Eric Cesal, our regional manager in Haiti and the organizations 'Phd McGuyver, is on his third 'tour of duty' with Architecture for Humanity. In the last few months his team has led the charge to upgrade and relocate field hospitals and schools, develop long term sustainable plans for reconstruction and design hurricane resistant schools.
Yesterday marked the start of hurricane season and lots of journalists gave their commentary on the task at hand. Given Eric and his team are in the trenches, I asked him to write his view from the ground. Here is his thoughts;
June 1st was just another day in Haiti. Granted, it was the start of the hurricane season, and a chance to reflect on what has and has not gotten done since January 12th, but we do that every day. In the American media, it seemed to signal some sort of transition, from a time of anticipation to a time of great danger. Those of us on the ground don't see it that way. The danger was always here - hurricanes are just one more thing to contend with. There is no more or less urgency today than there was yesterday. Tomorrow will likely be the same. The urgency here is driven by the pained faces and pleadings of quake survivors -- it cares little for dates on a calendar.
Hundreds of thousands of families are still in tents, with minimal access to water and food. Rubble and garbage still line the streets. People are desperate. Frustrations with the aid response mount. For all those reasons we work as hard today as we did yesterday. Urgency doesn't come and go here -- its part of the team.
For the Architecture for Humanity Haiti team, it was a day like any other. Up at dawn, getting materials, meeting, drawing, building, talking, picking up volunteers at the airport, sitting in traffic, conferencing with other NGOs, more traffic, sketching, and what not until well after dark.
Things are desperate here. They will continue to be so. If by some grace we get through the hurricane season without an incident, things will still be desperate. Things will not be 'okay' by virtue of the fact that we get missed.
Yesterday we had three different thunderstorms. It poured hard for twenty minutes, people scramble, repeat. The rain turns the ground to thick mud, tarps collapse, and there's nothing for people to do except wait for the rains to stop and then try and pick up what they can before the next storm. Most of the shelters in the camps have no floors. Lucky ones get tents but thousands have merely tarps, supported by sticks and branches and whatever was around.
Sean Penn testified before Congress last week and summed it up for those of us on the ground: "Don't forget Haiti." Vigilance is what is needed here, and a depth of concern that reaches past cycles on a calendar, or cycles in aid funding. What is needed is a commitment to hit the ground and work your ass off, regardless of what day it is.
June 1st was a long day of hard choices and tiny victories. June 2nd is shaping up to be the same.