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Firsthand look at Haiti five months after the earthquake

June 16, 2010

4:45a.m. was an early start, but I had no problem jumping out of bed as I was motivated by the prospect of traveling to Haiti to see firsthand the status of recovery efforts in the earthquake-decimated city of Port au Prince. The trip was organized by the U.S. Chamber Business Civic Leadership Center; CHF, a non-governmental organization (NGO), and Executives Without Borders.

Joined by members of these organizations and a handful of other corporate representatives, we boarded a bus to the airport in the pre-dawn hours to begin the journey from south Florida. After a cancelled flight and some miracle-working by the trip’s organizers, we were able to catch a prop jet to Cap-Haitien in the north and then onto Port au Prince in the south.

The ride to the meeting venue was jaw-dropping. In the crushing traffic and oppressive heat, we made our way past collapsed buildings and huge piles of rubble. In the midst of the wreckage, street vendors were selling their wares, school children dressed in their uniforms were crossing the streets, UN security vehicles lumbered by, and tent cities stretched out as far as the eye could see.

That day we were briefed by several NGOs working in varied areas including microfinance, health, anti-child-trafficking, post-trauma care, energy and development. The next day we went on several site visits that included an apparel factory where an NGO is working to provide much needed training opportunities, a heavy equipment company that is providing training to increase the availability of machine operators that may assist with debris removal and other reconstruction and development work, one of many “tent cities,” and a transitional shelter site.

While visiting a tent city, it was explained to us that inside these “cities” amongst the tents providing stop-gap shelter to those in need are everything from schools to restaurants as citizens recreate their communities as best they can. These communities require tremendous ad hoc resources to keep them running including food and water distribution, waste disposal, etc. Conditions are very difficult.

The idea behind the transitional shelter pictured with this blog post is to get people moved back into their communities instead of creating long-term temporary sheltering operations in open spaces. In many cases, the transitional shelters, placed in the occupant’s original community, will be built out into more permanent structures.

After wrapping up the visits, we had a group debrief late into the evening and then rose early the next morning for our return to the United States.

For decades, leveraging our unparalleled global transportation network, FedEx has helped international relief organizations to deliver aid immediately in the wake of disasters to assist with lifesaving short-term recovery efforts. More recently, we’ve worked with organizations on preparedness initiatives to help mitigate the impact of disasters.

The trip to Haiti provided perspective on long-term recovery issues impacting less developed regions. With limited resources, we want to be as strategic as possible in our approach to leveraging our corporate competencies to strengthen local communities recovering from disasters.

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