Friday, March 30, 2012

Day 303: Cassie Comes Back

A good friend of mine from back during my first stint in Haiti recently returned for an uber-quick trip to do some filming for All Hands. It was great to see her. A quick summary of her time here, including a fun early AM run to the beach (along with some kick ass photos, as to be expected) here:

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Day 302: The End Game

And so, as my time in Haiti comes to a close, it seems my blogging slows down, which I should probably make an effort to counter, but I don't seem to have the same drive (or perhaps energy) to share as I once did. Now that I have a proper bedroom I really must admit, coming back from the office, hitting the bed, and grabbing a book is pretty much heaven for me. I tend to repeat that pattern quite frequently.

That said, this seems an appropriate time to write, as some big changes have happened in terms of my immediate future, and while some are frustrating, I am, more than anything, excited at what is to come.

First things first, Project Leogane is coming to an early close. Without going into too many details, All Hands finds itself in a situation right now where continuing to fund Haiti - now over two years after the quake - is proving to be an exercise in futility. A decision had to be made, which balanced Project Leogane against the overall financial health of the organization, and, unsurprisingly, the AHV board decided Project Legoane had to finish so All Hands can continue. I'd imagine this is a decision that many small organizations have found themselves having to make, as, afterall, this isn't a business. We depend on outside funding. When that goes away, we go away. Funding can be fickle. Haiti fell out of the news a long time ago. The funding tends to follow suit. So here we stand: the final day of work for almost everyone on the ground in Haiti is April 27th, 2012. A few people will stay on, myself and Paddy being the two who will effectively be the last All Hands members to leave Haiti (more on that below), but as it stands now, nearly all local and international staff leave Project Leogane the 27th.

The news took the wind out of our sails for a while, but, regardless of the reasons for it happening, it makes sense when I step back and look at it from the perspective of the higher ups. Yes, there are elements at play that do frustrate me, as many of us on the ground here feel our programs, which could be argued are the best programs the organization has ever run, are being cut due to decisions made above us that didn't have the desired outcome and have thus forced this hand. That may or may not be true, but I realize that it is easy to play the blame game, and to me, that seems pointless right about now. At the end of the day, I know what is happening on the ground in Haiti, and I know a bit of what is happening in the circles above, but I'd be wrong to assume I know the details behind the decision to close the project, and as such pointing fingers seems a base thing to do.

So we'll keep it at this: I'm sad to see the project close early, mostly due to the impact it could have on our local staff, but I was and remain incredibly thankful that I got to be a part of it. I don't think that what I've been lucky enough to help do here could have happened for me in any other organization. And yes, while Project Leogane is closing early, we can still be incredibly proud of the work we did, and the many thousands of people we helped. As an organization, All Hands stretched itself further than it had ever dared to before in doing what it did here, and once the current financial hurdles are (hopefully) cleared, I believe the lessons learned and experienced gained as a result of Project Leogane will be a major stepping stone toward future growth and improvement within the organization. When it's all said and done, I can't see how anyone could argue Project Leogane was anything but a success. We did what we came here to do: help people help people. That's a beautiful thing.

So what's next? Well, as mentioned above, while most everyone else will be leaving Haiti at the end of April, Paddy and myself will not. We recently finalized a partnership with GOAL, the large Irish NGO, to build and install 400 biosand filters for their beneficiaries in and around Gressier. While we plan on finishing the installations before April 27th, we do need to conduct two months of follow-ups with the families to make sure they have the support they need to use the filters over the long run. As such, Paddy, myself, and a few of our local staff will remain in Haiti until the end of June to see that through. We'll likely be staying at the base of a friend of ours, while still working for All Hands. Should be interesting. It will be strange to be the final two, but I do like the idea of being able to finish (or ideally, hand off to another organization) the program we helped start back in July 2010. I like the completeness of it - from beginning to end.

After June? Two potential options as of right now. The first involves staying in Haiti for another month working, temporarily, for a larger NGO on a specific project they want me to do, then heading out to Spain in August to spend a month with a friend of mine I've not seen in ten years before heading to London and graduate school in September. The second would be to leave Haiti in July, head to Spain for two months instead of one, potentially work for the NGO from there, and then head to the UK come September. Nothing set in stone yet, and both of those largely depend on my ability to secure the funding I need to pay for grad school. London, and King's College, are not cheap.

Much more to write about (Carnaval in Les Cayes, a trip to Haiti's northern coast, learning the hard way not to put everything you value in the back of a truck in PAP, a reconnection with old friends, etc.) but at the moment I'm in Santo Domingo, and the little restaurant across the way beckons with good food and cold beer.

In the interim, watch this, it's cool:

Hasta pronto.