Sunday, April 21, 2013

Days 366 – 372
02/07 – 02/13
Thursday 02/07 – After an evening flight from Sacramento to L.A. and the “red eye” from L.A. to Miami, I caught the 10:00 A.M. flight to Port-au-Prince and arrived at Toussaint Louveture International Airport at noon. The weather is a nice sultry 82*. A nice change from the 50’s we’ve been having in Sacramento. However, I know it’s going to be getting warmer every day.
            Coming back to the Guest House each time is like returning to family. Everyone seems to be happy to see me and I hear “Bon jour, Meester Beel” every time I turn around. I’m a little sleep deprived, but I get back up to the office and am greeted by, Tom, Sarah 2 and Mario. Then I start the process of getting back into my work.
 Most of the projects seem to be progressing reasonably well. The exceptions are the Guest House Annex which just seems to be going at a snail’s pace and the EMH Housing Project which has had all kinds of contractor problems since its’ inception. I keep hoping some of the problems would go away when I was gone, but no such luck. They’re still here when I get back.
Friday 02/08 – I tried to stay up late last night to get my internal clock readjusted to the new time zone, but couldn’t make it past 9:30. I guess 36 hours without sleep is my new limit. I must be getting old. I got up at 6:30 A.M – a little groggy, even after 9 hours of sleep. Even though the sun was coming up my internal clock said it was 3:30 A.M. I’ll stay up later tonight and get everything readjusted.
            The work day started with a meeting with Engineers Laplanche and Derly, Lauren James (UMCOR) and Tom and me. Lauren has to prepare the funding request for the next 6 months to UMCOR who pays Laplanche and Derly through the EMH Resource and Development office. So - we needed to discuss current workloads and responsibilities to determine what their compensation for the next 6 months should be. We also discussed how the Site Engineers were being compensated out of the VIM project funds. I’ve been advocating for a year that they should be paid a flat fee based on the project size and not on a percentage of the cost. There is no incentive for them to control costs. The more money spent – the more they make. Everyone seems to understand and nods their head, but since it is a change from the customary way of paying Haitian engineers, no one wants to make the decision. I’ll keep bringing it up.
            The afternoon went by quickly while reviewing project reports. I initiated a weekly report process for all the site engineers to follow on all of their sites. Most are doing it although not always in a timely manner. It takes me a while to go through them since they’re all in Creole.
Saturday 02/09 – I managed to stay up until midnight last night and slept in until 8:00 this morning. So although still a little groggy, I’m better than yesterday and I think I’ve readjusted my clock. January, February and March are very busy team months (cooler weather) and we have 2 or 3 teams coming or going at the Guest House almost every day. Although not part of my official duties, I try to help out the staff where needed in getting teams to where they need to go. I also enjoy talking with the people. They all enjoy their Haiti experience.
            I met with Engineer Rousse this afternoon and tried to crank up the work on the Guest House Annex. I got the usual nods and smiles and assurances that things would improve, but I’m not going to hold my breath. It’s a difficult position when you are here to advise and not to run the jobs.

 Sunday 02/10 – We have a 3 day window of opportunity with no teams and it coincides with KARNAVAL. The Haitian National Carnival is being held in Cap Haitian this year. Cap Haitian is the 2nd largest city in Haiti and situated on the far north side of the island. So – Mario, Sarah 2, Lauren James and I piled into the D-Max with Spana and headed out on the 6 to 8 hour drive to Cap Haitian. I have not been that far north before so I’m excited to see some new countryside and of course KANAVAL!
            Since apparently most people traveled to Cap Haitian on Saturday, we made it to Cap Haitian in just under 6 hours and got to the Methodist Guest House by mid-afternoon. The Guest House turned out to be right on the ocean and at the very end of the parade route. We got settled into our rooms, washed of the road dust and set off down the parade route in search of a place to eat and hopefully a stand to watch the parade from. We ended up at a restaurant that Lauren knew from her many trips to La Cap and had a pretty good meal. Then we set off on our quest for a stand. The parade route – about a mile long - is lined on both sides be wooden framed, plywood covered stands that are built about 8’ above street level. Businesses and corporations then lease the stands for their guests or sell you the privilege of using the stand. The prices seemed to average about $100 US for the 3 days of Carnival. Some included food and drinks. We finally decided on a stand about mid-way along the route leased by World of Wireless (WOW) a Haitian internet provider. We ended up paying $75 US apiece which included 3 drink tickets per night.
            As the sun goes down, the parade starts up. The first section of the parade is made up of local groups – Boy Scouts (called Scoots in Haiti), dance groups in colorful costumes, bicycle groups, etc. Then there is about a 2hour pause (I’m not sure why) until the main parade starts – about 9:00 P.M. Each section of the parade is led by a huge float with a popular Haitian band performing on the roof. The float itself is like a rolling boombox with a megawatt sound system and house sized speakers – LOUD! The band is followed by a corporate or government sponsored float – most very colorful - and sometimes by a marching group of some kind. The floats are surrounded by thousands of people walking and dancing down the street. These segments are spaced about 20 minutes apart. In between segments there is still plenty of music coming from the stands and dancing in the street. The last segment of the parade rolled by at 4:00 A.M.
Monday 02/11 – Needless to say, we slept in this morning. Breakfast became a very late brunch. We explored along the parade route and then came back to a cafĂ© near the Guest House and sat on their patio overlooking the beach and the end of the parade route. We spent the afternoon people watching and enjoying a cold beverage or two.
            After dinner we headed back up the street to the WOW stand to watch the parade. Except for a few different bands on the rolling boom boxes, the parade was pretty much the same as last night. Although a lot of the Haitian girls are wearing some very short shorts and tank tops, there is not as much skin exposed as pictures I’ve seen of New Orleans or Rio. There is no flashing for beads. The sought after commodity is tee shirts. Most of the businesses have tee shirts advertising their companies. Because Haitian men really like American women, Sarah with her smile became the champion of champions for collecting tee shirts. She kept us all well supplied. We thought we          would head back to the Guest House early, but the festivities are so infectious that we stay all night – again.
Tuesday 02/12 – We got up a little earlier this morning and had breakfast at a hotel up the hill from the Guest House. Then Mario, Sarah, Spana and I headed out in the D-max to do some sightseeing. Lauren elected to go to the beach with some friends. Our primary destination was the Citadel. The Citadel Henry was built after the revolution by the self-appointed king, Henry Christophe to protect against possible future attacks by the French. It took 14 years to build and was completed in 1820. It is the biggest fortress in the Caribbean and because of several reconstruction projects over the years is one of the best preserved early 19th Century military engineering projects in the world. It also contains the largest collection of 18th century artillery in the world.
            Because it sits on top of a mountain, it’s a long steep walk to get to Citadel. However, they do offer the option of riding a horse. Since we were a little pressed for time and since it sounded like fun, we elected to ride the horses. It was Mario and Spana’s first time on a horse. I’m glad to say that everyone made it up (and down) in one piece.
            The views from the fortress are breathtaking – as well as the fortress itself. Since words can’t adequately describe it, I’ve included a few pictures.
            At the bottom of the Citadel mountain is another historical landmark – the Palace San Souci. The Palace complex was also built by Henry Christophe and fulfilled his need to have most of the government complex built around his residence. It was completed in 1813 and mostly destroyed in the earthquake of 1842. It has never been restored. We did a quick tour around the grounds and left to visit Spana’s mother.
            Spana’s mother lives in a rural area about 40 miles south of Cap Haitian. The last 5 miles is over some typically rough dirt roads. But we arrived without incident and met his wonderfully spry and friendly mother and a sister that he hadn’t seen in 7 years – and her 3 children. Spana gave us a tour around the family homestead and showed us where he ultimately would like to build his house. It’s a beautiful piece of property and I hope someday his dream will come true.
            We got back to la Cap in time for a late dinner and got to the stand just as the parade was about to start. We were all tired from our days activities, but before we knew it, it was 4:00 AM and we were walking back to the Guest House.
Wednesday 02/13 – As you might guess, we slept in a little this morning. But as soon as we were up and out of the cold shower, we bid goodbye to the Guest House staff. A quick stop at a little bakery for some coffee and croissants and we were on our way home. With everyone returning from Karnaval today, the traffic along the 2 lane Highway 2 was a little intense and the return trip took a little over 7 hours. However we did arrive back in time for dinner. But then it was another cold shower and hit the sack. What a great Haitian Karnaval experience.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Days 359 – 365
01/17 – 01/24

Thursday 01/17 – Tom, Wendy, Eng. Abicher, Oge and I left early for Furcy. As some of you may recall, Furcy is a small, rural community in the mountains above Petionville. It’s about an hour and a half drive - about half of which is over rough mountain roads. In fact the last half of mile you have to walk unless you have a good 4 wheel drive and don’t mind being tossed around. But it’s worth the effort. It is absolutely beautiful it’s about 7,000 ft. in elevation and cool. There are pine trees and in some areas you would think you were in the Sierras in California rather than in Haiti.
Tom and Wendy have been coming to Furcy for over 10 years and their non-profit, Mountains of Hope, adopted Furcy as their primary project. We came today primarily to assess the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. The building damage is very evident. 90% of the roof is completely missing from one of the 2 school buildings and 50% of the roof is missing from the cook house. We obviously need to get this repaired as soon as possible. Abicher was directed to start the repairs as soon as possible. There is a team coming next week that can help start the process and Tom and Wendy will work on getting additional funding from UMCOR and Mountains of Hope. While we were there we heard stories from some of the local farmers who lost crops and livestock to the high winds. Mother Nature seems to paint a bullseye on Haiti.
Friday 01/18 – Last week Pastor Paul asked Engineer Roger Laplanche and I to prepare a presentation on the Methodist Village to be given at the EMH Annual Conference to be held in Jeremie next week. I reminded him that I still had not received any replies to the questionnaire regarding the Methodist Village that I sent out to the EMH committee members back in Because of that, we could not give any kind of a detailed presentation. He said just a general presentation would be all right. So, in other words, he was looking for a dog and pony show. Today we are going to put it together.
Jeremie, where the Annual Conference is being held, is on the far south western part of the island and difficult to get to. It is an 8 hour hard trip by road or a $240.00 plane ticket to get there. I told Roger that it didn’t make any sense for both of us to take 3 days to drive or $500 to fly. Thankfully he agreed. I really didn’t want to go.
Saturday 01/19 – I spent the day today finishing up details for Roger’s presentation while he prepared the renderings. It’s kind of exciting to see an idea I presented over a year ago begin to take form. Like any new project in Haiti, it’s going to take time. But at least the process has started.
Sunday 01/20 – After back to back road trips and a couple of long days pushing to get a presentation together I was ready for a day off. The rest of the staff has been very busy with teams with up to 5 teams in country at a time – 2 nights this week we had over 55 people at the Guest House. So – they are ready for a breather also. We got 2 teams off to the airport in the morning than headed up to the Hotel Karibe for an afternoon around the pool. We even caught part of the 49ers play-off game.
Monday 01/21 – Since I didn’t have to go to the Annual Conference in Jeremie, I decided to visit some construction sites that I haven’t seen for a while. Today Oge and I went to Le Tremblay to see the new church. The roof is on and the doors and windows are installed. From our (Haiti Response Plan) perspective, this project is completed. The church will be turned over to the community and they will take on the responsibility of doing the remaining finish work.
Tuesday 01/22 – Tapion  is the site for today. We first visited this site, which is a rural site near Petit Goave, last October and our initial evaluation of the church was that although severely damaged it could be salvaged. However, when Engineers Dery, Abicher and I looked at it again today we decided that the damage was greater than we first thought and it would probably be better to tear it down and start over. Derly will draw up some new plans and prepare an estimate so that we can get it approved before the 1st scheduled team arrives next month.
Wednesday 01/23 – Today is a catch-up on paperwork day. I have to get the final drafts of the No Cost Extension Letters for the Guest House Renovation Project and the Haiti Home Assistance Program in to UMCOR in New York. Both projects have gone over the allocated time period given in the original grants and you have to request an extension in order to get the remaining funding. It’s ironic that the main cause for the schedule overruns has been delays in getting the funding, but that’s the way it goes when working with donated funds. I’ve already received verbal approval for the extensions, but have to follow up with the paperwork.
Thursday 01/24 – I’m up early this morning and on the phone and internet with my engineers making sure that everyone is up to speed on work for the next couple of weeks. I’m heading for the airport and my return home. My first two week tour is over. I think this new schedule is going to work, but I’m going to need to organize my time better. I still have the same amount of work to do, but I have to compress it into a shorter time frame.  

Monday, March 18, 2013

I spent a wonderful 7 weeks at home with friends and family over the holidays and although I spent time on the computer dealing with Haiti issues almost daily, I do feel the pull of that former “Pearl of the Caribbean”. When I boarded the plane in Sacramento on the 9th of January I had the same feeling of sadness of leaving loved ones behind that I always feel. However, it was tempered with the knowledge that I would be returning in a couple of weeks.

Days 352 – 358
01/10/13 – 01/16

Thursday 01/10 – After an all-night flight to Miami I touched down in Port-au-Prince about 9:30 in the morning. The flight from Miami skirts Cuba and comes in over the Ilse de Tortuge (home of Blackbeard and other assorted pirates); over Cap Haitian on Haiti’s north coast; down the western side of the island to Port-au Prince. Today’s flight circled several times over the Bay of Port-au-Prince, between PAP and the Isle de La Gonave. This was a first for me since we usually have a straight in approach. However, it was a beautiful morning and it gave me an opportunity to enjoy some of the beauty of Haiti from my window seat. I reflected on how my feelings have changed in making this flight. I no longer have that sense of excitement of entering a foreign country. Haiti is no longer foreign to me. It has become in many ways my 2nd home. I have many wonderful friends here and a meaningful, rewarding job to do. Life is good.

With only my backpack and a small carry-on, I was able to beat the crowd through Immigration and Customs and hooked up with Spana in the parking lot right away. However, there my luck ended. Traffic was a bear and although Spana knows every short cut known to man, it still took over an hour to travel the 8 miles to the Guest House in Petionville. Welcome back to Haiti.

Tom and I spent most of the afternoon going through all of the projects in preparation for the EMH Site Review Committee (soon to become the EMH Construction and Property Committee) meeting tomorrow morning. Lots of teams scheduled for January, February and March.


Friday 01/11 –Friday 01/11 – One thing hasn’t changed in the 7 weeks I’ve been gone. The meetings are the same. The same people discussing the same issues over and over. Immediate things that out of a sense of urgency have to be decided seem to get cleared (sometimes by default) but anything that needs any planning or action by the EMH gets pushed to the next meeting. We keep kicking the can down the road. I handed out the new EMH Construction and Property Committee outline and org chart (for the 3rd time since October) and the only thing that I could get consensus from the EMH on was the name change. I think the full change will be accepted, but it’s a painfully slow process.

 Today was catch-up day. A day to catch up with the status of all my projects and a day for my body to catch up with 16 hours of travel and a 3 hour time zone change. It was also a day to get acquainted with our new Team Coordinator, Sarah Ann Marsalis-Luginbill. Danette’s contract ended in December and she is back on a 2 week extension to help Sarah (I’m going to have to call her Sarah 2) transition into her position. Sarah is from Shreeveport, Louisianna where she and her husband are UMC youth ministers. She has extensive team leader experience including 6 missions to Haiti. She is a vivacious southern gal and very organized. She’s going to be a great addition to our HRP team.


Saturday 01/12 – Today is the 3rd Anniversary of the Haiti Earthquake. It’s a national holiday and a rather quiet day. We have been invited to attend an observance this afternoon at the Hotel Montana. The Hotel Montana collapsed during the earthquake trapping 3 UMCOR officials under the rubble for more than 55 hours. Two died from their injuries, Sam Dixon and Clint Rabb, and one survived, Jim Gulley. Jim will be one of the speakers at the ceremony.

The hotel is slowly being rebuilt on the same beautiful site on the mountainside in Petionville. It is owned by 2 sisters, one of whom was trapped in the rubble for over 100 hours and miraculously survived. This is the 2nd year that they have hosted this observance. My return was delayed a few days last year and I just missed the event. So – I was looking forward to being there this year.

There was singing and prayers and comments from several Hatian clergical leaders, including Pastor Paul, and then Jim talked of his experience of being buried and rescued. Then a bell was rung 31 times and 31 white balloons were released in honor of the 31 people killed in the hotel. As darkness settled in, candles were lit and carried to the memorial garden and placed in the sand. All in all, a very moving experience. Then the sisters served a wonderful buffet.


Sunday 01/13 – We had 3 teams in the field but no one coming or going at the Guest House so we decided a little R & R was in order. Mario, Danette, Sarah 2, Oge, Spana and I headed north up Hwy 1 to Wahoo Bay - a beach resort north of Arcahaie. One of the benefits of being in Haiti is that you can go to the beach and lay in the sun in January. The weather is beautiful and in the low to mid 80s.


Monday 01/14 - Today I worked on 2 UMCOR Grant Requests for the EMH Pilot Housing Project. These are for 10 houses originally contracted to World Hands Alliance under another grant. Since we removed these houses from WHA and are giving them to another contractor, I have to resubmit the grant requests. And – since I need to keep the requests under $100,000.00 (anything over $100K requires full board approval and they only meet twice a year) I have to submit them in 2 phases. I still need some information about the individual beneficiaries from Engineer Derly Charles to complete the requests.


Tuesday 01/15 – I met with Derly this morning and got all the beneficiary information from him. I completed the Grant Proposals and was able to email the first drafts to UMCOR in New York. They will be reviewed by Thodleen Dessources, the Head of the Haiti Desk at UMCOR and she will return them to me with corrections or requests for additional information. We’re usually able to get it right the 2nd time.


Wednesday 01/16 – This morning Engineer Derly and I left at 6:00 AM with Spana for a site visit to Bercy. Bercy is a remote village in the mountains just north of Les Caye, which is on the South Coast (Caribbean side) of Haiti. We have started construction of a new church there. I have seen plans of the building, but this will be my first visit to the site.

Once you leave Hwy 2 just outside of Les Cayes, it is rough road for the next 10 miles. There was a heavy rain last night and some pretty good water holes to cross. Water came clear over the hood in one of them. Spana was loving it. Thank heaven for 4 wheel drive.

The church construction has progressed pretty well. However, I had a few concerns over a couple of structural issues and Derly agreed with my recommendations. He will pass them on to the site engineer. 11 hours after leaving, we arrived back at the Guest House - another long day on the roads of Haiti.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Days 345 – 351

11/11 – 11/17

Sunday 11/11 – Sundays are often quiet days – days when we can get away to the beach or the pool at Hotel Caribe or Ebolele – away from our 24/7 lifestyle - for a little R & R. Today, however, was not one of those. We had several teams arriving and leaving and I had a barrage of emails that needed responses. Most of the issues were regarding the EMH Pilot Project. We are still trying to resolve the ongoing issue of the unfinished World Hand Alliance houses. We originally contracted with them for 10 houses in Mellier and 20 houses in Carre Four. Due to many circumstances they have been unable to complete any of them in a years’ time. We subsequently gave 10 houses in Carre Four to 2 Haitian contractors and have been working with WHA to at least complete the 10 Mellier houses. To date that has not happened. We are now in the process of putting the remaining 10 Carre Four houses out for bid.

Monday 11/12 – Today I had a meeting with Engineer Laplanche to go over the contract with Engineer Samuel Abicher to complete the Mellier church structure. If you recall, the Mellier church was the first VIM project site started under the Haiti Response Plan and the largest VIM/HRP project in Haiti. Unfortunately, it also became the biggest albatross. In the rush to start helping after the earthquake there was inadequate planning and forethought given to the initial projects. I told Tom when I first came to Haiti that the biggest problem we had was that there were too many ministers and not enough engineers. Consequently, the costs were out of control and it became apparent we were not going to be able to complete the church with team funding. UMCOR decided to provide the funds to complete the basic structure and the community will step up to do the finish work. Many lessons were learned and in a way it has helped me to able to set up standardized construction management procedures for all EMH projects - nothing like having a bad example to point to.

Tuesday 11/13 – With Jim Gulley back in town, it’s time for our monthly Haiti Joint Leadership Team meeting. This is the meeting with EMH, UMCOR and UMVIM. The frustrating part for me is that 7 of the 10 people on the team are the same people that I’ve been meeting with all month long on other committees. However, it’s good to try to coordinate our activies – particularly between UMCOR and UMVIM. Today we spent a lot of time explaining the restructuring of the EMH Site Review Committee into the EMH Construction and Property Committee.

Wednesday 11/14 – Today is my Linda’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Sweety. It’s the second year I’ve been out of the country for her birthday. It’s a good thing that she loves Haiti as much as I do and understands why I’m here.
Engineers Derly, Laplanche and I made a final visit to Olivier to go over Derly’s preliminary drawings and verify dimensions and detail for the church refurbishment prior to putting them out to bid. We met again with some of the church elders and while they were excited about finally getting their church repaired, they were disappointed that we weren’t going to make it bigger. It’s a common complaint and we have to continually explain that there is a limited amount of money available. If they want it bigger they will have to figure out a way for the community to fund it. At that time, reality usually sets in.

Thursday 11/15 – My current contract expires in 4 days and I will be going home for the Holidays and return in January. Since I have site visits scheduled for my last 3 days, I am trying to get my things in order and pack for my return. I tend to be a pack rat wherever I am and have accumulated quite a bit of stuff over the past 14 months. I need to downsize what I’m going to leave in-country. Since I will only be here 2 weeks at a time and can bring things I need with me, I should be able to get rid of or take home at least half of my stuff.

Friday 11/16 – Before the end of the year I have to prepare a detailed progress report on the Haiti Home Assistance Program for UMCOR in order to get the final funding payment from the grant. This includes 9 new homes, 5 repaired homes and the 8 unit Guest House Staff Annex. The Annex is in my backyard, so I can keep a pretty close watch on it, but the houses are scattered all over the country side. Some of them I haven’t seen in over a month. So – today Oge, Spana and I are going on site visits.

The first site is Eric’s home. Eric has worked for the Guest House for 42 years and his wife Lise has worked there for 25 years. Their home was destroyed in the earthquake. The new house is coming along a little slower than some, but he’s making progress. His property is on a very steep hillside and all of the homes are virtually built on top of one another. His big heart compelled him to build a huge cistern under the house so that his neighbors would have a source for water(rain water).

Right next to Eric is Ton Tonette’s house. She is the head cook at the Guest House and also has worked there for over 40 years. Her house is at a lower level and was partially damaged. The repairs are nearly complete and will allow for a 2nd story addition in the future if she wishes.
The next 2 houses are also close to one another and on another steep hillside. Gerda is a housekeeper at the Guest House and in fact takes care of the house I live in and does my laundry. She lost her home and her husband in the earthquake. Her home is about 80% complete and is in the interior finish stage. Johnny is a driver at the Guest House and lost his home in the earthquake. The government took his land for a new road right-of-way and gave him barely enough money to buy another lot. The plans for his new house exceeded the amount available in the grant, so he is putting in all the foundation and stem walls and finishing only 3 rooms to move into. He will hopefully finish the rest of the house over time.

Saturday 11/17 – Four more site visits are scheduled for today. Two are home repairs. The first one we looked at was Marie Claudes. She has been an assistant cook and housekeeper at the Guest House for over 20 years. Her husband was a carpenter but was severely injured in an accident several years ago and is disabled. The repairs to her home have been quite extensive, but are coming along nicely. They are able to live in the house again while they finish.

The second house was Patrick’s. Patrick is an interpreter and in fact was the interpreter for the first team I was on in Haiti. His home was severely damaged but deemed repairable and he qualified for only the repair amount. However, when he started reconstruction they discovered that most of the house had to come down. Unfortunately he was locked into the repair limit under the grant. He has done an outstanding job of getting a livable structure built for his family but doesn’t have the funding available to really finish it. I’m hoping we can raise some additional funds for him somehow.

We also visited two new home sites. The first was Maxo’s. Maxo is a driver and ace mechanic at the Guest House. His house is about 60% complete. It is built on a hillside lot and required some extensive excavation and retaining walls.

The last house for the day was Oge’s. He has been a driver for the Guest House for about 12 years and 2 years ago was also hired on a ½ time basis as a Site Coordinator for the Haiti Relief Plan. Since the earthquake, the area that his house was in has become a high crime area. So, for the safety of his family, he decided to sell the  property and build his new home as a second story addition to his parent’s house. Since he didn’t have any site work to do his house went up quickly and is 100% complete.

Sunday 11/18 – Jim Gulley and I left early in the morning to go to Mellier. Our goal is to visit all 10 of the World Hand Alliance home sites. Negotiations have been going on for months and the Project Committee has finally made the decision to cancel WHA’s contract and hire another contractor to complete the homes. Jim and I want to document the current status of the 10 sites in Mellier.
We had hoped to attend the first hour of the church service in Mellier and then start our visits. However, the Pastor made such a fuss about introducing us to the congregation that we couldn’t sneak out and were stuck for the entire 2 ½ hours. We were able to get to all 10 sites but got back to Petionville rather late.

Monday 11/19 – Today I return home. I have been in Haiti for 14 months and although I have been home several times during that span and will be returning again in January on a ½ time basis, it is an end of my full time in-country involvement. It is the beginning of a new phase in the Haiti recovery plan. We are transitioning from the earthquake recovery phase to the community development and sustainability phase. There is still recovery work to be done, particularly in the area of housing, but most of the damaged EMH infrastructure (churches, schools and clinics) has been repaired under the Haiti Response Plan. The funding for the HRP runs out in October 2013 and we hope to have completed all priority projects by then. In the final months of the program we will be planning how and in what form the program will continue in beyond October. I’m excited to be a part of that planning process. I’m also excited to be able to spend the holidays with my family and friends at home.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

I arrived back in Sacramento late Wednesday night 10/23 and left Thursday morning for San Luis Obispo and the Sierra Vista Hospital to see my mother. I was there with my brother for a week and we watched her make a miraculous recovery. The doctor finally transferred her to a rehabilitation facility at the same location as her assisted living apartment. Once she was settled, stabilized and seemingly showing signs of improvement, I returned to Haiti on 11/03
Days 338 – 344
11/04 – 11/10
Sunday 11/04 – I arrived back in Haiti around noon and got picked up at the airport by Spana. They had opened up the new arrivals terminal in my absence and I was a little confused. You no longer had to take a shuttle bus to the far side of the terminal building and walk into the confusion of having to go through Immigration, get your luggage and go through Customs along with 200 other passengers in a space about the size of an Olympic sized swimming pool. It was very nice and spacious and uncluttered with more stations for passport control. Since I had no checked baggage, I zipped right through and went outside to a completely different area of the parking lot. It took me a while to find Spana, but we finally connected.
I got back to the Guest House and was inundated with concerned questions about my mother from all the staff. They were all very happy that she had been able to recover and was stabilized. In a country where the average life span is 64 years, 98 years seems like a miracle. I love these people and I think the feeling is mutual.
Monday 11/05 - I’m right back in to business as usual. We have 14 teams scheduled in this month, so we have at least 1 team coming or going almost every day. And – the meetings start. Today it’s an informal meeting about the church reconstruction in Olivier. The church was heavily damaged in the earthquake and has finally moved up the priority list and is ready to be addressed. Engineers Laplanche and Derly, and Tom and I met with Pastor Paul to determine if we should proceed with the project. The decision was made to start and we picked the people that should be included in the site visit on Thursday. We decided we should have Pastor Maude, the Circuit Superintendent, the local Church Steward and Engineers Abicher and Elysea in addition to ourselves.
Tuesday 11/06 – Today we had a HRP (Haiti Response Plan) staff meeting with Tom, Danette, Mario, Oge and I along with Susan Meister, our Team Calendar Coordinator in the States, on Skype. The purpose was to discuss the current state of our projects and finances and team projections for 2013. Many of our sites are nearing completion or have reached the stage where the required work is no longer “team friendly” – requires skills that our teams can’t support. We have over 100 teams already scheduled for 2013, so we need to have the EMH make some decisions on project sites from the priority list.
And – UMVIM has finally approved my contract extension proposal. I have agreed to continue for another 6 months starting in January on a 2 weeks a month in-country basis. It requires a lot of traveling but allows me to spend a little more time at home. Now Pastor Paul has to sign off on the contract and he always waits to the very last minute.
Wednesday 11/07 – Our meeting for today is with Pastor Paul and some of the Circuit Superintendents, Elizabeth Petheo and Lauren James from UMCOR and Tom and I. The purpose of the meeting is to go over the damage assessment reports from all of the Circuits on the damage from Hurricane Sandy. I was frankly surprised by the extent of the damage in the mountains and southern part of the island. Although there were 59 known deaths in Haiti, none appeared to be from the Methodist community. However, the property damage in some areas was extensive. The damage was mostly wind related – roofs blown off (including the entire roof of the school in Furcy) and crop damage. There also was a lot of flood damage, but none involving church property. We also discussed our disaster preparedness protocol. Elizabeth (UMCOR Head of Mission) did an outstanding job of alerting all UMCOR/UMVIM staff of the storms progress and the steps to be taken during the emergency. Danette and Tom were in constant contact with our teams in country and a couple of them elected to return to the Guest House to ride out the storm. So – all in all – everyone was given an “A”.
Thursday 11/08 – Today’s agenda is the site visit to Olivier with the Engineers and community leaders. Olivier is in the Petit Goave Circuit and a 2 hour drive from Petionville on a good day. Today was almost good and we made it in 2 ½ hours. While Tom huddled with the Circuit Superintendent and leaders of the congregation to assess their needs and expectations, the other engineers and I went over the structure to assess the damage. I had seen the site several times before, so had a pretty good idea of what needed to be done, but I wanted the Haitian engineers to give their opinions. As with so many structures I have seen in Haiti, this one was on the cusp for total destruction and rebuild. The decision has to be made to either tear it down and start over or repair the existing damage. Many factors need to be considered. One is the needs of the community. They all want a bigger church but in most cases the population doesn’t warrant it. We can’t afford to build a structure large enough to hold the once a year Easter crowd and have it half full the rest of the year. The other consideration is the extent of the damage. Can the building be salvaged and the structural integrity maintained or hopefully improved for less than it would cost to start over. In this case the engineers agreed that the building could be saved. The roof would have to be torn off, columns reinforced, some wall sections replaced and a new, reinforced slap poured, but it was cost effective. Engineer Derly was assigned the task of drawing up the plans and estimate.
Friday 11/09 – The meeting du jour is the Site Review Committee. This is the committee that does a monthly review of all of the UMVIM project sites and as sites are completed picks new ones from the EMH priority list. I have been trying for over 6 months to restructure the committee to combine the Site Review Committee, EMH Pilot Project Committee, the Haiti Home Assistance Program Committee, the Guest House Renovation Project Committee, the New College Bird School Committee and the EMH Property Committee into one EMH Construction and Property Committee. The Committees are comprised mostly of the same people and we end up talking about the same things over and over again. I have handed out org charts, job descriptions, standardized procedure suggestions, etc. However, like everything else in Haiti, new ideas take time to take root. Haiti, for me, has been a Doctorate Degree in diplomacy. I have discovered that nothing happens until it becomes their idea. Today we officially became the “EMH Construction and Property Committee”.
Saturday 11/10 – I met with Engineer Abicher this morning to go over the laundry room addition we’re putting on the Guest House. I’m going to introduce a washing machine and dryer to the Haitian staff who have always done the hundreds of weekly sheets and towels from the Guest House by hand. I have discovered that some of the engineers have trouble understanding plans drawn by someone other than themselves. I don’t know why. I’ve converted to the metric system. It may be a matter of too much detail or some design concept they don’t understand. All that I know is, you better be darn sure they really understand before they start building.
This afternoon I met with Engineer Rouse about the Guest House Staff Annex. We have come to a standstill because of funding. I still have a final draw coming from the UMCOR grant, but there are a couple of milestones that have to be met before I can apply for it. We need to figure out how we’re going to do that. I also need to put out another appeal for donations for the UMVIM portion of the project.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Days 330 – 337

10/15 – 10/23

Monday 10/15 – Today my team from St. Mark’s UMC in Sacramento arrived. Two members are returning team members from my October 2011 team – Ze Fernandez and Joel Buyala as team leader. They are going to go to Thomas tomorrow to work on the water system. They will be the first team to stay in the new guest quarters over the kitchen and dining room. This is the building that was built by teams mostly from the California/Nevada Conference and was the project site that I worked on on my first trip to Haiti. Today and tonight, however, they will stay at the Guest House in Petionville and rest up from their trip from California. It gives me the opportunity to visit with friends from home.

Tuesday 10/16 – After we got Joel’s team off to Thomas, Tom and I had to go to a meeting of the EMH Housing Project Team.  The project still has problems getting houses finished. Of the 40 houses only 15 are completed and 15 are ½ finished. One contractor was to build 10 houses in Mellier and 20 houses in CarreFour. He has been unable to complete his first 10 houses in Mellier and we gave 10 CarreFour houses to 2 other contractors. It’s beginning to look like we will have to give the remaining 10 CarreFour houses to other contractors also. It’s a difficult process because we have to get new bids, new contracts have to be prepared and new grants written.

The second meeting of the day was also about Mellier. Work has been stopped on the new church being built there because of huge cost overruns. This was one of the first projects started under the Haiti Response Plan and unfortunately there were no systems in place for accountability and site management of things like material purchases and change orders. It is the example that I use when advocating changes in the way we manage projects. It was agreed at this meeting that it will no longer be an HRP project and no further volunteer teams will be sent. UMCOR has agreed to provide funding for the minimal completion of the church. However, all finish work will become the responsibility of the EMH and the local community.

Joel called me this evening with a list of material that he was going to need to finish the water project in Thomas. I told him that I would pick them up tomorrow and bring them out to Thomas.

Wednesday 10/17 – Spana and I left early to get to MSC, the big building supply store by the US Embassy to buy the material for Thomas. When we got there it was closed – which was very strange. So – we drove to Echo Supply, another Home Depot wanna’ be, and it was closed. We discovered that it was Dessalines Day, a National Holiday, and everything was closed.

Dessalines was a leader of the Haiti Revolution and became the 1st Counselor-General. He later appointed himself Emperor Jacques 1st. It’s interesting that the day the Haitians celebrate is the anniversary of the day he was assassinated.

The end result was I was unable to get any supplies to Joel.

That night Edwin Cardina, the head engineer from the Styrofoam factory in Santo Domingo, D.R. finally arrived by bus. He had come to spend a day with the Site Engineer and Site Bosss building the 2nd story of the Guest House Staff Annex with the Styrofoam panels and answer any questions that they had.  He called me from the bus station to be picked up. Since the new bus station is only a block away, I walked over to meet him. However, when I got there he was nowhere to be found. I called him on my cell and he said he was standing in front of the station. I looked around again and couldn’t see him so I asked him to describe the area around him. It didn’t match at all where I was. I came back to the Guest House and started asking everyone if they had any idea where he could be. We finally figured out that he was at the old station further up the hill in Petionville. Apparently they hadn’t started to use the new station yet.  

Thursday 10/18 – I spent most of the day with Edwin and Engineer Rouse and Boss Mario going over the construction of the 2nd story of the Guest House Annex. Edwin’s opinion was that we had done everything pretty well. He had a few suggestions for strengthening a couple of areas before we applied the creppasage (plaster). He also made a list of parts that we needed to complete the shell. He promised to get them right out when he got back. He was scheduled to spend the night and go back to the Dominican in the morning, but got a phone call from the factory to fly back this evening to meet with some people coming there tomorrow. So – we had to cut our visit short and get him on the last flight out to the Dominican.

Friday 10/19 – Spana and I left early to go to Thomas. I wanted to see how the St. Mark’s team was doing and spend the day with my friends from home. They were hard at work when we got there. They had finally gotten the supplies they needed in Cabaret and were preparing the area where the 2 – 300 gal. water tanks would be placed. While they were waiting for the supplies they had completely cleaned the area on the south side of the school so that it was ready for the team coming next month to put in a new garden area. Even though their work time had been compressed waiting for materials, I think they will have time to install the gutters and downspouts on the church and complete the water system.

Saturday 10/20 – I left the Guest House early with Roger Laplanche to monitor the 2nd concrete pour at the New College Bird school. I was surprised that after all we went through last Saturday that the first truckload of concrete failed the slump test and had to be sent back. They got right on the next truck and the remaining 8 trucks all came in correctly. It’s a long day waiting for the trucks to arrive, but I think it was essential that we were there to demonstrate that we expected the quality of concrete to be maintained.

Sunday 10/21 – The office is scheduled to be painted tomorrow, so we spent the day moving, packing, cleaning and getting everything off of the walls. We discovered things that had been missing for a year.

Monday 10/22 – We’ve pretty much have had to abandon our office today to the painters. With all of our equipment disconnected, we also have no internet service. So – we decided to get out of the way and head up to the Hotel Ebolele and have lunch and use their wifi service.

Tuesday 10/23 – We got our freshly painted office back today. We’re doing a little rearranging and getting reorganized. There are 4 of us (sometimes 5 when Tom’s wife Wendy is here or Lauren comes over from the UMCOR office to work) in a small office space so we have to be creative – and good friends.
Late this afternoon I got an email from my brother that my 98 year old mother had had a fall and a series of seizures in the hospital and the prognosis was not good. So – I scrambled and got a ticket for the 9:15 AM flight tomorrow morning.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Days 323 – 329

10/07 -10/14


With apologies once again to the friends that read this blog for being absent for so long, I shall attempt to bring everyone up to date with a Readers Digest version of the last few months using my appointment calendar and meeting minutes to jog my memory. I’ll leave out the daily in and outs of the teams only to say that we had 15 teams in October and 19 teams in November. I’m amazed that so many people have contacted me about my procrastination. I thought my mother and girlfriend were the only ones reading it. My only excuse is – I’ve really been busy!

 Sunday 10/07 – The first Sunday of each month Tom preaches and officiates at Communion at Thomasin. Tom, Danette and I took Jessica, Eric’s daughter, and two of her friends with us. I enjoy Tom’s sermons, which he gives in English and a translator gives in French. He also includes a lot of music which I like. And – over the past year I have come to know a lot of people in the congregation and enjoy visiting with them. So – all in all, it was a pleasant Sunday morning. After church we dropped the girls off at the Guest House, changed our clothes and drove up to the Hotel Ibolele for lunch and a few hours around the pool - all in all – a pleasant Sunday afternoon.

Monday 10/08 – Engineer Roger Laplanche and I had our first meeting with the contractor’s engineer at the New College Bird school site. This the first phase of a 3 phase project funded by UMCOR and COR (Church of the Resurrection) from Kansas City. It will be the largest EMH project in Haiti to date. Roger and I wanted to meet the engineer since we will be interacting with him throughout the project. We also wanted to check out the footprint of the foundation forms and the quality of the rebar placement. The meeting went well and the work to date looked very good. We will be back on Friday for the first concrete pour.

Tuesday 10/09 – Today’s main activity is the Joint Leadership Team meeting. As a reminder, this team is made up of Pastor Paul and Pastor Marco from EMH, Jim Gulley, Elizabeth Petheo and Lauren James from UMCOR and Tom and I from HRP. This is a monthly recap of activities and ongoing future planning. At today’s meeting we had the Director for Habitat in Humanity in Haiti share their experience in establishing new community settlements. It was very informative and pointed out the importance of having the whole community involved in the process from the beginning. Other topics discussed were New College Bird and the Methodist Village.

Wednesday - Thursday 10/10 &11 – Yesterday’s 2 hour meeting went a little over 4 hours (which is normal) so I’ve had to catch up on my usual daily routine of checking with my site engineers and the status of my projects. On Thursday I had a Skype call with the Construction Team from COR about the progress at New College Bird.

Friday 10/12 – Another day of meetings. The first one was the Site Review Committee – Pastor Paul, Pastor Marco, Sylvio Rocourt and Roger Laplanche from EMH, Jim Gulley and Lauren James from UMCOR and  Tom and I. We report on all of the sites under construction and prioritize the remaining sites still on the earthquake damaged list. Then Roger and I had to run to New College Bird for the concrete pour (which ended up being postponed until Saturday).

Saturday 10/13 – Roger and I got an early start to be at New College Bird for the scheduled 8:00 AM pour. Naturally, the first truck didn’t arrive until 9:30. This was my first experience with ready mix trucks in Haiti as most of our sites are either too remote or too small to warrant a truckload (about 10 cubic yds. or 7 cu. meters) at one pour. When the truck arrived the driver had the required paperwork showing the design mix (amount of sand, aggregate, cement)) so we could verify that it was of the required strength (3000 psi). The next step was the slump test which tests the amount of water in the mixture. This test is performed by pouring a sample amount of concrete into a 12” inverted metal cone, then the cone is removed and the cone of concrete should not collapse more than 2 or 3”. This first load failed miserably - it totally collapsed. We all agreed that it was no good and the truck should take it back to the batch plant. Roger and I walked over take a look at the building plans and when we turned around we saw that they were pouring the concrete into the forms. We ran over to the Site Engineer and asked him why he was pouring the load after it failed the slump test. He said, “We can’t waste it”. I said, “If you expect to get paid you will absolutely waste it. Why do you think we test it?” Well, by that time the truck was ¾ empty. The second truck came and failed the slump test. We sent it back. The 3rd truck came and failed the slump test. We sent it back. By the time we got the 4th truck they finally realized that we meant what we said. I told them, “We can always add water on-site, but we can’t take it out.” We finally poured 8 truck-loads of cement.
Finally Roger and I met with the lay committee of the Port-au-Prince Circuit to discuss the Methodist Village project. This was the first meeting to discuss the development of this housing project. I told the committee that since we were working with a clear piece of land (in La Tremblay) we had a blank canvas and could make it into anything they wanted. I asked them what they felt was the greatest housing need and after much discussion they agreed that the greatest need was for housing for the elderly. Roger and I were tasked with coming up with concept designs and drawings.
Sunday 10/14 – Today was mostly a day of rest, although I did spend some time working on some design concepts for the Methodist Village. I’m excited about the possibility of building this project because I feel it really addresses a great need.