Friday, April 30, 2010

Terrain Acra on the BBC

An update on the BBC World Have Your Say Program I mentioned yesterday...

They broadcast from Terrain Acra. The show was a great hit – lots of great participants, great questions! They broadcast live for one hour in the camp, with about 50 people from the camp participating. Of that number about 6-7 people were actively answering questions and debating. They were linked into a live show in Little Haiti in Miami, where radio guests called in and asked questions during the first half hour.

Then in the second half hour Wyclef Jean was on the show answering questions and discussing with the group. They asked him to come visit them in Terrain Acra when he comes to Haiti next and he accepted.

You can listen to the podcast or download it at the link below: WHYS in Tent City -

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Our Haitian Staff

Beniel, age 21, manages Camp Hope which now cares for 1,000 people.

Mission, also in his twenties, helps to manage the daily activities at Terrain Acra, helping to care for over 25,000 people.

Beniel, Mission, Frank (the teacher I mentioned a few days ago), and so many others – these are the people that are rebuilding Haiti. They are our local staff, and they work every day in unimaginable conditions to restore hope for people who have lost all they’d known before January 12th.

I never knew what partnership and sustainability really meant until this trip. On a theoretical level, I got it. On a real, and very human level, I was clueless. When we say that we give people the tools they need to rebuild their lives, we honestly mean it! And in the midst of all the pain and fear, it is a truly beautiful thing to see. Each of our local staff that I’ve had the opportunity to meet are leaders. They’re the kind of people you want on your side because when you’re around them you feel like things really will get better, and they’ll be the ones to make it happen.

By the way: BBC World Service was at Terrain Acra today. Check out their blog about the visit at:

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Visit to Terrain Acra

Photos: (Top - Kids of a proud mother stand in front of their shelter in Terrain Acra Camp; Bottom - the shell of a destroyed home on the edge of Terrain Acra Camp is now used to hang the wash.)

Unlike yesterday, today was not filled with simple solutions. Today I visited Terrain Acra, a camp for earthquake survivors in the Delmas district of Port-au-Prince. There are about 25,000 people who are receiving services in this camp which sprawls endlessly over a valley of toxic waste. It is devastating to see. While there are so many positive things being done to help, the daunting reality of what it must be like to live in the camp is overwhelming.

Everyone is hoping that this reality is short-lived. Right now we face a critical timeline for moving everyone out. Here’s why:

1) Terrain Acra is private land owned by the Acra family. They own a factory on the site and can’t run it with thousands of people living there. The Acra family has been quite patient up until now, but other private landowners are starting to evict people.

2) The land is a valley surrounded by steep hills, and is thus both a flood and landslide zone.

3) We have no idea what chemicals are pumped out of the Acra Factory. The site is unbelievably filthy, with garbage and human waste covering the ground several feet deep.

4) The camp is filled with feral pigs, goats and other animals. We’ve tried everything to fix this issue (partnering with Veterinarians Without Borders, etc.) – but in all likelihood, the animals are here to stay.

5) Most people in Haiti rented their homes pre-earthquake. Now, they live in camps at no cost. Although tent life is hot and cramped and wretched, most people are still too scared to sleep under a cement roof, so they might as well sleep under a tarp for free. This means that they have no incentive to leave.

Walking through the camp the heat is heavy and thick. Every once in a while you cross a powerful waft of rotting waste. There are sounds of lively music, children’s laughter, mother’s shouting, older men talking as they play dominoes, and young men sawing and hammering as they build new structures. The sights can only be described through a lens as they’re too much for words. While people are happy to greet you, there is a greater sense of desolation.

We walked to the top of a hill overlooking all of Terrain Acra. This was an area that edged our camp ‘border’ and extended into the surrounding neighborhoods that have been leveled. Homes are laid bare and exposed as remnants of their former lives.

On the way back down I encountered a beautiful little girl giggling and playing in her makeshift home. I started a little giggle myself and caught the same chuckle in the eyes of her mother. Together we laughed and I asked if I could take “un photo.” Proudly she said yes, and all three of her children quickly gathered in pose. I showed the picture to the family and wished I could have given her a copy to keep.

Despite the horror they face: their earthquake shattered reality, a pervasive fear of “the big one” and the impending hurricane season, there is a resolve and determination among Haitians that can move mountains. After all, if you were the proud mother of three wouldn’t you do everything in your power to build a better, safer, and brighter future for them?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Clean Water in Kato

Photos: (1- Kato's old source for drinking and bathing; 2 & 3 - the new water pump in Kato; 4-the village greeting us with palm fronds and singing and dancing)

This afternoon came straight out of a storybook. Brad, our Field Coordinator, asked if I’d like to take a trip to a village where we recently dug a borehole. Sure, I’d love that! After a long and slightly harrowing trip into the country we pulled up to the small village known as Kato. To our surprise, the humming of the engine was replaced by the loud roar of children singing and dancing in cheer for our arrival. Palm fronds wildly waving, the kids sang a song they had designed specially for us. Absolutely surreal. They led us back through the village to the brand new pump that flowed with fresh, clean water.

Brad and our team of local staff had surveyed 49 villages in the area of Ganthier. As a part of the survey they tested all the water points and sent the samples to a lab for results. Those results have been catastrophic. They’ve found that the places where people bath and drink have included bacteria like ecoli. In one place it was 136 times the acceptable level. Bacteria like this can mean dysentery, cholera, elephantiasis, and total devastation to a village of only 300 people. For some, this is their only source of water.

What did it cost to keep water and life flowing through this village? $5,000. Yet another simple solution.

The School in Fond Parisien

(Top: Schoolkids in a tent at the school; Middle: Frank, the English and Literature teacher at the school; Bottom: The temporary school building)

Today marks my first experience meeting, in person, the people & the reason why we do what it is we do. What an inspiring day it has been! This morning began with a trip to Fond Parisien. A name and place I have heard and seen so many times in video: to see it in person is something else.

Just to the left of the main area of the camp is now a fully operating school. It stands beside the remnants of their old school that is waiting to be rebuilt. The temporary school is a scene you’d recognize from our photos: a thin log structure covered by tarp roofs and surrounded by tarp walls. What photos cannot convey is the life that buzzes within. In this small structure 8 classes are in session, with at least 30 kids in each class! Amazingly they sit attentively, eager to learn.

I had the chance to interview the principal and a few of the teachers during one of their breaks. Frank, their English & Literature teacher, translated for the principal who explained to me that the teachers are paid at the end of the month. He then explained that once this next salary is paid, the funds will run dry and the school will come to a close. The end of the month is the end of this week. The complexity and depth of the issues we face in Haiti are daunting to say the least. This seemed to be a very simple problem with an even simpler solution. $5,500 will keep the school running through the end of term. A little more will help to rebuild their school and give hope for tomorrow. If you can help, please, please do!

The teachers of this school live in the camp – each has been personally affected by the earthquake. Frank, who I mentioned earlier, had paid his way through 2 years of studying English at the Haitian American Institute when the earthquake struck and collapsed his plans for the future. Frank now hopes to save enough money to return to school and complete his last year, but he can’t say what the future holds.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


This morning I woke to a warm spring morning in Minnesota. That is, warm by Minnesota standards. By evening I landed in Port-au-Prince and found that I hadn't quite shed my thick winter skin. Hot!

I spent my layover in Miami talking to a man by the name of Michellet. Michellet is from Haiti but has spent the past two years driving cab in Boston. Since the earthquake, he’s spent all his time and energy devising a plan to return and rebuild his country. His dream: to build a school for about 30 children near his hometown. Michellet is convinced that hope for Haiti’s future lies in the education of their youth. His daughter, who is just 10 years old and speaks English, French and Creole is a testament to his dream.

The passion and energy with which he spoke was contagious. “If I can just speak to people through the radio and tell them to love and respect one another, then the positive message will grow!” Michellet wished me wonderful experiences during my stay so that I might be enticed to return again and help Haiti to continue rebuilding. Michellet, if you’re reading this, best wishes to you as well!

New Contributor - Jenna Moeger

Hi Everyone. I want to welcome Jenna Moeger to the ARC blog. Jenna is ARC's Development and Public Affairs Coordinator.

Recently, Jenna has been working closely with the Community Advocates for Haiti - a group of volunteers in the U.S. who've come together to rally and organize their communities to raise awareness and support for the earthquake survivors ARC works with in Haiti.

We look forward to Jenna's posts over the next week. Welcome Jenna!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Current Situation in Haiti

(Photos: Top - one of the transitional shelters our team is building for families in Haiti who lost their homes in the earthquake; Bottom: Mother and child protected from the elements by only some sticks and tarps. Thousands and thousands in Haiti are struggling to get shelter from the elements.)

The situation in Haiti continues to be a struggle for the hundreds of thousands of people who are homeless and virtually the entire population who was traumatized. It will get worse when the rains start in earnest in May. There could be major public health problems, especially in places like Leogone which is south-west of Port-au-Prince and is 50% flood-prone. I was in a camp there last week that already had 6 inches of standing water in it. I inspected a latrine with the Austrian Red Cross. They were constructed with deep pits but the rains filled them up to where they are only about a foot below the hole in the latrine. Human waste and water, combined with compromised hygiene, is an impending threat to loss of human life.

Efforts are being made to get people out of flood-prone areas to "de-congestion camps," which are basically settlements outside of Port-au-Prince but on land that is open and not prone to floods. The problem is that people will move there in anticipation of handouts. As soon as the handouts subside, they will move back to Port-au-Prince. So what people really need are jobs to act as a magnet to get them out of Port-au-Prince. (The government estimates that roughly 1.3 M people need to be moved out. There simply is not enough room with all the rubble.

It is important, therefore, that ARC and other humanitarian organizations seek out partnerships with industries for job creations. For it is only in so doing that we can reverse rural-urban migration. In the process, we must seek to accompany Haitians toward a new economy, toward a “green,” environmentally exemplary, model of development. This horrific crisis can be transformed, like a phoenix rising from the ashes. A deforested land with an impoverished people can become a beacon on the hill for the world to see.

New Contributor - Joe Bock

I'd like to welcome Joe Bock - ARC's Interim Country Director for Haiti - to the blog. Joe's been in Haiti for several weeks, managing our relief operations there.

Welcome Joe!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Mobile Clinics and Home Visits

(Photos: top is Dr. Jessica Dailey seeing patients at the mobile clinic, outdoors. Middle is Dr. Dailey at the mobile clinic inside the church. Bottom is me seeing a patient on a home visit in the Terrain Acra camp.)

In addition to offering medical services six days a week at the clinic, the Haitian doctors and American volunteer doctors also conduct mobile clinics and home visits.

The mobile clinic is conducted in the nearby Delmas neighborhood church. Volunteer Drs. Jessica Dailey and Mike Rhodes see patients there two afternoons per week. They treat approximately 20-25 patients there each afternoon. The patient load is slowly increasing as patients learn about the clinic.
We are hoping to be able to establish a full service clinic there over time. The overall goal is to slowly increase our work in the surrounding neighborhood, especially as patients move out of the camp and back into their homes/neighborhoods. The church space offers stability to the clinic and privacy for the patients. It is especially helpful for those who are not living in the Terrain Acra camp itself.

We also do homevisits two afternoons each week. They are geared toward serving those living in the camp who are unable to come from their shelter to the camp clinic. Currently, I make home visits on Monday and Wednesday afternoons with a clinic nurse and interpreter.
One patient’s shelter is on a steep hill and he has his leg in a cast following surgery for injuries sustained during the earthquake. Another patient is bed bound from a spinal cord injury in 1993. He moved to the camp with his family after their residence was destroyed in the earthquake. We also visit a family with two young children, all of whom are being treated for tuberculosis.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Primary Medical Care at Terrain Acra

(Photos - Top: Dr. Michael Rhodes seeing patients in a clinic exam room.. Middle: is the Terrain Acra clinic Bottom: the Terrain Acra Clinic's registration tent.)

Hello, I’m Kristi Trostel, a physician volunteer serving three weeks with ARC in the Terrain Acra camp this month.

At this writing, the medical clinic in the Terrain Acra camp is staffed by three volunteer physicians from Minnesota and four Haitian physicians employed by ARC. The Minnesota volunteers are Dr. Michael Rhodes, a Hospitalist at Abbott Northwestern Hospital, Dr. Jessica Daily, a Family Practitioner with Allina medical clinic, and me, Dr. Kristi Trostel, an Internist at Park Nicollet Clinic.

We three Minnesotans start our day at 7 am with our excellent driver Durillma ferrying us through the busy Port-au-Prince traffic. Lasting about an hour, the drive lays bare the widespread poverty and destruction from which the city suffers. However, we also see the people resuming their daily lives and the beginnings of repair and reconstruction.

Once at the clinic, a busy day awaits us.

Patients of all ages await their turn in our clinic. We’re treating ailments stemming from privation and overcrowding in a tropical climate, as well as those afflicted with problems that we may see in the US. The clinic is a large tent with partitions creating five small examination rooms. At the back of the tent the formidable Madame Philibare, a Haitian nurse, manages the small pharmacy and clinic staff. An additional tent sits adjacent and houses the registration area, wound clinic, and urgent care area.

Together with the four Haitian doctors and the aid of our Creole interpreters, we see 140 to 170 patients in clinic each day. Patients are seen free of charge, and we can offer a number of medications and treatments without any cost to patients. We also offer a mobile clinic in the neighborhood around the camp and home visits within the camp, which we'll describe in future blog entries.

New Blog Contributor - Kristi Trostel

I'd like to welcome Kristi Trostel to the ARC Blog.

Kristi comes from Minnesota. She is a volunteer doctor working in Port-au-Prince at our 10,000 person camp at Terrain Acra and in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Welcome Kristi! And thank you for all your hardwork in Haiti!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Camp Hope and Ganthier

Photos - (Top: A handicapped latrine at Camp Hope. Many of the people living at Camp Hope have broken limbs or have undergone amputation. Middle: Child-friendly space at Camp Hope. Bottom: View from the Mountains in Ganthier.)

Yesterday, I went out to visit our Camp Hope in Fond Parisien near the border. The camp has grown to between 700 and 800 people, and we're expecting the arrival of 300 more people next week.
Camp Hope is across the street from some mountains. Yesterday, we went out into some of the remote communities in those mountains to see if there were people who had been affected by the earthquake. We've already visited some communities in this area - Ganthier - but we're the only organization meeting with people in this region.
We found that a lot of these villages have not actually been affected by the earthquake. But they are very poor and have some serious issues with clean water and sanitation. We'll be helping them create sanitation and water systems that will protect them from disease.
I think this brings up an important point about the relief effort in Haiti - a point that one might not necessarily think of. It's important that people who weren't directly affected by the quake still see some benefit from all this.
There should be a general sense of the rising tide lifting all. It's good for communities. And it's good for Haiti.
It's important in our role that we try to spread the blessings and use the resources we have to help as many people as we can.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


(Top: ARC staff member Leah talks with community leaders at a settlement in Leogane. Middle and bottom: Families living in settlements at Leogane.)
I'm on the way up into the mountains to check on some remote communities who need help. I just wanted to let you all know what I've seen so far.
Yesterday, we headed to Leogane. It's a city of about 140,000 people just west of Port-au-Prince.
Leogane was the closest major population center to the epicenter of the earthquake. They estimate that between 60-80% of the homes were completely destroyed or are unlivable. The people there are in need of good shelter, as well as other types of aid and assistance.
Because Leogane is outside of Port-au-Prince, it has taken longer for aid to reach these people.
There are a number of camps or settlements there - over 70 in total. But only three of these settlements has any organization helping to manage and coordinate aid for the people who live there.
As you know, ARC manages camps and settlements in other parts of Haiti. We visited Leogane to see how we might be able to help. Stay tuned for more.

Pres. Daniel Wordsworth Joins the Blog

ARC President Daniel Wordsworth is in Haiti for the next few days. While he's there he'll be sharing with us some of the things he's seeing, people he's meeting and what the ARC team is up to.

Daniel has been with ARC as President and CEO since May of 2009.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

On the Road - Happy Customers

(Above: camp residents with their registration cards)

At cluster level, we have been talking about registration from the very beginning of the emergency.

It's a process that needs priority, in order to find out the numbers of people you are working for and other info that helps to to assist them better.

The registration is a process that requires a high number of human resources and paper, a simple and clear information campaign, some music to capture the attention of those who need to listen to the message of the registration agency and a lot of umbrellas to make shade for the people in line, waiting to release their family data.

People were requested to stay at home in order to receive the token to be presented for the registration. At the same time, music was playing and kids started dancing and with them the elderly.

The blue helmets of the Peace Keeping mission, requested to provide security, kept an eye on the crowd that was absolutely peaceful.

And the next morning, registration started, with hundreds lining up.
The questionnaire aimed at capturing the number of families and people for each family and their place of origin in order to prioritize the rubble removal and get started with the construction of the transitional shelter in places that are the best solution for the people: on the site where they used to live or nearby or with host families, relatives or friends with some space in the garden.

Once answered all the question, each family got issued an IDP card, with a unique serial number, corresponding to a file case that will map out the history of each family.

It's only a first step towards return to "normal" life, for hundreds of thousands.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

On the Road - Micro Economy

(top: man's juice and soda stand ; bottom: woman selling rapadou)

While thinking of the big picture to restart the economy, locals are not sitting around on the rubble.

The second week we were at the camp, this man with a camping cooler came out selling a few bottles of juice and sodas. His business has grown to the point that now he has a proper fridge that he locks at night with a chain.

Of course, there is no electricity at the camp to power a fridge, so that he has to buy blocks of ice every morning and put them on top of all the drinks that he keeps properly ordered. At night, the ice has melted and he empties the fridge with a bucket made out of half of a plastic bottle.

Next to him a "take-away" is making pressed fried bananas and spaghetti served with a red tuna sauce.

And then today a woman came by selling rapadou, a sweet snack made out of cane. Extremely sticky.

She held in perfect balance a piece on her head and the other one she had in her hand, showing it around, hoping for some business.