Friday, January 22, 2010

In Haiti, "It was like I was in a bucket and someone shook it hard."

I'm in Haiti and all is well. I'm sleeping at our warehouse offices on a nice air mattress on the floor, and there's electricity run by the generators, and running water and even a crude shower, so it's like a little hotel for us.

The destruction is mind-boggling. Driving up to Petionville today to do a food and shoe distribution (a tractor trailer of food and Crocs), you see one crushed building about every four blocks. Then there are buildings still standing. It's surreal, some of the buildings look as if a giant just squashed it down like a kid mashing down a sandwich and rubble oozing out of the seams.

I talked with Junior, who is in charge of customs in our Haiti office, about where he was during the earthquake. He said he was outside our office and the ground started moving. "It felt as if I were in a bucket and someone shook it hard."

He was relieved to find out his family was ok. I've seen all our staff I know, and they are ok, but it's numbing for them. Just trying to find everyday stuff like baby formula is challenging.

We did a distribution today at a tent city in Petionville. The leader has it very organized. We delivered the food and crocs, and they are stored in a warehouse and the community leaders from each tent city take the food and supplies to the tent cities and give them out so there is no mass chaos and panic. Ken, who organized the community leaders, said there are 7 camps in this section of Petionville alone, with a total of about 20,000 people.

The tent city by the airport is massive. Where there was a parking lot, people are now living. No sanitation... it will lead to disease soon. It's pretty bad.

I met a woman who was terrified her two year old baby had been killed... she was in her house and the baby was at her mother's house when the earthquake happened. She ran out in the street, toward her mother's house and grabbed her baby, who was sleeping, and naked, and just ran down the street crying and praying.

Later she found out her mother is okay. But the house is too damaged to live inside. She had a small meal yesterday of rice and beans and she's sleeping on the ground atop the clothing she managed to salvage from her wrecked house.

There are masses of NGO's here, and press. I saw Anderson Cooper last night walking by when we were at one of the few remaining hotels in Petionville for our exec. director to do an interview with CNN Espanol. Tons of press, but I wonder when they will call it a nonstory and leave Haiti with its wrecked buildings and wrecked lives and massive rebuilding to be done. I'm glad they are still here and keeping Haiti in the public eye.

Before we crossed the border, we had to get innoculated at the section the Domnican Republic military has set up a field operation. As we were there, waiting for the rest of our team, the American ambassador landed in a chopper. He's touring with USAID, an organization we've worked with before.

I'm doing ok, but exhausted, both from getting my shots and from the pace and the intensity of everything. I'm so glad I came, because it's really bad, but seeing some normalcy of life returning, people selling in the streets, and buildings still standing, makes me hopeful. It's bad here, don't get me wrong. There are still bodies beneath all the rubble. So many have died, and the people here still live in fear of aftershocks. There was a small one this morning as we were leaving, but I didn't even feel it. Probably because I was in the truck and the engine was running.

And it will take years to rebuild... and in the meantime, what about the kids who need to go to school? I talked with two kids today at a tent city who were in school when the quake happened. One got hurt when he tripped and fell in the panic. Their school is still standing, but it's not safe.

Anyway, I have to run. I'll try to post pix later, when the connection is better. We're going to Cite Soleil today and then to our orphanages to see how the kids are faring.


Vivi Anna said...

Wow, Bonnie. I'm in awe of you to be over there in it and helping out.

Bless you!

Kathy Love said...

Holy cow, Bonnie. It's really hard to fathom what it must be like. It's wonderful you are there. You are amazing.

Hugs. Be safe.

Jennifer Ashley/ Allyson James / Ashley Gardner said...

Thanks for keeping us posted, Bonnie. It's good to get an eye on what's really happening. You are an amazing and wonderful person.

KeeWee said...

I'm glad that you posted Bonnie...will keep you and all the Haitian people in our prayers!!

librarypat said...

Thanks for the update. Hang in there. We are thinking of you.