In January 2010, upon learning of the devastation caused in Haiti after a massive earthquake, our Common Man family of restaurants in New Hampshire put forth a "Common Effort for Haiti" event, donating 50% of all food sales at 15 of our locations to disaster relief efforts.
Partnering with New Hampshire chapters of The American Red Cross and Partners in Development, a non-profit which has been working in Haiti since 1991 to transform communities so they may be self-sufficient, the Common Man family raised more than $60,000 thanks to the help of our generous guests.
But for our owner Alex Ray, well-known for his commitment to community, resourcefulness and willingness to help, it was simply not enough. So, as he did when the tragedy of September 11th happened in New York, and when Hurricane Katrina struck in New Orleans, Alex packed his bags and headed to Haiti to offer his support.
Joined by local nurse Carolyn Brown, Alex set out for Haiti on Tuesday, January 26 with medical supplies, emergency equipment, a digital camera, Flip video camera and laptop. We will chronicle his journey here as he is able to send communications back to us, so that we may take you along this "common man's" journey to help our fellow man.
We will also post updates to our Facebook and Twitter pages at www.facebook.com/thecommonmannh and http://twitter.com/thecmannh where our fans, followers and friends can post messages back. We will make every effort to get your questions, comments and notes of support to Alex and the New Hampshire team working in Haiti.
As you follow his journey, please consider whether you've taken a chance to "Do Good" today!
Monday, February 1, 2010
I am sorry it has taken so long for an update. Technology is just not working for me here, but I will keep trying.
We arrived in Port-au-Prince Sunday, January 31, after an all-day drive from Jimani in the Dominican Republic. We had to drive over the border into Haiti, it was risky. We’re going into town to meet people there and go into city to get acclimated. Today we hope to make it to a home called Children of the Nations, which is a shelter that existed here before the tragedy, but obviously the demand and need is much greater after the quake.
Since arriving last Tuesday, we spent the first four or five days in Barahona, on the south coast on the Dominican Republic, about three hours east of Santo Domingo. I am with John and Cathy Bentwood and Carolyn Brown, all of New Hampshire, and trained medical professionals. There is a clinic there run by Children of the Nations, and they are only treating children. We mostly saw children who were severely injured, though our team wasn’t doing any major operations, but things like setting broken bones, giving post-operative care to amputees.
It is unfortunate that many children had crush injuries and there wasn’t proper medical care to treat them. They handled almost a 1,000 operations in a clinic in Jimani, and did very hasty operations because they didn’t have other choices. They used hand tools and had unsanitary conditions. Helicopters were coming in to Barahona and taking some children away who needed more advanced care. I helped the medical teams run patients out to the helicopters on stretchers.
On Thursday we drove to Jimani. There’s a large hospital that was a rehab center but turned into a crisis center. At it’s height they treated hundreds, they are now down to about 200-300 patients there. We worked with about 100 doctors from all over the world.
We traveled on Saturday into a very simple village in Haiti on the north side of the lake near Port-au-Prince, with about 200 residents, and I’m telling you it’s like aborigines, very simple, never seen anything so basic. The children are malnourished and ill, we spent time with them giving food and vitamins and treating infections. We had lines for two or three hours, doing triage and taking care of skin infections, things like that. We gave away a lot of the food we brought for ourselves, we just felt so bad. It was chaotic, they are so hungry. There is a pastor there and they sang songs and said thank you to us.
They told us they had noticed the lake they live on had been rising, and no one knew why. They now wonder if it’s because of the shifting earth that led to the quake.
We got to Port-au-Prince on Sunday and used the US Embassy as a meeting place. They were very good to us and the other people from the shelters came to meet us. Because I am not part of an official medical team, I cannot stay at the shelters designated for doctors and nurses, even though I’ve been working with them. It was very scary for me learning that the place where the medical team is staying would not take me. I was fortunate to meet a Haitian family we worked with at the hospital in Jimani, who has been serving as translators and almost security guards for us. They have taken me into their home on the top of a hill in Port-au-Prince, and let me stay with them. Their home was not damaged by the quake, though a large cement gazebo outside of their home crumbled. Since then, their nine year old daughter will not sleep in the house. She is still scared.
I am working mostly as a “resource man”, organizing and getting food and supplies together when I can. We had a funny incident where the coffee bean grinder broke, and for 200 volunteers working around the clock, to hear there’s no coffee, that’s like a crisis to them. I took the beans outside, wrapped them in cloth and smashed them with a cinder block. And we had coffee! It was a little gesture, but whatever I can do to help, I will do.
I want to feel like I’ve done something and I guess I’ve been pretty menial, but we’re working to keep the group going. It’s hot. Nothing works. Cell phone and laptop having problems. It’s going to be a long haul down here. The whole city has no electricity. There’s so much damage. No public water. I don’t know where you start. Huge amount of trucks - Red Cross, etc. Airport is strictly military shipments coming and going. Pretty hectic.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Some insights from Alex about why he embarked on this journey:
"At this point, I have waited a week or so to make sure my going is valuable. A team of friends I know from this area have been down there for five days, and we've been communicating about what the needs are, what supplies I should bring, and I've organized that from here with the help of many.
I am experienced in resourcing teams in the food service area, and think I would be of help. There seems to be no infrastructure in the disaster area right now for people to be fed. Emergency crews need to be fed, victims need to be fed, teams need to be organized to take the drop shipments and products and turn them into something. They are receiving huge drop shipments but they have to be put together, made into something to eat. I can do that! I may cook, I may set up a kitchen, make some stew, whatever it is I can do, I am willing to do.
I feel like I can find a place where I can fit. When I went to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and New York City after 9/11, it became my job to organize things. Pots, pans, plates, products and teams to help get people fed. I believe I can be of help by being a resource on the ground.
I also hope my first-hand accounts sent back to New Hampshire and posted here will cause more people to realize the effect this disaster has had on the people of Haiti, and inspire them to give back in their own way. I hope I can encourage and bring home the need as we articulate it.
I knew nothing about New Orleans before I got there, and the same is true now. When I get there, I can learn and adapt to the needs of those around me. I honestly have no idea what I'll be doing, but I'm going there to work."