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I have some limited internet Access- so I will have to make this quick. Its been a really weird couple days but this is the scoop. Most of the aid that has been coming to Haiti through the main port has had major bottleneck issues. The government has been charging in import tax on all aid, and there are additional fees and taxes charged by the port. Some of these fees are legit, some are not. Some of the brokers as well as the handlers on the ground want kickbacks before releasing supplies I have heard many stories, many of which are outrageous, where NGO's are paying huge bribes in order to get their supplies out.
Craig was initially told that there were 3 containers with various supplies. Having arrived, there are in fact 9 containers, one has already cleared the port which contained several thousands of tarps which some of the refugee camps desperately need. As I type this, it is pouring rain. I can only magine what it is like for people living in the refugee camps.
Another 3 containers contain very large tent shelters, enough to house several thousand people. 1 container has solar powered light / recharging systems, and lastly, and most importantly, the final 3 containers contain approximately 3 Million Meals. Yes..million.
The Salvation Army has been trying for the last 7-8 months to get this food passed through the port without success. Part of the problem was certain port authorities wanted roughly $30,000 to release them, which is money the Salvation Army doesn't have and probably wouldn't pay if they did. It is a confusing system, and even still I am not sure how it works, just some of the fees are legit, others are bureaucratic.
Saturday night, we arrive and one of our team members, Andre (who is a spectacularly interesting dude) says he has a connection at a restaurant who may be able to help. I personally was doubtful. What could we do that SA hadn't in 7 months? However, Craig and I were willing to give it a try. We go to this restaurant which looks amazingly nice and expensive, and I didn't want to eat there. Craig says "This is the first time in Haiti I have felt underdressed" and I answered, "I know, I just saw 2 normally clothed people walk in". When I say normal, I mean something you would see people wearing when they go to Chili's or Applebees or something.
Andre insists we stay for dinner, which is now on him. After we order, different people come to our table with different phone numbers and contacts. Apparently this place is a high end social club where the elite class meet to conduct business. In one of the strangest dinners of my life, we sat there eating this amazingly awesome food (a lot of which I have never seen before in my life, it was none the less outstanding), Andre is working the phones and with me and Craig taking notes and calling other Salvation Army contacts. Long story short, we eventually (and accidentally) track down the owner of the company who controls the company that has our food, and he immediately agrees to help us. It was pretty much a miracle. I think Mathieu might be good luck.
Yesterday, (Sunday) and today we spent running little errands Craig had on his list and clearing out the remaining goods SA had in storage. We delivered a couple thousand meals to one of the more needy orphanages we saw last time, and their director was quite surprised to see us.
Today, Mathieu and I returned to the Warehouse to pack up and handle some other tasks Craig needed to get done, so he could be free to work on the containers with Andre and his new contact. I am being told that we will have the nearly 3 Million Meals in our possession tomorrow, which we will need to safely deliver and distribute. Ill leave out the reason why this is dangerous until we get this all worked out.
In the event something happens and we do not have the goods by Wednesday morning, I will probably cut out early to attend Mark's services on Thursday, if there is any red tape, it could lead to several more days and I don't want to spend time here if we aren't doing anything. If we get the food and supplies, I will stick it out until we are finished and head back to Bama afterwards.
Man, it is raining like crazy….