Friday, February 24, 2012


So there will be little help for small Dominican businesses or for the Haitians who are here.. since there appear to be so many Americans who are intent on making money themselves.

Of course, if the Haitians here were sent home with tools.. and perhaps even a small group -- actually-- I had only hoped for 30 or so at first... then they could STAY in Haiti and work rather than just come over the border again.

I hopefully have a meeting with some folks of International Office of Migration next week to see about the possibilities. They have already relocated a few thousand Haitians back to Haiti.

Not all the aid that was pledged to Haiti comes from the United States and some other nation may be interested in helping the Dominican Republic as well as Haiti.

The DR is not a wealthy nation and cannot continue to absorb and care for the number of undocumented Haitians that are now living in the country,

Nor should they be expected to continue to care for mothers and children.

But without some serious international assistance project to relocate the Haitian here back to the Haiti, they will remain here in the Dominican Republic. And they will continue to arrive.

A pilot project that started to take back workers, with their tools.. that is, with the possibility that they will be able to make their living over there, might start a return migration.

Up against the Empire

As I have suspected, those who are supposedly intent on helping Haiti, are perhaps helping themselves first.

I am always so sad to have to stand AGAINST the United States of America. And I often discount pieces which have an obvious bias

But unfortunately, what these writers are observing appears to be the reality in Haiti

Disaster Capitalism: Profiting From Crisis in Post-Earthquake Haiti
Thursday 16 February 2011
by: Deepa Panchang, Beverly Bell and Tory Field, Other Worlds Are Possible | News Analysis

People at Camp Chaves in the Carrefour neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, April 9, 2011. A vast majority of Haitians driven into tent cities and makeshift camps by the January 2010 earthquake, appear to have been forced out through mass evictions by landowners, or to have left the camps on their own to escape the high crime, foul weather and fraying conditions they encountered there. (Photo: Allison Shelley / The New York Times)

As Americans were gearing up for last week?s Super Bowl championship, Haiti?s president Michel Martelly was on a plane to the World Economic Forum to recruit players interested in what one businessman dubbed ?the Super Bowl of Disasters? ? Haiti?s devastating 2010 earthquake. The Irish-owned cell phone company Digicel footed his trip there, and hosted a regional business tour complete with a gala ball before his return to a country still reeling from crisis conditions in housing, jobs, and basic rights.

Haiti?s status as prime-time jostling space for prospective investors is not new. Many a corporation, lobbyist, and consultant has seen Haiti?s losses as their gain, leveraging humanitarianism for profit. Plenty of the $1.1 billion in disaster aid has gone not to desperate Haitians but to inside-the-Beltway contractors. Often the very same corporations have wrested financial and political gain from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the countries hit by the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean, the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans after the ensuing flood of 2005, and lots of other places.

The same deals have been cut over Haiti in the past, too, particularly during periods of political instability.

The earthquake has provided a fresh wave of opportunity. In the first year after the earthquake, the US government awarded more than 1,500 contracts worth $267 million. All went to US firms except 20, worth $4.3 million, which went to Haitian businesses.[3] Among the American corporations that received contracts, we?ve seen everything: many millions going to companies that had had previous contracts cancelled for bad practices, that had paid out as much as eight-figure settlements for violence happening under their watch, that had been investigated by Congress for gaming the system, or that had been the subject of federal reports accusing wastage of funds.[4] We?ve seen corporate executives and members of Congress going through a revolving door and leveraging both sides for contracts. We?ve seen public funds given without any competition or transparency, quite a few to friends of the Clintons and other well-placed insiders.

Local labor and production, which are critical elements in economic recovery, have been trumped for American business profits. According to federal procurement data, among contracts which provide products (as opposed to services), 77% were for products manufactured in the US. They don?t list which, if any, of the remaining 23% involve any Haitian materials or labor.[5]

Two months after the earthquake, companies gathered in a luxury hotel in Miami for a ?Haiti Summit? to discuss post-earthquake contracting possibilities. The meeting was sponsored by the International Peace Operations Association (IPOA), but these were no peaceniks. Their members are predominantly private mercenary companies that enforce 'security' in war and disaster zones for the US government because, unlike elected entities, they can completely avoid public scrutiny and accountability. They included such companies as Triple Canopy, which took over Blackwater?s contract in Iraq.[6] One of the corporate representatives at the Summit described the outlook: "Their infrastructure is pretty much destroyed, communications are destroyed, there?s a lot of opportunities there for companies, particularly US countries [sic] because of the close proximity.?[7] The Summit was apparently worthwhile, as US government paid out more than $10 million to the industry for ?guard services,? and almost $20,000 for riot shields and suits.[8]

Below are a few examples of post-earthquake contracts and grants, selected to show just some of the problems at play. They offer a small glimpse into a much larger, secretive world of disaster deals. We?re grateful to our investigative journalist colleagues who, alongside us, have kept heavy on the scent of these corporations and brought buried information to light.


?American corporations and their stakeholders must understand how helping Haiti over the long term also helps them," said the non-profit CHF International in its March 2010 board report. "By contributing to Haiti's reconstruction in a lasting, meaningful way, companies will be helping to build a new, more vibrant Caribbean market for their own goods and services.?[9]

CHF?s involvement demonstrates how even non-profits can drive development that props up American business interests on the backs of poor Haitians. What CHF refers to as ?helping Haiti? has meant using US tax dollars to underwrite textile sweatshops, making it easier and more profitable to score the cheapest source of labor in the hemisphere. In 2006, USAID gave CHF a $104 million, 4-year contract to help ?existing industries to increase their capacity, efficiency and reach new markets,? primarily through the export textile industry. The money subsidized CHF?s creation of infrastructure such as roads around industrial areas and training of factory workers on skills such as ?how to work in a formal work environment.?[10] Bolstered by additional USAID funding, this project continued after the earthquake.

CHF?s post-earthquake USAID contract, for $20.9 million, went to clean-up projects, including cash-for-work.[11] Cash-for-work meant camp residents engaging in hired-hand projects such as digging drainage ditches and clearing debris, for a period of a few weeks. The scheme has come under fire by camp residents and human rights groups, with even a USAID evaluation raising some serious critiques.[12] The jobs are unpredictable, workers have said, and while the short duration can palliate personal crisis for the moment, the program quickly returns the worker?s family to its desperate state. Those hired are paid officially at the unlivable minimum daily wage of 200 gourdes, or US$5, though unofficially they often earn less. A Haiti Grassroots Watch expos? found, furthermore, that cash-for-work hiring is often based on corruption, with many workers having to pay a ?kickback,? negotiate sex (in the case of women) for a job, or affiliate with political parties or candidates.[13] USAID also noted that cash-for-work programs it funded increased risks of ?serious and avoidable? accidents on the job ?by failing to develop and enforce consistent workplace safety rules and accident procedures.?[14]

CHF?s projects, based on factory jobs and cash-for-work, have given neither livable incomes to employees nor offered development opportunities to the nation. Meanwhile, CHF has gained humanitarian clout and an influx of funding, and its garment industry partners sit happily with the perks.


Using tried-and-true strategies of political manipulation, some corporations have been able to edge their way into post-earthquake contracts despite histories of fraud and corruption.

AshBritt Environmental, for instance, has a record of disaster response elsewhere that spells trouble for Haiti. The company had received $900 million in contracts for Hurricane Katrina clean-up, after hiring lobbyists formerly involved in state government.[15] An MSNBC investigation later brought to light complaints by local contractors, a mayor, and local legislators that the company?s work was too slow, that it overcharged, and that it was not hiring local contractors.[16] The extent of ?layer cake? contracting was so extreme that in one case, AshBritt was paid $23 per cubic yard of debris removed but subcontracted through three middleman companies so that the company that actually removed the rubble received $3 per cubic yard.[17]) Even a 2006 federal report accused the company of wasting money in this subcontractor layering after Katrina.[18]

Given its experience, AshBritt wasted no time unleashing its skills in lobbying and political pressure to get in on the Haiti game. Early in 2010, the company paid $90,000 to a lobbying firm to pressure the government for Haiti contracts, according to disclosure records described in the press.[19] In a prime instance of revolving door between public and private sectors, one of the lobbyists working on the case was the former chief of staff for Senator John Kerry.[20] Kerry, in turn, was the senator who co-sponsored the legislation for Haiti relief funding.

With influential people circulating between the givers and receivers of funds, AshBritt was confident enough about future contracts that it spent an initial $25 million setting up for anticipated operations in Haiti with a soccer field-sized base camp and services to house future project managers.[21] In July 2010, AshBritt won a $500,000 US government contract for debris removal, the first of what the company anticipated would be many contracts to come their way.[22] Continuing the revolving door trend, another lobbyist for the firm was the former USAID Mission Director in Iraq, Lewis Lucke, who was paid $30,000 per month to help win contracts via a partnership venture AshBritt set up.[23] Lucke claimed he ?played an integral role? in obtaining three contracts for the company, including $10 million from the World Bank and about $10 million more from the Haitian government (one of the first major government contracts for debris removal).[24] As of this writing, not even the company?s website contains an update on what work it has or has not completed in Haiti.


Like AshBritt, CH2M Hill, a large engineering and construction firm, should have raised warning signals as a company to be hired on the taxpayer dollar. A government database that monitors federal contracts reveals a track record of corruption, listing nine instances of misconduct for the company since 1995.[25] In one case, the company was paid $4.1 million for a contract in Iraq though no work was actually completed. [26] On the Gulf Coast, a US government investigation of $45 million paid to CH2M and the three other companies in no-bid contracts for Katrina response was declared wasteful spending. [27] CH2M was also accused in a congressional investigation in 1992 of misusing money during its cleanup of toxic waste sites in the U.S. More than two million dollars of this contract were allegedly used for ?unallowable and questionable costs,? such as $11,379 for a Christmas party and $2750 for specialty chocolates.[28] The company is listed in the top 50 of U.S.-based contractors and has been a major player in wartime contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan.[29]

The track record was nothing that some strategic lobbying efforts couldn?t mitigate, however. The lobbyist who headed up CH2M Hill?s efforts to win contracts in Haiti was Larry LaRocco, a former congressman from Idaho who now runs his own lobbying firm.[30] And unsurprisingly, the company spent half a million dollars in political contributions in 2010. [31] Thus equipped with politicians in its pocket, CH2M was well-positioned to compete in the latest contract game. It received its first post-earthquake contract just days after the disaster, and was given a joint contract with KBR Global Service (itself notorious due to its Iraq and Afghanistan activities) for facilities operations support at the end of 2010.[32]


In the case of a few other contracts that we know to be operating in Haiti, we?ve spent hour after hour on the scent. We?ve scoured internet resources, news articles, and company websites to track companies we know received post-earthquake contracts in Haiti. Nothing. Not even a mention, sometimes, in the 100-plus-page 2010 annual reports.

What we have been unable to uncover is at least as alarming as what we have learned about some of the firms receiving millions from the US government, and what they have done with those millions. We wonder whether the US government has had any more knowledge or oversight of the corporate actions than have the corporation's investors. As for the American people, they have no way to know how their money has been spent or what has been done in their names. The lack of transparency has also given a green light to profiteers to neglect standards, quality, and honesty.

There is one group for whom the secrecy, foul play, taking of power that should never be taken, giving away of what should never be given away, matters most of all: Haitians, the ones whose country is being treated like a Monopoly game. They alone will have to live with the long-term outcome of what foreign companies build, demolish, restructure, or steal in their country.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

leaping lizards

follow along now as we leap

there are no maps of this island... except old pictures or parts of BIG maps

no road maps.. no school child sees a picture of an entire island here

but we are an island. we are a complete ecosystem

our rivers connect

our peoples have intermingled here for 500 years

so we need a map of the entire island

so that she can be preserved

and we will have that printed on a beach towel... to sell to some our 4 million tourists

then we will have our wonderful Haitian baskets, called macoutes

brought over here
to the developed side of the island where the tourists come

and painted by some of our resident Haitian artists

and sell them, along with the towels, inside the All inclusive resorts

along.. with .. perhaps some of our other wonderful products

such as the Snail spit shampoo.. barba de caracol...

and then slowly.. we will teach people how to live

on the back of the turtle



co incidences

A long time ago.. it became an adage that "there is no such thing as a coincidence"

as in.. if one is on a conscious path, there will be messages and connections/ road signs, messengers.

So I also met two new people.. one a grant writer in the philathropy department of the world wildlife fund.. and another who is working for a German NGO on educating on the environment about the dangers of plastic bags.

We have plastic bags everywhere here

all over the place

we are awash in them

and we also have birthing whales and nesting turtles... nesting sea turtles

The woman from the Wildlife Fund went berserk... TURTLES? you have TURTLES? Because there is a TON of money in grants for Turtles!

Now we have carved turtles here . they are made of our guayacanes wood.. lingam vitae.. and most of our homes -- at least in Samana.. will have a turtle in them

When we have a problem


tell it to the

We would like to make of this island Quiskeya... a sanctuary for Turtles

and birthing humpback whales

to be kept free of pollution of all kinds

to make it a model for a sustainable future

we will call it


The Winding Road

Back from a week up in on the coast in Las Terrenas... met with 20 representatives of the now form association of Haitian Workers in Las Terrenas - who are now composing a letter of intent.

Of the twenty who were assembled, none has a job.

There are now five Haitian congregations in Las Terrenas.. an estimated 5 to 7 thousand Haitians in a town of 30,000. Most do not have papers to be here - no passports, no visas, children with no official birth certificates.

Finally the DR has started a program for work permits for Haitian workers here. Already, the big Dominican companies have registered over 350,000 Haitians. Since the Dominican companies have to register the workers, the buik of the Haitians who are here - who are informal workers - will not be touched.

The President of Haiti has called for the Haitians in the DR to come home

The majority of the Haitians in LT wish to go home.

Just as it seemed that Way was Opening.... a huge boulder fell down in the middle of the opening. The wife of the young man, Dieudonne Braveus, who has been working on the organizing for the last 6 months .. fell very ill and asked to return to Haiti.

I gave them the last few hundred dollars that I could spare. Over the last months I have given him $40 or $50 and large jars of peanut butter but he had supported himself. But two months ago, he took a job laying tiles and was owed $10,000 pesos which the boss did not pay.. so Dieudonne lost his house.

I did speak to the members of the Association -- that it was up to them to help one another.. that they should go with him to see the Dominican who had not paid.

But it is too late now. Dieudonne left another man in charge but I am afraid that I have perhaps made matters worse and not better..... and am wary lest I feed hungry people promises of stones.

I will be getting some of the baskets from Haiti by the end of the start to sell them to use the funds to support the project..But perhaps that is just a small business ,, not enough..

and perhaps there are friends who will help to find Dieudonne a space in northern Haiti.. since it certainly would be great to have someone on the other side who could scout out projects and send for workers from the Quiskeya Corps.

but I am disheartened. And wondering if I should continue...

or if I will be allowed to lay this witness down.

So I am here, on a narrow path on the edge of the cliff, peering around the boulder.

There is a Quaker adage

I am a Quaker.. in case of emergency;, please stay silent

Friday, February 10, 2012

morning pressure valve release

there has been a good morning chat on the local message board

and I am now a member of a select group of Bad Ass Friends on Facebook

as well as being included in the South Eastern Yearly Meeting as an official Quaker Witness in Hispanola

So this is begining to look a bit more like P

since Emma promised me that I would not have to come to the revoltion

if i did not get to dance

my nephew is coming in to visit from puerto rico,,, his first time on the island!!

we are going up to the beach in Las Terrenas.. oh so beautiful

i bought five pounds of chopped beef and made it into a giant meat pie and am now dividing it into single servings and wrapping in foil and freezing so that there will be food for my haitians ...

i will even wash the dog.. the shihtzu ,, the sacred .. my universal translator and bodyguard

now that we have hot water, she almost likes the bath

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Quaker education

Traffic on my blog has increased dramatically over the last few months and I am seeing lots of search engine queries on a post from three years ago on Quaker Schools... and values which might be of interest to some readers... here

I just wanted to add that my diploma was worded thus....

xxcxxx Having earned the respect of her teachers
And having completed the academic course

is hereby awarded this diploma.......

Political Advise for President Martelly

I posted this on the English list serv before the Haitian election in April of 2011 and asked that someone print it out and put it in the hands of Sweet Micky.

They assured me that they did.

Hola, Sweet Micky!
> First, let me say that I love your music. And we need more music here on
> Quiskeya.
> I am an American journalist, seven year resident in the Dominican
> Republic, lover of Haiti where I used to live. Quaker. Peace Maker. I
> speak three languages. I am a political science graduate of the City
> University of New York.
> I have advised US Senate candidates,.( ok, we lost but did really well in
> the primaries! against all odds)
> So know that I offer you this advice (free, I might add) so that.. IF you
> should
> win (and that is entirely up to your people) we can move forward in peace
> and solidarity. The elections are only ten days away and you need to
> clear this one up ASAP as soon as possible.
> Now I have watched your interview with Nuria, who is just about the top
> of our journalists, and I want to applaud you for your Spanish. It was
> really great to hear you speak it. It is about your what, fourth
> language? So good for you.
> But it is clear that you did not really understand the subtleties of
> the questions, are not quite up to date on Dominican Haitian relations,
> and therefore fell into quicksand. See
> this
> natic-said.html
> So, never do it again.
> Should you get the chance to speak to the Dominican press, always have a
> professional translator. Take your time. Understand the question. Ponder
> it. Then respond.
> Your remarks and those of some of your supporters have started a
> brushfire here
> which threatens to undo all the great work of solidarity and friendship
> that has
> been forged between the two countries.
> The Domincan Republic poured its heart out to you in your time of
> trouble. They were the first on the ground. There was not one store or
> church or neighborhood which did not collect goods for you in your time
> of trouble.
> 1. Whenever you speak about the Dominican Republic you must first THANK
> them for
> their incredible support to you in your time of need
> 2, Always use a translator when you are speaking with the Dominican
> officials or press.
> 3. Understand that over 10,000 Haitian women a year cross into the
> Dominican Republic to give birth (.and this figure is before the Quake)
> They make use of the free, public Dominican health services. This is
> primarily due to the fact that you have little to no public health
> services on the border. You have zip zero zilch, ie a building with a
> first aid kit, in Wanamet, you have a good hospital in Belledare, you
> have nothing at the Jimani border, you have a clinic now under the
> direction of Batay Relief Alliance, run by a Haitian, Ullrich Gaillard,
> on the border at Anse a Pitres.
> The Dominican Republic treats all these mothers free of
> charge.
> ominican.html
> Because most of them have had no prenatal care, their deliveries are
> often difficult.If the births are difficult, the DR, Free of Charge,
> transports these Haitian mothers to their best maternity hospitals in
> the DR.
> When these mothers give birth they are given a birth registration for a
> foreign birth, a pink page, called the Libra Rosada. This was instituted
> by the government here after the court case in the Central American
> court This is the same paper that is given to child of any foreign
> mother.
> After they give birth, Haitian mothers must go to the Junto Electoral (as
> Dominican mothers have to do as well) and get an official registry of
> their birth.
> Understand that 15% of the Dominican mothers do not have the wherewithall
> to seek these papers, and their children cannot therefor enter high
> school..
> THEN if the Haitian mothers are born in Haiti, they must register the
> births with the Haitian Embassy here in Santo Domingo.
> (NOTE the embassy here is notorious for saying that they cannot do
> anything and referring people to PAP, The DR receives the least educated
> of all the Haitian diaspora. Many cannot read or write. Understand the
> burden that the failings of your nation have placed on this country)
> You need to promise to increase the capacity of the Embassy here so that
> all these Haitians who are born here have valid and definitive Haitian
> birth certificates.
> Promise to increase health services on the border so that the Dominican
> Republic
> does not have to bear the cost of those of your mothers who are only
> crossing over for the health care.
> You need to thank the Dominican Republic for all the aid that has given
> to all the Haitan mothers over the years, their compassion, their
> support.
> And then promise that you will see to it that all those entitled to
> Haitian citizenship get their proper Haitian birth certificates.
> 3. Unification. NEVER ever ever mention the word.
> If a Dominican utters the word, you simply say that you are two
> different countries, with different languages and cultures, who each
> treasure their heritage, their culture, their language.
> Say that you understand that the Dominican Republic celebrates its
> independence from Haiti every year and that you have no wish, no
> intention, of again trying to unify the island into one nation.
> Say simply that you are not an historian but that you understand that
> there was a difficult relationship in the past but that was a long time
> ago and
> you wish to move forward as friends,
> noting that DR is now a more advanced country than Haiti and that you
> would welcome tourism from here.
> 4. The border...
> You need to announce that under your Presidency,no Dominican will need a
> visa to
> cross into Haiti.
> You will welcome all visitors from the Dominican Republic. You will
> only charge
> the modest transit fee of what is it $5? that other foreigners pay.
> You hope that they will all come and visit your pristine beaches, You
> will welcome them with open arms because we are sister nations.
> You need to do an interview VERY QUICKLY with all and sundry who will
> listen to
> you.. If you can get Jaqueline Charles of the Miami Herald to report that
> you are very sorry that you were perhaps misunderstood,
> that will be the absolute best.
> I hope that you will accept this in the spirit of friendship in which it
> is given.
> I cherish your people.
> kembe la
> elizabeth

Prince Royce - Stand By Me (Music Video)

Haïti Get Back Up / Ayiti Leve Kanpe / Haiti Levántate / Haiti Releve To...

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Island Lesson, again

From the ongoing postings on the Corbett List

RE Housing contracts in Haiti and reconstruction

I applaud you. Stuart, for being able to slog through those documents and specs and come up with a judgement on whether the development is going to be adequate or not. I certainly could not. But the fact that they are going to be packed in by the hundreds near a factory does not make the project bad in my book. Jobs... now that is a good thing.

As a bit of a meander.. we do have in the DR the ONLY factory in the world which is certified by the Workers Rights Consortium, at Altagracia .

I am not a huge defender of USAID -.

But here is a video of what they HAVE done

What I LOVE about the project is it was done (ostensibly) with community participation.

Ok it was small - but with all the issues involved - the clearance of rubble, the issues of lost land records.. then the construction and organizing a community which no longer actually exists, deciding who will get the houses-- what a struggle.

Another issue in this project is that CHF was actually a HOUSING NGO,, there seems to be a lot of mission creep inside the NGOs - everyone wants to do everything. Now the Red Cross - wants to get into the business of building permanent housing?

I do wish that USAID would ease up on designing everything down to the last nut and bolt and just give some flexibilty and trust to the people who are on the ground. They know who the honest players are on the ground. But I suspect that the ultimate decision on who gets the contract is made in DC - not PauP.

No let me underline that a bit. THE ONE thing that would really help save money and get the ball rolling would be if USAID would STOP micromanging done to the last jot and tittle. Can someone do a guesstamate on how much it cost the US taxpayer to get those specs done by an American? in America? Hey, I can get you a Dominican who will do it for a THIRD -- AFTER he has seen the land, AFTER he has located the materials here on the Island, and he will IMPORT a CREW of Haitians who are TRAINED here in the DR and speak KREYOLE and Spanish

(Check out how many of the NGOs are getting money for training MASONS????? YE GODS... MASONS are living ALL over Santo Domingo....)

Now saving the biggest rant for last

WHY are they even THINKING about single family houses?
We have Millions of people to house. Never heard of an apartment? University dorms?

Never been to the Dominican Republic?

I would just want them to give a blanket grant to a group like the Lambi Fund which has a long history of working with grass roots groups in Haiti so that THEY could go out and survey their people. A huge percentage of the population from PauP fled to the countryside and are still living with relatives. So wouldn't it be smart to start building some really dense construction in modern architecture

And I want DOMINICANS who have been spending ONE THIRD of their public health budget on free medical care for Haitians here -- to get the CONTRACTS. ALL OF THEM.

back to my initital rant

it is an island
these people here are infinitely qualified

haitians are very experienced builders

ever heard of punta cana?

haitian built

Casa de Campo?
haitians built it

Santo Domingo?

haitians are building it to this very day......

Your foreign money seems to come with so ooooooo many strings... like as in

let us come into your country and build it the way we think it ought to look.....

wanna see what Haitians might want?

anyone ask them?


and here is the orginal post from Stuart Leiderman (I have his blanket permission to repost)

"I remember going back to the States to visit, and observing that everyone there had hot water in BOTH their showers and their kitchen sinks and could actually FLUSH the toilet paper ... and I could not figure out why they were not dancing...." Elizabeth Roebling

- - -

Dear Readers:

Thanks to Elizabeth and Lance for continuing the colloquy. The remarks about hot water and toilet paper are apropos because there are very large foreign aid construction projects such as the two below that are undecided about what level of civilization to offer Haiti's earthquake refugees after two years of living in tents, sleeping on the ground, washing on their knees, defecating who-knows-where...

In the first case, USAID's project, announced November 3, 2011 - 750 at first, expandable to 1500, then to 5000 - offers a kind of masonry version of a tent, i.e. a predictable solar oven with pit toilet, water barrel and no bedrooms. These are to be packed high-density style by the hundreds next to a future Korean textile factory in the north of Haiti. The distinguishing aspect of this bid process is that the obviously poor design is a done deal; builders have to take it or leave it.

In the second case, the American Red Cross, announced January 5, 2012, seeks consultants to frame bids for "owner-driven reconstruction." It is written in relatively plain-English and the concept seems to be echoed by other humanitarian organizations such as CordAid and CARE that believe the homeless should be involved in rebuilding. In contrast to USAID's tight but flawed technical requirements, these are relatively loose, without reference to minimum amenities:

"Must follow the MTPTC [Ministere des Travaux Publics Transports et Communications] guide for confined masonry [ ]; Must develop other standards for other building types (wood structure, concrete frame, etc). Choice will ensure beneficiary satisfaction; It should designate a minimum floor area (18sm or other as agreed) and minimum footprint (10sm or other as agreed) [note: sm = square meters, but I'll have to check how a footprint can be smaller than floor area]; The standards should allow for upwards expansion in high density areas; Housing models should be available to guide homeowners. (single and multistory); The standards must include a sanitation component, and allow for safe cooking facilities..."

These two are worth reading both for their strengths, weaknesses and startling differences in language, process and probable outcome. A question is, should all foreign-assisted and -funded replacement housing in Haiti share minimum features, facilities, stress resistance, durability, performance and habitation criteria? And should this extend beyond the walls to the neighborhood and village context? These are hundred-million dollar questions waiting for answers.

Thank you,

Stuart Leiderman

Reference: "A Pattern Language" by Christopher Alexander et al.

- - -

Construction of permanent shelters Solicitation Number: SOL-521-12-000003
Agency: Agency for International Development Office: Overseas Missions
Location: Haiti USAID-Port Au Prince

Haiti Assistance Program ? Integrated Neighborhood Approach Program ? Neighborhood Upgrading

- - -

Monday, February 6, 2012


I had the honor of getting a personal note from Bob Corbett this morning. Now of ALL the foreigners who have intervened in Haiti over the years, I think that Bob Corbett has performed the greatest service. That may just be my prejudice as a writer since he has made such an effort throughout his life to keep up a peaceful forum for communication on Haiti.

Through his efforts, he has created a virtual community of people - mostly us blans, us gringos.. but with the GREAT aid of some very advanced Haitians who pop in to whop us upside the head when we get it wrong-- who struggle to find the way to best be of service to Haiti .. to restore her to the jewel that we all know she is and was.

And for 20 years he did service projects in Haiti on the ground as well. I doubt there is anyone who does not hold him in the highest regard.

So it was an honor that he took the time to write me.

About my latest rantings

about.. so "what is wrong with pity"

and here is what I answered.

Dear Bob,

Thanks for the query and I certainly have the same bag of motivations. But there is some thing about the "pity" thing - and it may be just semantics but I think it is deeper. Pity is not just "sharing sorrow".

I am still working on this one as I transit from one world to the this one.

For a while, I worked with a small African American newspaper in North Carolina. I was the only white person.I was also the top ad sales person and top writer (a small business) .. I was always trying to help out by buying lunch,,,etc. My friend Beverly, a very tough bright Chicago black who had NEVER been to school or work with any whites before said to me
"You make us ashamed to be poor". I stopped buying lunch.

I keep a print on my wall from the Dalai Lama which reads
" Compassion-

Usually our concept of compassion or love refers to the closeness we have with our friends and loved ones, sometimes compassion also carries a sense of pity. This is wrong. Any love or compassion which entails looking down on the other is not genuine compassion. To be genuine, compassion must be based on respect for the other, and on the realization that others have the right to to be happy and overcome suffering just as much as you. On this basism since you can see that others are suffering, you develop a genuine sense of concern for them."

Here in the DR we have a pretty advanced industry of "volunteers" who pay about $1000 a week to come down here and live in the rural areas and help build schools and churchs and what not. How odd to watch the Episcopalians with the gold crosses in their ears, painting the walls in the church hall -- a job that Dominicans would definitely have HIRED Haitians- to do.

I am sure that all the lives of these people who come here are transformed.. perhaps if only that they have experienced a taste of poverty and feel relieved not to be living in it. But does it help the locals? Well, sure, perhaps it gets a school built. But that is the responsibility of the State and locals, no? Here in the DR, they really do have the money to build the schools, it is a political decision whether or not to educate the people.

The volunteers are not working in their fields - they are working construction.Haven volunteers have to raise 5000 Euros in order to come. And the first project that they built, they gave the houses to the very poorest- and bypassed the ones in town who had struggled up to some sort of comfort. This is sort of an inverse reward system, no?

They had not, at first, even gotten enough cooperation with the local authorities to have a road built to the project.

But money does not buy happiness - you and I know that. Haitians know that as well, At times, I think that there is an inverse relationship!

The mere fact that I get triggered by this stuff means that I have it in me - because I have found that I really do not get so triggered if it is not in my shadow.I got blasted in comments on my blog, which I published, even though they were posted anonymously, since they kept underlying my own arrogance.

But I also know that we do not have it right yet. I do not know what "right" is. But whatever is required of those of us who genuinely wish to help Haiti, we seem to still be lacking it. I get these backlash comments on my blog and postings over on calling me a hero.... so I am pretty sure that I have not got it right.

But we make assumptions about people who are poor, people who are uneducated. I think that we hold them in contempt - or at least Americans do.We do not approach them as if they had any wisdom or knowledge to impart to us. We assume they live in misery. See, it trips off the tounge doesn't it, misery, squalor, poverty... OMG they cannot READ,,,,
But I have found that Haitians I know are telepathic, like the Masai.

That might be something that we could learn.

Anyway.. I am really struggling on how to be effective. What do they need that I have to give? What do I need that they have to give? And mostly I have found that I have some technical skills -- marketing, promotion, language.. and they seem to have wisdom. I love meeting with them because all I have to do is send out a spark - like putting the ball into play.. and watch them bat it around. They are MASTERS of the consensus process,

But most of the WORK in Haiti, by that I mean full top salary work, is with the FOREIGN NGOS,, which are .. for the most part.. heirarchical, patriarchal... non cooperative... and materially oriented.

So perhaps this is just the cowboys and the indians again.

I somehow always wanted to be with the indians..

betcha you did too!

Thanks so much for the chat.

I get very lonely here.



Saturday, February 4, 2012

A rant on Missionaries

I just posted this this morning on the Corbett list, a private English only Haiti list serve which is not Google searchable.....and I did so want google to search.....

Pardon me for a moment while I have a small eruption to relieve some of the pressure that is building down here under my tectonic plates.

I have been off list for many months now working here on the ground. Here on the ground we speak a combination of four primary languages... Spanish, Kreyole, French and English.. we add Italian accents and hand signals... and move our feet to meregue and kompa...

So we understand one another.

No one here is monolingual or monocultural

No one here is a cultural imperialist

No one here pities the poor

We are all just gettin along, Gracias a Dios,

But now I back amonst the do gooders who want to save us and I am really pissed off.

The press is all full of cries for vengence for Duvalier after a Haitian judge has decided the issue. Here in the DR the prisons are undergoing a transformation into a restorative justice model. I did a story on it .. google it. They are more forgiving than we are Stop with the calls for vengence. The Haitians are going to live in peace with one another and with both Duvalier and Aristide. It is done.Let peace prevail,

Now about all those begging medical missionaries. I had to stop going to the local Union Episcopal Church here for fear I would have to sit next to these BIZARRE christian missionary couples with their frightened clinging wives and many infant children who kept their eyes on the floor when I walked them into the english library.. And they had a HILUX truck.. that is $150,000 on the hoof here. And they were transporting medical supplies via HELICOPTERS .. here in the DR which has a very good public health system with hospitals and pharmacies in every town.

So in following new links to go onto all these web sites.. where they keep talking about
POOR Haiti. I am so sick of this contempt for the poor.

How about we get down on the floor and kiss their feet and ask them to teach us how they manage to live in such grace and dignity and joy despite their travails?

And as for the Irish fund raising house building gig.. Digicell.. I would suggest that Haiti is actually RICHER than Ireland right now, no? They have essentially NO foreign debt and immense pledges of aid so stop already with your arrogance

Ditto for all of those from outside the island who think that a concrete block house is better than a mud and wattle kai with a thatch roof. A concrete block house.. or a zinc house.. is an OVEN.. a mud and wattle kai with a thatched roof is brilliant architecture,

As for all these state of the art hospitals.. Dr Farmer et al,. Did you give no thought to the fact that you may be as disruptive to the spiritual healing system .. as . well.. say,.. importing subsidized rice? Have you ever had trainings for the Hougans?

Nope I bet not,. just the pill pushers and surgeons

if you really want to help

please send dentists

we need them all over the island

from Las Terrenas on

Until we all learn that Haitians and Domincans represent civilizations which are far older and wiser and richer than ours, we are never going to get anywhere.

And I believe that we need them more than they need us.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Donate Button

I've put a donate button up on the blog.

So why should you send me money?

Good question.

At first, I put up a post about paying off the debt that I have been carrying for the Vieques witness here

but that is ancient history now.. and no one forced me to go into debt for it. There were lots of folks ready to perform at a concert for me in Asheville but my Quaker Meeting had not consensed on a pass through fund so I declined.

Now the subject of donations came on up the local list serv here in the DR after I published the stuff on Narcotrafficing.. about how one guy was going to put a tip jar to buy my guitar.. which was on my Amazon wish list that I had posted.

My Taylor, which was the best guitar that I had ever owned, was stolen from me in a confrontation against the crack dealers in Las Terrenas seven years ago. I had felt compelled to hurl a rock through the plate glass window of the Belgian realtor who had first started the cocaine trade into Las Terrenas. I spent New Year's Eve in the police station. The Belgians refused to press charges after they interviewed me extensively in French and found me sober-- and I just kept asking them "why would I do that?" .. They have left town now.

Then there was the $6000 that I spent over the last six months in feeding the Haitians here in the DR. Three thousand for the food and another three for the gas and the rental car.. the only rental car that we had for the organizing of the 5000 Haitians.

But how am I, who has lived off a family trust all my life, going to accept money from someone who has, for instance, punched a clock all their lives?

Well, ok. That is a big one. Will I accept money, no. Can you buy me a beer? Absolutely! But I am not a big beer drinker so can I just put it towards the guitar?

Now when I was imbedded with the Interpol guys there were lots of folks who PROMISED to buy me a beer. So you guys owe me.

And I am reasonably sure that the Embassy or someone with deep pockets and a black budget promised to pick up the tab for all that driving around that I did == showing you what I knew about Pedernales and Constanza. So I believe that $6000 is on you.

And since Quakers are meticulous about money.. some would say cheap .. some would say hung up ,. but we will not labor the point.. let me tell you what I would do should the absolute best outcome happen

if I receive donations of #27,000, I can retire my debt entirely

I now pay $486 on this debt, with no hope of reducing the principal since I have friends who do not have enough to eat.

Now if I had $486 a month, I would hire Manu Emmeleat, a Frenchman who lives in Las Terrenas, who is a local construction expert,here

This would only be part time for him but Manu would be able to ORGANIZE the Quiskeya Corps, get the guys their references and papers, talk to various builders, help us get things rolling on the ground. Since he is French and knows all of the builders in town and lots in Santiago and Santo Domingo.. has a completely LEGAL business in the DR.. he would be invaluable in both making contacts with Dominicans and helping us get aid from France.

I already have an apartment up there that we can use for an office. Ditto my big computer that I can take up there.


can I use your money well?

I believe that I can.

Please Donate.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Close Encounters

Do you remember the opening of the movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind"< when different people kept having the same vision and were all being drawn to the same place?

Well, it is happening here and now.

Perhaps not a landing.. But then again.. who knows?

One on the major discussions on Haiti is held via a private list serve maintained and monitered by Bob Corbett. We refer to ourselves as Corbetters and our home as Corbettland. Over the last five years, I have made friends as fine as any in this virtual land.

Today I received a posting via Stuart Leiderman who works out of New Hampshire, helping the Haitian League, which is the largest group of the US Haitian Diaspora. Its' director, Bernard Laurendans, is a dedicated Haitian American who devotes his energy to envisioning a higher future for his country.

He presents us this vision:

"Imagine visiting a new rural Haitian community of two thousand, whose people are well-nourished, safely-housed, free of infectious and transmissible diseases and parasites, and able to work productively throughout the seasons. Imagine a place where drinking water is plentiful, clean and conveniently available; Where toilets and showers are nearby, sanitary and simple to use and
maintain; Where windmills and solar panels and pumps power refrigerators, lights, equipment and irrigation; And where reliable telephones, computers and durable vehicles are available to maintain contact and commerce throughout the country and the world beyond. Imagine attracting Haiti’s unemployed youth to a countryside network of "Lakou" for six-month vocational training programs in a variety of subjects, helping them toward ethical professions, and facilitating their access to credit. Imagine Haiti's unemployed being able to establish productive farming or thriving
businesses in all ten departments, east to west, north to south. For someone familiar with conditions in most Haitian villages today, this new kind of community would be a stretch of the imagination. But to those who are familiar with the minimum living standards necessary for a small rural population to survive anywhere in the world today, this description would be an unarguable benchmark, a social, ecological and economic imperative."

And my response --

I got one of the those very eerie Close Encounters of the Third Kind feelings when I read the vision of the small villages... since this idea of the small sustainable villages has been a subject of discussion here in the DR among me and my French and American and Dominican friends for the last seven years.

So let me propose that we STOP just thinking about HAITI and START thinking about THE ISLAND. SINCE we are an ISLAND. Not that we would ever kjnow it from a map. You cannot find a map.. except one that is hand drawn or a nautical chart .. that has the entire island. But we live on an island.

There are at least one million Haitians here .. the majority of whom wish to return.

There is a chain of undeveloped, unspoiled, untouched land from the tip of Samana right across to Belledare which could be developed into an ecotourism chain of small ecotouristic "typica" retreats...

I did a proposal once for homestays on the border -- putting folks into Dominican homes for four days and if they survived, moving them into Haiti for three!

Let us shift our heads around and understand that it is WE who need to learn to live more like Haitians.. closer to the earth, more in concert with it. with less stuff...

So.. how about a chain .. so we can bring back the Haitians who are stranded on this side of the island... building little artistic villages as they go, leaving the DR with a nice trail of camp sites, and bringing back with them all those two liter used coca cola bottles filled with topsoil and seedlings?

Everything that is needed for the regrowth of Haiti is flourishing on this side of the island.

Together, these two nations could become an ecotouristic paradise, teaching music and art, in many languages. The old animosities that plagued them for centuries have been broken down since the quake and new bonds of brotherhood have formed.

Edwin Paraison and his Fundacion Zile are ready to shelter this project.

I am sure that he could secure the permission from the Minister of the Environment to start a march back to Belledare

as soon as you all come up with the plans

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

An Island United

We are one of the few divided islands in the world-- I think there are 10 or so but a few of us. like Cypryus, have always had a bit of sibling rivalry. Dominicans and Haitians have never had good relationships until the earthquake two years ago. When the quake hit, it was Dominicans who raced to the border with the hearts and hands open.

There was not one single church or store or town that did not contribute something to Haiti. There was not one dry eye in the nation. There was not one church empty.

I watched them, covered them as a journalist,as i also fervently monitored the internet postings for news that I might usefully cross post from French into English, via this blog, via Facebook, on to my nephew who works at FEMA.

The Servicio Jesuito de Migritorio were the ones who were first mobilized as they are the ones who work with the Haitian community here. Within a day, they had a warehouse and trucks lined up. On the first day, the donations started trickling in. A few boxes piled on the walls. Volunteers sat impatiently at the tables, waiting, becoming angry. Their anger was dissipated when a middle aged woman walked in carrying two plastic shopping bags full of boxes of saltines, and said:

"I am sorry. It is not much. It is all I could afford."

Here is the story that I wrote on that.