Floodman's WunderBlog


By: Floodman, 3:33 AM GMT on March 17, 2010


We've come to the point in the relief operations for Haiti where temporary fixes and stop gap measures are more and more inappropriate; to truly provide relief moving forward we have to look to permanent measures to effect any real change. The rainy season and then hurricane season are coming; we all know Haiti's history with tropical storms and hurricanes: these events are disastrous and deadly. With this in mind, tents are no longer a reasonable measure for providing shelter; the people of Haiti are going to need real shelter and soon.

We have been furiously trying to plan for permanent shelter for the survivors of the earthquake, given the rapid onset of the rainy season and the rapidly approaching hurricane season. A vast number of the survivors are living in "tent" cities where most of the "tents" are really nothing more than bed sheets draped over ropes and sticks; the potential for a second humanitarian disaster is vast and it's not a matter of if it happens, it's a matter of when it happens. With this in mind, we have been exploring fast, inexpensive methods of providing solid, permanent, safe shelter for survivors of the earthquake.

We have found a number of groups looking at using shipping containers for this purpose. For those that aren't familiar with shipping containers, they are steel reinforced boxes used for shipping goods overseas; to all intents and purposes they are semi-truck trailers designed to be loaded with goods, placed on flatbed trailers and moved from place to place and also to be stacked on container ships so that they can be moved from country to country. The containers come in several sizes; the most common are 20' or 40' long. Richard Lumarque has identified an engineer that has come up with a number of designs for converting these containers into dormitories, offices, medical facilities and individual homes; his plan for a dormitory container is below:

Floorplan for the "dormitory" container

We have been looking at the actual financial requirements for acquiring a number of these containers and finishing the interiors so that they will be suitable for use as shelter for the survivors; below is a basic breakdown of what these costs will be. Bear in mind that as we move forward with this project these numbers will become more exact; we are also looking for corporate and private sponsors to help us with this project:

1. Cost per unit (a plain used 40' container in good condition): $1300
2. Minimum cost to finish the unit (includes CBC blocks for foundation, thermal paint for the exterior, plywood walls, floor and ceiling, four light fixtures, 4 outlets and switches, 3 windows, one single 3' metal door and extra materials for ramps, etc for the disabled): $4200.

Finishing the interiors will take relatively little time, as the boxes are built in a such a way that we shouldn't have to make many cuts to get the plywood attached; the worst of this will be in the area of the door and the windows and we are looking at the requirements for assembly and will be putting together some sort of instruction sheet/jig to make this a uniform process. While the initial boxes will be built here in the US, eventually this process will be done in Haiti, by Haitians.

While the use of these containers for shelter is a viable plan and can be done (it's been done in the past for other disasters, including the Indonesian Tsunami), one last large item remains: where will we put these shelters after they're completed? We have been talking to Matt Chambers at SafeWaterNexus about this issue; Matt's group has been doing incredible work in Haiti and we are very fortunate to be partnering with them on this project. SafeWaterNexus has access to some 20 acres in the Cabaret area and have agreed to put a village of these shelters on that property. Moving forward we have a number of locations that can be made available, but Matt and SafeWaterNexus' location at Cabaret is immediately available.

Artists conception of a container shelter "village"

We need your help to make this happen; you can donate here, by pressing the PayPal button. Let us know that you're donating to the village project by writing "village" in the memo line!


The Chilean Earthquake:

It should be pretty apparent by now that the earthquake in Chile, while devastating, is not on the same level from a humanitarian standpoint as the event in Haiti; Chile is a developed first-world nation with infrastructure and services in place that make the recovery there a far more sure prospect than the recovery in Haiti. It is for this reason that Portlight has decided against being a presence on the ground in Chile but rather to concentrate our efforts in Haiti. That having been said, we are exploring the possibility of opening shipping options for other NGOs in Chile but we will not be "boots on the ground" there. If anyone has any shipping or DME needs for the relief effort in Chile, please email Chilean Operations and we will gladly discuss anything that we can do facilitate relief efforts in that country moving forward.

Update on our Efforts in Haiti

The following are specific updates on ongoing projects:

On site:

Howard Koepka and the group from Eagle Pointe Church have wrapped up their operation in Haiti and returned home. Despite a number of setbacks, including issues in retrieving their container from the port at Lafiteau, the trip was a success; the group obtained a large quantity of supplies from various NGOs on the ground and helped in their distribution and after a long drawn out effort to retrieve the container at Lafiteau they were successful; Tabitha Lumarque was instrumental in these efforts and we want to thank her for her tireless efforts in this instance and the tremendous work she has done since the earthquake for the people of Haiti. Portlight is very fortunate to have her helping us; she is an amazing woman and a bright light in the relief efforts in her home country.

Ongoing Projects:

An update on the Carolyn: the warehouse ship suffered some mechanical difficulties; the arrival in Haiti has been delayed somewhat. We expect that the Carolyn will make port in Haiti on the 27-28th of this month. We will keep you posted on the progress of the Carolyn as that information becomes available. Remember that the Carolyn is carrying 10 pallets of DME, 30 pallets of water, 7,000 pounds of rice, a number of tents, tarps and various building supplies totaling some 14,000 pounds of goods for Portlight in addition to the goods she is carrying for a number of other NGOs. Again, our many thanks to Make it Right and Brad Pitt who have financed the trip and many thanks to Riki for her great work on this project.

In the last month, Richard Lumarque made contact with Darling Exinor, an earthquake survivor who had her left arm and right leg amputated as a result of her injuries. We have arranged for her to attend the Haitian Nursing School in Leogane on a scholarship provided by the Foundation that supports the school. We will be following Darling's progress and will be helping with her recovery in any way that we can. Darling will be the first of a number of Haitians that we will follow and help in their ongoing recovery; we hope that these people will become leaders in the disabled community of Haiti as they will certainly be needed in the future with the historically and newly disabled.

Distribution of supplies and equipment:

With Richard back in the US for a few weeks, we wanted to provide an accounting, by no means complete, of those groups that Richard and Portlight have aided with supplies, DME and food. Bear in mind that this list is by no means complete and in no particular order:

1. ACTS World Relief: Dr. Amy Nguyen stopped in at Quisqueya and received DME and clinical supplies
2. Bons Maritan: Assorted DME
3. CRS (Catholic Relief Services): Assorted DME
4. HHH (Healing Hands for Haiti): Assorted DME
5. Dispensaire de la Providence: Assorted DME and clinical supplies
6. L'ecole D'handicape de St. Vincent: Assorted DME, clincical supplies and some foodstuffs
7. Hopital de Canape Vert: Assorted DME, clinical supplies
8. The International Institute of Sport: Assorted DME
9. Love a Child: Clinical supplies, transport of food and water
10. Sacred Heart Hospital: Assorted DME, hospital beds, clinical supplies
11. St. Nicholas Hospital: Assorted DME, hospital beds, clinical supplies
12. Quisqueya University: Assorted DME, hospital beds, clinical supplies and transport of food supplies
13. ACEPJFD: Assorted DME
14. Secretairie D'Etat a L'Integration des Personnes Handicape(Secretary of State Haiti for Persons with Disabilities, Dr. Michel Peann): Assorted DME
15. ARCHE: Assorted DME and clinical supplies
16. Foundation Bethsai-De: Assorted DME and clinical supplies
17. Hopital de la Communate Hatienne: Assorted DME and clinical supplies
18. Quisqueya Christian School: Assorted DME and clinical supplies

This list does not include a large number of individuals that have received aid in the form of crutches, walkers, wheelchairs and canes and small amounts of clinical supplies handed out at the numerous camps that Richard and his team visited. With the addition of the work done by various team members, Richard himself and the team from Eagle Pointe a very large number of people have benefited from the generous donations that you, the supporters of Portlight, have provided.

The people of Haiti thank you, but they are still in dire need; with the Chilean earthquake and vast damage to Haiti the donations are slowing down; it is only with your help that we can continue in the work that is yet to be completed.

In the meantime we are identifying ever larger needs in the area around Quisqueya, south into Leogane and Dufort and the area around Jacmel. We are also gaining information about people and institutions in need from Twitter, Facebook and reports from other small organizations we are working with. The list changes from day to day as areas drop off the list and others join; if you have information about hospitals, villages, camps or even individuals in need, please forward that information to haitineeds@portlight.org so that we can add them to the list.

•Dr. Natalie Theard: Cold medicine for kids. Antibiotics (Cotrimox) Stuff for fevers (Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen) Multi Vitamins. Basically everything for children care. Diapers, Powdered milk Etc

•Haitian Health Foundation Jeremie, needs food, water, medical (clinical) supplies

•Baptist Haiti Mission Near Port-au-Prince, Durable Medical Equipment (wheelchairs, crutches, walkers, etc)

•Double Harvest Hospital Croix des Bouquets, Durable Medical Equipment (wheelchairs, crutches, walkers, etc)

•Hopital Sacre Couer Milot, Durable Medical Equipment (wheelchairs, crutches, walkers, etc)

•Gran Goave Near Dufort/Leogane, Water and/or water treatment (well has become contaminated)

•Hopital Sacre Couer Milot, Durable Medical Equipment (wheelchairs, crutches, walkers, etc)

•FSIL Nursing School/Hosp Leogane, Food, water and clinical supplies

•Dr. Surena & Surena Port-au-Prince, Clinical supplies

As you can see, we are making significant strides on the ground, but we can't continue doing the work without your help; we have a number of donations initiatives either ongoing or in the works, but what really helps, in regards to getting these supplies on the ground, is you; your smallest donations are helpful, so give, if you can! The PayPal donation button is the quickest and best way for you, as an individual, to make a difference in this disaster.

We would like to take a moment and thank Dr. Jeff Masters and Wunderground for their continued and unwavering support as well as generous donations. Over the years the Wunderground community and Dr. Masters have helped Portlight get our message out and we are truly grateful for all the support and devotion. This community has been the genesis of our efforts and we cannot thank the great people of the WU community enough for all that they have done to make our efforts successful.

Tangible donations:

While we're taking monetary donations through this site, we are also taking donations of tangible materials at our warehouse in Atlanta. Remember, clothing is a secondary issue here; what is most desperately needed is food, durable and clinical medical supplies and other tangibles like tools, outdoor gear, clinical supplies, etc. The address for the Atlanta warehouse is:

Portlight Strategies, Inc.
4900 Lewis Road
Stone Mountain GA 30083

While Portlight WILL NOT be placing any staff in Haiti until we can assure their safety, rest assured that we will be staffing shelters in the near future. Anyone interested in going to Haiti to help staff one or more shelters for Haitians with disabilities please email us at haitineeds@portlight.org


The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

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