Bon Fwa Day 1 Updates

Santo Domingo, Jan. 22, 2010 — Our second team on the way to Haiti consists of Roger, Claude, Grace, Kobie, Bugz, and Anne. I spoke for a short while with Roger, who summed up their day today as a "smashing success with their flight" — scoring a free ride on a millionaire's jet from Miami to the Dominican Republic — "and crashing failure with our drive and pickup." The team is currently 'stranded' for the night, safe and sound in a hotel in Santo Domingo, and making final arrangements to get to Port au Prince tomorrow.

This morning they left Chris's mom's house in Miami and took a flight donated to them by a group called SOS Haiti. The tiny millionaire's jet took them to Santiago, Dominican Republic, where Claude had been told there would be a van ready to drive them to Port au Prince by contacts he'd been working in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, an ad-hoc group of Americans who lived in Santiago.

When they got on the ground, their contact said he couldn't help them. Turns out it was not a land vehicle but an airplane that they were supposed to catch, and the group they'd planned to get transport with had lost both of their airplanes yesterday — one to engine failure and the second to a crash.

They briefly linked up with a large aid organization in Santiago, and obtained water, rice, beans, as well as a supply of IV fluids, then hired two taxis for $200 total to take 6 people + 1000 lbs of supplies to Santo Domingo to look for lodging for the night.

GETTING TO HAITI

1) The team is now in Santo Domingo staying at a cheap hotel for $10/person/night ($60 total). They are together, safe, and with all their supplies. They are trying to reach their contact in Santo Domingo and get into Haiti through her contacts with Dominican Republic Red Cross and national guard.

2) Barring contact with her, the team will take the bus to the Haitian border town Jimani. They will get up at 6:30am for the 11am bus. If they can get to the border, they will be only 40 miles from PAP and only 15-20 miles from Team 1's homebase orphanage. They are trying to arrange transport from Jimani to Port au Prince tonight.

PLANS

Once in Port au Prince, Claude's friends who work for the US can pick them up and take them to his Aunt and Uncle's house where they have space to stay in a safe compound with lots of women and children. They have work to do there, or may team up with Team 1. Claude is a physical therapist, and is ready to administer care specifically for amputated limbs and helping amputations heal such that they can support prosthesis.

LOGISTICS

$$$$: The team spent more money today than expected on transport and housing, but did not spend any money to get to the island. All the money was from personal funds. They worry that access to cash will be hard once they leave Santo Domingo. While in Santo Domingo, their credit cards work and maybe ATMs.

Phones: Blackberry messaging on their phones works in Santo Domingo, but texts and voice calls do not. They have a satellite phone and a T-Mobile phone, but there is no guarantee these will work in Haiti.

Travel: The "iffy" moment will be tomorrow: they'll be in a "vulnerable position at the border."

CONTACT PERSON

Personal note from Kyla: The team's original communication plans fell through, so until 9 or 10pm, the only updates we'd heard from them was:

  • From Carrie: they no longer had any stateside contact person
  • From Steward: they were "stranded" and had "run out of money"
  • From Team 1: they could not get in touch with team 2 despite trying for two days
  • From Roger: they had no plan to assure passage across the border if Team 1 could not pick them up

It's our job to worry, so I ended up fielding today's report. We MUST decide on a comms person for this group TONIGHT. I cannot field two teams' reportbacks because 1) for every hour of phone conversation it takes 1.5 hours to sort info and type it up & I start school Monday and am already spending from 7pm-midnight nightly on this, and 2) it is emotionally exhausting to hear these heartwrenching stories. Every team that goes down should be self-suffiencient in terms of Comms (just like food, water, med supplies, etc.), from depart date to planned return date.

Note from Grace at 1043 PM

"Everyone is sleeping but me: we have to get up at 5:30 am. We are feeling positive as we rush about our way. The owner of the restaurant downstairs just treated us to a feast with fried plantains, goat, chicken, rice, and two vegetarian dishes. We really needed that, because it is stressful to have to feel slowed in our approach, and to be frustrated in our efforts, and have to make so many quick big decisions in 3 languages as a team that is just getting to know each other. And then we know some y'all back in the States stressed to death because you can't help us move faster.

"Sitting down meant we could reflect on the hard work and miracles that have guided us to where we are now, and shake off some of our own doubt and fear about what tomorrow will bring and whether we will meet our own expectations or y'alls expectations that are heavy on us. This stuff is harder for me than the work that we will find ourselves doing within the next 24, no matter how horrific or gruelling that may be. I am convinced that the picture we gained of the relief effort from here in the DR will prove invauable in the days ahead, more so than the supplies we were able to pick up or the supply chain we have begun to establish."

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