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Another early day here in Leogane, Haiti -- epicenter of the earthquake -- for our international NGO post-disaster relief team.  I brief the team over breakfast at 7am and by 8am we are at the U.N. Coordinating Committee compound to continue our introduction to them.

Known as “OCHA,” this U.N. branch is connecting the disconnected relied efforts after the earthquake.  We say hello to UNICEF and Save the Children leaders, and then head for the U.N.’s MINUSTAH command center – where the almost 1,000 Sri Lankan peacekeepers under the leadership of Commander Colonel Jayanath Jayaweera, Lt. Colonel Wasantha Herath, and Major Dalsara Dharmsena.

Screen shot 2010-04-02 at 2.14.38 PM (2)
At the MINUSTA Base in Leogane, home of Sri Lanka’s U.N. troops.

We begin the meeting with the major and then are introduced again to the lieutenant colonel, and finally to the colonel and base commander.  Commander Colonel Jayanath Jayaweera has an incredible story that I look forward to telling soon.

Having been in Sri Lanka many times after the Tsunami, I was delighted to chat about coastal villages in and around the city of Galle in the Southern province of Sri Lanka.  Last month, Orphans International Worldwide (OIWW) presented the Sri Lankan Ambassador to the U.N., Dr. Palitha Kohona, our Global Citizenship Award in New York.

We are meeting with friends, and our friends immediately offered to do anything in their power to make our mission a success.  Loading into U.N. military vehicles, we led a convoy to our new partner school, a three-story structure still standing that had surprisingly escaped the U.N.’s radar.  The commander was shocked and delighted that a structure so marvelous had survived, and pledged his forces to help clean the minor debris and make minor repairs.

IMG_0526
Surveying our new site with the U.N. Commander, where we have partnered with a local school.

The U.N. team, surrounded by blue helmets with machine guns, surveyed our new site and proclaimed it both highly secure and in a safe location.  Although we wait a final written engineering report, MINUSTAH leadership agreed with the engineer’s report that the building was structurally sound.

MINUSTAH promised to be the conduit for all supplies we will need to ship to Haiti, including tents from China, computer equipment from the U.S. and Europe, and other technology from Japan and Korea.  This will help us by-pass the incredible corruption and thievery of the international airport and get much-needed supplies into the hands of Haitians in need.

I am particularly fond of MINUSTAH because in another sector of Haiti, after Hurricane Jeanne, I was almost killed by a riot sparked by miscommunication.  The police attempted to rescue me, but they themselves were overrun by the crowd.  MINUSTAH, French-speaking West African troops in that sector, came in to rescue me and the police both.  I wrote about this frightening experience for the BBC (here).

Days later, the Haitian-American engineer I sit next to on the plane home tells me, “If it weren’t for MINUSTAH, all hell would have broken loose here after the earthquake.”

At the school, our new base in Leogane, we were delighted to meet our latest partner – the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), working through the NGO Good Neighbors, led in Haiti by Kyung-hoo Roh.  Kyung-hoo and I hit it off immediately.  As a graduate of the prestigious Yonsei University in Seoul, it turns out he is familiar with the Luce Chapel located there.  Small world!

IMG_0426
With Kyung-hoo Roh and Major Dalsara Dharmsenathe of U.N MINUSTAH at our new location –
one of the few three-story school buildings that survived the earthquake anywhere in Haiti.

Returning to our original base camp at the water company, we began the second interview of the original 200 applicants for our four-year full scholarships to a college in Beijing.

We have narrowed yesterday’s 200 applicants down to 50.  We have budgeted for 40 college scholarship positions, where we will train them here in Leogane for one year in English and Chinese.

Our former Orphans Interntional Worldwide Haiti director, Phadoul Amisial, has arrived from Port-au-Prince.  He has agreed to serve of our NHO partnership Advisory Board in Leogane and helps throughout the interview process, conducted in English, French, and Creole.

Phadoul has a background in both child psychology and business administration and serves as administrator of one of Haiti’s best pediatric hospitals in the nations’ capital.  Phadoul travelled with me to Indonesia to train there with Orphans International Worldwide years ago and is a frequent guest of ours in New York.

Screen shot 2010-04-02 at 1.52.03 PM (2)
Former Orphans International Worldwide Officer Phadoul Amisial with U.N. commanders in background.

One of the applicants that passed Phadoul and the team easily was a medical student at one of Haiti’s top medical schools.  When the earthquake destroyed virtually all universities across Haiti, he suddenly had no medical school to return to.

Many other applicants had also begun university here, in the fields of computer science, civil engineering, business administration, nursing, and agronomics.  Ten of the 40 will theoretically go on after a year to four years full scholarship in Beijing.

We have finally chosen 23 men and 17 women for the 40 spots, but still continue to finalize second interviews with a few stragglers.  We are trying to have as many women as men.

I interview one particularly engaging but inappropriate applicant for this process on video as he has already graduated from university in education and is looking for a Masters degree scholarship.  Hopefully, someone in admissions somewhere in the world will be able to help this bright man named Remy.

Before the trip is over I will run into people affiliated with the University of Toledo from my home state of Ohio and we chat about scholarship possibilities that might be possible at that fine institution.  The couple are actually in Leogane to finalize the adoption process for a beautiful teenage girl that they had started before the earthquake.  Luckily, the girl survived.

After dinner, we meet Philippe Beauliere, principal of Nouveu College Surin Eveillard Secondary School to finalize our new agreement.  High schools in Haiti are referred to as “college.”

We meet in the pitch black night, at a table lit by flashlight.  Our team discussed assisting with traditional high school academic curriculum, as well as potential high school and college vocation training.  We will continue to work out the details, but shook hands to make a move into the school immediately.

IMG_3261
In front of the Ecole la Redemption, where Orphans International Worldwide and our NGO partners
will locate our efforts and resources to do our part in the reconstruction of post-earthquake Haiti.

We shook hands on deal to have Orphans International Worldwide Haiti locate in the three story school and run orphan family-care in Leogane, along with our multiple NGO and corporate sponsors providing auxiliary programming.  Another 15-hour day ended.  We are in Haiti to help and help we shall to the best of our abilities.

Photos by Morgan Freeman.

Other Stories and Interviews by Jim Luce about Reconstruction in Haiti

Live Report: Cement Dust Coats All of Haiti, as 9/11 Dust Coated New York (Daily Kos)

Live Report: No Spiders to Bite Me in My Pre-Dawn Haitian Shower (Huffington Post)

Live Report: 200 Haitian Earthquake Survivors Interviewed for Ten Chinese Scholarships (Huffington Post)

Live Report: Orphans International Worldwide Goes Live in Leogane, Haiti (Daily Kos)

Live Report: Tremendous Progress Accomplished in Six Short Haitian Days (Huffington Post)

Live Report: Leogane - Walk-Through of our New Base, Ecole la Redemption (Vimeo)

Live Report: Leogane - Applicants for University Scholarships in Line (Vimeo)

Live Report: Leogane - Interviewing Global Team on Back of Truck (Vimeo)

Live Report: Port-au-Prince – Dr. Tiffany Keenan on Connectivity in Haiti (Vimeo)

Originally posted to Thought Leaders & Global Citizens on Sat Apr 03, 2010 at 04:14 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (12+ / 0-)

    My web sites: jimluce.com, twitter.com/jim-luce, lucefoundation.org, oiww.org, huffingtonpost.com/jim-luce, jimluce.dailykos.com

    by jimluce on Sat Apr 03, 2010 at 04:14:45 AM PDT

  •  Veterans of Sri Lanka's (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lyvwyr101

    genocide are welcomed onto UN peacekeeping missions?

    From the killing fields to humanitarian rescue... Is there no morality in this world?

    text "YELE" to 501501 to give five bucks to Haitian relief, or "HAITI" to 90999 to give ten to the Red Cross.

    by litho on Sat Apr 03, 2010 at 04:25:23 AM PDT

  •  wtf? nothing like bashing unknown individuals who (5+ / 0-)

    experienced seismic calamity themselves and are now helping others.

    But I guess only the civil war and horrors in their own country should be considered forever and always when talking about humanitarian actions by anyone affiliated with the SL government . . . . I guess.

    Fear is the mind-killer - Frank Herbert, Dune

    by p gorden lippy on Sat Apr 03, 2010 at 04:32:44 AM PDT

    •  this was supposed to be a reply to ltho c #2 (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wilderness voice

      Fear is the mind-killer - Frank Herbert, Dune

      by p gorden lippy on Sat Apr 03, 2010 at 04:33:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The people running Sri Lanka (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        lyvwyr101, Roadbed Guy, svboston

        should be in the Hague defending themselves for their monumental, world-historical crimes, not running around the world wearing the UN logo on their arms.

        Just as I would not Ratko Mladic providing humanitarian assistance, nor Hutu militiamen, I reject the notion that the Sri Lankan murderers can buy their way back into the world's good graces by cleaning a few fallen bricks from an earthquake.

        The Sri Lankan army conducted a systematic campaign whose main effect was to eliminate an entire ethnically different civilian population.  And it only happened a year ago.

        text "YELE" to 501501 to give five bucks to Haitian relief, or "HAITI" to 90999 to give ten to the Red Cross.

        by litho on Sat Apr 03, 2010 at 04:53:38 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  That's probably a valid point (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          p gorden lippy

          of course, there are those who'd make the same arguments about US involvement.

          The point being, as longer as either group is not in The Hague, it's probably not a bad thing if they're helping out in Haiti.

          •  No, that really doesn't do it (0+ / 0-)

            We're talking Nazi or Rwanda scale genocide in Sri Lanka, more like the Nazis because it was conducted with the full resources of a modern state.  It's the worst thing that's happened in the world in the last ten years, and most people have never even heard of it.

            Those fuckers are bad, the worst you can imagine.  Even Dick Cheney looks civilized next to them.

            text "YELE" to 501501 to give five bucks to Haitian relief, or "HAITI" to 90999 to give ten to the Red Cross.

            by litho on Sat Apr 03, 2010 at 06:02:54 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  linky? (0+ / 0-)

              my relatively uninformed understanding was that there were atrocities on both sides.  I had heard nothing of genocide. Ya got links?

              •  There was a link (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                wilderness voice

                in my first comment, which unfortunately is not in this thread.  Here's that link again.

                This page, devoted to discussion of the genocide of the Tamils, hasn't been updated since January 2008 -- so there's no discussion of the truly horrendous military offensive the government launched against the Tamils in the summer of '08.

                This article was written after the offensive ended, but is more of a historical account of Sinhalese repression of Tamils than a discussion of the atrocities of the offensive itself.

                This piece also gives a nicely balanced background to last year's offensive, but doesn't discuss the offensive at all.

                This Jan. 2009 interview by Tavis Smiley with Tamil recording artist M.I.A. also provides a refugee's account of what M.I.A. calls a "systematic genocide."  The serious part of the interview begins about at about three-minute mark, and the bulk of the discussion happens in part 2.

                text "YELE" to 501501 to give five bucks to Haitian relief, or "HAITI" to 90999 to give ten to the Red Cross.

                by litho on Sat Apr 03, 2010 at 06:43:51 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

            •  Actually, I'd characterize it more along the (0+ / 0-)

              lines of the East Timor genocide brought to us by the likes of US-based Nobel Peace Prize winner Henry Kissinger.

              Just offered in the spirit of - IMHO rather foolishly - trying to rank order genocidal events . . . .

              •  Yeah, Timor didn't come to mind (0+ / 0-)

                when I was writing, but that's not a bad comparison.

                That encirclement and shelling of the civilian population conducted by the Sri Lanka Arma, though, man, it turns your stomach.  We'll force you to occupy a crowded and unsanitary space, then drop high explosives on your head while closing all possible exits.

                And that was violence conducted by the state against an excluded and marginalized ethnic minority...

                text "YELE" to 501501 to give five bucks to Haitian relief, or "HAITI" to 90999 to give ten to the Red Cross.

                by litho on Sat Apr 03, 2010 at 07:03:10 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  More about these "wonderful" SrLankans in Haiti.. (0+ / 0-)

                  Thanks, Litho and Roadbed Guy for telling the truth..

                  I am glad that the Diarist met the "good" Sri Lankan Peacekeepers and not the usual kind that we Tamils know.

                  In November 2007, the U.N. repatriated more than 100 Sri Lankan peacekeepers from Haiti following allegations that some of them, as well as previous Sri Lankan troops, had sexually exploited or abused children.

                  OIOS and a Sri Lankan team had collected evidence, including cellphone text messages, on allegations against Sri Lankan soldiers dating back to 2004.

                  Soldiers allegedly had sex with at least nine minors, ranging in age from 10 to 16, in and around a U.N. camp, including in the observation towers and showers, as well as in U.N. trucks, according to a former U.N. official familiar with the investigation. The children allegedly were paid as little as 75 cents and sometimes with food, this person said.

                  http://online.wsj.com/...

                  Here is the latest about the Sri Lankan Tamil issue from the Economist.....(http://www.economist.com/world/asia/displaystory.cfm?story_id=15819464)

                  The government spars with aid agencies; the displaced still suffer
                  Mar 31st 2010 | From The Economist print edition

                  NEARLY a year after the end of Sri Lanka’s long civil war, life remains grim for hundreds of thousands of Tamils in the north of the country, displaced in the final months of fighting. Now they face a new threat. International agencies are running out of funds to meet their needs, after the government’s rejection of a United Nations-led mechanism for channelling humanitarian assistance to the country. By March 25th only $15m had been promised for the year, just 4% of the estimated total required for humanitarian aid in the camps and return areas.

                  Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much. Oscar Wilde

                  by RationalMan on Sat Apr 03, 2010 at 09:04:27 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Jimluce.. I dont t mean to offend you... (0+ / 0-)

                    .... Please continue the good work.

                    Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much. Oscar Wilde

                    by RationalMan on Sat Apr 03, 2010 at 09:06:17 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  JimLuce @ huffingtonpost! (0+ / 0-)

                      Jim, I thought I remembered reading your posts on Huffingtonpost about Sri Lanka.

                      You were very complimentary towards the Palitha Korahna and Government's  handling of the Refugee Crisis on October 13, 2009. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...

                      Perhaps you would reconsider your post?

                      And your other post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-luce/in-sri-lanka-explaining-t_b_211249.html) has been are published in full (not just linked) on the Sri Lankan Government propaganda website  http://www.priu.gov.lk/...

                      You seem to have a soft spot for all things Sri Lankan...Perhaps you should make a full disclosure?

                      Thanks

                      Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much. Oscar Wilde

                      by RationalMan on Sat Apr 03, 2010 at 09:23:47 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

  •  photos by Morgan Freeman (0+ / 0-)

    The Morgan Freeman?

    •  Morgan Freeman (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wilderness voice

      No, "a" Morgan Freeman - my colleague and brilliant photographer and videographer. He was also the man who set up our Internet in Haiti - highly talented, but not a movie star...  

      My web sites: jimluce.com, twitter.com/jim-luce, lucefoundation.org, oiww.org, huffingtonpost.com/jim-luce, jimluce.dailykos.com

      by jimluce on Sat Apr 03, 2010 at 05:38:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  thanks tipped and rec'ed nt (0+ / 0-)

    To paraphrase Warren Ballentine: "We may have come here in separate boats but we're in the same one now"

    by OHknighty on Sat Apr 03, 2010 at 05:56:23 AM PDT

  •  what are your views on the missionaries (0+ / 0-)

    who are demanding the Haitians abandon their Voudon religion in order to receive aid?

    •  Vodou (4+ / 0-)

      The Haitian Government recognized Voudou as an authentic religious belief system years ago, on an equal legal footing with Catholicism and Protestantism.  Orphans International Worldwide, which I founded in 1999, was created from inception to be Interfaith.  We are mandated to raise children -- or support the raising of children -- in their own faith until the local age of consent, at which point the children we support have a right to chose on their own.  Any faith-based organization that requires parallel beliefs to receive aid is an organization that neither I nor Orphans International Worldwide would support.  On levels both personal and professional, I find such linkage appalling.

      My web sites: jimluce.com, twitter.com/jim-luce, lucefoundation.org, oiww.org, huffingtonpost.com/jim-luce, jimluce.dailykos.com

      by jimluce on Sat Apr 03, 2010 at 06:38:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Great diary and thank you for continuing (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    p gorden lippy

    your work in Haiti...

    "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." Dom Helder Camara

    by dizzydean on Sat Apr 03, 2010 at 08:41:10 AM PDT

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