Following the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti on January 12, 2010, TouchGlobal swiftly responded and has continued to send crisis responders to serve in Haiti ever since. We have established a presence and plan on staying here for a long time, so we thought it wise to set up a blog that family, friends, supporters, and teams can check to find first-hand information about life and ministry at the Haitian Queen (the TouchGlobal Crisis Response headquarters in Gressier, Haiti).

This blog will be updated regularly by various team members and staff.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Kevin's Latest Adventure in Haiti Customs

Written by Kevin W. in regards to his recent experience in Cap Haitien:

Tuesday morning we awoke full of hope that we would finally be able to get our last truck out of customs and get on the road back to Port-Au-Prince earlier this time than the last time. We drove into the city, and arrived around the 9 a.m. time we were told to be there, and gave a wad of cash to Poala to work her magic and get the truck released.

She promptly took the money, headed out the door towards the bank where she needed to make the payment, and said “m’ap vini”- literally translated meaning “I’m coming,” which means “I’m coming back.” Whenever I hear that, I get nervous, because, although it means I’m coming back, I never know if it will be 10 minutes or 10 days.

Cap Haitien or New Orleans?

We did what we always do in these situations… Wait. Only this time the waiting was broken up by various runs to the bathroom. When I went in to the “bathroom” at the office, I realized that it doubled as a storage closet, and also noticed that the shower had not worked for quite sometime, if ever. I also noticed the 5 gallon buckets of water on the floor, which I assumed meant that the toilet required manual flushing. My assumption proved correct in that when I pushed the handle down, no water flowed from the tank to the bowl. I grabbed the small plastic container, dipped it in the big bucket, and proceeded to dump the small container’s contents into the bowl. Now THAT’S a real water saving toilet design!

I alternated between various stages of consciousness for the next several hours, until Charles told me I needed to eat… Yeah, right. I told him no way, so he offered to go to the Pharmacy to get me something. I wrote down what would work best for me and what I had forgotten to bring on this trip to help keep my digestive tract regulated -- acidophilus. On all of the other recent trips I had taken it daily, and I had not gotten sick.

So, off he went in search of my “good bacteria.” He returned about an hour later with something that said “enzemas” on the package, so I figured it must be the closest thing he could find in consulting with the pharmacist. I should have told him to get me something more along the lines of valium, if I had known what the rest of this trip was going to be like! Charles insisted that I eat something with it -- that’s what the pharmacists said. Ok, fine… get me some crackers out of the truck.

Finally about 2 p.m., Rico came into the office and told us to go to the APN office, and Poala would meet us there with the paperwork. I knew what to expect having done this before. Charles and I traded our ID’s for the “parking passes” once again, and wandered over to where the truck was parked. A quick look told me all was well, just like we had seen it a month ago. After an hour or so, Paola came with the paperwork, and haggled with the head hauncho in the on-site police station.

At about 4 p.m., we were given access to the keys and the truck, but a larger truck behind ours had to be moved before we could get ours out. The designated driver for our truck jumped in, turned the key, and nothing happened -- I mean absolutely nothing. Rico swears they leave the ignition on just so they can “help” us when we come to get the vehicles. We went through the same routine as the last time, having the workers run around looking for a good battery and trying to jump the truck. Even though we had installed new batteries in the truck before it left Florida, the batteries were so dead that we ended up taking a good battery from our truck and putting it in the orange one to get it started.

We completed all of the remaining paperwork and drove both trucks to Rico’s warehouse to off-load as much weight as we could and to put it in the white truck for the trip across the mountains.

Unload as much as you can!

Knowing that we would not leave before dark, I contacted Caleb to see if we could stay at his house for the night, and finish the trip to Port-au-Prince from there the next morning. When I reached him, he was not in Pignon, but he said that he would call and make arrangements for us to stay in the camp near his house.

We left Cap Haitien about 5 p.m. and headed for our final stop at Henoc’s house for some supper, and to drop off several cases of water that had been on a pallet in the back of the truck. After, eating and jumping the truck again, we headed off into the night to start the grueling trip across the mountains…

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

It was a typical day in Haiti...

Daily update from a volunteer from Westshore Free Church:

Today was a typical day in Haiti.

We completed our devotions at about 7:30. Plans were all made for the day, and we were ready to head out in our separate directions to accomplish our tasks. Work on the toilet foundation, pick up wood and start cutting materials, pick up sand, go to meetings, or teach a class. Loaded up, ready to go, and the cell phone rings.

Miguel, the Haitian driver, was taking Charles to the airport and the jeep broke down. The only suitable vehicle to go help them was the black pickup that was full of tools to take up to the toilet job site (pictured). So, we moved the tools to the van. Bill and Wesley headed in to help Miguel and Charles. Mark was to take us to the job site in the van, than go pick up wood.

At the job site we looked at the sand. No, we didn’t have enough... hardly enough to even get started. But of course the van was not able to make the trip to the new sand pit; we needed a four wheel drive for that (but it was now on it’s way to Port au Prince on the rescue mission). We would do what we could do, then wait.
Mark got into the van to head out to the lumber yard. The van wouldn’t start. I don’t know what they did but it only took about 15 minutes to get it started. And, we began our 45 minutes of work, knowing we would have a few hours to hang out with our Haitian friends.
I won’t continue with the blow-by-blow, but I must say, by the end of the day, at least to my surprise, we had accomplished quite a lot. The foundation is done, Bill and Gary cut all the wood for the toilets, meetings were attended, etc…

I previously sent pictures of getting sand from the river. But better then that, the locals showed us where to get free sand. A drive of a mile or so, through fields, across back yards, and we finally came to a mud hole. Literally – a mud hole. Scooping away the mud on top revealed some pretty nice sand below (better then the rivers) .
A couple of things happened at the sand pit that are worthy of note. First, one of our helpers picked up some mangos at a nearby tree. He washed them in the mud hole, right next to the cows and chickens, the mud hole with the mosquitoes hatching, then he ate the mangos. In some ways, they seem very aware of water quality; but obviously, in others they don’t.

The other thing has to do with litter – it’s everywhere. Not just earthquake rubble, but trash thrown down wherever you are, whenever you have it. So, at the sand pit, one of the Haitians wanted to get into the front passenger seat. As he did, he started throwing out some trash that was on the floor of the truck cab. I said, “No, we will take care of it later.” As I jumped in the bed of the truck and we were heading out – I saw the trash flying out the window.
[Oh, and YES, Charles was able to catch a later flight back to California.]

...a typical day in Haiti!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Quick update on supplies and shipping - May 2, 2010

NOTE: Pictures added May 5, 2010. Post written by Kevin Watterson.

Hey everyone!

I wanted to share some pictures and updates from the field. Charles and I arrived in Cap Haitian on Sunday night, where we have one truck left to retrieve from customs. We didn't know if how long it would take, and if it would even be released, after a "problem" with the title. I have found that the best way to deal with these issues is to show up and start asking questions (what do you need to keep things moving?), and get the answers that the brokers and customs need to process the paperwork. People respond better when you are there in front of them. (Being 6'5" 270 helps a bit, too, I think.)

I have found the Broker firm we are using to be very helpful and responsive. Rico (pictured below with Charles) and Poalo (pictured at left with Kevin) from Services Courtage Rapide (see the previous blogs by Kevin) have gone out of their way to get our stuff through customs quickly, as well as to keep it safe and untouched while it has been in customs. We will be getting the final truck out of customs tomorrow and making the 7 hour, 170 mile drive to Gressier probably in about 10 hours. We will have to go slow (CHARLES!!) because of the glass windows and french doors that are on the truck. (I can't wait to see how this turns out- It could be VERY ugly!)

I was in Ft Lauderdale last week "helping" ( not much help as my back was not in the best of shape) with Ken Freia from 1st Baptist Church of Deerfeild, FL, and Jim and Karen Esson of Side by Side Ministries in Pensacola, to load a 40 ft. container. Our buddy Antonio from Wheeler Flooring ran the forklift for us, and we were able to load 20,000 pounds of cargo into the container. Anything from vegetable seeds, to a welder, to tools, building supplies, and a 25 KW generator, for which we still need donations to cover the costs of shipping and customs ($4,000 for the container, and about $4000 for customs).


Here in Haiti, we just had our generator shut off, so I only have a short amount of time to post this before battery back-up runs out.

Highlights of the day:
  • Having lunch with Rico, Poalo and Charles, feasting on goat while over-looking the Beautiful Cap Haitian bay (if you can look beyond the trash at the shoreline).
  • Hearing Rico tell me that he is doing an online course for Bible and one on Biblical leadership through, of all places, Trinty University!
  • Then, meeting Pastor Codo (pictured below with Rico & me), the friend who turned Rico on to the online course and is himself currently in the MDiv application process for acceptance into Trinity.

Low light -- not sure what I ate or drank, but i'm "running" to the bathroom frequently.

Look for upcoming posts about our solar panels and the tent distribution that is in the midst of taking place.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Truck # 3 and the Gressier Delivery

Truck #3 and the Gressier Delivery Part II of the vehicle saga from April 1-7, 2010

On the "Road"Again

Happy as clams in remote bay, we left the dock driving our long- awaited vehicles, with the knowledge that we would be returning the next day to pick up the white truck full of wheel barrows, shovels, rakes, picks, sledgehammers and other clean up tools, as well as boxes of blankets, garbage bags, first aid items, peanut butter, and our now infamous green shirts which make a fashion statement wherever we go.

We were told as we left, that the VIN number problem with the paperwork should be cleared up by 11am on Wednesday, which would allow us to start our trip by noon and get to Gressier around nightfall. We began the 8 mile trek back to Henoc’s house with jeep and the van to spend the night and prepare for our journey the next day.

Cap Haitien has seen a huge influx of people since the earthquake, and has grown by about 250,000 -300,000 people to over 1,000,000 people, all estimated of course. The net result of this influx is people everywhere, and traffic gridlock; the fact that the main road through town is closed and being re-paved only compounds the congestion.

As we sat in traffic, blowing our horn and listening to the kids call out “Blanc, Blanc” ( guess what that means for two white guys with a noticeable absence of color and straight hair), I couldn’t help noticing the architecture of the old city. It struck me as very reminiscent of the French Quarter in New Orleans, where we spend quite a bit of time now since our family has relocated to that area from Pa. Take away the cars trucks, and blowing horns and remove the tvs and radios that were for sale on the sidewalk stands, and you have a picture of what the city of New Orleans may have looked like in the late 1800’s. Narrow, almost one way streets, tight sidewalks between the street, and the tall, narrow buildings with overhanging balconies, operational wooden shutters that are rounded to fit the arched window and door openings, and people milling around in no particular rush to get where they are going.

Having time to observe isn’t a bad thing, it’s just overly uncomfortable when you are stuck in traffic, and the overheating indicator light starts to blink forcing you too turn off the A/C because there’s limited airflow over the coil and engine radiator.

The 8 mile trek took us about an hour, even after getting out of the city, because the blacktop only runs for a couple miles before ending abruptly in a 6 inch drop off to the pothole pocked gravel roadbed.

After arriving at Henoc’s house, we walked next door to check on the progress of the Orphanage that has been under construction since before the earthquake. The first floor was in the process of being primed, and waiting for doors to be installed and the kids should be able to move in a week or 2 from now.

We ate supper, and were escorted to our quarters a mile or 2 down the road; a house that was leased by a missionary family for a year, and they only lasted about 6 months before returning to the comforts of their home nation. As night fell, we lit candles, kerosene lamps, and showered by flashlight because the power had gone off shortly after our arrival, and no generator was on the premises for us to utilize. The air conditioner that was poking out of the wall mocked us as we settled into our beds soaking the sheets with sweat. Charles and I slept in the one bedroom, while Arnold sawed several cords of wood in the neighboring room. I asked Charles if he was over his fear of sleeping inside, and he pointed to the ceiling and said “ twakay bwa” – wood roof. Less likely to die if the wood roof collapses on you in an earthquake I suppose.

Charles prayed for a good 15 minutes before rolling over and drifting off to sleep, while I read John Gresham by lamp light thinking this is what it must have been like in “little house on the prairie”.

Not long after the others fell asleep, welcome relief came to the muggy, humid night air as the rains came. Lightly at first, but soon reaching torrential proportions, the rains fell. I kept reading as there was now no way to get to sleep with all of the commotion. Charles rolled over and saw the light on and asked why I wasn’t sleeping, “Twakay bwa” I responded pointing to the ceiling. He laughed and rolled back over drifting off again.

The rains continued hard for a couple of hours, and I pondered what this might mean for our drive the next day, and how much spinning and sliding it may cause us. I “outened the lamp” as they say back in my home area of Amish country, Pa, and was sleeping blissfully in the cool night air after the rains ceased.

Truck #3 on the dock in Miami prior to shipping To Cap Hatien

We awoke with the sun the next morning; drove back to Henoc’s and had breakfast, then piddled around until 10 am when we left once again for Cap Haitien. The potholes were now puddles and the dusty road was now slicker than scum off a Louisiana swamp. We all had piled in the jeep, and I had given Charles the keys, and climbed into the back seat, leaving Arnold wondering why he was blessed with a front seat as I crammed myself in the back sharing the space with Gerline, Henocs wife, who was joining us for a ride into town. Arnold soon found out why he was seated in the front. Ever been to an amusement park, and ridden a ride so scary that there were permanent fingernail notches in the foam safety bar? That’s kind of what the dashboard of the Jeep looked like after the ride into the city. Arnold commented that based on how Charles was driving; he thought I was negligent in my spared use of the horn yesterday on the way from Cap to Henoc’s house.

We dropped Gerline off where she needed to be and went searching for a gas station. We were on “E” and the engine sputtered a few times after hard acceleration, so we knew it wouldn’t be long till we might be taking advantage of the guys on the street that sell Gas by the gallon jug, if we didn’t find a gas station soon. We finally found a station down by the dock, and pulled in relieved… until the attendant said,” nou pa genyen” we don’t have any. What is a gas station without gas??? Just a station I guess. We drove carefully around the city saving gas as much as possible, more like a normal ride in a car, and finally at the fourth gas station, We found gas. Charles immediately drove up to the front of the line, bypassing the 5 or 6 motorcyclists waiting patiently for their turn to fill up. There was only a short period of heated exchanges with those in line, after which the attendants filled the tank, but not to the satisfaction of Charles. He got out and ”topped it off” himself, before asking me for the 3500 gourdes to pay them.( I’m still not sure how much that is in US dollars) I told him to also get brake fluid for the van, since the rear wheel cylinders had started leaking fluid, and we needed to replenish the reservoir. “Yo pa genyen” I heard again, They don’t have any; Ok- it’ not a service station either.

After leaving the..uh…station, we found a roadside stand that offered our choice of oil, power steering fluid and brake fluid. We bought 2 bottles of brake fluid, just to be safe. We went back to the office to meet Rico, and were informed that he wasn’t there but was working on the clearing up the VIN number problem. It was 11AM. We chatted with Charles, the secretary and another older gentleman that I think was Rico’s aged relative. We did what we have become accustom to doing when we need official approval for something… We waited… and talked…and learned some more Creole… taught some English. ..and waited some more. At 12:30 we were informed that we could go to the dock and meet Rico, or his associate Rodney there, and we could get the truck. Not bad, only 30 minutes late. We are still in good shape to make the150 mile, 7 hr trip to Port au Prince.

After grabbing something to drink, we waited…and waited… Oh good! Here comes Rodney! He informed us that he needed one more authorization stamp. We looked at each other and rolled our eyes as he strode purposefully toward the office that contained the last hurdle to be cleared.

The sun was hot, so we sought shade under the canopy of the first gas station where we had stopped at earlier in the morning, and told those seeking gas-Yo pa genyen. At 1:15 Rodney finally returned and we went and sat in the same customs office with the same customs security guard as the day before, only today he didn’t have his TV phone. After another half hour, I saw the hood pop up on the white pick up truck. As I stood up and craned my neck to see what they were doing, the guard noticed what I was looking at and offered the “parking” pass to so I could go check it out. I woke Arnold up from his nap, and we both went to see what the problem was, both happy to just see some progress being made toward getting us and the truck out of customs.

We walked over to see about 5 Haitians gathered around the truck with Rico, trying to get the truck to start. Someone had apparently left the ignition turned on when they parked the truck. A couple of Haitians left to get a battery to jump the truck. When they returned, I noticed that they had not acquired any jumper cables. I was surprised to see one of them lift the battery they brought, flip it upside down and place the terminals directly on top of the truck battery as a means of jumping the dead one. DO NOT try this at home! I was pleasantly surprised, though, when Arnold turned the key to hear the truck turn over, after several attempts, the engine finally roared to life, and we were on our way out of the dock for the second time in 2 days, with more of the things we had come for. Only one more to
It was well after 2:30 when we drove back to Henoc’s house for the final time to retrieve the van and FINALLY begin the return trip to Port au Prince. As we started down the road, I began to calculate…leave at 3pm, 7hr trip if nothing goes wrong, arrive at 10 pm, gets dark at 6-7, at least half the trip in the dark… This will be an experience; and we aren’t supposed to travel after dark.

"Fording" the river
As we started up the mountain trail on the first part of the trip, it started to lightly drizzle, then the higher we went the more it started to rain. Knowing what’s ahead, this is not good if it continues to rain like this. We threaded our way up the side of the mountain, avoiding the gullies, potholes and rocks as best we could. When we reached the plateau, the rain mercifully stopped. (Whose been praying??) We spent the rest of the trip, avoiding the same obstacles but add in the occasional goat, chicken, cow and horse. We climbed steep grades, straddled ruts, and forded rivers, all before dark… not much changed after dark though either.
At one point about 2/3’s of the way through the trip, Charles stopped the van, and popped the hood on the van- Oh no here we go I thought. Are we going to have to fix a vehicle with few tools in the dark in the middle of nowhere? Nope- Charles just needed to add some brake fluid- glad we bought 2 bottles!

Just as we were completing the fill, a vehicle traveling towards us in the opposite direction, pulled up and stopped, with the window rolled down; “Kevin!” I heard the driver call out. Now who in the world would be out after dark, on the road, in the middle of nowhere, deep in the heart of a foreign country, calling my name? Of course, It’s Caleb Lucien- everywhere just when you need him.

He asked if everything was OK, and we reported to him that it was. He cautioned us about driving after dark, and then left us on his way home…driving in the dark. We reached the outskirts of Port au Prince at about 10:30, and Charles stopped the van once again and informed us to stay very close to him as we drove through the city.

We raced through the deserted streets of town faster than I even thought possible, bouncing across the potholes at 50 MPH, not stopping for anything, doing our best to see through the misty darkness. We arrived safely back to the Haitian Queen around 11:15pm ate supper and turned for the night, exhausted but content. God had provided all that we needed and I’m sure some that we didn’t know we needed or in ways we still aren’t even aware.