I'm sitting here on a corner bench table in Nassau, having left Haiti yesterday at noon. I think I left off yesterday morning, getting to the airport early to get a sick missionary friend out of the country.
The next few hours were just a blur. I knew my plane was coming at 1:00 and I had to have my exit strategy in place. Managing 10 staff is not an easy thing, but it definately works better when everyone has a job description and knows how to answer up the chain. We'd met on Friday to discuss the strategy and yesterday I had to put the final plan into action.
Our Project Jacmel Airport staff is as follows:
Director and Founder - Me, Dr. Tiffany Keenan volunteer
Airport Logistics Coordinator - Cesar Espinoza (Calvary Chapel) volunteer
Health Coordinator - Karen Cimer volunteer, and just hired yesterday my doctor from the north, Mona Alexis
Health Volunteer Coordinator - Marilyn Wilson volunteer (based in US)
Airport Registration - Ruth, Fredo and Gaby, Deanna Canadian Military Clerk
Flight and Supply Coordinator - Gina volunteer (Joy in Hope Ministries)
Airport baggage handlers - 4 haitian bulky men
HVH Guest House/Airport go to guy - Evans (whose house burned down yesterday and his uncle was severely burned, I still did hear how he was doing)
HVH Guest House Cook - Genesis (it was her granddaughter that survived after 15 days in the rubble post earthquake)
HVH Guest House Cleaner - Irinese
Tap tap driver - Jacques (this is the one we're renting for $60/day and starts with a screwdriver in the ignition)
I didn't mention my friend Jo Barbosa in all of this. He presently works for Hearts Together for Haiti in the Dominican Republic but he did come over for 2 weeks to assist at the airport, but will be returning to his project in the Dominican.
That actually makes 19 in total. Wow, I didn't know the operation had grown so large.
So I worked on the job descriptions, had everyone sign off on them and tried to wrap things up by 1:00. It was a tight deadline. I wanted to explore depots for medical supplies in town so I arranged for Maggie from Community Coalition for Haiti to meet with Maxo Noel, pharmacist to explore 3 buildings in town. They also met with the supply coordinator from the Canadian military to discuss inventory computerized options.
It was a quick departure once my plane arrived. I said my quick goodbyes to all including Major Kevin Skirrow of the Canadian Forces and Bassin, Airport Director and of course all my Haitian staff. I registered my passport as we all do before departure and headed out to my plane. It was so busy in those last few moments that Jo actually walked to the bathroom with me and we talked outside the stall about a few pressing issues.
Dr. Mona Alexis had arrived and I briefly said to her as I greeted her that we wanted to offer her a new job as Health Coordinator in Jacmel (we had already discussed her taking a break from my clinic in the north and she arranged a locum replacement. I had arranged for her husband Wilson to get a job with Save the Children earlier in the week). So with a kiss on the cheek, i told her to discuss the new job with Karen.
Karen Cimer, a Newfoundlander is a real trooper. We've been working together for over 4 years now at my clinic in the North and I convinced her to come down to replace me when I knew I had to return to work in Bermuda. With only 5 days on the ground, I was handing the reigns over to her and now she's got to train Mona. It looks like we'll be getting satellite internet at the guest house and a generator, so I'll be able to maintain contact with her through skype and blackberry communications.
So, a dramatic ending...but then a delay. Two US Navy helicopters arrived with some top brass so our small plane's departure was delayed until they shut down their engines. I had time to run back inside, grab my memory stick, phone charger and drop off the house keys.
The two pilots picked me up in a columbia aircraft....great plane. Joan, a medical resident who had been working in Les Cayes was also on board. It was just a small 4 seater but a luxury aircraft. I never knew that small planes could fly so high. At one point we were above 16,000 feet and were wearing oxygen. I knew we were climbing high and when I checked my initial oxygen saturation it was only 84%. I guess that's why I was yawning.
We had to drop down because we had ice forming on the wings and then were able to remove the oxygen. We landed first in Provinciales in Turks and Caicos to refuel. It was a brief stop and then off to Nassau. I actually feel asleep for about 30 minutes on the plane. For once, I didn't get out my notebook to plan. I was able to get a good aerial view of the damage in the Leogane region as we flew over. Leogane, Grand Goave, Petit Goave was the epicenter of the quake. Buildings everywhere were crumbled and tent cities could be seen all over.
Dr. Tiffany Keenan
Haiti Village Health, Founder & Director
NGO Coordinator, Jacmel Airport