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On site: Painstaking efforts to do normal tasks in Haiti
January 19, 2010
Kathy Troyer, a regional disaster management coordinator for MCC, describes some of the challenges of communications in Haiti as of Jan. 19. Troyer is from Orrville, Ohio.
I am sitting in a barbershop that is connected to an Internet cafe, composing this e-mail where I can plug into current that is produced by a generator so that I can also charge the computer battery. This computer will not connect to the café’s router so I need to save this e-mail and then walk back to the MCC house about three minutes away and hook up to the router there so I can get Internet and send this off to you (as well as all the MCC business e-mails I have composed). The MCC house we are at does not have a generator, but does have solar panels that charge batteries. That system seemed to work well the first couple of days we were here, but the solar system is not big enough to keep up with all the demand (sometimes seven to eight computers, either trying to recharge batteries or just use the current to save the battery for later, and also cell phones trying to recharge).
This is just one of the critical issues that keeps our days interesting. Trying to change U.S. dollars to Haitian gourdes so that gas and diesel can be purchased for the motorcycles and trucks is difficult, as is exchanging money to purchase food for MCC workers and also food and water for neighborhoods of people who live near our Haitian staff workers. Everyone is in need as large agency distribution has been so slow to begin. I am told there are signs all along Delma Street: “Delma 34 – We need water, food and medicine,” “Delma 45 – We need food, water and medicine,” “Delma 52 – We need.....” The signs go on and on as each neighborhood or refugee camp along the way is expressing the same need as they wait. The distribution was promised to begin yesterday but I did not hear that it did (to any extent). People are trying to be patient, but it is difficult. But we have not been made aware that there is violence or rioting – for that we give thanks.
For us, as MCC workers, one of the most frustrating things is communication – having phones that function so that workers can talk to one another, to other agencies and to headquarters in Akron and Winnipeg. It’s not easy to keep working vehicles filled with gas or diesel to operate them and to get everyone to wherever they need to go in the city. Also, it is challenging to know how to get reliable information from the Dominican Republic and other parts of the country so we can coordinate shipments and gas and exchange of money. But all the MCC workers are dedicated to the task, working well together, weathering the challenges without tempers flaring or conflict. Those of us at the MCC house try to have meals available and "traveling food" for those out on the road so workers are fed and have their beds prepared, clean water to drink and places to bathe (bucket baths) so that workers can do their best work.
We so appreciate the prayers and e-mails of support that we have been received. Thanks so much. Each day is a new challenge, with highs and lows, but we feel we are making progress in coordinating MCC's response to the many in need. As we are able we continue to send out information and photos to MCC offices in Akron, Pa., and Winnipeg, Man., so you can go to the website to see updates.