Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tuesday, March 16

As Haiti Village Health's new logistics rep, I spent the first couple of days acclimatizing to my new surroundings, never having done disaster relief work before. I quickly saw the mammoth undertaking that Tiffany and her team have taken upon themselves and I admire them for it. There are a lot of NGOs here in Jacmel and a lot of people who need them. Now it's a question of getting exactly what is needed to the people who need it most. Like I said, a mammoth undertaking.

After a couple of days, I felt like I was getting the hang of what it is I was supposed to be doing. A lot of my work as logistics rep is done on the computer and I was finding myself eager to also get out there and see the people and do what I could for them. So I was eagerly anticipating participating in the flashlight distribution to Camp Pinchinat. Pinchinat is the biggest Displaced Persons Camp in Jacmel, housing over 1000 families. They all live in tents crowded together in a soccer stadium and with no electricity, there were daily fire alarms as people used candles to see at night. So it was imperative we get them these flashlights (donated by the Canadian military) as soon as possible. Jo and I were in charge of doing the distribution, but I quickly learned that it would not be the simple matter of marching into the camp with the flashlights and handing them out. As with any space crowded with people who lack everything, there are some small security issues with Pinchinat. So to make sure we would be able to distribute the flashlights fairly and without causing any problems, we invited 2 of the camp's managers to sit down with us as well as a rep from the Canadian military to discuss the best way to do this. Within half an hour we had a plan and were just waiting on a list of the camp's most needy (women with kids, pregnant women, old people) to distribute to priority tents.

We arrived at the camp at 9am on Friday: Jo, myself, and two of our staff from the airport to help carry the boxes, Gaby and Placide. This was the first time I had gone in depth into the camp and seen just how people were suffering from the quake. The tents were indeed close together, and had nothing inside them except a couple of mattresses. While we were there, camp residents were busy with their daily routine (washing clothes making food, kids running around and playing) in the most unnatural of circumstances. Despite their desperate need for lighting, the residents were respectful of us. Though one or two hanger-ons kept asking us to give them "a flash", and others followed us around as we endlessly made our way up and down the rows, they let us do our job and tried to help us where they could. It was hard work, harder than I expected. With the heat and the extent of the camp, it took a long time to do the distribution. It was also hard because it was the first time I came face to face with how people are suffering and my heart broke for them. It was nice that we could play a small part in making their lives just a little easier and I only wish we had another 1000 of anything to give them.

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