a big talk and Judith comes back and we are really conversing about nonsense. As we get ready to land my stress level starts to rise. Although ONEXONE has arranged for significant supplies on this flight, the overall weight is low because the medicine doesn't weight much, and yet the volume is huge. I am praying that all goes well as I want the medicine moved quickly.
We land exactly on time 2:48pm we have a little over 4 hours to get everything off and out of the airport, this is critical we need the stuff moved this has been our success and this is what we must continue to do.
When I come down the stairs it is overcast and I don't see Loune, who is my security blanket because she is the woman who makes things happen. My heart sinks, but I should never fear, because a few minutes later she arrives with 2 trucks, one van and a couple of SUV's. We are ready to go and the unloading begins...
"Together we can save the World"
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ONEXONE's Fourth Relief Mission to Haiti Begins
Feb 05, 2010 - 08:25 pm, est.
Mission 4 chapter 1
It is Friday the 5th of Feb 7:45 pm, I am in the auditorium of Riverdale High School in Toronto. On the stage is Riverdale's string orchestra playing Vivaldi, I happen to love Vivaldi; I also love Lil Wayne and Mary J Blige and all kinds of music. Before the string orchestra there was a Jazz Vocal ensemble of 8 voices; they were incredible, the high school is putting on a benefit concert for Haiti.
I have just flown in from Montreal tonight in order to make sure I am here on time for the 1030 flight tomorrow.
Last Saturday I wasn't sure there would be another mission, but by Sunday of last week we were sure and we needed again to make it count. We have spent the last week rounding up medicine for PIH. Jude my Air Canada Partner and the man instrumental in making these flights happen, is helping me and keeping me positive. The list was long almost 30 items. We tried different approaches, including begging and cajoling and even being slightly nasty. Personally, I have a hard time when people don't do the right thing; especially in circumstances like this. The truth is, I felt bad going back to Apotex, as they had already been so generous to us. In the end I felt we had no choice so I called Elie at Apotex and explained what we had done, where we are at and the difficulties we faced trying to get this medicine in a short time.
They worked all night between Thursday and Friday (today) and this morning they delivered more than the first time. I'm not sure if I can describe the joy I felt this morning when Jude called to tell me 72 skids had been delivered by 2 tractor trailers. As I write the Jazz 8 has become a barbershop quartet singing a Partridge Family hit, into a rendition of Tonight from the Broadway West Side Story. Partridge family cover aside these young men are spectacular; really spectacular.
We have more tents on the flight and more medical equipment and all that medicine.
When I landed tonight Duncan, Jude and myself were on our way for dinner when Duncan got a call from a well-known CBC reporter about the concert. She asked him if he would stop by and present the good work he and Air Canada have been doing. This is important, irrespective of what the tally will be tonight it is our responsibility to encourage and empower young people and make sure they know that their efforts are appreciated and respected.
The Quartet is called Rendezvous and I cannot believe the talent of these four kids, I'm thinking it would be nice to have them perform at one of our events. Young, talented committed. Just what the world needs.
We will be leaving for Haiti tomorrow at 1030 am. The communication between us, Air Canada and PIH is becoming second nature, the emails fly around and the coordination is becoming seamless. We also are bringing with us Dr. Lambert and 2 nurses who went home to Montreal for a break.
If it’s Saturday it must be Haiti.
I am humbled by the good fortune we have had to have so many people help us, the partners who have given and supported just keep growing and we are so thankful.
The concert is continuing, there is an adult choir that has come on, they are good but the finale has the high school choir join them in the singing of Lean on Me. The crowd is clapping and singing there is something warm and comforting being here.
A few more acts perform before the Riverdale’s high school band comes on. They are good, the brass and saxophones are good and they play an old Blood Sweat and Tears number which is perfect for the trumpets; it takes me back to my high school days; Lachine High class of 77 trumpet in the band.
After the Band the CBC reporter whose son is in the show comes up and gives the audience some insight of how CBC directed their resources to report on the disaster 3 weeks ago. She shows the clip of the Clinic which was running low on supplies before Duncan saw it and mobilized the forces. When she brings Duncan up on stage the audience stands on their feet and gives Duncan a standing ovation. Jude and I smile; it is a nice moment because it is well deserved. Duncan gives some great comments simply saying that events like tonight continue to show our brothers and sisters in Haiti that we care and want to help.
We leave right after as the evening is finishing with the Fire department Pipes and drums group.
This evening was not planned. It is one of those life moments we will always remember. A random flow of events; in the end what has brought all of us together, the people of Haiti and our desire to help them in any way we can. I am quite sure this scene is happening in many other places around North America. This tragedy has brought out the very best in all of us.
"HOPE BELONGS TO EVERYONE"
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Returning from our Third Relief Mission
Jan 30, 2010 - 06:12 pm, est.
Mission 3 chapter 3
As we are taking off, there is a lot of crying and I know there is one small baby who is having trouble breathing. Dr. Guy is concerned but confident that he will be ok. We have a lot of kids needing Pedialyte, which we have plenty of.
When the seat belt sign is removed, Jude and I get up and start seeing how we can help the care-givers - some need diapers, some need help - and we are there to assist. Mary goes into full gear. She wants to pull all the winter clothes out and get them sorted and given to all the kids. We have one of the Air Canada volunteers, Keith, helping and much to my surprise, we work literally the whole flight to coordinate the sizes in order to get everyone dressed, with long pants and long sleeved tops - all of them with winter gear.
little guy coming to Canada to his new adoptive family - View more photos.
Obviously we didn’t know all the sizes or how many boys versus girls – but we are not bad - with only one exception, we have batted 1000. Pricille, the lovely Air Canada Communication Head who has made every flight, finds that somehow her child is missing some clothes. We have the best time outfitting our little guys and gals in the Olympic sweat suits that The Bay sent over. They are black with red stripes and have ‘Canada’ emblazoned across the chest. How appropriate - probably their first-ever heavy gear and already telling a story.
The flight is busy - besides outfitting all the kids, we are also getting jackets on our evacuees - we have young people with their families, and we make sure everyone will have jackets and warm clothes as we have hit the coldest weekend of the winter season so far.
Calin has had his little charge on his lap the complete flight. Putting clothes together for her has been challenging as she is a little older and her sizes have gone quickly, but we get it together. Jude and I have been trying to colour-coordinate things so that all the kids are the most awesome looking possible. I laugh as I remember him putting his request in for his little charge. Basically, Mary and Jude and I are looking out for 2 little guys, so we are constantly revolving, as the three of us work to help get things organized. Who knew that my fashion experience would come to some use on these missions - hysterical.
We are ready to land and we do the best we can to clean up all the clothes and the garbage, and help the flight crew. The flight is again being led by Bob. Bob has made the last two flights. He is incredible because he is always smiling, and even when we are in the aisles hindering his and his crew’s process, he is smiling, and helping, and doing everything he can.
Perhaps his most memorable moments are the speeches he makes as we land in Haiti and then back home in Ottawa. They are profound and emotional. He get is it - he gets the life changing moments we are all experiencing. He welcomes the little guys and gals to their new home and wishes everyone a big welcome home.
Mary and Jude carry the children down. I follow after with the extra bags. The Red Cross volunteers are on every step of the stairs going down - they are ready with blankets to wrap them around the kids, but there is no need - the cutie pies have their snow suits on and little hats and mittens, but I can tell you, the little tykes weren’t happy. The most crying we heard the whole flight was when everyone was getting the heavy gear on them. Kids are kids and pretty much all the same - we change them with our adult hang-ups.
We are escorted into a room in the airport with many Canadian immigration officials. Every child has a wrist bracelet with their names and they have been divided into groups. When their names are mentioned, they are paired with a CIC official and then they are escorted to their new families. We are taking pictures of all the kids and their caregivers. I want to take a few of the kids with their new track suits to send to Bonnie and her team at The Bay. As we wait, Jude’s little guy is worried - I can see it in his face. I bend down and talk to him in French and I ask him if he is OK. He shakes his head from side to side. He is being adopted with his sister. I whisper assurances in his ear, and tell him he is going to meet his mom and dad and not to be afraid. This doesn’t seem to give him any more comfort, so I put my arm around him and try as best as I can to give him the love I feel for him.
Is it possible to fall in love with these kids in hours? Yes it is. And that should be a message we keep alive forever - loving is natural and easy; hating takes work.
When our little guy’s name is called, we are escorted outside to a couple who are from Abbotsford, B.C. I can never really truly explain the emotions I felt when Mary handed the little guy to his new parents. He is scared and he wants to go back into Mary’s arms. We kiss him and we wish his parents well. We leave. I am crying, and I turn and see Calin Rovinescu, the CEO of Air Canada, and he has tears in his eyes. He has given his little charge over to her parents. Just about everyone on the plane, that had anything to do with this flight, are pretty much ‘basket cases’.
As we come back into the room to follow Jude, we see our little guy and the parents from B.C. The father has him in his arms and they are playing and laughing.
Five minutes - that’s how long it took for them to fall in love with each other.
That memory will be indelibly etched in my mind for the rest of my life.
Air Canada has organized a bus to take their employees to Montreal, and me and our nurses have hitched a ride. Actually, Air Canada, in their continuous generosity, have included us on their bus plans and ordered a bus large enough for all of us. I want to make sure the nurses are on it. Dr. Zaltsman has gone on to Toronto and Dr. Morris’s wife has come to pick him up. I also didn’t have time to talk to them on the flight so I want a chance to speak to them. I grab handsome Carl (Air Canada Security who has made all 3 flights) to help me get the nurses organized - he and Gilles have been amazing and a real pleasure to travel with - Carl had never changed a diaper and we wanted to teach him this flight but he ran away.
The bus is parked in front of the plane and as I am sitting watching, outside the window there is a hearse waiting at the bottom of the cargo door of our plane. I didn’t know until now, but we have brought back the remains of a Canadian who passed away in Haiti. The coffin comes down and is draped with a Canadian flag. The sole family member is surrounded by Air Canada staff and it takes me back to the Cargo building where John, one of the Air Canada members of the Cargo team, had spent some time explaining to me about the protocol that Air Canada has implemented to take care of our fallen men and women in uniform who come back. They have built special carriages and made sure all the colors of all the equipment they use are part of the protocol of the Armed Forces. When in Toronto a fallen soldier is brought back, all activity on the tarmac at Pearson International halts, to make way for the procession. This touches me. There is something to be said for this kind of care and attention, and the desire to do the right thing. I am so honored to have been John’s student - it gave me another glimpse into a world I knew nothing of.
The bus ride is crazy because believe it or not Carl is going up and down the aisle with goodies. I am almost sure we aren’t in the air … I laugh at him and he laughs back.
I go to the back, finally to spend some time with the nurses. I hear some incredible stories.
They spent the first 2 days at the IDF hospital (Israeli Defense Force hospital). The Israeli’s who didn’t get any of the credit they deserve, were in full operation with a hospital barely 24 hours after the quake. Their hospital was state-of-the-art, including a neo-natal division with full x-ray and laboratory capabilities. They closed up after having been there 2 full weeks, operating almost 24/7 and with no replacements. The nurses were thoroughly impressed and they learnt a lot.
They then moved on to a hospital operated by the University of Miami. There were more challenges and difficulties there, and they felt they brought a lot of positive skills to that hospital. They were disappointed somewhat by the lack of organization. I explain to them that they can’t judge Miami by the IDF hospital’s standards - it is an unfair comparison. One is trained and organized to pull a “hospital out of a box” and the other has run to help - not really trained to operate in these circumstances. They agree. Caro, the most amazing young woman and the captain of this group, says the most profound thing I have heard in a long time. After discussing the lack of food and water for people, she says that it is almost better for some people to be in a hospital because at least there, they are getting food and a place to stay. The thought is revolting even though it carries some truth. They have seen cases of tetanus already, and they too are concerned with what is coming next.
Most of them want to go back and would love to go to PIH. I promise that I will be looking into it.
There are more discussions. I am so impressed with this group. They are truly inspirational. I am sorry I missed the doctors, but I make a commitment to call them both on Monday.
We arrive at Pierre Elliot Trudeau Airport and I get off the bus to take a cab home. We all say our goodbyes and hug and kiss. I know I will see most everyone again. We cannot leave this - somehow a reunion is a must.
These last three weeks have been a roller coaster of emotions - bad ones, good ones, and an eye-opener to the resilience of humanity.
Three trips in 2 and a half weeks.
From total despair to small signs of life, to hope and anger, to the absolute triumph of 61 little people finding a new life.
I am so sorry for the people of Haiti and I cry for the over 200,000 lives lost - most of them without the dignity of a proper burial. I wonder how many are injured and will need long-term care and I wonder how the country will cope with that, especially as the eyes of the world leave.
I remember our little orphanage, that we had so much hope of giving them so much, only to have to leave because there was truly no other choice. There were close to 400,000 orphans before the quake - how many are there now and how do we make sure that this situation doesn’t become fodder for child trafficking? I think of all the millions of dollars of generosity donated by North Americans - the continuing outpouring of support.
I wonder what will come next.
I am sorry this had to happen. I am not sorry that we as an organization took the initiative to make the most of our passion and dive in to the deep end without stopping to think about it. We were blessed with the generosity of so many, especially Air Canada.
Duncan and Jude trusting us to respect the great responsibility they had put on us.
We left yesterday wondering if this was it- if ‘three’ was the final number. Could ‘four’ be a possibility? I am not sure. But I can say that if the call comes, and we have to spend the next 5 days working around the clock to get the job done, we will have no choice but to do it. Because the ‘calling to help’ is greater than we can understand.
Should this be the final chapter, then we will know that we have done every single thing and have left no stone unturned.
But we also know that our work will not be over.
And our plans for a long term project in Haiti are just formulating.
"HOPE BELONGS TO EVERYONE"
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On the ground for third time - more perspective of reality
Jan 2, 2010 - 04:12 am, est.
Mission 3 chapter 2
It’s the middle of the night and I need to get some sleep so I forgo the coffee that I thought of drinking and go back to my seat and fall asleep.
I wake up to the most spectacular sky. It’s 6:30 am and the horizon is in flames. We have been given an immediate priority to land and clearly the circling around the airport no longer exists.
We land exactly on time, and as I head to the front of the plane, I go through the steps of what we want to do. We have to unload all the stuff on the top destined for the clinic and the orphanage. We have made sure that there are trucks available to take them. My friends have organized a van and a pick up truck.
USAF unloading our pallets - See more photos.
I get off the plane and see Loune and Ted of Partners In Health. Ted looks tired and I can just imagine what they are going through - keeping this huge operation going, and then taking on another 3 hospitals. I am glad to see him. He is leaving on a charter; the plane is next to ours.
The airport has changed in one week. There are tents put up with country-specific flags on the tarmac - these have seats in them and are being used to process the people going home.
I take a picture of the Maple Leaf blowing in the breeze. I can’t find the U.S. one. The USAF is at the plane almost instantaneously. I wave to one of the men below our plane and he smiles back. They are polite and respectful and are doing an impossible job. As the USAF begins the unloading, I can see they are going to go down to the holding area set up by the Air Force. I know this will take some time so I tell Loune that I will help with the new Clinic and Orphanage. And that we can go to yard so that I can show her what is hers and what belongs to others - we agree to meet back in an hour and a half.
We are unloading the top of the plane and putting it into big carts on the tarmac. Once done, we start to load up the two trucks. We realize that taking all the things we have for the Clinic and the Orphanage can’t be done in one trip so we decide to make the first trip to go see the clinic first and drop off most everything. We are concerned that if we leave everything at the makeshift camp we will create a security risk for them, so we make our way to the clinic with Alphonse.
He is the gentleman who was a medic in the Army and who is Haitian. He flew to Haiti after the earthquake to find his sister, but upon arrival, he was told she had passed away. He was in the restaurant where she had worked. Minutes after the devastating news, he is told that they had made a mistake and his sister is in the kitchen. He hasn’t left his ancestral homeland and he is busy trying to keep this small clinic 10 minutes from the airport, running. He is only one story and there are many like this - small gestures turning into massive steps for humanity.
We leave the airport in a 3 vehicle convoy, escorted by two wonderful Montreal police officers who are working with UN. With them are Alphonse and Gilles - Air Canada security and all-round ‘nice guy’. Behind us, squeezed into the van, are Duncan and his superstar wife, Mary. I am in the back and I see that the city has changed drastically in the two weeks since my first foray into the streets.
There is seemingly some return to normalcy - there is a market on the street and we all agree that the resiliency of the Haitian nation is unparalleled. That’s the good news. The bad news is that tents are everywhere and those are the fortunate ones. The sides of the streets are full of makeshift campgrounds – and most are not tents, just squares of whatever fabrics were available. I see children running. Again I am trying to cope with the sanitation and water issues.
I have seen the scenes of people trying to get food and water. I am angry and I say it in the car. I hazard a guess that the monies donated in the last 18 days since this disaster, are more than during any other disaster. I would say that we have enough funds to feed Haiti for quite some time, so I am wondering why the kids are starving and thirsty, and why food and supplies are not getting to the people. We at OneXOne chose a very specific place to help - we chose medicine, and we chose Partners in Health because frankly, we are a small organization and we needed to know that whatever we were doing, was going to be maximized and that our aid was going to be in the system within hours. Thanks to the incredible team of PIH - Ali, Loune, Kathryne, Jennie, Ted, Paul of course and Lodi and the whole team - and of course, Air Canada for giving us the space to get the goods down. We now know that PIH was able to really get the goods from the airport to the areas they needed them.
The discussion in the car revolves around the security issues now and also the next wave of problems. Infectious diseases and everything else which will come from the conditions people are living in. We all agree that hunger and thirst should not, at this stage, still be an issue. Maybe we are naïve and maybe we can’t understand the whole situation. I don’t know. All I can say is that this is making me angry.
When we get to the orphanage, we are literally in a congested traffic area where we cannot take the vehicles to the orphanage, and we park on the side as hundreds of cars pass by. The police officers are not comfortable - they do not think we should leave anything at the orphanage because they will have all of it stolen or they will be hurt. There are people slowly making their way towards the vehicles and the food and drinks in the back of the pick up are clearly visible. We may incite a run on this car, and this is not prudent. Gilles tells all of us to get back in the vehicle and we decide we are going to go to the clinic and leave all food and such there, with the understanding that they will take care of this orphanage of 50 children.
When we get there we meet the doctor and his wife who are from Greece. I greet them in their mother tongue and thank them in the few words I know - “efraristo poli” means thank you. My 5 Greek words exhausted, I quickly go back to English. Imagine people from all over the world running to this small island 90 minutes from Miami, coming with pure love in their hearts. I begin to cry, and I turn away to wipe my tears.
We form a human line, again, and start to unload. There is the cutest little boy standing helping. I give him a few of my slang Haitian greetings and he laughs at me. With him is a beautiful young man who is from Boston and he is a paramedic. He flew down right after the earthquake to help and he has been here since. ”Saving one life at a time by one person at a time, because we believe that each and every one of us has the power to make a profound difference in the life of another” - this young man is proof positive.
The clinic is running out of food so the rice and beans and all the other food is coming at them in the nick of time… so is the Children’s Tylenol. We decide that we will now go back to the streets where the orphanage is, to try to set up the tents and the sleeping bags. We put everything back into the van so there is nothing on the flatbed. We make our way back, leaving Alphonse to wait for the other shipments.
We park again where the road is, in front of the orphanage and we try to find a quick and efficient way to make our way on foot to the location. This time we are surrounded by approximately 30 people, all saying they are from the orphanage. They surround the truck with Duncan in it, and it is clear that again, we are not going to be able to even put the tents up for these kids. I can see the frustration in Duncan’s and Mary’s faces. They are so committed to helping and they were so excited with all the things we had amassed for these kids, but it looks like we may not leave them anything. Mary had bought some toys - soccer balls and such - and starts to give them out. Once given out, we must head back to the airport - there is about 2/3 of the shipment destined for the clinic and orphanage still left to unpack and we need to move. We head back to the hotel. We are a group of perfectionists - everyone on these missions from Duncan and Jude, to my friends and family and to those who I work with, know I too, am driven to perfection. Even Jay, who was in charge of loading and directing the pallet building, didn’t leave one square inch of room. Here we are leaving the kids, knowing we have not been able to leave them all we wanted to leave them. But their safety comes first - we know this but it doesn’t make it any easier.
When we get back to the plane, we pack a second shipment for the clinic and once done, I want to go to the yard down at the end of the airport to check on where we are with the shipment. I hop a ride with Loune from PIH and Doug comes along - he hasn’t been there and he wants to see what it’s all about. The USFA has set up a barbed wire low fence and we stop. We explain who we are and he lets us in and directs us to a tent where other members of his troop are. We explain who we are and are told that there is a small repair they must make and we they won’t be ready to get to the merchandise before later this afternoon. They are really polite and friendly and are trying as hard as possible to help. They clearly are walking a tight line between their need to maintain safety and their understanding of the difficulties that all the organizations are facing.
Meanwhile I look around and I can’t believe what I see. The quantity of goods strewn all over the field looks like it has tripled in one week. There are mounds and mounds of pallets with water on them, they are out in the heat. I can’t believe that with everyone dehydrated, that this is just sitting there – and there are hundreds of other pallets with all kinds of aid on them.
Why is the stuff sitting there – why?
I understand that moving things must be difficult in Haiti right now -the infrastructure was never really good to begin with. But this is unconscionable and someone has to once and for all do something about this.
An older member of the USAF tells me that in his experience he believes much of this will go bad and never get to the people. I shake my head. We would have moved all our 11 pallets in a few hours had they left us to do it, but they can’t take a chance.
We turn around and go back to the plane. Doug is happy he has seen this. He also tells me that the Air Canada mechanic that they brought down has helped fix some of the broken machinery at the airport, so this will help the next planes.
I am happy that I was at cargo because I am now able to tell Loune exactly what the composition of the pallets are - how many are 100% OneXOne medicine and such for them. I know we shared one with the embassy and one with police, and I tell her exactly what there is in those being shared. I double check with Jay and Jude, my trusted teammates, and they concur. I know Loune will be able, as she did last week, to get it all organized.
When I get back to the plane the Air Canada volunteers are lined up outside the plane to help care for the 60 adopted children who are coming home to Canada and their new families. They are mostly all under the age of 2. The medical team, headed by Dr. Guy, have set up a small area outside the plane to check every child. There are the same problems as last week - dehydration and a little fever, but Dr. Guy is an incredibly optimistic person – “everything is OK and can be handled” - I love it. No drama, no ego Just an even-keeled, dedicated, smart doctor.
I get a text - last week we took down 14 nurses and 2 doctors all organized by the Jewish General. The Canadian Embassy is not letting them on the plane because they are not on a list. Obviously, as time has gone on, the security issues are becoming more important. The nurses and doctors were on the passenger manifest, but somehow they didn’t get to the embassy.
I walk over to where everyone is and clearly they are happy to be going home. Many had originally wanted to stay longer but now it is clear that they need to go home. I speak to an embassy person who is super nice, and he explains that because they were not on the list, they cannot get on the plane. I ask him if they are all Canadian citizens and are holding passports, because truthfully, some of the nurses are Haitian. But I am not sure which passports they are carrying, and even though I know they all live in Canada, I also understand the embassy’s concern that there has to be control. He confirms they are all Canadian passport holders, and I breathe a sigh of relief. I apologize for our mistake in not having put them on the list – frankly, the last 2 weeks I haven’t faced this issue and I let the ball drop, so I ask him if he could please help me, as I am not sure when I can organize their departure and I do feel responsible. He assures me that they are going to get on, and that he just wants to make sure that they are all part of our group. I confirm and thank him for his understanding and they all board the plane. Wow, that was close.
As I leave that area, I go back and help load the 3rd trip to the clinic and I assure Duncan that the trucks will go. They don’t need any of us to go. He agrees, but we need to pick up Alphonse who is on his way back to New York via our flight. So Duncan hops on the truck and goes to pick up Alphonse and deliver the last of the goods. He is amazing.
I board the plane and go to the middle section where there are all the caregivers and the children. They are oh-so-cute and delicious, but I know this is going to be an interesting flight. Everyone is moving around taking pictures and even the Air Canada CEO has a small girl on his la - he is clearly smitten with her, and she with him.
Jude and I decide we are going to take the closest seat to middle section and make a diaper changing station, so we put blankets down and get all the variety of sizes needed to take care of the kids, as well as wipes etc. We are ready. Mary has the care of two little boys, so I become her assistant, and we are ready for take-off. We just need Duncan to come back, which he does 5 minutes later.
Haiti forever Mission 3 has almost come to an end.
We have precious cargo on board.
As precious as what we had coming down.
These 60 kids have families waiting for them and we are going to fall in love with them on the way back, and then we will shed bitter-sweet tears as we give them over to the luckiest parents around.
This is the most amazing flight ever.
"HOPE BELONGS TO EVERYONE"
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Third Relief Mission - Takes Off
Jan 20, 2010 - 04:12 am, est.
Haiti Forever Mission 3 chapter 1
We just took off. It’s 3am and the plane seemed to take every last foot of runway. I'm a little more stressed than usual, but maybe that's because I know so much more about air travel than I knew before.
I came to work today at Air Canada Cargo after a business meeting which I had scheduled quite some time ago. I helped the other Air Canada employees (who have volunteered) to put together the various packages we need, to help all the different groups on the ground.
air canada cargo - View all photos
As it was last week with the “Air Canada Hospital”, it seems we have an orphanage to help and this has now been named the “Air Canada Orphanage”.
We have food and tents and such for our police officers. And as well, we have winter gear for all our new Haitian Canadians who will be coming home; also, another special flight because we have approximately 60 orphans we are bringing home to their new families.
It’s freezing tonight all over the country and last week when we landed in Ottawa, Air Canada wrapped all the orphans in blankets - I believe there was a mention in a news article about that. I get it, but I would respectfully say to the writer that if they fully understood the incredible resources Air Canada has put into these last 3 flights - the cost of the planes, the fuel, the dedication of their entire company, the attention to detail and safety – then I don't believe that pointing out the small issue of the children being wrapped in blankets for 100 yard was necessary. That being said however, Duncan has asked for jackets and winter gear for not only the orphans, but for all passengers who are coming home. He is obsessive about every detail and my appreciation for him keeps growing. He is compassionate and driven to do the right thing. Something I consider paramount to myself and our organization - we are so privileged to be a part of this.
So the net is cast, and Louis Garneau comes through with winter gear for adults and kids - and we pack them by size and mark them. Friday morning it is confirmed that out of the 60 orphans, there are thirty who are under the age of 2. Those are small sizes and we don't have them. But The Bay comes to our rescue and we get the cutest snow suits and Olympic gear. They have turned it around in hours again!! One email to Bonnie Brooks, the CEO, and that’s all it took.
Duncan, Jude and I discuss that Blackberry might want to make a commercial about the last 3 weeks, because we agree collectively that none of this could have happened without our Blackberrys. The constant instantaneous communication between all parties has been invaluable to make things happen.
All clothing that was donated over and above the jackets was separated into season and sizes - winter stuff for our returning kids and orphans, and summer stuff to help out the Air Canada Orphanage and Partners In Health who also requested some kids clothing.
I spent the day helping where I could to make the packing of the pallets as efficient as possible.
Right up until 5 pm on Friday January 29th, there have been Air Canada employees driving to the cargo doors with everything from food to Pampers to Tylenol and Pedialite. Everyone wants to do their part. And it’s such a dance. Weight is but one criteria - there is also volume, and passenger quantities plus their luggage. What's going in the cargo and what's going up top.
The weights are calculated and re-calculated by James - again Air Canada is making sure that these flights are maximized. Having experienced last week, the idea is to have all the goods that are destined for the Air Canada Hospital and Orphanage in the cabin. The amount of goods is large, including our Canadian Tire tents and sleeping bags, our Aquafina Water, sodas, food, bags of rice - all more than you can imagine… plus, all the clothes to help our passengers coming back to brave the incredible cold temperatures.
Loading the cabin means going up the stairs at the back entrance and bringing everything up the stairs and placing it. I have been working all day and so I go back to the hotel for a quick clean-up and change. When I come back all the crew and volunteers are at the plane loading up and it’s freezing. I join the line and start moving the goods off the pallets, up a few stairs, to the person closest to me. There are only 3 of us on the outside so going up and down the stairs becomes a good workout. It’s so cold that my hands are frozen because gloves weren't a thought. There is great team work and shortly thereafter, the goods are all up. The sight of all this stuff crammed into every nook and cranny is amazing, because no one could ever imagine this if they hadn't actually seen it with their own eyes. Doug who works with James is Captain up on top. It’s incredible - bags of rice strapped into the seats, Gatorade under the seats, bags of clothing strapped in the whole back section - the plane is full. I look around - there are approximately 15 people helping and I have to remind myself that they are volunteers.
Every single employee on these missions has volunteered.
More weight calculation – “can we add another pallet?” We are way ahead of schedule – it’s more than 4 hours before flight and even the cargo has been loaded. The weight has been deemed to be below enough, to warrant another pallet of a certain weight, so onboard comes some examination gloves, some masks and some paper products for the hospitals.
Finally it is time to load. The passengers coming in and being dropped off include more police officers from Montreal, plus there are a large number of medical personnel - doctors and nurses here to help with the 60 little new Canadians joining us.
We are waiting to pull out for de-icing, when Duncan comes down the aisle with the CEO of Air Canada. This is his first of these flights and he stops to talk to all. He is clearly proud of his team and his airline. He wants to understand how OneXOne has been able to work the logistics on the ground, so I tell him about Paul Farmer and Partners in Health - he wants to hear more about this later.
Duncan makes a short but very meaningful speech over the PA. He gets it, it’s not about us, it’s not about the airline or OneXOne or any organization on this plane. It’s about our privilege of helping our fellow human beings. He asks a priest to make a benediction, and he does so, blessing us and the plane and the journey we are about to take.
We are ready to go and as the plane motors down the runway at 3 am, I am in wonderment that once again we are leaving our country and all its comforts (minus the crippling cold!) to travel less than 4 hours away to a country whose standard of living was the poorest in the Western Hemisphere before this, and which now has been decimated to barely nothing – it will need the great will and friendship of many to rebuild itself.
I am also concerned that over the last few days, there are clear signs of fatigue from many. The news cycle is changing and the story is not Number 1 anymore but can be as low as 2 or 3. The donations have slowed down and the out cries are diminishing.
We were in a sprint for the emergency.
We are headed into a marathon.
We can't stop.
This is why we have to be more committed and more passionate about continuing in this journey. The world may stop watching but our job is nowhere close to being finished.
"HOPE BELONGS TO EVERYONE"
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Returning from Haiti, reality sets in.
Jan 26, 2010 - 02:12 pm, est.
Haiti Forever Mission 2 chapter 3
As we deplane, the media is already on the ground photographing the plane.
James, Frank and myself have very specific plans:
1) We need to find all the goodies we have brought down for our police officers on the ground.
2) We need to make sure we find tents and sleeping bags and water and some food for our nurses and doctors.
3) We need to help segregate goods for the Air Canada Hospital.
4) We need to help PIH organize their transport.
Frank talking to a reporter on flight down - View all photos
The first volley goes very smoothly - everything on the plane is separated quickly and efficiently. A school bus with the moniker “LOVE BUS” pulls up. This is the bus which was hired by our team on the ground to transport the nurses and doctors to the hospital. We are also getting the Pepsi products and water and goodies to the police officers. Phase One is complete.
The machinery that is needed to remove the large pallets from the plane is not working, but we have no fear - the USAF comes to the rescue with their machinery, and proceeds to remove all the pallets.
Last week we were able to pack all of our stuff right there on the tarmac, but now, the protocol has changed. The goods are now being moved a ways down the runway to a holding area which is protected by the USAF. This seems difficult for us and we send Frank to speak to the USAF. They are in a no-win situation. For the last two weeks, people have been dropping off goods on the tarmac and much of it hasn’t been processed quickly enough. Also, packing and unpacking right there on the tarmac is a safety hazard and they do not want to take a chance that aid workers will be injured.
Clearly it makes sense. Although it will make our job in the middle of the night slightly more difficult, when we stopped to think about it, we cannot fault their logic. Also they are so nice and polite and really want to help.
We make our way down into a holding area. There are a large amount of pallets across the field and I wonder if this is aid which is sitting there waiting to be picked up. I am told ‘yes’.
I don’t want to think about it.
I hope and pray that this stuff will make its way quickly to those who need it.
We are ready - PIH’s staff and truck are there. We have one mission now and that is to open up all the pallets because we need to find sleeping bags. I cannot think of sending these nurses and doctors in the middle of the night without those things.
Jude tells me 6 pallets are coming down to us. He is still by the plane unloading and getting the pallets for the small hospital together.
Thank goodness for Rogers - the service of the phones is perfect and we are all able to communicate.
We start to open the pallets. Most of the pallets are much needed medicine, generously donated by Apotex. As we open the pallets I realize that the medicine in my hands is going to save lives. I cannot begin to really explain the feeling I had at that particular moment. I truly wish every single person who has given or been touched by this tragedy to could somehow be able to experience that moment. Knowing that feeling of actually, physically, touching something that you know is going to save a life.
I felt blessed and privileged to be living this moment. There are moments when the world strikes a perfect pitch - when there is not one negative bit of energy. This was one of those moments.
It was the middle of the night, very close to pitch black, and here we were - James, Frank, the doctors, the nurses, PIH’s staff and even the guys from the USAF - all helping to move all the medicine from the pallets to the truck, which would then take them to the 13 hospitals that PIH was overseeing. I will never ever forget those 4 hours.
The nurses and doctors, who would have to get up a few hours later, were working as hard as anyone, even Dr. Satzman, which worried me somewhat.
There is an old joke that when you are looking for something, it is always in the last place you look - well obviously, because who finds something and keeps looking for it? Al kidding aside, we had to look through every single pallet and 30,000 lbs of medicine and equipment, to finally find the tents. By the time we did, we were running short of time and had to get to the plane.
I leave Louen - PIH’s ‘Angel’ - with the stock. I introduce her to the most handsome young officer overseeing the yard and he assures me all is good. I load the nurses and doctors on the “LOVE BUS” and make sure the driver knows where they are going. Our trusted officers are going to escort them – I am happy. Jude has found more tents and more blankets, and he is running down to us in the yard. This guy is Superman in disguise. I think he is has become a dear friend and the respect I have for him goes beyond words.
We have achieved 95% on our mission. We have had to leave PIH to finish the unpacking of the pallets and I feel so bad. I email Louen and apologize, but she assures me it’s OK. I tell her to leave it and to come back the following day - that it is secure with the USAF.
When we get to the plane, there are buses there with the orphans.
Duncan has asked me and Frank to help out if there are needs. The Air Canada volunteers are numerous and I don’t want to take one of their spots, so we wait till all the kids are off. There are more than enough volunteers and they are taking such good care of the children.
I would have loved to have taken care of one on the flight, but I am happy to help serve water and help clean-up. This is a ‘family affair’
and the flight is full. I am happy to help.
As I am serving water, I stop at one of the seats of the evacuees a beautiful young woman, because along with the orphans, there are also many evacuees with us.
She has a picture of a beautiful woman on her lap. I ask her in French if that is her mother. Tears well up in her eyes and I understand that she has lost her mother. I feel terrible, so I hug her and tell her that if she needs anything, to just ask. I realize that many people on this flight are going home to Canada, but they have left their loved ones behind, most without a burial or any real closure. This is unimaginable. The plane is almost full. I can only imagine the sorrow and pain. Like last week, our passengers are quiet and circumspect. I try to talk to as many as I can, but the plane is quiet.
As I am going down the aisle, I stop next to one of the volunteers.
She has the cutest little baby in her arms - they are both sleeping, and the baby has her hands in her own mouth - it is truly a beautiful sight. I tease her about how selfish she is because she is not letting her volunteer partner share the cuddling, and she smiles. They haven’t moved all flight.
There are two babies who aren’t feeling well, so the Air Canada doctor, Dr. Guy Riendeau, is back and on the case - he is a wonderful person and was also on the flight last week.
On the way down Jude had introduced me to Mary, who is a really nice lady and very caring. She has two older kids who are brother and sister, they are 11 and 8, and if memory serves me right. They are beautiful and have the greatest smiles. They are happy to be heading to a new family. Mary finds her way to the front of the plane. In her hands is a young boy who is called Destin – meaning Destiny. He will not let anyone sit down with him, so I take him in my arms so that Mary can take a bathroom break. He is clearly past exhaustion and cannot sleep. He appears younger than he is and I am cuddling with him. I am so happy.
I stop to talk to some of the Air Canada guys who helped unload. One of them offers me a glass of water. Destin starts to cry out and reach for the glass, so I put the glass up to his mouth. He does not drink but he puts his tiny face into the glass and lets the water lap at his lips. He isn’t drinking - he may be so dehydrated that his body has shut down his thirst sensors, but the coolness of the water on his lips is soothing him. Mary has come out and sees what is happening.
She gets me a bottle which I try to put it in Destin’s mouth but he rejects it, he wants to keep his face in the glass. This goes on for a few minutes, and I make sure he is not hurting himself. I go to the back to sit next to Mary to try to sit with Destin. But he doesn’t want to sit - he wants to be in my arms and walking around the plane.
So I do this, and then Mary takes over.
I have been up all night and haven’t slept much in 10 days. I go to a seat and fall asleep.
I am awakened as the pilot announces that we are landing in Ottawa, I had forgotten about that. We were originally supposed to land in Montreal, but in order to accommodate the new young Canadians, we have landed in Ottawa. I am not sure what time it is but as we land I check my BB and I see an email from Louen. They worked all night and all the medication was unpacked and taken off the airport and into the hospitals.
I look down the aisle and tell Frank and James. They give me the big thumbs up.
We have been part of another incredible experience and we are proud to know that we have achieved all that we had set out to do. Duncan and Jude and all our partners have done this for us. We would never have achieved any of this without their incredible support.
When I land I am told that the Montreal Chief of Police was on the flight and he was bringing back about 19 Montreal police officers of Haitian descent, who had been on the ground. They have a bus waiting for them to take them to Montreal. Carl and Gilles - Air Canada security staff and my new friends - offer me a lift. So we get on the nice bus with Dr. Reindeau and his associate, and we make our way to Montreal.
I have a great conversation with the doctor - he gives me the lowdown on the flight and the difficulties with the two young orphans who weren’t well. He feels confident they will be fine and we talk in general about Life.
The bus ride is surreal because we never discuss what we just did.
Imagine leaving at 5:30 pm on Saturday and now at 8:00 am Sunday we have come and gone and spent hours unpacking aid in a completely different country.
I am glad to be home. I am proud to be part of a group of people at OneXOne, but also, I feel like I am part of the Air Canada team. There are no requests too difficult and there are no problems - only opportunities. This was this mission - the ‘no stone left unturned’
There is talk of another flight - could it be possible? Could we be part of a third flight?
I can only hope.
"HOPE BELONGS TO EVERYONE"
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Boarding the plane for second Relief Mission
Jan 24, 2010 - 6:30 am, est.
Haiti Forever Mission 2 chapter 2
We landed at an executive plane area near the airport, Air Canada had organized for us to stay in the lounge area for a couple of hours before bringing us to the hanger for the departure to Haiti.
As we all settled in the lounge I felt it important to have a round table discussion with the nurses and Dr. Morris, everyone was really happy and was anxious to get more information on where they were going and what they could expect. As we all took turns going to the washrooms a family came in and a rather shy man with glasses approached us; Dr. Jeff Saltzman works at a Toronto Hospital and had volunteered to go to Haiti and somehow found his way on this mission. He was wearing a Montreal Canadian’s T-shirt and of course I quickly said he would fit right in and he had made a very wise choice wearing it as he had endeared himself to all of us right away.
the orphanage we wanted to help - See more photos.
Along with the nurses from Montreal we are also taking down Lody a beautiful Haitian Nurse who has worked for Partner in Health for 20 years. She sits down starts up her computer and starts typing as we start our round circle discussion.
There are 7 nurses who are of Haitian descent and have Creole knowledge; this will be a big help. The remainder all are either French speaking or have French Speaking abilities. I am wondering how I can say what needs to be said and still be sensitive to the feelings of the Haitian nurses whose country has just been decimated.
I start by telling them how very proud I am to share this journey with them, I tell them that on this flight besides them we have over 1M dollars of medicine and medical equipment destined for PIH as well as a small hospital near the airport which was about to close but we have enough to get them back up and running, thanks to the great work of Duncan and Jude at Air Canada and the generosity of Canadian Tire Pepsi to name a few. They are amazed. I also give them all my cell number and my email address and tell them that whatever the time of day if they need something I will be there for them.
I tell them that the situation in Haiti is really devastating and I want them to be prepared, I also tell them that I am not a Doctor but I can imagine what they will see to some extent will be things they have never seen or seen very rarely. They seem ready; I tell them that they need to support each other and that they need to talk to each other so they will be able to get through this. Dr. Morris brings up the suggestion that they should all keep a journal and meet at 6pm every night to talk things out and share their experiences. I am glad he along with Dr. Saltzman and Catherine are taking leadership roles and this bodes well. The Haitian nurses begin to ask the questions I really am not sure I want to answer, they want to know what is happening on the ground. I proceed to tell them what I saw last week, there isn’t a dry eye. They are emotional and Dr. Morris and Dr. Saltzman reiterate that they will be there for everyone.
Dr. Morris takes the floor with the most pertinent and meaningful discourse. He has worked in difficult circumstances and he tells them that they will be in a situation where their historical experiences will literally not apply, they will reach out for equipment which will not be there, all the tools they are used to having will not be easily accessible if accessible at all. They will make mistakes and the consequences may be dire, they cannot let this destroy them, they need to do the best they can. Their best is enough. I am so grateful at the sensitivity and foresight of both doctors, as time goes by through this discussion I am more and more comfortable that this team is going to be fine and be able to cope together. They have already formed a bond and I can see that great things are going to be achieved. I was to realize these thoughts even before they hit a hospital.
Lody has been quietly listening and so has another man sitting in the lounge, he has tears in his eyes and he doesn’t even know who we are. I apologize for disturbing him as we are a big group he assures me in an emotional voice that he wasn’t disturbed; I can see that we have affected him profoundly. Lody asks me if she can address the group; I think it is a wonderful idea, no one can give a better perspective on what is going on, on the ground than she. She starts out by saying that she has written a poem, in French and she starts with the following words. ---In this world we sometimes think there is no love, her words are delivered with so much depth and emotion everyone of us begins to cry, the message was a simple one, that there is love that in this whole tragedy we have seen nothing but love, the world has come together for strangers and in the truest sense of humanities ability to rise to the greatest challenges; all the while putting aside all preconceived notions. The people of Haiti in this moment are human beings who need every single one of us and the world is delivering with love. These nurses and doctors are going to Haiti because they want to give of themselves unconditionally; this is the greatest example of love. Lody has put the final and important touches on these moments and I feel like we are ready to move.
Air Canada’s bus picks us up at 3 pm and we are driven to the hanger where there are quite a few press members, I realize that there may be more to this flight than originally planned. There has been rumors that Air Canada may be designated to pick up pre-approved Haitian Children and bring them home to the families who are adopting them. We at ONEXONE have been getting numerous requests from families who had found out we had made a drop off last week, to help them I was being implored by the families to bring their children home. Bringing children without the proper process is potentially worst than not bringing them out at all. There are babies being stolen from orphanages already, if countries do not adhere to a process children who have parents or are destined for other parents will become part of child trafficking like we saw after the tsunami we cannot take these chances. I explain this to the parents and they are accepting; but I can feel their pain.
I am in the waiting area when Dr. Saltzman and I start a conversation; he tells me he is a diabetic, I am in awe and a little scared. He says he has brought insulin but I am concerned about diet and the stress but I don’t share it with him, I tell him that I am truly honoured to have met him and that if he needs me for anything to please call me. We discuss the potential cure for his condition and I introduce him to James Dodds. James has been instrumental in helping me and is a very valued board member of ONEXONE. He also works closely with Frank McKenna and is designated to accompany Frank on much of his travels. Frank has been instrumental in our foundation he is especially caring about Haiti, having made a trip with us and Matt Damon and Wyclef Jean 18 months ago after the floods in Haiti. Frank is past ambassador to the US from Canada during President Clinton’s terms and so Frank wants to see the work in progress and he wants to experience these missions. He takes his responsibilities to heart, he knows that his name and integrity can bring a lot of resources to this problem he also cares deeply about children and their plight. I, on past trips have dubbed him Captain Canada, because he is respected across this country; and rightfully so.
We board the plane and we board the airbus I realize this is a bigger plane than last week, there are more seats and obviously more goods in the belly. Jude tells me that we have gotten almost all the stock there is very little left and I hope we can be part of another flight, but the last thing I want to be is presumptuous. As we board Duncan is at the door and he tells all the nurses and Doctors that they are to sit in the business class section, what an amazing guy, he understands where they are headed and he wants to give them as much comfort as possible. There are army Doctors and medics, as well foreign affairs people on the plane. There are also many Air Canada employees and I am later to understand that they are volunteer care givers, they are there to take care of the children we are to bring back. There is also the official Doctor for Air Canada who was on the flight last week. Dr. Guy Riendeau is amazing and was really helpful last week with all the Canadian Haitian’s that were evacuated they are getting ready for the children and there are plenty of baby bottles and diapers and all that they will need to take care of the children. Duncan announces that we are going to be bringing children back and he organizes all the volunteers into pairs; because we do not know how many children will be waiting for us Duncan has made sure that there are many incredible volunteers.
On the seats in the back are boxes and boxes of medical equipment strapped in and water as well again Jude and Jay have made the maximum of the space allotted. I know we have some comfort food for our police officers and I hope we can easily find it when the time is right because we will land in the night and that will pose some challenges for separating and organizing but I know it went smoothly last week so I am not overly concerned.
There are a lot of reporters; their story is going to center on the children coming home and this is amazing, Father Raymond De Souza is also on our flight his parish is in Kingston and I later find out he is a columnist with the National Post. I take a liking to him instantly he has traveled all over the world and he is young spirited and truly fun. He blesses the flight and again I feel good about this. These missions are non-denominational everyone is the same and we all there on a journey of love. Our differences are actually nice; they are more meaningful because there is respect in our differences and acceptance as equals. At one point I indivertibly refer to him as Rabbi and we all laugh including Father Raymond.
The flight seems really short and when we land there is a general announcement and instructions from Duncan.
Getting ready for second Relief Mission
Jan 22, 2010 - 11:30 am, est.
Chapter 6 “Haiti Forever”
It's Saturday morning and I’m already in a sweat as I try to get organized to leave for the airport in Montreal.
I woke up and opened the paper to the obituary that we have placed as we do every year - a notice of My Husband and Best friend Lou's passing. Tuesday will be 7 years and I always put it in the Saturday closest to the anniversary. Everything I have done to make a difference was done in his memory. His passing affected me so profoundly that I knew from the start that if I didn't turn that terrible and tragic experience into something positive, I couldn't imagine where I would be. I re-read the notice and I smile, because I believe and know with all my heart that he is proud of all we have done as a family and a foundation.
The last week has been nuts trying to coordinate nurses going down. This is now a mission which keeps taking on more and more dimensions. Many people never see miracles. I look for them all the time, or at least signs.
The morning has been hectic - want to make sure my best Pal Rocky is being taken care of while I leave and my Mom isn't feeling well, so I run over for 5 minutes to kiss her and tell her I love her. My family is concerned - much of what I do, I wait to tell them after it’s done - except for my sister and my stepsons - no sense stressing them. My nephew Sam was not happy with me last week - he was worried, but he tells his Mom not to pressure me but to support these missions instead and that made me happy.
My Dad is in Florida at an “over 55 community” and when I spoke to him, I was happy to know that he’s met a nice lady and is happy. He's worried as well, but my sense of adventure and the way I look at life, comes from him.
I am rambling ...but I have also lived the last 10 days of complete cooperation and selflessness by our team. and Air Canada. and all the partners. I know what can be done when people put the cause first.
Dr. Morris of the Royal Victoria Hospital is coming down and he has a wealth of knowledge and experience in medicine in difficult circumstances – we’ve had 3 phone conversations and I already have loads of respect for him.
I ask him for directions to the private airport where the plane is to take us to the Air Canada flight. The Bronfman Foundation has leased a plane from Air Canada so it’s ‘all in the family’ – I love it. Dr. Morris gives me directions and I memorize them as I was going to drive there from my Mom's - but because I decided not to, I’m glad because I just made another Haitian friend.
When I get to the terminal I meet Myer Bick, head of the JGH foundation and the man who put the nurses together. Nancy Rosenfeld is there as well, who runs the Bronfman Foundation - they are ready and willing to do more, and this makes me happy.
Dr. Morris isn't there and I now know why, his directions (thanks to Google) have not worked out – but luckily I had spoken to Nancy subsequent to Dr. Morris, and my new Haitian friend knew where he was going.
There is a rainbow of people in the waiting area, young (really young nurses) and quite a few of Haitian descent who are going back. They are apprehensive. I speak to the adhoc leader and she tells me that she is ready but I can tell that this is the unknown. I will speak to them when we land in Toronto. She is worried about the smell. I don't comment ... I remember ... no sense saying anything to create more stress. I ask if there is any product which they can put up their noses and she says she has some.
Dr Morris has arrived and we are ready to go. I go over and shake his hand and meet his wife, I see already a power couple - love it.
It is time for the group picture and the hugs because some family members are here to say goodbye
Nancy and I are speaking on the tarmac when I realize I have my rings on. I don't believe in traveling with jewelry when I am on missions - it is disrespectful and right now, this is an even worse situation. I take the last anniversary gift my husband gave me and I entrust it to Nancy. I explain the significance and what it means to me. There is no doubt in my mind as I look in her eyes that she fully understands it. She tells me that she read the notice in the Gazette. So I leave, comforted that one of my most cherished memories of Lou's last summer is in responsible and caring hands.
We board and Dr. Morris tells me his vision for his trip. He has also started the process for mobilizing teams of doctors. This is what PIH really needs and I am thrilled that he has such vision. He tells me he has experience in displaced and refugee camp medicine. Again, I feel like he is another important “dot” in our ‘connect-the-dots’ tapestry. He must meet Paul Farmer - he knows of Dr. Paul (or Superman), and I feel like Dr. Morris can help on both a medium and long term basis, and that is what he wants to do.
He also wants to lobby the Quebec government of Jean Charest, to make sure that all the nurses and doctors who are heading down will be paid. I tell him about the Quebec Government matching funds, retroactive to 2009, if people want to give. So maybe they should amend some of this and keep money to pay our volunteers. Dr. Morris tells me that his wife is on it. I was right - Power Couple - love it.
Next to me on the plane is Pat and she is a nurse at the JGH. She has read the blog from last week and she is ready to go. We are not sure of the future. She is asking about return flights and frankly we have some ideas but haven't nailed the details down. I'm not worried, we will get it done.
We have been contacted this week by families who heard of our mission and have children who were already pre-approved for adoption, but are still stranded in Haiti.
OneXOne's friend Mark Ledwell is a lawyer and has in the process for awhile, starting a children's advocacy group. I get Mrs. Judith Irving, who was contacted by the families, and we decide that this issue is the best one to start the advocacy work. I understand fully the concerns voiced by PM Harper's government after the tsunami - the child trafficking was horrendous. And although we want to take as many kids out, we also want there to be control about who they are and where they are going. Making the situation worst is not an answer. Mark knows we work in a completely non-political way and we want to respect all the process and our government. So we start.
The emails from the families are heart wrenching. I speak to Duncan and he gives me the best advice about who to contact, and the ministry in charge, and Mark goes to work. As I board the plane in Montreal the news was still the same. I pray that somehow Mark and Judith will make a miracle happen and we can bring children home to new families. Miracles are around for those who believe and I believe with every ounce of my soul.
We are about to land the Dash 8 of Air Canada Jazz.
Another journey has just begun, full of hope and love. The logistics of this one will make last week’s journey look like a picnic. We have human beings who are giving of themselves in the ultimate way, to do good. They are our responsibility. Besides the millions of dollars of medicine, medical equipment, water and food, we also have 15 nurses and one doctor. We have a mission to help a hospital (now called the Air Canada Hospital, just between us, in order to differentiate our recipients). The hospital is very near the airport and was on CBC. The report was awful, and so we must help them also. One flight...many dimensions...and thousands about to be helped. And hopefully, children coming back with us.
Haiti Forever Part 2 is full of HOPE.
"HOPE BELONGS TO EVERYONE"
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It is Wednesday and I feel like I owe everyone a wrap up on Forever Haiti the 1st story
Jan 20, 2010 - 4:30 pm, est.
Chapter 5 “Haiti Forever”
When I last left you, I had just landed and was on my way home. Maria - the glue that keeps OneXOne going - was at the airport waiting for me with her husband and I am upset. It’s late and I really feel bad that she is out in the freezing weather.
They are so nice; they drive me home and I am exhausted but I am running on adrenaline. I can’t stop thinking of the last few days - the logistical nightmare to get a plane load of goods to Haiti and the work involved, especially on Air Canada’s part. It is still boggling my mind. But I go to bed feeling good about what we did - we started
out as two teams (Air Canada and OneXOne), but we ended up as one family.
I am told I have an interview at 7:30 am Sunday. I can’t sleep. CTV wants an interview at 1pm and CTV Montreal wants one at 4pm and CityTV from Toronto wants something at around 7pm. I go to sleep. It’s 3 am and I am operating on very little sleep since Wednesday. I want to talk about what everyone did, and I want to describe what I saw. We have to keep the eyes of the world on this country. We cannot let people forget again.
The alarm goes off at 7:00am to be ready for the 7:30 am interview, but no call ever comes. The reporter forgot and wants to reschedule. OK, no sweat… no sleep, I stay up. 1pm rolls around quickly and I go to the CTV studios in Montreal. I am interviewed in a dark room looking into a camera, and I have an earpiece which is giving me the story of the rescue of the students from Canada - this is great good news.
The earpiece tells me – “90 seconds Ms. Adler” - it comes too fast.
First question – “what did you see on the ground?”
I stop – what happened to the logistics of the trip, the partners, the great job Air Canada did. I don’t want to talk about what I saw. I can’t talk about what I saw. I am stammering. I haven’t thought about it. I haven’t processed it. And I am sure that I can’t talk about it.
The pause is monumental and when I start to speak, I am close to tears. I try as hard as I can to control my emotions. I don’t remember
the rest of the interview. All I know is that Geoff Dawe, our board member who helps guide our message (amongst many things), encourages me for the next interview. But they don’t seem to get any better.
Monday morning rolls around and I appear on Canada AM - they have always given us great support. I again find myself in a dark room where I am not sure what to look at and it is uncomfortable because I am clearly suffering from post traumatic stress. I am upset but handle the interview much better. I know sharing my emotions and being honest is what people need to see. People need to understand that what they see on TV is bad, but being there is unconscionable.
Two days later Sophie Trudeau and Jeff Feldman of ETALK come over. They want the truth. They want their audience, which is young, to truly understand. Sophie shares tears with me. Her husband, Justin Trudeau, is a fine young man and he is the Liberal MP in a Montreal riding with a large Haitian community. She is distraught and we experience a private moment as the camera rolls.
I am done, I can’t do this anymore. The whole world has been affected. People can’t speak about it without crying.
It’s Monday and I need to get back to work, but I can’t seem to get going. I come back from the Canada AM interview and it’s still early. I am sitting at the kitchen table, not moving. Well, it’s another day and there’s more to do - so I go, and I am happy.
I want to thank all of my team at Diesel - they all volunteered to help get some of the products that went to Haiti packed up and shipped out. They did a great job. They want to hear about it and I say I’ll tell them later, but I never get to it. The call comes from my favorite new friend Jude at Air Canada.
“Joey” he says, “We have a potential new slot time".
Round 2 of Haiti Forever is about to begin. WOW.
More help, more goods, more work - but OK - let’s go!
There are doctors and nurses from the Jewish General Hospital who want a lift down, plus we still have lots of stuff left over from the first run that never made it on the plane. We also need the medicine that PIH (Partners In Health) have been asking for. Apotex, out of Toronto, comes through with tons of it.
We are really in good shape.
I have to do something for our wonderful police force on the ground who are missing some TLC - peanut butter, bread, some Pepsi and some other stuff. We are getting one of our board members to buy it and then we will put it up top, cause I know Jacques is going to meet us when this flight gets there.
The logistics are more complicated this time because we have to take doctors and nurses. We need to make sure they are all going to have a place to go and to be taken care of - still working on it.
In the end, we are lucky. We continue to be able to get goods there, thanks to the incredible generosity and support of Air Canada. But more importantly, we are also getting our goods into the right hands, right away and making them work almost instantly. This is the difference. We have the logistics done and we are lucky that PIH are so organized on the ground.
These are Labors Of Love. We have to know that none of this is ever imaginable. We all have the single mindedness to go forth, even when there are a thousand details in the air. Well, that’s what it takes to help.
But in the end, the key is that even for those on the ground who can take even one box off the plane, there can never be a more satisfying feeling. To know that with one little gesture, we are able to give of ourselves fully in the aid of another fellow human being.
OneXOne was based on the adage – if you save one life you save the universe. We believe in this more than ever before. Because in its simplicity, it teaches us the most important lesson - every life has infinite value and no life means more than another.
We must never forget.
What an amazing gift we have been given. To be there and to know that we were able to do just a little bit to help our fellow human beings.
Haiti Forever - Part 2 is becoming a reality…
"HOPE BELONGS TO EVERYONE"
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ONEXONE Latest Update on Second Relief Mission
Jan 19, 2010 - 2:22 pm, est.
Chapter 4 “Haiti Forever”
The last we wrote I was back at the plane and ready to go home. At the plane are 4 K-9 rescue teams from Canada Krista, Trish, Silvie (yes I spelled it right) Mark, all four with the most beautiful dogs. They are exhausted Silvie has worked 11 disasters, she tells me this is the worst. The dogs have the best names, Cramique, Piper, wrangler, and Zac. The dogs and their partners have worked 24 straight hours, normally they work 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off, the dogs cannot do much more. This time they worked right through. What beautiful creatures you can almost tell in their eyes that they know exactly what they were doing. They had success today January 15th they found a survivor; a 50 year old man. So they are going home happy somehow in all this misery there was a sliver of light. The dogs are flying up top with us, I am so happy. Good on Air Canada, they aren’t going in the cargo they are heroes. The whole team are true Canadian heroes. I am so proud today of my country today. We don’t say that enough as Canadians, time to change our tune. Silvie tells me we will never know the true death count. I can understand that. I don’t want to emotionally but I can understand it intellectually. People will have died and no one will really ever know what happened.
I ask if we are ready to go, I am told that the Canadians we have to take back are being processed and as soon as they board we can leave. This is good I feel anxious and I want to leave. I have seen many things including the flood damage here in 2008. We landed right after and saw what I imagined would be the worst I would ever see. I was wrong today the little that I witnessed was beyond words. I cannot process it and I don’t want to think about it so I go into the plane and start talking to my new friends at Air Canada. Jerome wants to see the pictures; I haven’t looked at them and I give him the camera. His face changes he asks me my thoughts he can’t believe it himself. I walk into the plane and leave the camera there.
Captain “Sully” has brought homemade cookies, offers me one, boy are they good. He tells me he baked them but I know that’s not true and I call him on it. He knows I was off into the city but we don’t discuss it, I think Captain Sully gets it
I go back onto the stairs and tell everyone on the team Captain has cookies, Claude is there, the winds have shifted somehow and the smell I had experienced at of the rescue sites comes wafting; Claude says simply “death”.
Claude tells me that one of their friends has boarded, he cant stay anymore he has been here for 9 months and he was involved in an orphanage; the orphanage is in the mountains and it collapsed. They can’t get up there, the roads are gone. The officer is devastated and I glad there is a doctor on board who is helping him. Air Canada thought of everything.
The officers are talking, I am at the periphery but I am listening. The incidents of rape are escalating at an alarming rate. Everyone is sleeping outside, the woman are literally being pulled and raped. The helplessness and degradation is beyond.
People lived here!! - View all photos
The people are angry, they are tired of wealth never filtering down. The disparity between rich and poor is as wide as anywhere else in the world. They are angry at their government for its inability to take care of them. This is not the time for politics. It is the time for action immediate and swift.
4 Pakistani peace keepers come over, they want pictures with the k-9 rescue team they seem shy and they are very respectful, they ask and each take a picture.
I am talking to the Haitian gentleman who originally met our flight. He is telling me where he lives and he his managing. I ask him what he thinks he tells me that there was a general positive feeling before the quake. The people felt that President Clinton was going to bring real change, I agree with him. I am surprised that even the person on the street was aware of the intensity of President Clinton’s work. I should be proud, but I am wondering when the positive will come back.
I go back onto the plane, we are all becoming anxious, the airport is full and there are planes in the air, we need to leave. We are waiting for the Canadian passengers.
President Sarkozy has just landed and we know Secretary Clinton is on the ground, I ask one of my new Haitian friends, it seems that the French are upset that the US Air Force has control of the airport and they feel American planes are getting preferential treatment.
I can’t believe it even in this misery the political struggle is beginning. The US Air Force is doing an amazing job under difficult circumstances. I hope President Sakozy isn’t turning this nightmare into a territorial struggle, I hate this. Why can’t everyone learn to play in the sand box with everyone else.
Nothing will ever change in Haiti if we don’t unite. I don’t mean pretend unite I mean learning to truly put our egos aside and work for a common goal.
A private plane has landed almost at the same time as the French president’s. They are well dressed I presume they are European and look like they are on the Cote d’Azur. I look at myself, and all those around me, no glamour here my friends just good old North American role up your sleeves and work. I know I need a shower, I brought an extra t-shirt, I am feeling really like the very ugly duckling. (LOL)
The Canadian passengers are coming on board, thank the good lord, darkness is coming fast and I think we cannot take off in the dark. The first passenger is an elderly man; he tells me he is 81. Air Canada in its continued compassionate way puts all the elderly folks in their own pods in business class. They are all wrapped in blankets and made comfortable. Mr. 81 is telling us how he owns a small hotel and he is so proud because his hotel has no damage at all. He continues to explain that he stood over the guy mixing the cement. He says that the reason the damage is so intense is because everyone cheats when they are constructing he is so proud that he didn’t let them get away with it. I find him charming and passionate, but he is also angry he is 81 years old and I am sure he is wondering when he will see his country again. How long will it be before there is some form of normalcy; my heart falls to my stomach, what I saw is finally has hit me. I am upset once the media has left, once the eyes of the world close and the exposure is no longer there. What is going to happen, what will be the next steps.
How can people live like this for another week let alone …..
I am walking around asking all the elderly folk if they need anything. In the front seat is a woman with a sling her shoulder is painful, She tells me in French that she is a diabetic and she is not feeling well, she hasn’t taken her medication and she is concerned. I ask her if she has type 1 or type 2, I am praying for type 2 as I wonder if we have insulin on board. I go ask the Doctor to help. It is Type 2 and I am relieved, the doctor gives some orange juice and some pain medication and she goes through the flight like a champion.
It is getting dark fast and I get a text from Frank asking if I have taken off, he is concerned because he too thinks we are not allowed up after dark, Duncan tells me this was changes 24 hours ago. I am happy. We taxi and take off a few minutes later and as I watch outside the window the darkness of Haiti strikes me. There are barely any lights, what are all those people doing, they were walking the streets aimlessly, what are they doing in the dark.
Everyone is loaded on we have about 100 people we just picked and us the crew, yes I have now taken on the role of full fledged Air Canada Crew member, I am a flight attendant in training. They have thought of everything, the blankets are on every seat, there are small lunch boxes for everyone and plenty of snacks, the good kind comfort food—chips and chocolate and cookies. Our Haitian friends are hungry, they have a hard time looking us in the eye, I think they are so grateful they feel bad that we are serving them. I am pulled off cart duty by Jude, my goodness he is bossy and he’s not even the top boss on this flight Duncan is. Jude has worked around the clock for I don’t know how long, and today he hasn’t stopped. He helped unload the plane, he took care of every detail on the ground, he has been serving the meals and taking care of his crew. What an amazing human being, he tells me I have to help hold the babies so the Mom’s can eat, wow, has there been a detail left out.
Duncan already has the most beautiful little baby girl, ( no I did not take any pictures) in fact this is not me, my pictures are always children only children, smiling happy and hopeful. Today there are no pictures of kids not even on the street, any pictures I took are of buildings and destruction. Any people in them are purely by accident. Sure there are the first pictures of the arrival and the Air Canada crew, not the same thing. I have no pictures of Haitian Children. I take a beautiful little girl out of her mothers lap, the baby is sleeping soundly and she is warm and cuddly. She has the cutest green outfit on and she smells like a baby, can there be anything more beautiful. I am in heaven, something positive and wonderful to hold on to. When she grows up they will tell her the story of the great earth quake of 2010. She won’t be able to imagine how bad it was, I will never forget it or holding her.
Pure Devestation - View all photos
Her mother has eaten and I need to help clean up I am enjoying being part of this team. The flight attendants- well some are flight attendants some are taking on the role for this flight- are all wonderful people. We all agree to stay in touch and share a mass email. (we haven’t even taken off and we are already planning the future.) Jerome is handsome and sweet, he tells me he took this mission on because he has a friend who is close who they cannot find in Haiti. His eyes tear up and believes the news is bad and he will have to tell his friends family the bad news. I have no words, so I hug him. He tells me later he appreciated it. It makes me feel good.
The clean-up continues all hands on deck, even Duncan is picking up the trays, Anup who is director of in-flight services is on the flight and is working the garbage bag. Everything is clean and the lights are dimmed. Our friends need to rest, when they land it will be late and processing them through customs will be time-consuming.
I head to a group of seat where my new police officers are hanging with their friend who is going through a hard time. He wants to show us the pictures of the orphanage and the children he has lost. We sit with him and look at the pictures. It is sad I don’t have the words to comfort him. He feels like he didn’t do enough, he is beating himself up and I am crying inside because I cannot say anything that makes any sense so I shut up and look at pictures of dead children.
I go back to my seat and try to figure out what to do, I am antsy I have brought my Kindle (for the NY times) and my Sony reader for WSJ and my mindless books. I haven’t opened them. I have some notes for work I need to go over and need to organize my week, I have a lot of things this week. I go to the galley where we discuss the future uniforms of the Air Canada staff. I give my ideas and we have a good laugh Anup is so nice he listens to my ideas intently but I think he doesn’t want to discuss new uniforms.
I start talking to Mario –the commandant, we talk about all the officers we spoke to on the ground, they are all in terrible pain. He tells me young Jacques will come home soon, he and his brother are there and their Mom is in Montreal and she went through hell when the quake hit, thinking she had lost two sons. They have decided that one will come home to make sure to always be there.
We just landed I hear the dispersed clapping, I smile. Quebecers always clap when they land from a sunny vacation destination. Haiti used to be that, tourism was a large part of their GDP, there was hope around the Clinton Foundation Table that this could be one of those areas that could be easily developed, that’s not going to happen any time soon.
The customs and immigration people are there to greet us. They process all of us (air Canada crew—LOL) and we all part our separate ways after hugs and promises to exchange pictures.
I am asked for a quick interview with a French TV station which I give, he doesn’t seem to interested in our story, when he asks me what I saw on the ground, I become emotional my voice cracks and is eyes become compassionate, I see the change instantly. He is listening with intense and he is sad but what I describe.
I need to get home now
"HOPE BELONGS TO EVERYONE"
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An Experience to Remember
Jan 18, 2010 - 7:15 pm, est.
Chapter 4 "Haiti Forever"
When I last wrote, I was back at the plane and ready to go home.
At the plane are four K-9 rescue teams from Canada. Krista, Trish, Silvie, Mark - all four have the most beautiful dogs. They are exhausted. Silvie has worked 11 disasters, and she tells me this is the worst.
The dogs have the best names: Cramique, Piper, Wrangler, and Zac. The dogs and their partners have worked 24 straight hours. Normally they work 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off; the dogs cannot do much more. This time they worked right through. What beautiful creatures. You can almost tell in their eyes that they know exactly what they were doing.
They had success today January 15th - they found a survivor; a 50 year old man - so they are going home happy. Somehow in all this misery there was a sliver of light. The dogs are flying up top with us, I am so happy. Good On Air Canada!! They aren’t going in the cargo - they are heroes. The whole team are true Canadian heroes. I am so proud of my country today. We don’t say that enough as Canadians- and it’s time to change our tune. Silvie tells me we will never know the true death count. I can understand that. I don’t want to emotionally, but I can understand it intellectually. People will have died and no one will really ever know what happened.
I ask if we are ready to go. I am told that the Canadians we have to take back are being processed and as soon as they board we can leave. This is good. I feel anxious and I want to leave. I have seen many things including the flood damage here in 2008. We landed right after that and saw, what I imagined, would be the worst I would ever see. I was wrong. Today, the little that I witnessed was beyond words. I cannot process it and I don’t want to think about it so I go into the plane and start talking to my new friends at Air Canada. Jerome wants to see the pictures; I haven’t looked at them and I give him the camera. His face changes he asks me my thoughts. He can’t believe it himself. I walk into the plane and leave the camera there.
Captain “Sully” has brought homemade cookies, offers me one, boy are they good. He tells me he baked them but I know that’s not true and I call him on it. He knows I was off into the city but we don’t discuss it, I think Captain “Sully” gets it
I go back onto the stairs and tell everyone on the team that the Captain has cookies. Claude is there. The winds have shifted somehow and the smell I had experienced at the rescue sites comes wafting; Claude says simply “Death”.
Claude tells me that one of their friends has boarded, he can’t stay anymore. He has been here for 9 months and he was involved in an orphanage. The orphanage is in the mountains and it collapsed. They can’t get up there, the roads are gone. The officer is devastated and I’m glad there is a doctor on board who is helping him.
Air Canada has thought of everything.
The officers are talking, I am at the periphery but I am listening. The incidents of rape are escalating at an alarming rate. Everyone is sleeping outside, the woman are literally being pulled and raped. The helplessness and degradation is beyond.
The people are angry. They are tired of wealth never filtering down. The disparity between rich and poor is as wide as anywhere else in the world. They are angry at their government for its inability to take care of them. This is not the time for politics. It is the time for action - immediate and swift.
Four Pakistani peacekeepers come over, they want pictures with the K-9 rescue team. They seem shy and they are very respectful; they ask, and each take a picture.
I am talking to the Haitian gentleman who originally met our flight. He is telling me where he lives and he is managing. I ask him what he thinks and he tells me that there was a general positive feeling before the quake. The people felt that President Clinton was going to bring real change and I agree with him. I am surprised that even the person on the street was aware of the intensity of President Clinton’s work. I should be proud, but I am wondering when the positive will come back.
I go back onto the plane, we are all becoming anxious. The airport is full and there are planes in the air. We need to leave. We are waiting for the Canadian passengers.
President Sarkozy has just landed and we know Secretary. Clinton is on the ground. I ask one of my new Haitian friends - it seems that the French are upset that the US Air Force has control of the airport and they feel American planes are getting preferential treatment.
I can’t believe it. Even in this misery, the political struggle is beginning. The US Air Force is doing an amazing job under difficult circumstances. I hope President Sarkozy isn’t turning this nightmare into a territorial struggle. I hate this. Why can’t everyone learn to play in the sand box with everyone else?
Nothing will ever change in Haiti if we don’t unite. I don’t mean ‘pretend unite’ I mean learning to truly put our egos aside and working for a common goal.
A private plane has landed almost at the same time as the French president’s. They are well dressed. I presume they are European - they look like they are on the Cote d’Azur. I look at myself, and all those around me, no glamour here my friends, just good old North American’ role-up-your-sleeves and work’. I know I need a shower. I brought an extra t-shirt. I am really feeling like the very ugly duckling. (LOL)
The Canadian passengers are coming on board, thank the good lord. Darkness is coming fast and I think we cannot take off in the dark. The first passenger is an elderly man - he tells me he is 81. Air Canada, in its continued compassionate way, puts all the elderly folks in their own pods in business class. They are all wrapped in blankets and made comfortable. Mr. 81 is telling us how he owns a small hotel and he is so proud because his hotel has no damage at all. He continues to explain that he stood over the guy mixing the cement. He says that the reason the damage is so intense is because everyone
cheats when they are constructing. He is so proud that he didn’t let them get away with it.
I find him charming and passionate, but he is also angry. He is 81 years old and I am sure he is wondering when he will see his country again. How long will it be before there is some form of normalcy? My heart falls to my stomach, what I saw finally has hit me. I am upset - once the media has left, once the eyes of the world close and the exposure is no longer there, what is going to happen? What will be the next steps?
How can people live like this for another week let alone …
I am walking around asking all the elderly folk if they need anything. In the front seat is a woman with a sling, her shoulder is painful. She tells me in French that she is a diabetic and she is not feeling well, she hasn’t taken her medication and she is concerned. I ask her if she has Type 1 or Type 2. I am praying for type 2 as I wonder if we have insulin on board. I go ask the Doctor to help. It is Type 2 and I am relieved. The doctor gives some orange juice and some pain medication, and she goes through the flight like a champion.
It is getting dark fast and I get a text from Frank asking if I have taken off, he is concerned because he too thinks we are not allowed up after dark. Duncan tells me this was changed 24 hours ago. I am happy. We taxi and take off a few minutes later and as I watch outside the window the darkness of Haiti strikes me. There are barely any lights, what are all those people doing? They were walking the streets aimlessly, but what are they doing in the dark?
Everyone is loaded on. We have about 100 people we just picked up plus us, the crew. Yes, I have now taken on the role of full fledged Air Canada crew member - I am a flight attendant in training. They have thought of everything - the blankets are on every seat, there are small lunch boxes for everyone and plenty of snacks, the good kind comfort food—chips and chocolate and cookies. Our Haitian friends are hungry and they have a hard time looking us in the eye. I think they are so grateful, that they feel bad that we are serving them. I am pulled off cart duty by Jude - my goodness he is bossy and he’s not even the top boss on this flight, Duncan is. Jude has worked around the clock for I don’t know how long, and today he hasn’t stopped. He helped unload the plane, he took care of every detail on the ground, he has been serving the meals and taking care of his crew. What an amazing human being. He tells me I have to help hold the babies so the moms can eat - wow, has there been a detail left out.
Duncan already has the most beautiful little baby girl, (no I did not take any pictures). In fact this is not me, my pictures are always children, only children; smiling, happy and hopeful. Today there are no pictures of kid, not even on thestreet. Any pictures I took are of buildings and destruction. Any people in them are purely by accident. Sure there are the first pictures of the arrival and the Air Canada crew, but that’s not the same thing. I have no pictures of Haitian Children. I take a beautiful little girl out of her mother’s lap. The baby is sleeping soundly and she is warm and cuddly. She has the cutest green outfit on and she smells like a baby - can there be anything more beautiful? I am in heaven, something positive and wonderful to hold on to. When she grows up, they will tell her the story of the great earth quake of 2010. She won’t be able to imagine how bad it was. I will never forget it or holding her.
Her mother has eaten and I need to help clean up. I am enjoying being part of this team. The flight attendants – well, some are flight attendants and some are taking on the role for this flight- are all wonderful people. We all agree to stay in touch and share a mass email - we haven’t even taken off and we are already planning the future. Jerome is handsome and sweet, he tells me he took this mission on, because he has a friend who is close, who they cannot find in Haiti. His eyes tear up and he believes the news is bad and he will have to tell his friends and family the bad news. I have no words, so I hug him. He tells me later he appreciated it. It makes me feel good.
The clean-up continues - all hands on deck, even Duncan is picking up the trays. Anup, who is director of in-flight services, is on the flight and is working the garbage bag. Everything is clean and the lights are dimmed. Our friends need to rest. When they land it will be late and processing them through customs will be time-consuming.
I head to a group of seats where my new police officers are hanging with their friend, who is going through a hard time. He wants to show us the pictures of the orphanage and the children he has lost. We sit with him and look at the pictures. It is sad. I don’t have the words to comfort him. He feels like he didn’t do enough, he is beating himself up and I am crying inside because I cannot say anything that makes any sense, so I shut up and look at pictures of dead children.
I go back to my seat and try to figure out what to do. I am antsy. I have brought my Kindle for the NY Times, and my Sony reader for WSJ and my mindless books. I haven’t opened them. I have some notes for work that I need to go over and need to organize my week. I have a lot of things this week. I go to the galley where we discuss the future uniforms of the Air Canada staff. I give my ideas and we have a good laugh. Anup is so nice he listens to my ideas intently but I think he doesn’t want to discuss new uniforms.
I start talking to Mario – the commandant. We talk about all the officers we spoke to on the ground, they are all in terrible pain. He tells me young Jacques will come home soon - he and his brother are there and their Mom is in Montreal and she went through hell when thequake hit, thinking she had lost two sons. They have decided that one will come home to make sure to always be there.
We just landed. I hear the dispersed clapping. I smile. Quebecers always clap when they land from a sunny vacation destination. Haiti used to be that - tourism was a large part of their GDP. There was hope around the Clinton Foundation Table, that this could be one of those areas that could be easily developed. That’s not going to happen any time soon.
The customs and immigration people are there to greet us. They process all of us (Air Canada crew—LOL) and we all part our separate ways after hugs and promises to exchange pictures.
I am asked for a quick interview with a French TV station which I give. He doesn’t seem too interested in our story. When he asks me what I saw on the ground, I become emotional. My voice cracks and his eyes become compassionate. I see the change instantly. He is listening with intensity and he is sad about what I describe.
I need to get home now
"Hope Belongs to Everyone"
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We landed and got off the plane to a dry heat and devastation
Jan 16, 2010 - 6:15 pm, est.
Chapter 3 "Haiti Forever"
We landed and got off the plane to a dry heat, the only breeze seeming to come from the jet engines on the tarmac.
Our friends at Partners in Health are here and everything is being handled more efficiently than I could ever have imagined. PIH has brought one large truck and two smaller trucks.
Our Montreal police force making us proud - View all photos
We are greeted by Montreal police officers who are here under peacekeeping duties for the UN. They are wonderful guys - both are called Jacques so I dub them ‘Jacques squared’. They are a credit to our country - they are bright, they are articulate, and they are passionate about their mission here.
They escort all foreign aid personnel around because they know the country and the city, inside and out. They would like to be doing more, even digging out the mess, but they have to be available to make sure all the help is getting where it should go.
We are also greeted by people from our embassy and SIDA and I am shocked to find out our embassy is in need of water and of course I agree right away to divert some of the water going to PIH to our embassy, and the other organization coming from Montreal. They were so happy to get our water - so Pepsi should be so proud they have helped so many people.
The bigger difficulty is why our wonderful Canadian volunteers are lacking? I promise them that they should send us a list and we will put something together for the next convoy.
What is also a concern is why our Embassy has a need for water when clearly parked on the tarmac, was a Canadian Forces jumbo cargo plane. I am proud of the fact we are able to help our fellow Canadians, but the question begs to be asked - who is coordinating this? Are we so bogged down with bureaucracy that we miss opportunities? Maybe it reinforces my belief that for Real Change we will need philanthropists who are entrepreneurial.
The Air Canada staff did a yeomen job packing, and everything moves quite quickly. They separated each airline container in two: the top half for SIDA and the bottom half for ONEXONE. We also had all our water, so we can be very grateful to Air Canada for everything they did.
Once I am comfortable that everything is seemingly OK, I make a decision - perhaps not one of intellect, more an emotional one. I ask the representatives of UN if they will take me outside the airport and show me the situation first hand. They check and agree. I advise the Air Canada personnel and leave the tarmac comfortable that we are more than 50 percent unloaded and PIH are doing the very best job imaginable. We leave with ‘Jacques squared’ and Mario, a commandant of the Montreal police force.
The first thing they ask me, is to put on an extra bullet-proof vest that they have, and I do. It’s heavy and it’s hot, but I wear it.
We leave the airport, and the first thing I see is a mass of humanity trying to get into the airport. The first roundabout is so familiar to me.
As we make our way approximately 5 minutes from the airport, I am in shock. There is nothing left. Almost every building is down and those that aren't down, have such damage that they surely will have to be destroyed if they don't fall first.
What is more distressing are the Haitian people. They are walking aimlessly. They don't seem to have anywhere specific to go. And if they did, where has it gone?
There are no stores, no restaurants, no buildings.
Where are they living?
Where are they buying food?
I don't really want to think about it. I start to snap pictures because then I know that I’ll have a ‘filter’ in front of me, even if it is small. I am listening to ‘Jacques squared’ describing their nightmare.
For the first time ever, we have lost 2 officers. Two Mounties who came here to work for the UN peacekeeping forces are gone. One was in the UN compound and one was in his home. They are upset - they know their jobs bring risk, and you can tell they are dedicated and committed, but they are scared. ‘Younger Jacques’ is just starting to feel better. He was suffering the effects of losing his friends, but I
think he was also in the quake and having survived it, I would assume he is grateful but questioning. They are having trouble contacting their families. Phone and internet service are down and this is creating more stress. I promise to explore options and of course I call Mr Rogers. They are thrilled and appreciative. They have other brethren whose houses are not up and who lost all their possessions, so they are sharing clothing. They don't complain, they are explaining their predicament. Meanwhile I am snapping and seeing sites where the rescue dogs are looking for bodies.
Every day bodies are left by the side of the road to be picked up in garbage bags.
Where has humanity gone?
Where is the respect?
Where is the dignity?
There is no choice - it is what it is.
Bodies left on the street will surely bring disease and then we will have a whole other problem.
‘Younger Jacques’ tells us that for the first 48 hours they had gotten a tsunami warning and this became another huge stress.
More pictures - a major bank which would have been solid, is cracking everywhere. Where are the construction codes?
We are not in the epicentre, that is a ways a way, yet even here there is complete destruction.
We pass an area where there are makeshift tents - sheets on wooden sticks. People are living there now - not sure where the toilet facilities are. Where is the running water? Women must be living with nightmares with the issue of personal hygiene.
The children aren't visible. I am not seeing many, but am I not looking? Do I not want to see?
Jacques continues... there was hope, people were feeling hopeful. Everyone was happy about President Clinton's new responsibility. They really believe in him and think he is going to make a difference. I tell Jacques about our work within President Clinton's group of NGO's and how I too, was confident that he was moving forward and that there were ideas for businesses and George Soros' wonderful pledge. I could see that there was going to be improvement. I saw President Clinton's interview on television, and he pledged confidence and he pledged commitment and I want to believe him.
But in the end, this quake hit the capital city. The roads were terrible, now they are worse. The country needed a Marshall Plan before we all thought - it needs it more now.
We were planning for sustainable change. We are back to putting a band-aid on cancer.
This isn't OneXOne's vision. We wanted to be part of the progress, of the positive ability to put people to work. We just delivered thousands of bottles of water.
Am I proud? Of course I am. Am I discouraged? Maybe I'm just tired – it’s been a long week.
We keep moving on through the streets and we see the same thing. We come to a rather large makeshift camp site and a young girl, clearly starving, asks for food. Jacques takes a bag of mixed nuts and gives it to her. He had asked me for food previously. They don't have really anything to eat that is appealing to them. Our officers, those who should be lacking for nothing, need dried foods and power bars and sometimes water. So I promise we are going to do something this week.
The girl says “Merci” and walks away, and a young man behind her asks - there is nothing to give him.
We go back to the airport. I am not sorry I came - the pictures speak for themselves.
We come back to the airport and go through the search and rescue camp. Countries from all over the world have sent teams made up of a person and a dog - their sole purpose is to search for bodies buried deep in the rubble.
We are back at the tarmac and our goods have been loaded and gone.
AMAZING job by PIH and Air Canada, especially Jude. He's our new hero.
I want to go home really bad
"Hope Belongs to Everyone"
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ONEXONE AND SUPPLIES ARRIVES SAFELY IN HAITI
Jan 16, 2010 - 1:35 pm, est.
Chapter 2 "Haiti Forever"
When I left off we were just about to taxi down the runway.
The people on this flight are very special. Every single Air Canada employee, from the flight attendants to the Air Canada COO Duncan Dee, as well as the freight handlers and the security, as well as the pilots, are very, very senior Air Canada staff, and have all volunteered for this flight. The fact that they actually had breakfast on board and served it, was a bit surreal, but the scheduled flight (which was supposed to be 4 hours and 15 minutes) went by quickly. We all got to know each other and like always, in a tragedy, people seem to move past their personal issues in life and share the meaningful things.
One of the Captains looks like Captain Sully from the flight that landed in the water in New York. The pilots seem well in control and this is comforting.
During the flight I was fortunate to spend some time speaking to COO Duncan Dee, who gave me the history of Air Canada's philanthropic endeavours. They were the first commercial flight into Katrina and spent days shuttling evacuations from New Orleans to Texas. 16 flights. Their passion for using their airline as a first respondent is not widely known.
Aquafina water unloaded and being prepared for handing out. - View all photos
There are two Montreal police officers on the flight who are here to help with the passengers who will be returning to Montreal, and many of them have been stranded. One of the officers –Claude - is a very decorated officer, and has made many missions to various areas of the world as a representative of the Montreal police force. He spent 9 months in Haiti right before the flights. He spent a lot of time preparing us for the passengers and what he believes will be their psychological condition - and that we should be ready to be there for them. Truthfully, I hadn't thought of that. I haven't watched much television because I am scared to see the devastation. I spent time (along with many of you and especially James) consumed with the logistics of this operation and maybe hiding a bit from the real realities of what is going on. This is OK. I feel I will do everything I can to help those coming on board and give them the comfort, that millions of people around the world have come together to help them.
There is a flight attendant on the plane. His name is Paggy. He is Haitian and I can feel the anxiety rising in him as we approach our destination. I have given our OneXOne coordinates because his uncle runs an orphanage and they have no water, so I am hoping we start to look at some of these small organizations as recipients of our big hearts. A little will go a long way. I feel tremendous empathy for this young man because it is easy to see he is profoundly affected and really not ready to face what he is about to face.
There are people on the plane from Foreign Affairs who are coming down to assess the Canadian Embassy and its ability to stand. It is badly damaged and they have brought Engineers. They seem very introspectiveand are preparing themselves for a difficult time; they should be here for some time.
There is an organization from Montreal who have 19 pallets of aid on board that they plan to distribute. They will stay on the ground and hope to return home on the next humanitarian flight by Air Canada,
which should be Tuesday.
Dr. Lambert of Partner in Health is on the flight. He has the most spectacular smile and really a tremendous positive perspective. He is happy to be coming home and thrilled that we have filled much of his requests vis-a-vis medical supplies. He feels confident that there will be PIH personnel on the ground (my fingers are crossed).
We were scheduled to land at approximately 11 am but we have been circling for the last 90 minutes and we finally just got clearance to land. There were approximately 10 planes trying to land, most of them without a slot time, making everything more confusing, more stressful and less efficient. This is where philanthropy becomes a hindrance. For every minute humanitarian aid circles around, that is extra time that people are suffering. Air Canada got a slot, because the FAA, in part, remembered their incredible work in Katrina. We are landing and everyone here is ready and anticipating the worst, hoping for the best.
The plane is full of help, even all our bottled water, which I had no idea were all under the seats of the entire plane (I have an amazing picture which I will send you all).
The wheels came down - we are landing.
We just landed. I am feeling very anxious but happy. I will keep everyone posted as best as I can, but there are goods to unload and I intend to do my part
I think what is difficult is being alone without some of you here, but let's keep communicating and thanks Edward – the BB is clearly working like a champ.
Love you all miss you all
"Hope Belongs to Everyone
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ONEXONE arrives in Haiti with a plane full of needed supplies
Jan 16, 2010 - 5:04 am, est.
Chapter 1 "Haiti Forever"
It is Saturday morning and I am on the plane going to Haiti. I arrived here at the special Hanger in Montreal at 5.:00 am and I took a cab. The gentlemen who picked me up is Haitian and so we spoke.
His stories are difficult. His Aunt is dead and he can't find many of his family members - one of his aunts is walking the streets of Port-au-Prince because her house has perished. They speak of these tragedies in a way which is almost acceptance. I know they are in pain, but for them, this is another moment much like similar ones over the years. This is very painful to see.
Aquafina water being unloaded on the ground - View all photos
I arrive and I am exhausted, I haven't slept like most of us at onexone, but I am so proud of what we have done.
When I came up on the plane I was hit with a wave of emotion and I literally started to cry. The plane is a 767. I have flown as a passenger numerous times, however, to be on the tarmac and seeing it from that perspective, and understanding its significance, is astounding.
There are 40,000 lbs of cargo, and Duncan Dee, the COO of Air Canada, tells me the vast majority is ours. That is something to be proud of. What is more astounding is that we have 4 to 5 times this amount which we will start delivering Monday by truck.
They have just cleared the press off the plane and they are getting ready to take-off. Yet they are still loading our goods in the overhead cabins, our surgical gloves and some of the work gloves donated by Canadian Tire. That has brought a smile to my lips.
I gave 5 interviews - 3 in French and 2 in English. I stressed that people should give money so that organizations with the resources, can insure that exactly what goes, is what is being asked for.
The questions are the same, "what do I expect when I arrive" and I am mute, because I truly cannot answer. All I know and feel is that whatever is there, is worse than we can imagine, and way worse than what we experienced on the trip after the floods.
There are approximately 30 people on this plane heading down, most staying there. They have sent workers down to clear the plane.
A Haitian Priest made a wonderful benediction and although I am Jewish, it made me feel good. It felt right in the end - we are all the same, and spirituality and thankfulness and hope should be the same for all.
My sister has just pinned me to tell me that they are refusing flights again this morning. Will we land? When will we land?
Aquafina bottles are coming in the passenger cabin as I write. I guess they are for our passengers and all those they will pick up. They are counting every single pound. And as they see that there is still room, they keep bringing things on. It is incredible.
I have just been told that almost every single pallet but 15 is on board - so more than we thought.
Not sure what the future will bring today, I hope I will be able to send an update once I land.
I have nothing more to say. I have never done this - written a Blog - but somehow it feels right.
Have a great day guys, and as you go forth keep positive thoughts for us and for the people of Haiti.
Dr Lambert of Partners in Health is on the flight. He gave me the biggest hug when I told him of all the medical supplies we got for them.
Thought I would end on that note.
Love you all!
"Hope Belongs to Everyone"
Jan 15, 2010 - 8:00 pm, est. - ONEXONE and Corporate Canada Collaborate to Send Much-Needed Supplies to Help in Earthquake Relief Efforts in Haiti. Read more. (PDF)
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