Haiti, round 5: Love in the time of cholera

Haiti, round 5:
Love in the Time of Cholera
Cholera is new to Haiti, but I treated quite a bit of it in Bangla Desh-
in 1982 of course, but how much can things change? It’s biblical in
its dimensions. Probably from that psychotic book of Revelations,
where the beast comes out of the ground, kills so many, and they
lie dead in the streets for three and a half days, the populace
stepping over them, afraid to touch them even to bury them. I went
down in the 22 again last Monday, came back Sunday night.
Cameron King from Bahamas Habitat was my handler. At 23,
she’s a seasoned pro at this- she has enough contacts to
seamlessly change course and plans midflight. So I stuffed the
plane to the gills with supplies from Jim Tucker at MedMission,

got through lousy weather out of BHM, and left Ft Pierce the next AM
as soon as I could get the eAPIS crap settled. It’s easier than it was.
Saw great views along the Exuma chain.

2 minute customs in Inagua, and gassed up at 7 bucks a gallon, cash- bidnez is bidnez, right? The plan was to fly to Cap Haitien, the epidemic having started in St Marc, nearer the North peninsula. But Haitian politics is pumped up. Elections are due next week, and (justified) anger over the Nepalese UN causing the outbreak in the first place led to riots, and Cap Haitien was closed. Cameron arranged for Sam Bloch from GrassrootsUnited to offload the plane and pick me up in Port. I diverted to Port au Prince, getting later now.

The gathering gloom and mountain/cloud intersection dictated a descent to 1000 ft over the Bay of Gonave to stay VMC, finally got through to approach, and I got in line- filed in behind and a little below a 727 on an ILS glide path. Wake turbulence lasts this long- burble, burble, say “what is…” and flip. …And I thank Greg Koontz- stick forward! No harm, no foul. It didn’t hurt as bad as clearing customs- $200 for nothing. Sam Bloch, founder of Grassroots,
met me with a schoolbus, and we loaded the stuff-
100 lbs of sugar, 20 lbs of salt, and 5 lbs baking soda, and salt substitute
(potassium), to make oral rehydration solution (ORS), IV fluids, and
catheters and setups, water purification systems, and many urinary
catheters I wish I didn’t bring. They don’t pee.
We went to Sam’s place, and I met a large number of young dedicated aid
workers of various stripes- builders and plumbers, organic farmers- hard
working polyglots whose main commonality seemed to be a reverence for and
history of attendance at the Burning Man festival. I need to go to that
one day.
Met Brenda, my handler, who gave me a cup of fantastic coffee.
She came back in a few minutes- as luck would have it, the doctors
without borders folks just pulled out of the slum clinic in Cite Soliel
because of security concerns, and a clinic full of cholera patients was
unattended- wanna go? We have a marine can ride in with you.
So I met a whole new Sully. Robert Sullivan, a strapping Boston Irish kid
with a Dundee sized knife, down on his own nickel and on his free time,
with Global DIRT- a strange but useful disaster response team, and we
loaded the NG tubes etc. onto a tap tap, and went down for the night
Met sister Marcella, an Italian Fransiscan nun and nurse, 25 years in
this slum, runs a 45 bed clinic now filled solely with cholera patients ,
and her assistant, sister Lisa, from Scranton. They looked beat, and
Leah, the clinic coordinator, was there, speaking great Kreyol, so we
sent the nuns home and took over.

It was a long night.

They came in droves early and again late, the neighborhood not safe in
the wee hours. It was hard to find a place to put them, and I couldn’t
discharge the recovering patients into the dark night, either- lumped
them on hard chairs near the door. A dead patient, wrapped in
garbage bags and masking tape, graced the break room floor –initially so
shocking I couldn’t go in.

But later I got so tired I napped adjacent…mosquitoes were active, couldn’t sleep

much, but to my shame, I never gave another thought to the stiff.

Brendan, another Global DIRT guy, has got serious IV skills- makes him
an all star in this circuit. He says the Haitians don’t seem to love
their kids- they don’t smile much- and points to an 8 year old boy
sitting guard over the dying 3 year old Taicha Inocent in bed 8. Where
are the parents? After daylight the parents arrive and spell the
brother- 5 other kids at home. Brendan hits most every vein, but he
misses that point. A dedicated caretaker got Taicha through the night,

the parents grateful. And he may not have seen this 18 year old boy,

carried 5 miles on his father’s back.

Cholera runs the gamut- from asymptomatic to a little diarrhea, to
important dehydration to life threatening fluid losses of 25 liters a day
These admissions are slanted toward the dying, toted in by brave family,
puking, slimed all over with shit, clammy and shocky, ghastly eyes.
Clean ‘em up and get them on a cot, then clean them up another 10 times
during the night. Look for an IV site, and try to get them started, keep
your gloves on and don’t pick your nose. Pick a number- 3 sticks, and if
you fail, put in an NG tube, and push the ORS down it with syringes. Of
course they vomit, but not all of it. When you get ahead a little, you
can start an IV line.
The mainstay is ORS, the sugar and salt solution that bypasses the
paralyzed Chloride pump in the gut, and just like in Dakkha, the clear
fluid they must drink looks so much like their clear stools they claim
it’s causing the diarrhea. Not bothering to examine that logic too
closely, I came prepared with orange food coloring- now the ORS looks

like medicine!
And there were 5 or so who were nearly dead…hearts pushing nothing at
160/min, no pulse palpable, belly skin tented up- they were dying… but
they didn’t, and as the sun purpled, then oranged the mountain crest,
their eyes were coming back out, a couple of them made some urine.
There is nothing better than that.
Home at 10, too late for breakfast, and slept through lunch. But Brenda
gave me some oatmeal- a tender mercy. It was hard to eat in Haiti this
Word gets out about the NG tubes, could I go to St Damien’s tonight- a
referral clinic for Sr Marcella and others?
Apparently now an owl shift man, I leave before dinner, and arrive to
relieve Dr Roberto, a nice pediatrician from the Univ of Verona, and I
talk to him about the NG tubes, and he shows me how to put in intraosseous
lines- sort of a big thumb tack of an IV drilled directly into the bone,
and capable of running large volumes of fluid…like Wagner’s operas, not
as bad as it sounds. It was very impressive, and with shocky babies, a
great benefit compared to my atrophic IV skills. I immediately became a
big fan.
St Damien’s- a first world 120 bed hospital, where is the funding from?
The cholera area is 300 yards out back- 9 UNICEF tents, 5 full, glowing in
the night.

My new home. And we round, tents 1,2,3,4,5, and start again,
find the nurses have shut all the IVs back to low flow, so they don’t have
to get up and change them so often. Lecture them, repeat the rounds, and
find the flows cut back again. Sheesh!
Gladys and Eva, sweet French women who run an orphanage, bring in
Kinsley, 2 years old, with clear cut cholera.

He’s in a tent with 14 other kids, the orphanage crushed in the quake.

They have 4 tents with 60 kids total. We’ll fix him up, and we send them home

with bleach and instructions, but before the week is done, we see 6 of her kids

from 2 tents, and Gladys looks exhausted.

This is the shape of things to come as the disease gets established
in the tent cities.

Maybe not all of them have cholera, and we stress over this- there are
other forms of secretory diarrhea, and if we keep them here, they soon
will get it. I start a few on antibiotics, not many, reasoning they’ll
shed shorter, be less infectious if we do have to move them to the
general hospital.
It goes on for days, patients walking a few miles to a truck, riding
roughshod in the back 3 hours down for admission, in by stretcher, out on
their feet in a couple or three days.

Some I think have HIV, and they don’t recover too well.
Thursdays, St Damien’s picks up 25 unclaimed bodies from the morgue, and
pays for the privelege, trucks them out to a nice spot, Tetanyan
(kreyol=”less than nothing”), and buries them in individual, marked
graves. A very Catholic idea, imparting some dignity to the close of
these unmarked lives. So of course the leader of the band is a nice young
Jewish guy from LA, Bryn Mooser. For him a mitzvah, I suppose, and he
asked me to join him. Sure, I said.

The crew is mostly Haitian, and they smoke cigars and drink rum
ceremoniously before slipping on the overalls to get started. Haitian rum
drinking ceremony is hilarious, the bottle a baton, a fair amount of
spewing like a flame swallower, various incantations I missed, but very
funny, a bit off color, I think.
The morgue is a reeking disgrace, a dead man bloating in the entrance,

bodies stacked like cordwood, babies stuffed into crannies. Untended foul
sluff makes for uncertain footing.

The workers begin Haitian chants and bang a drumbeat on the massive
fridge, Bryn plays a tenor sax- closing time jazz, and a spooky dignity
descends. I handle the body bags- involved, but at a safe
distance, clean. At the end, I carry a few.

Load the truck, traipse through the town, and ride up to Tetanyan, passing
the huge mounds of the mass earthquake graves.

The diggers rest in the
shade, and a band pours out of a tap tap, plays hymns and jazz tunes while
we toss the bags in.

An old preacher, one of the funnier rum drinkers,
says a few prayers, all together now, and it’s done, the grave diggers
amble back up the incline.
A bit of old New Orleans, really, with music and paid criers, but there’s
a sweetness about it. Less Revelations, more Isaiah-

“In your mother’s womb I have named you, and you are mine.”
Then home through the Exumas, a balm to any heart.

Haiti’s not going anywhere, and cholera is going to be around awhile.

Suppose I’ll go back here.
Happy Thanksgiving.

Thanks for sharing this tough reality with us on this special day. Happy thanksgiving for you and your family. I have been donating money to red cross in Haiti thru its Brazilian branch. I hope it is well used because from your description there is lots of needs.

Powerful, powerful stuff. The air has left my lungs. Proud to know you sir.

Good work Dr. McG. Are you about to post another list of stuff you need?!

I showed your post to my son Drew. Then I walked to the other side of the room and busied myself. I kept glancing over to see if he would just look briefly and move on or really read the whole thing. He was glued and read the whole thing and we talked a bit about it. He of course remembers you and your son and the connection really seemed to draw him into it in a way that a magazine story would not.

You are affecting a lot of people in a lot of ways.


Well Richard, your ticket to Heaven is secure.

Damn disturbing. Your reporting sure puts the what I see on the news to shame from a sheer get your attention point of view. As others have said, I am proud to know you.

You inspired me to make three different trips to Haiti. But, like many others, my commitment has waned. You just keep going despite the risks and the seemingly impossible odds.

Your reports are eloquent and blend the beauty and the horror of the situation. You have re-ignited my flame to do something for these folks regardless of the purely rational view of the situation.

Thanks you very much for taking the time to post about your efforts…it has a much bigger impact than I expect you imagine.


I apreciate the kind words. My partners generously agreed to a 3/4 position for a year- very nice, though perhaps they were just sick of me. In any case, I think it’ll get easier to fly til the money’s all gone.

Return dates so far:





The plan:

Toting water treatment equipment and workers (from SIFAT.org) down, working the clinic during the week while the watermen move around the country placing the equipment and training the Haitian workers. Then shuttle everybody back the following weekend. Pickup in BHM, or FXE if you went straight to Florida.

The in country planes are a Piper and a Maule, though an SR20 or 22 could go to Port au Prince, Cap Haitien, Les Cayes, and Jacmel without leaving good runways, and the drives from those aren’t so bad.

It’s beautiful flying, with very interesting mission oriented trips.

Also, we hope to put Joe’s wife, Kelly Nelson onto the arm board and IV cover department, and if you had a chance to meet her, I doubt you’d need further motivation.

Anybody want to go?

We are looking at a trip in early March with some folks from my kids’ school that have been traveling to Haiti for many years. Their efforts are focused mainly on small schools in the highlands with Pignon being the closest safe airport (I think you have been there).

My tentative plan is to be in truck driver mode with people from FXE and then multiple freight trips from Santiago, DR to Pignon. I’m figuring I can do about 7,000 lbs a day (3x PC12 trips daily) from Santiago. Since there is good airline and freight service to Santiago, we are planning to pre-position cargo there…at least that is our very tentative plan.

But, this plan could fall apart, so please keep me posted. Also, I may be able to get all the freight our folks need in country within a day or two, so let me know how I could be helpful to you if I have some free cycles on the plane.


These are great posts. They’ve encouraged me to go in Jan. (as Dr. McG knows). Most of the details are in good shape with his help and Cameron from Bahamas Habitat. I’m going to fly down from NJ (with my instructor…), load up the 22 with water purification equipment (set up by Bahamas Habitat) and go, for a couple of days.
So now the catch, I’m having difficulty with my insurer getting the coverage extended for the trip. The plan is to go in country to deliver the goods and then also transport some SIFAT folks around with the devices to help them set them up. It sounds like if I get insurance, I may be limited to just hauling gear back and forth to Haiti and no in-country work. That’s still a good mission, but it seems the 22 would be great for the other end also. My broker is working on it, but I’m interested if anyone here has run into similar issues and how you resolved them. Thanks, DP

Broker Justin Wulf put me into a USAIG policy that had no restrictions on Haiti flights.

Dan, I have been with CV Starr the last few years because they were the best deal for me. When I went to Haiti, I was pleased (and surprised!) to learn that Haiti is part of their standard coverage area. No endorsements or special payments or anything was necessary.

Have your broker check out CV Starr. It could be that the best way of approaching this is to replace your coverage, even if you have to take a short-rate hit for the unexpired term of your current coverage.

If you are politically concerned, the brains and money behind CV Starr is Maurice “Hank” Greenberg who basically created the AIG organization we had to bail out bigtime. He has since retired from AIG and I think he runs CV Starr as a hobby. I try ot overlook Hank if they are the best deal, but other people may care more.

Thanks for the input. Hopefully I don’t need to go that far. Does anyone know the Haiti aircraft insurance requirements?

So my insurance broker, Tom Surgalski at Nationair, did an excellent job and my coverage is extended for this trip. A good early Xmas present to make this trip happen. Thanks for the replies above…DP

Haiti Trip - Long Post

Well we finished up our Haiti trip and returned to N.J. this
past Sunday. I thought I would
post some notes I made during the trip and links to pictures here so you can
read and see what we were up to.

Sun, 9 Jan - KMMU – KCHS ($5.84gal) - KFXE - Pick up water purification systems at
KFXE ($4.61/gal Humanitarian discount)

Mon, 10 Jan - KFXE – MBPV ($6.08/gal - $48 fees) - MTCH (No
Fuel) - meet missionaries and Dr. Mac

Tuesday, 11 Jan - water installations with SIFAT

Wednesday, 12 Jan - 1 Yr Anniversary of earthquake - water
installations with SIFAT

Thursday, 13 Jan - MTCH – MBPV – KFXE

Sunday, 16 Jan – KFXE – KIGX ($4.76/gal) - KMMU

Our mission was to pick up water purification equipment in
Florida and transport it to Cap-Haitien, Haiti. Craig has a wealth of flying experience, including the Caribbean,
which bring this trip into the realm of possibility for us. Dr. Mac put us in touch with Bahamas
Habitat http://www.bahamashabitat.org/wordpress/. They basically set-up and coordinated
our mission. As some of you
probably know, they’ve done a large amount of coordination of general aviation
flights there for the last year as well as been in the middle of the relief
effort. They are very helpful
people and we were looking forward to meeting them. Bahamas Habitat set us up to assist another missionary group
called SIFAT http://www.sifat.org/. We would transport their water
purification units as well as assist them with the installations. We were to be working with one of their
team for a couple of days.

Craig and I left Sunday am 9-Jan and stopped in Charleston,
SC. We wanted to get a good first
leg in (3:30hrs) and Charleston is a place I’d like to visit with my wife, so
we stopped there to check out the airport. It’s not the cheapest place, but it’s nice. You need to ask Odyssey for the AOPA
discount to get the fuel price listed on ForeFlight FYI… We were in and out before the big storm
came through so our timing was good.
In fact our timing and the weather was good for the entire trip
thankfully. We used a Spot II GPS
messenger http://www.findmespot.com/en/index.php
so our family and friends could track our progress. It worked well and let everyone follow along as we
progressed on our journey.

We arrived in KFXE (2:45hrs) just before sundown and parked
at Banyan. Cameron from Bahamas
had been through the day before and arranged the gear we were to transport in a
hangar there. Our young lineman
was a bit challenged in helping us so a woman from Banyan jumped in and solved
our problems. I learned later that
she and her husband co-own the FBO; very nice service. We also received a Bahamas Habitat
discount on fuel and no fees.

We had a good safe trip from KFXE, Ft. Lauderdale to MBPV
(3hrs), Providenciales in Turks & Caicos. This was my first trip to the Caribbean so this flight was a
good adventure all by itself. MBPV
has no radar so be prepared to tell the tower your location and distance
frequently so they can plot you for spacing purposes. There was a 1,000 ft cloud layer and some traffic, so it was
active when we approached. They
vectored us for the RNAV approach for runway 10, but I’m told they use VOR
approaches frequently. They are
lengthening the runway there so there is a decent amount of heavy equipment off
of the end of runway 10.

Make sure you print out your ICAO outbound VFR flight plan
before you leave the US. This is
so the Provo FBO can run it up to the tower for you while you wait for
fuel. We faxed ours in to them
before we left but it did not seem to arrive. We used basic Gen. Dec. forms from Bahamas Habitat and they
were fine. We were only there for
a fuel stop, so a quick customs hello, 3 General Declaration forms, the ICAO
form, pay for fuel, a pit stop and we were done. Next stop, Cap-Haitien, Haiti. I had updated my Jepp. data so we had
Caribbean electronic and paper charts incl. Haiti. Make sure your plates are included in this or print out the
paper versions before you go. The
electronic plates didn’t make it on my update for some reason. The Bahamas
& Caribbean Pilots Guide is also a book you’ll want on the trip. A couple of other charts for overkill
are (i) Islands of the Bahama, and Turks & Caicos islands travel and
aviation chart and (ii) Northern and Eastern Caribbean travel and aviation

At MBPV I met another pilot of a twin engine turbine
parachute plane from New York State, who was headed for Port au Prince. They were actually parked next to us at
KFXE and had left earlier than us.
He asked if we were dodging around like them and I told him we had flown
at 15k and it was smooth and direct…J. He
began telling tales of his last time in Haiti last year transporting goods in a
Beech King Air. The receiving end
of his shipment was late to the airport and he was advised by the locals they
were getting close to closing the airport for the evening, so he dumped his
cargo on an airline skid and turned tail and left. I told him we were going to stay for a couple of days and he
was perplexed.

Our trip to MTCH, Cap-Haitien (50 min) was nicely
uneventful. It was a VFR flight at
10.5k if I remember correctly.
Once Miami drops you at the ALBBE intersection, you self announce on the
tower and CTAF until or if the tower responds. They decided to talk to us at the 15NM mark, on the
CTAF. Bahamas Habitat had provided
us with a useful trip kit that had good information on all the airports in
Haiti. We had also discussed it
with them so we felt reasonably prepared.
About 1/3 of the runway has been “decommissioned” and is now
used by pedestrians, mopeds etc.
There was a fair amount of activity there when we flew over them and

There were several planes parked at the airport, plus a
turboprop that came in a year ago with too heavy a load, collapsed the landing
gear and bent the props. There was
less of an “airport” there at the time and I think they abandoned the
plane. Dr. Mac’s Cirrus and the
Bahamas Habitat Baron greeted us on the ramp.

The two missionary groups we are working with are
terrific. None of this is possible
without their efforts. One of the
girls is a pilot and has her certified flight instructor, commercial,
multi-engine license among others.
She says she made ~40 trips to Haiti last year. They do a lot of work on distribution
and partnering with other charity/missionary groups to get things done. There are also a lot of pilots in their
group. She met us at the
“airport” and helped us through customs, immigration and the
“baggage handlers”. We
brought in six water purification units, clothes, baby clothes, water, food and
some soccer balls. Somehow we
avoided paying any duty which was a nice surprise. Their cheerful faces helped substantially and their
successful efforts are inspiring.

Everyone else leaves their planes unguarded as the situation
has improved from last year. I had
Big Franky (not as big as Big Papi - I actually expected a bigger guy…), the
customs officer assistant guarding my plane. He gets paid when we leave.

Cap-Haitien (“CAP”) is the second largest “city”
in Haiti with over a million people.
The place is a disaster. No
infrastructure, no local government (not bad gov’t, no gov’t). Their problems defy definition. Imagine Germany immediately post WWII,
with no government, no organization and no Marshall Plan and then let is fester
for a while. Power is at the top
with the “government” in Port au Prince (“PAP”) with lack
of any apparent consideration for the people. Until that changes, I can’t imagine any real progress being
made here. Still,
people live here, and it is hard to imagine it until you are exposed, or
re-exposed to it.

Monday’s Notes:

We’re staying at the Catholic House. It is a convent and school up on a hill
above the town (thankfully). The
sisters here lost 14 nuns in the earthquake and there are only two left, plus
staff. We each have a small room
with a couple of shared bathrooms and shower rooms. The missionaries are waiting for text updates of the
Auburn game…[:)] Even the convent is a don’t drink the
water place; I’m not sure why they haven’t secured the water here yet, other
than there are more pressing problems (Note – I’ve since learned that the House
has a complicated water supply system and it is on the agenda for a March
trip). The staff are also cooking
for us. We had a nice meal tonight,
great by local standards (a bean dish, rice, plantains, tomato/peppers, goat,
coca-cola in bottles, water in bottles and cookies). I hope I feel as good about it in the am, but the
missionaries have stayed here frequently.
The Mother Superior does a pretty good job negotiating on the rate (my
French is coming back to me - I should’ve showed her the pictures of the kids
earlier…:)), but it is a pleasure to have this compared to the
alternatives. They also have
electricity and lighting 24 hours; parts of the city have it shut off early in
the evening. As I write this in my
room with a screen I have my 98% DEET bug spray on, but clean sheets and
lighting. Music, a guy playing a
trumpet, car horns, mopeds and voices are serenading me from the city just
below. The ear plugs will go in

We will not end up flying around in-country as we’ll help
distribute the water purification units around CAP. This not normally one of SIFAT’s missions as they do
community development. Their Board
however, has approved doing this for a second year. Most of their work has been in PAP and this is their second
trip to CAP; we have their lead technician here. We will go out with him tomorrow and Wednesday to help him
install units http://waterfortheworld.com/purifiers. The units are small and work off of a
battery, some salt and a solar charger.
They are very effective however, and can purify a very large volume of
water (400 gallons in 1-3 hours depending on how dirty it is). They are similar in concept to a “salt
water” pool in that they transform salt into chlorine gas through electrolysis, which cleanses the water into a drinkable state. They also come with a solar charger for the battery, which
will last a long time, assuming someone doesn’t start using the battery to
start their truck. SIFAT finds
locals community leaders to champion the projects and requires the
beneficiaries to invest some good money into the system (buy a cistern and
battery for example). That way
they take ownership of the gear and the project. It seems to be a good approach.

The missionaries have series of limited scope missions. They indicated that some people come
here for too long without transitioning out, or have to large a task to be
effective. They’ve also seen folks
with that 1,000yd stare as the black hole that is this place sucks up all
relief efforts with no consolation of progress made.

Similar to limited scope missions to keep trying to help
people (notwithstanding the magnitude of the problems), the distribution effort
seems to be more successful with more targeted and smaller efforts. I was told a story of one group trying
to bring in medication (amoxicillin, etc.) in a container through PAP last
year. The port
authority/government opens every container and looks at them. They then decide what the tax is. If your container has something they
want, they slap a huge tax on it. You can pay the tax, or if it is not paid by
a certain date, they confiscate the goods and take what they are after (to pay
the tax of course). In this case
it was a container of prescription drugs for children worth $100+k. The port authority taxed it
$40k… So you now know where the
money to keep the elites in government is coming from. You also know why not as much of the
goods have been delivered here than as promised post earthquake; and why a
large number of containers still sit on the docks undelivered. So small missions, like what we are
doing, as a one off event, seem to be more productive, albeit a drop in the
ocean. Individually they’re not as
interesting to the government mafia and other parties as the big shipments of

It’s a very sad state of affairs. It’s been a while since I’ve been up close and personal with
poverty this bad. It takes you out
of your comfort zone, but it’s beneficial to get reacquainted with other
people’s problems. It’s also been
nice meeting these missionaries and assisting them in their work.

Wednesday Notes:

We’re just about finished with our Haiti trip. Today was the one year anniversary of
their earthquake so it was a national holiday. The music is playing outside again tonight (as it seems to
be the case most nights), but tonight it seems the whole band is here. Morning will come slowly tomorrow.

This island, at least up North, has very rugged
terrain. Travel here saps your
energy. Tuesday was sensory
overload with all the road travel into the mountains (lots of refuse, stench,
noise, dust, and thick, black diesel exhaust, in your face plus a sore
rear-end), but a good day nonetheless.
The main form of road communication is the horn and it is used
frequently. Driving here is a
courteous game of chicken between the trucks, pick-up trucks, mopeds, busses
and the ever-present pick-up truck people carriers. The roads, where they exist, are filled with mortar sized
potholes and many places have dirt and rock packed washboards. The steep mountain roads have the
requisite winding turns with houses on both sides! It gets your attention when you meet an 18 wheeler going
either way.

It was an interesting, productive and long couple of days
working with SIFAT; they are troopers!
They work with community leaders and locals in the know to find places
to install these units. Typically
the guy that they/we worked with finds a suitable subject location for one of
the units and talks to the local in charge before we head out, but not
always. Sometimes he works through
other locally empowered individuals to gain access to other areas. Most of the units go to schools,
churches and clinics. Many times
these are located together in a compound like area; good for the community,
except when an outbreak occurs.

The more well run places, like the convent schools, seem to
be using bottled water for their kids, and to drink, and cistern water for
other things. The less well run or
funded places you see them pulling water out of wells in the ground that are
not nice to look at. All of these
places need the technology, some just realize it more than others or are more
desperate than others.

There have been a number of excellent installations: a
Catholic school and clinic, a local school, a school & clinic, and another
couple of community houses (plus a few schools etc. that need water tanks and
are buying them for SIFAT’s next trip here). The Catholic school is run by a nun who seems to have good
control over her place. There are
a number of children in the school, roughly 150-200. The kids are drinking bottled water right now, depleting
their resources. She started out
modestly interested in the technology and ended up asking for two units (she
could only have one). When we went
back Wednesday they were already planning on how to modify their tank system to
be able to clean the water in one tank and store the clean water in a separate

We have had a couple of rejections over the past two days as
SIFAT is just establishing relationships in CAP. The first occurred yesterday from a couple of doctors with
Doctors without Borders. They are
assisting a clinic in the mountains and are using drops of chlorine to sanitize
the water. They didn’t want to
spend the time to understand how the technology works, and unfortunately, the
clinic wouldn’t accept the gear without their sign-off, so no gear. The second occurred today in a hill
“village”, not that far out of CAP. This one was organized through a
second handler. The
“drive” up to is place is best described as going up a dry rock
strewn stream bed with dirt walls 8-10ft high on either side; it was hard to
believe that the truck actually made the trip up. The place was filled with mainly young people (our Lord of
the Flies adventure). There were
maybe three older guys, one of whom was the leader. He wasn’t well briefed…and he decided he was not terribly
happy with our presence. Right
about then everybody became very agitated, so we beat a very, hasty retreat.
Thank God the truck made it up the hill as we made good time in it going

We installed a large unit in local school and clinic that’s
run by a Dr. who is/was a member of their senate. As we arrived there some women were pulling water out of a
nasty cistern in the ground. He
got the message quickly and the unit we put in there will serve their entire
local community.

Overall we made good progress with the units we transported
in and have a couple of schools and clinics already lined up for SIFAT’s next
trip to CAP in March. They need to
buy water tanks etc. to modify their water systems to be able to use the
purification units. We left them
(plus our handlers and drivers families) small bucket filters called “sawyers”
until next trip. They are good for
1 million gallons and filter out the nastiest stuff.

When we arrived back at Catholic House one of the locals
wanted to chat me up and introduce me to his two young kids (maybe 3yrs
old). After you get hit up for a
good part of the day, it is not what you are looking for so I avoided him. The handler and I discussed it later
and I learned the man’s wife used to work at the convent, but she passed away
sometime recently. The convent
feeds him and his kids, but it doesn’t provide shelter for him. I asked the handler to get more info and
we discussed it with the Sister over dinner. They’re living on the street, and he’s also out of work
similar to a large percentage of the population here. So we figured out we can get him shelter for a year for
$200. This guy looked like he
needed help and the handler (also works for another US woman, Ann Reynolds who
does charity work here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HIP_Haiti)
has proved to be a pretty solid guy. So what do you do? Pay the handler the $200 for lodging
and a bonus 300 to the Sister for food for the year and have the Sister manage the process. The US goes a long
way here. If it was a con job, it
was a good one!

It’s said people exist on $30/month here; tough place. Another difficult thing to fathom is
the refuse. It is everywhere, and
I mean everywhere. I really have
trouble understanding how someone can live like that; garbage in the street;
garbage in the canals; garbage in the fields. Being poor and having limited opportunities is one thing,
but living among refuse escapes any logic for me. Maybe having the patience/flexibility to live here in
general bends the will to allow it; who knows?

So our trip is at an end and we fly back to the U.S.
tomorrow; can’t wait!

Thursday Notes:

3 Gen. Dec.’s for CAP; show the man the receipt for the
landing fees and we’re good to go right?
Well today is the day the UN chopper lands at CAP. The place was very quiet on Monday and
today, invariably everyone and their brother is there. The Philippine UN soldiers are saying
hello to us and even the UN half track is here. Our bags garnered nary a wave on the way in and they took
everything out of my bags going out.
French/English conversations about survival packs, PLB’s, hunting knife
etc. The fact that survival pack
was written on the backpack ultimately convinced them. A couple of turbo prop passenger
planes were in and out and a DC3 chartered by a group headed to Florida.

We met the girls from Bahamas Habitat one more time as they
flew in from PAP in their Baron and we were off to Provo. A quick customs hello, fuel stop, pit
stop, filing of ICAO form, and a call to CBP to give them our estimated time
and we’re off to KFXE. We
were looking good on our timing until we were vectored around KFLL and we
arrived about 18-25 minutes late.
(By the way, the Florida CBP number for general aviation is for FLL not
KFXE, even if their phone numbers are only one digit off.) Thankfully they forwarded our call to
KFXE. I was wondering whether CBP
would give us a hassle about our timing, but it was a non-issue. We called the office from our plane
while stopped in their red parking area and they came out to pass the Geiger
counter around the plane. We
grabbed our gear, went into their office, waited on line and then did our
immigration and customs/luggage checks.
Fire the plane back up (the hot start procedure worked well), and over
to Banyan for parking.

All in all we’re very pleased we made the trip. If you have plans to be in Florida, you
might consider something similar, even if just to drop off goods. I know many here on COPA have done this
already. Thanks to Dr. Mac and our
friends here on COPA for the inspiration as well as the benefits of their
experience to help make this a safe journey.

Here’s a link to some Florida and Caribbean island shots
while flying as well as pix of the mission in CAP. [http://gallery.me.com/danielgpace


Thanks for this update. I am entertaining flying my Cirrus in with supplies the first week of March for another mission organization. We have a short term team going from my church (their 8th trip) and have asked me to go (flying commerically…) They take 100# of supplies each checked through the airlines. I brainstormed and figured I can take a bit more than that :wink:

My concern at this point is customs. They have had problems with supplies never making it past port. They have containers that have languished in port for months…including food.

Robin I assume you’re going to Port au Prince? Send me an email and I’ll PM you with the contact details of the two people at the groups I worked with. They should be able to give you some good advice on how to proceed. Best rgds, Dan