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Welcome to Michael's blog. Michael Andrew, (aka Michael The Maven) is a freelance producer, photography instructor, tech innovator, and when needed, disaster aid specialist. Disclaimer: Michael is a participant in Bhphoto & Amazon affiliate programs that provides an advertising commission if you purchase through links on this website.


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01.28.10         michael's insights  

1-28-10


I'm not sure how much longer I'll be able to stay here. Today, at
least right now, even with yesterday's success. I absolutely do not
want to be here.

I am know there are many people working very hard- however the
bottlenecks, red tape, egos, and blown-way-out-of-proportion danger of
riots are stalling aid from moving. We hit the streets everyday, see
malnourished, sick, diaper less children who need help, assess their
needs, gps locate their position and tell them help is coming. Then we
leave and day after day nothing happens, and here they are waiting,
and waiting and waiting, and thousands of tons of food are just
sitting there.

It seems there is absolutely no sense of urgency, organization or
willingness to co-operate within aid groups.

I cannot tell you guys how many times I get a "good contact" who says
they want to or can help, when they change their minds, or don't return
calls, or don't really have any authority to do anything, or want to
sit around and talk some more about it, or "plan". The time for
planning is over.

When Matthew and I started we agreed to check out ~20 orphanages of
the 100 on our no contact list. We have located about 13 who have
immediate needs.

We have proven that a rag tag group of volunteers, with no established
structure can find orphanages that are falling through the cracks
(btw- I estimate there are closer to 300-400 orphanages here that
aren't even listed, we have found some of these).

In this particular situation, I do not believe there is a ground team
that can find and identify them faster than we can.

A large wheel, by the nature of it's size alone, can not accelerate as
fast as a small one.

We have an advantage in going out and finding these places the bigger
organizations don't. We don't attract any attention because we use
local transportation. We don't need or use security because those
very same "dangerous" natives help us locate these places and we do it
by talking to people on the street.

Another huge problem I'm seeing is the creation of extra steps, making
it harder to do things than they should be. Let's say a church has a
huge stash of food they don't know how to distribute. I contact them,
asking them to sponsor our program, they say yes call back tomorrow
and we can start.

Well I wait till tomorrow, call them back, and now they want to ship
it to another distributor and want me to co-ordinate with them, which
means I have to establish contact, negotiate a relationship, schedule
a time etc, when I could have done this all the same day with the
church in the first place. There is a huge fear to take action.

Another problem I'm seeing is what I call "misinformation" being
flooded with contact numbers, email addresses, etc, I spend a few
hours a day trying to reach them, and nothing comes of it. It's been a
tremendous waste of time dealing with this.

Matthew and I have also determined that the need for security is
overblown. We watched 2 - 50 gallon tanks of drums being transported
yesterday, it had a full UN transport team protecting it. They do much
more danger to that shipment by drawing so much attention to it.

Of course there are some bad apples, but you can expect that in every
city. Haitians also have rules. The punishment for a Haitian stealing
from another Haitian is death. Haitian police have been given orders
to shoot and kill looters and thieves, and most of the bodies I've
seen were dead thieves. Does it not make more sense to use Haitians to
distribute food to other Haitians? Surely I cannot be the only one who
knows they have whole community organizations set up which can handle
this.

Oddly, another problem I'm seeing is a tremendous amount of criticism
and negativity directed towards me. I've gotten emails from complete
strangers telling me what a bad thing I am doing or how to assess, how
to report, whom to report to, how I should gps tag them

One of the only orphanages we have found seems to think I have
something to do with their security problems. We received 2 emails
from their leadership asking for help or an assessment/contact- so we
spend a few hours driving out, find them and it turns out not only do
they have all the aid they want, people have already tried to break
into their stores. I tag them make a note, and a few hours later the
same woman who asked us to cone check on them accuses me of causing
the security breach. (wth?!?- I guess she thinks that looters, who
have extremely expensive computers, extremely expensive Internet
connections, electricity are watching my blog every hour to get info
to raid her orphanage for something to eat- it's absolutely ridiculous-
I got another email from her this morning asking me to remove me from
her lists and to stop all contact about her organization... Remember
this is from a person who asked for help to come. It's a joke...I
guess I am learning some people don't want help.

Equally delicate is the situation with Matthew, if he decides to
quit...it's over. We are extremely alike and I love him like a
brother, but sometimes he gets offended by how we are treated or
ignored and I'm not sure how he is feeling right now. There are some
other issues too, but most if them are manageable.

I've also just been told that the camp we are staying at is closing
down tomorrow, so I'll have to try to find another place to crash.

So that's where we are at- your prayers and thoughts are appreciated.

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