Monthly Archives: January 2010

Magazine helps Haiti

By Ryan Smith, Associate Editor for World Vision magazine

In the midst of all the stories and photos of the destruction and devastation in Haiti, it’s nice to get some good news. One of my favorite magazines, RELEVANT, just announced that half of every new subscription will be donated to World Vision’s relief efforts in Haiti.

RELEVANT's Jan/Feb 2010 issue

If I may indulge for a moment, RELEVANT magazine is one of the biggest influences on my career. When I was in college, it was the one magazine I subscribed to. Whenever it arrived in the mail, no matter the homework load, I sat down and read through it for about an hour. I was completely captivated by the design, stories, and tone (yes, even when it’s a bit snarky). I loved that the editors found a way to put together stories about rock stars and developing countries and movies and questions of faith—and somehow it all works together.

Those magazines opened my eyes to what a magazine can be, both in style and substance, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

As I’ve been at World Vision magazine for the past three years and learning about the many issues facing the developing world, it’s been interesting to see RELEVANT follow the same path. They recently launched a digital magazine and website Reject Apathy, which focuses on ways that readers can make the world a better place.

Check out the video below, from Cameron Strang, RELEVANT’s publisher, talking about the decision to donate subscription revenue to World Vision, despite the financial challenge.

Sign up for RELEVANT now, and half of your $15 subscription will go to World Vision’s relief efforts in Haiti.

Related Links:

  • Read A World Divided by World Vision US President Richard Stearns (from the Jan/Feb 2010 issue)

6 Comments

Filed under Haiti Earthquake, Recommended Resources

Finest hour

By James Addis, en route home from Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Haiti earthquake

James Addis interviewing residents of a displacement camp in Port-au-Prince. (Jon Warren/WV)

I’m writing this from a little eight-seater plane that has just flown out of Port-au-Prince airport.

Other communicators will be coming take my place. It’s an odd feeling. I’ve spent the last few days looking forward to returning to the comforts of home. Now that they are actually in sight, I feel slightly deflated. One feels a whiff of nostalgia for working long hours in difficult conditions, rubbing shoulders with people who have lost everything, including those dearest to them, possibly are now missing a limb, and yet are prepared to soldier on, regardless.

It’s odd how we spend most of our lives seeking some kind of security and comfort—financial security, a decent retirement, a comfortable home to live in with conveniences like dishwashers and microwave ovens, an air-conditioned office with every kind of phone and Internet connection, and things to entertain like Wii players, iPods, and big, flat-screen televisions.

But the real living, I imagine, is done when everything is haphazard, unreliable, uncomfortable, and dangerous. Out of your comfort zone, you are forced to rely on every scrap of ingenuity, resourcefulness, and courage that you can scrape together. And there’s a certain kind of joy in discovering you have those things when you did not know you had them. And when they are exhausted, you are forced to lean on God and simply ask that he take care of things. There’s a sense of release and peace in that.

Haiti earthquake

Gilbert Bailly, James' favorite person in Haiti. (Jon Warren/WV)

I think Gilbert Bailly will be feeling some of these emotions. He is my favorite person in Haiti right now. His three Muncheez pizza restaurants miraculously remained intact during the quake. But he realized he had not a chance of running a business in the current chaos. Nobody has money to eat out, and there’s no fuel or power to run his restaurants normally. Did he retire to a corner and sulk? Did he shoot himself? Did he anticipate financial ruin?

Haiti earthquake

Muncheez, serving Haiti's hungry for free. (Jon Warren/WV)

Actually, no. He calmly reopened one of his restaurants and now uses it as a base to provide cooked meals and distribute donated food for free to people who desperately need it and can’t afford to pay. Right now, much of this food is coming from World Vision. Other donors are providing the fuel he needs to keep the place running. His formerly paid staff have become volunteers. They know there is no money in this. I’m sure their satisfaction comes from seeing the hundreds of hungry come through the door to get free food.

Each day, Gilbert’s staff distribute about 1,000 plastic bracelets in a needy part of the city. They vary the location to spread the goodwill around. Late in the afternoon, the restaurant opens its doors to those who turn up wearing a bracelet.

Haiti earthquake

Gilbert's satisfied customers. (Jon Warren/WV)

Many years from now, when Gilbert reflects on his life and what he has accomplished in business and elsewhere, he will probably remember this as one of the toughest times and a commercial failure. I think he will also remember it as his finest hour.

Leave a comment

Filed under Haiti, Haiti Earthquake, On Assignment

“We are not alone”

Jhonny Celicourt, 37, is communications manager for World Vision in Haiti. His story (as told to James Addis) illustrates the dedication of local workers despite the personal impact of the quake.

Haiti earthquake

Jhonny Celicourt, still on the job. (James Addis/WV)

I was working on the first floor of World Vision’s office. Suddenly I felt the building shaking. The first thing I did was hide under my desk and pray to God. Things began to fall down—my laptop and my documents. It was so violent. I thought I was going to die.

When I recovered a little, I called my wife. She was on her way to work when it happened. She told me was that she saw a big office complex collapse where a friend of mine works. I later found out he is dead. About two hours later I got hold of someone staying at my house. She told me my daughter, Kemisha, was sleeping. She did not even wake up. It’s unbelievable.

I finally get back home, maybe five hours after the earthquake.  All the roads were blocked with rubble, with cars, with people searching for relatives and family. There they were crying in the darkness. I saw maybe 20 to 50 corpses.

My house was damaged but still standing. My wife had already arrived. I grabbed my daughter and cried. My daughter said, “I want to go to New York.” I’ve no idea why she said that. She’s never been to New York. It must be a place she heard about on television.

The walls of our house were leaning in; a few things were smashed. But we couldn’t sleep there. All the people in our neighborhood were gathering to sleep in a tennis court across the street, so we joined them and slept there that night.

Haiti earthquake

World Vision staff stayed busy with relief distrutions just days after the quake. (Jon Warren/WV)

The next morning, the first thing I did was come into work. World Vision is a relief organization, and I knew I was going to be needed.

I got into the office at 7 a.m. There were about four employees there. Later, some more came in. We took three vehicles and filled them with medications. My God, you can’t believe what we saw. So many houses collapsed in the street. So many people crying for help.

We had a doctor and a nurse in the car and we arrived at a park. I saw at least 200 corpses, and I started to cry. I know I’m a professional, but I cried and cried and cried. I could not stop.

We started giving out basic stuff like alcohol and bandages to treat wounds. There were so many people asking for help, so we just treated the first people we came to. There were so many people asking us for help. We returned to the office for more supplies and we took them around to all the hospitals instead. We spent the whole day driving, without eating, just drinking water.

At home, my wife and daughter could slip into the house to cook food. They made sure we had their passports handy and some clothes and shoes packed so they were ready to evacuate if necessary.

Haiti earthquake

World Vision staff from all over the world rushed in to help Haitian colleagues. (Jon Warren/WV)

I left the last hospital at 11 p.m. and returned home. My family went back to sleep at the tennis court. But I just could not sleep. I spent the night walking around the neighborhoods until 5 a.m., and then I drove back to the office.

The second day was really, really busy. People [World Vision staff] were coming into the office from around the world. I said, “Thank God we have some help. We could not handle this by ourselves.”

It’s never crossed my mind to get out and escape, though my daughter is very traumatized. She asked, “Dad, why do we have to sleep under the stars? Why can’t we sleep in the house?” I tried to explain, and she said, “Why don’t we sleep in New York?” She can’t seem to get New York out of her head.

But I want to stay here. I believe my country is going to live again, because I heard President Obama and Mrs. Clinton and people from Canada and all over the world talking about Haiti. They are all willing to help us. We are not alone.

Jhonny’s wife, Florence, and daughter, Kemisha, 4, are now staying in Orlando, Fla., with relatives.

3 Comments

Filed under Haiti, Haiti Earthquake, On Assignment

Flashlight and flimsy shelter

James Addis in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, gets used to aftershocks while a little girl tries to get used to a makeshift home.

Haiti earthquake

James Addis working in Haiti. (Jon Warren/WV)

I must be remarkably insensitive to aftershocks. Colleagues keep saying, “Did you feel that one? Where were you at X p.m or Y a.m.? Did you feel it?”

I must confess I haven’t felt a darn thing since the aftershock a few days ago [Jan. 20]. My biggest concern is a really big quake in the dark. I’ve been sleeping with a flashlight in my hand. The thought of fumbling for it in the inky blackness does scare me a bit. But once I’ve got the flashlight firmly clenched in my left hand, I sleep like a baby.

Friday was a bit of a quiet day. I managed to phone my wife in Seattle and my parents back in New Zealand. It was so good to hear their voices.

Another moving moment was watching some children of World Vision staff in Haiti being evacuated. They had turned up to the office to say their final goodbyes before taking the trip to the airport.

I spoke with Jhonny Celicourt, World Vision Haiti’s communications manager, whose wife and 4-year-old daughter were evacuated a few days earlier to Florida. His mother lives in Orlando. Up until that point, his family had been camped out in a tennis court opposite his home. His house did not collapse but was seriously damaged during the quake. Despite all the upheavals—and a seriously distressed daughter—Jhonny has been faithfully turning up to work every day. Indeed, the day after the quake, having not slept a wink all night, he joined a team delivering medical supplies to city hospitals that were absolutely swamped with quake victims.

Haiti earthquake

Fabiola St. Juste, right, with her sister, Seneze, 7. (Jon Warren/WV)

Later, I got out to a homeless camp, about a five-minute drive from World Vision’s Port-au-Prince office. I met Fabiola St. Juste. She does not like being there very much.

The 8-year-old sleeps on a particularly rocky patch of ground that was once part of a grassless soccer field in Petionville. She sleeps on an old piece of carpet but complains that when she lies down, it still feels hard and cold.

A few days ago, Fabiola’s only protection from the elements was provided by thin, torn, roughly tied bed sheets suspended by odd bits of lumber. It provided some protection from the sun but was useless against the rain. Three families—15 people—slept, ate, washed, and socialized in the crudely constructed tent.

Fabiola hated the fact that it was so crowded. “There was not enough room to eat or sleep. There was not enough room to do anything,” she said emphatically. Even so, she would not risk going back into her home, which suffered structural damage but was not destroyed in the earthquake.

Haiti earthquake

World Vision tarps cover Place Accra ADP camp, where Fabiola and her family live. (Jon Warren/WV)

If there’s one bright spot in the grim picture, it followed a World Vision distribution of tarpaulins, cooking utensils, and hygiene kits to the hundreds encamped on the soccer field. Fabiola considers the tarps to be the most helpful thing because they keep the rain out.

Related posts: After the shock (Jan. 20, 2010), Exhilaration amid exhaustion (Jan. 19, 2010), In Haiti, home tugs (Jan. 17, 2010), Hard going in Haiti (Jan. 16, 2010), Haiti: Hope in the heartbreak (Jan. 14, 2010)

Leave a comment

Filed under Haiti, Haiti Earthquake, On Assignment

Whatever you can do

Carolyn Kruger, a health specialist for World Vision, arrived in Haiti on the day of the earthquake and had barely cleared Port-au-Prince when the temblor struck. For the next few days, she and other World Vision U.S. colleagues helped out at a hospital in Mirabalais that was overrun with wounded.

Carolyn Kruger took this photo of the Presidential Palace earlier on the afternoon of the quake.

We left Port-au-Prince, weaving through the city and taking pictures of the President’s Place, the main square, and the port cranes. As we drove into the mountains, we looked back at the city—unaware, of course, that it would never be the same.

The Presidential Palace after the quake. (Jon Warren/WV)

About one hour after leaving Port-au-Prince, we saw a truck with people desperate to get off. Others were running out of their homes, and our own car seemed to be riding over excessive bumps. We stopped and were told that there was an earthquake in Port-au-Prince. Our Haitian colleagues got on their phones to call loved ones—constant phoning, sometimes two phones at once, desperate attempts to get through. Within an hour, all communication was dead to Port-au-Prince.

We arrived at the village of Mirabalais in the Central Plateau, where we ate in silence and went to our hotel rooms. The aftershocks rumbled our beds. Sleeping was impossible, knowing the pain and suffering that was going on.

The next morning, our Haitian colleagues returned to Port-au-Prince to be with their families, check on their homes, and begin mobilizing the first-response teams. We remained behind in Mirabalais. I gathered the nurses together to determine how we could help the Mirabalais hospital that had been receiving patients all night long.

Quake survivors suffered serious wounds. This child was treated at a hospital across the border in the Dominincan Republic. (Jon Warren/WV)

When we arrived at the hospital, all sorts of vehicles were lined up with patients waiting to be admitted. They came in trucks, cars, ambulances, U.N. vehicles, and motorbikes. Patients were lying on boards with broken limbs, swollen faces, and bleeding ankles, their hands and feet wrapped with whatever they could find.

The wounds were the worst I have seen in my nursing experience. The crushed limbs and fractures were already days old, so edema and infection had already set in. It was amazing to me that these people could tolerate the pain—although many were in shock. The fractures were set using rustic boards that were cut outside the hospital and wrapped with gauze because they had run out of splints.

We found the medical chief and nurses and informed them of the medical supplies we had brought, and they were grateful. We brought the most-needed supplies immediately to the ER staff. We asked how we could help, and they stated they need more medical supplies, food, and water for the patients. So we spent hours combing the village pharmacies for IV fluid, sets, bandages, and topical antibiotics as well as food and water for patients.

One young girl, about 11, arrived to the hospital on the back of a motorbike with a pair of crutches. She struggled to walk up the ramp by herself with an obviously broken foot. I helped her to the entrance and asked a young man to lift her onto a stretcher. She waited hours for help, enduring a lot of pain. We comforted her and gave her water and biscuits. There were so many other patients with more severe crush wounds, and she knew she had to wait.

There was a mother with a crushed foot who arrived from Port-au-Prince in the back of a truck with her husband and three children. After two days, the infection was severe, and she had to have her foot amputated. Her husband propped her up on the floor in his lap to help make her comfortable while they waited for surgery. We obtained pain medication for her and sought care for the children.

Hospitals surrounding the quake zone (including this one in Jimani, Dominican Republic) ran out of beds for patients. (Jon Warren/WV)

The hospital was running out of local anesthetics, so one of our colleagues went to another hospital to see if they could spare anesthetics and casting supplies. The children were especially vulnerable because they didn’t have food or water during the long hours while they waited for care, so we went to the village and bought water and biscuits and distributed them to the mothers.

Triaging patients was a challenge because the medical and nursing staff were completely engaged in emergency procedures and surgery and did not have much time to attend to the new patients arriving, so we began to assist with assessing patients as they came to the hospital and alerting staff to the ones that needed immediate attention. The more severe cases were brought into the available wards, and we tried to make them comfortable on the floor, which was the only space available. They were in shock and in pain, pleading for help.

There was such a feeling of helplessness—of being overwhelmed as to where to start and how to help—so you just did whatever you could, whatever came up at the moment, and then you moved on to the next situation.

Carolyn Kruger left Haiti on Jan. 16 and is now back home in Purcellville, Va.

Read the Washington Post article about Carolyn.

3 Comments

Filed under Haiti

You are not alone

Naomi recording in the World Vision studio. (Kyle Vermeulen/WV)

A Seattle singer/songwriter named Naomi Wachira (she’s originally from Kenya), wrote this song after watching news coverage about the Haiti earthquake. She recorded it here at our Federal Way, Wash., headquarters, and our video colleagues put it together with photos and footage our team is getting from the scene.

If you like what you hear (and we do!) check out more of Naomi’s music.

Enjoy, and share!

10 Comments

Filed under Haiti, Haiti Earthquake

After the shock

James Addis in Iran, 2004. (John Schenk/WV)

By James Addis in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

It was a heart-stopping moment this morning when a powerful aftershock just after 6 a.m. had me making a hasty exit out of my hotel. I was soon joined by the rest of the World Vision staff, mostly in pajamas.

Once we had recovered our breath, the conversation quickly turned to how many more fragile buildings might have been brought down.

The whole aftershock maybe lasted six or seven seconds. I’m writing at 6.30 a.m. and my heart is still pumping quite hard. It’s certainly the biggest quake I’ve ever been in, but I imagine it’s peanuts for others.

Rosmond and his son are struggling but alive. (James Addis/WV)

You can’t help feeling the people of Port-au-Prince could use a break. Yesterday, I spoke to a man named Rosmond at one of the city’s hospitals, where World Vision was delivering medical supplies. He was holding his bandaged-up son, but he had actually come to visit his daughter,who was lying on a stretcher, wrapped in multiple bloodied bandages. She had been trapped in a church building for two days before being rescued.

But it was Rosmond’s story that struck me on this occasion. He and his wife and 8-year-old son have been living on the street since the quake, sleeping on plastic sheets. He has been using the cash he had on him to buy food and water. That morning, his money had run out. It was about 3 p.m., and he and his family had not eaten all day.

In one sense, though, he was remarkably lucky. His home was built on a hillside, and he was the only one at home when the quake struck. His wife was at work and his son at a neighbor’s house. Seconds before the quake hit, he went to the outhouse. It will probably be the most fortuitous call of nature of his life. As he stepped outside, the quake hit. Three houses slid down the hillside, crashed into his home, and demolished it.

Rosmond and the outhouse remained standing.

Related posts: Exhilaration amid exhaustion (Jan. 19, 2010), In Haiti, home tugs (Jan. 17, 2010), Hard going in Haiti (Jan. 16, 2010), Haiti: Hope in the heartbreak (Jan. 14, 2010)

Leave a comment

Filed under Haiti, On Assignment