Sunday, January 24, 2010

New Orleans Communita's in Haiti

This is a blog post from Mike Brantley, a freind of mine who has been setting up a community in Post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans. He and four others are heading off to help Haiti to be part of the releif effort that is occuring. Pray for Mike, his family, his crews family and thier community as they offer support. Pray for Haiti in this time. If you want to know further information about what they are doing in Haiti, check out Mikes blog -

Dear Friends and Family,

If you're reading this, you support us here in New Orleans, or pray for us, for are friends, family and those in our lives here. Due to time constraints, we're sending a mass email to all of you. So here goes...

We're deploying four of our team/community here in New Orleans to Haiti in 24 hours.

Why: You've seen the news - 200K dead and climbing. There are 20K/day dying from injuries, infection, etc.
How: We got a call from a sister team/community in Miami. They were approached by people in Haiti and The Dominican Republic to help. Our team there has been able to get in a couple of convoys of fuel to two field hospitals on the verge of running out of fuel for their generators. But the needs are so immense they need more boots on the ground.

BUT it got the attention of the UN and the US Army's 82d Airborne Division. The Army is supplying security and the UN is looking for fuel trucks.

What: We're going to establish a marshaling point, hopefully a warehouse. From there, some people can purchase supplies (Medical, Rx, Food, Water and Fuel). We'll then convoy it and while they are gone, begin marshaling supplies for the next run. The convoy will make the 12 hour trip to Port au Prince, and drop it to a distribution point we're setting up. We expect a couple of us to be in Port-au-Prince running that site.

Expect Chad and Kyle to be in Santiago operating the logistics point and Adam and I in Haiti (for the French speaking and liaising with the US Army). BUT that can change when we hit the ground. We could all four end up in the Haiti distribution point. We'll see!

Tonight, we spent several hours getting poked with the tropic regimen for deployment to a disaster zone... Ouch! Sore! Now it's time to wash, pack and get ready to go.

When: We deploy Friday 22nd, and return a month to six weeks later. For many, this will be huge. For our own families, for our work here in New Orleans and for the kids we coach...

...Look, we don't really "want" to go. We have lives here, families and responsibilities. Yet, the need is compelling and our Miami team is begging us for help. This is what we're about - Christ with flesh here and now. We don't feel like heroes or special. We don't know what to expect. We simply got a phone call. Your friendship and support is so appreciated. Your prayers are coveted.

Love always,
Mike Brantley

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Photos from St Arnaud

As promised, I have a few photo's from my time down in Nelson Lakes. As usual, I'm running late on that promise
Dawn at Coldwater hut, if this hut wasn't in a national park it would be prime real estate for an expensive batch.
Sabrina (Left) and Marina (Right) after we crossed the swing bridge.

Another Picture from coldwater hut.

Lake Rotoiti (St Arnaud)

Me looking adventurous before heading off on the tramp.

Haiti - part 3

Haiti destabilised before quake

By Patrick Cockburn

The US-run aid effort for Haiti is beginning to look chillingly similar to the criminally slow and disorganised US government support for New Orleans after it was devastated by hurricane Katrina in 2005. Five years ago President Bush was famously mute and detached when the levees broke in Louisiana. By way of contrast, President Obama was promising Haitians that everything would be done for survivors within hours of the calamity.

The rhetoric from Washington has been very different during these two disasters, but the outcome may be much the same. In both cases very little aid arrived at the time it was most needed and, in the case of Port-au-Prince, when people trapped under collapsed buildings were still alive. When foreign rescue teams with heavy lifting gear does come it will be too late. No wonder enraged Haitians are building roadblocks out of rocks and dead bodies haiti destabilised quake natural disasters earthquakes us run aid effort beginning look chillingly similar criminally slow disorganised government support orleans devastated hurricane katrina five years ago president bush famously natural disasters earthquakes us run aid effort beginning look chillingly similar criminally slow disorganised government support orleans devastated hurricane katrina five years ago president bush natural disasters earthquakes us run aid effort beginning look chillingly similar criminally slow disorganised government support orleans devastated hurricane katrina five years ago president bush famously.

In New Orleans and Port-au-Prince there is the same official terror of looting by local people, so the first outside help to arrive is in the shape of armed troops. The US currently has 3,500 soldiers, 2,200 marines and 300 medical personnel on their way to Haiti. Of course there will be looting because, with shops closed or flattened by the quake, this is the only way for people to get food and water. Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world. I was in Port-au-Prince in 1994, the last time US troops landed there, when local people systematically tore apart police stations, taking wood, pipes and even ripping nails out of the walls. In the police station I was in there were sudden cries of alarm from those looting the top floor as they discovered that they could not get back down to the ground because the entire wooden staircase had been chopped up and stolen I have always liked Haitians for their courage, endurance, dignity and originality. They often manage to avoid despair in the face of the most crushing disasters or any prospect that their lives will get better. Their culture, notably their painting and music, is among the most interesting and vibrant in the world.
So much of the criticism of President Bush has focused on his wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that his equally culpable actions in Haiti never attracted condemnation. But if the country is a failed state today, partly run by the UN, in so far as it is run by anybody, then American actions over the years have a lot to do with it.

Haitians are now paying the price for this feeble and corrupt government structure because there is nobody to co-ordinate the most rudimentary relief and rescue efforts. Its weakness is exacerbated because aid has been funnelled through foreign NGOs. A justification for this is that less of the money is likely to be stolen, but this does not mean that much of it reaches the Haitian poor. A sour Haitian joke says that when a Haitian minister skims 15 per cent of aid money it is called "corruption" and when an NGO or aid agency takes 50 per cent it is called "overheads".

Many of the smaller government aid programmes and NGOs are run by able, energetic and selfless people, but others, often the larger ones, are little more than rackets, highly remunerative for those who run them. In Kabul and Baghdad it is astonishing how little the costly endeavours of American aid agencies have accomplished.

"The wastage of aid is sky high," said a former World Bank director in Afghanistan. "There is real looting going on, mostly by private enterprises. It is a scandal." Foreign consultants in Kabul often receive US$250,000 to US$500,000 a year, in a country where 43 per cent of the population try to live on less than a dollar a day.None of this bodes well for Haitians hoping for relief in the short term or a better life in the long one. The only way this will really happen is if the Haitians have a legitimate state capable of providing for the needs of its people. The US military, the UN bureaucracy or foreign NGOs are never going to do this in Haiti or anywhere else.

There is nothing very new in this. Americans often ask why it is that their occupation of Germany and Japan in 1945 succeeded so well but more than half a century later in Iraq and Afghanistan was so disastrous. The answer is that it was not the US but the efficient German and Japanese state machines which restored their countries. Where that machine was weak, as in Italy, the US occupation relied with disastrous results on corrupt and incompetent local elites, much as they do today in Iraq, Afghanistan and Haiti.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Disaster in Hai calls for our response part 2

Haiti is one of the poorest nations in the world and is ranked no 153 on the Human Development index (the lowest ranking in North/Central America). It is paramount that developed wealthy nations help and it is encouraging to see that countries are supporting the aid effort there. We as individuals can help support the aid effort.

There are a number of agencies who have campaigns for aid to Haiti:

The NZ Red Cross

Tear Fund

World Vision

Disaster in Haiti calls for our response

Poverty the root of Haiti's high quake death toll

January 14, 2010 - 5:22PM

Last night the Prime Minster of Haiti estimated the death toll of yesterday's earthquake to be more than 100,000. Reports today suggest the death-toll could soon rival that of the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004.

It is my firm belief that we could have done more to minimise the magnitude of the loss.

Neither you nor I have the ability to play God and predict a quake or even lessen its power but what we do have is the ability to alter the death toll from such a horrific disaster.

More than 78 per cent of Haitians live in poverty, which is defined by the World Bank as living on $US2 per day, and it is these conditions that are responsible for the saddening predictions from the Haitian Prime Minister.

We often hear enormous death tolls coming from natural disasters in countries such as Haiti, India, Bangladesh and Ethiopia, yet we never call into question why this is the case. When we look deeper we see that:

* Japan and California have had much stronger earthquakes in more densely populated areas than the one that hit Port-a-Prince yesterday, yet the death tolls have been relatively minor.

* Last year's floods in North Queensland rose just as much as the heavy flooding seen in India and Bangladesh in 2007, however, few deaths were recorded in Australia compared with more than 2000 deaths in India and Bangladesh.

* The intensity of the droughts in Australia in the past decade has been just as strong as those experienced in Ethiopia two decades ago, but one failed food crop in 1984 led to about 1 million Ethiopians starving to death.

With poverty, comes vulnerability. And nothing exposes the vulnerabilities of people living in poverty more than natural disasters. A Haitian has greater vulnerability in an earthquake as he cannot afford quality housing; a Bangladeshi is vulnerable to flooding due to her family living and farming on flood affected land; and an Ethiopian has no food security to protect his family against a failed crop.

For the Haitian, Bangladeshi, Ethiopian and the other 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty we need to do something. We cannot just come to the aid of countries such as these when a disaster hits.

The solution is not to put a Band-Aid on the symptoms exposed by the disaster, but to fix the root problem – and in Haiti's case it is to alleviate the nation's poverty.

If you're going to take action and lend support to those devastated in the aftermath, please ensure that your money is providing the right kind of support. It is imperative that the needs of the people are met as quickly and effectively as possible and the best way to do this is to place your donations with organisations already working in Haiti, or with community-based organisations that already have teams and infrastructure in place. (See the Global Poverty Project website for effective agencies to donate to).

Please consider one of the following ongoing actions that will allow you to impact the root problem of extreme poverty:

* Join the campaign to see Australia keep its global commitment to provide enough ongoing aid to developing countries.

* Email Australia's aid agency (AusAID) and ask them about the impacts of the aid that they deliver to the poorest and most vulnerable.

* Tell our Trade Minister, Simon Crean, that you want to see a successful end to current trade negotiations, which will benefit not only developing nations, but also Australia.

* Change your consumption habits, buy Fairtrade products that ensure that farmers get a fair price for their product and their families become less vulnerable.

* Learn more about extreme poverty, its causes, effects and solutions.

* And, most importantly, talk about extreme poverty, its issues and what you and your friends can do.

Richard Fleming is Australian general manager of the Global Poverty Project to increase the number and effectiveness of people taking action to end extreme poverty.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Fun Times in S.A

St Arnaurd that is. Spent four days down in Nelson Lakes National Park with a couple of mates from my work. The aim of the trip was to do the Traverse-Sabine track (an 80 k track), but due to some issues we didn't get as far as we hoped.

We headed on the first day to John Tait hut, and ended up camping on the flat after one of the swing bridges. It was three guys to a small to person tent. The rain then decided to bucket down on us that evening, so we decided to head back to one of the huts (lakehead hut) to repack and reorganise ourselves. Peter, one of our party decided it was a good idea to go for a dip and ended up getting his pack soaked through. So we decided to dry off at Lakehead hut for the afternoon so we could dry off.

We met up with a number of interesting people. A brilliant young man from the Chezch Republic who was quiet but very nice. Michael, a bird watcher from the states, Melina (from Belgium) and Sabrina (from Germany.) We ended up spending time getting to know this motley crew of fellow travellers. Playing Uno, Scum and other cardgames with them. It was a good time for getting to know some interesting people.

We then headed off the next morning for the Bushline hut with my two mates, and Melina and Sabrina. The plan of attack was to cross the river. This managed to be an adventurous experience for the Crew, and needless to say, peters sleeping bag got wet through again.

We then decided to stop at the Coldwater hut and dry our clothes, our packs, and ourselves. Me, my mate Greg, Melina and Sabrina headed off to the swingbridge. This was a fun time of talking about our respective lifes, discussing our passions and where we were heading in our lives.

We arrived back at the coldwater hut. Where we had dinner and met up with two teachers, these teachers were a real crack up and were taking the Micky out of each other the entire time. We played more cards and hung out with Melina and Sabrina.

The next morning we headed back out to St Arnaud for a good feed and our trip back to nelson. We farewelled the girls - who went up to bushline hut for New Years eve.

If this last year has taught me anything - it is to try new things. I have not done much tramping and want to do more, get fitter and continue to grow my self awareness and reliance.

Photos to come on monday....