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Friday, March 26, 2010

Haiti: The Streets, The People

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Laptops and Hotspots

Patrice Richard from Paris knocked timidly on the front door of Ms. Ederne Edouard, a 31-year old woman, unemployed and illiterate and hoping for a brighter day.

The French man who went by Patrice was surprisingly nervous and shockingly lost for words.  In his hands he carried a picture of his adopted daughter, 15 years old, Sophia.  From his lips, he mouthed the words from Sophia to his birth mother, "I love you Mama. I hope to see you one day, very soon."

What particularly chocked me about this story was the fact that Ederne had never seen a picture of her daughter -- never held her hand since she was abandoned at age two.

Now, Sophia was living in Paris -- smart, athletic and witty.  She loved to study and had many friends. Like most girls, her age, she had a cell phone and a facebook page.

And like most people in Haiit (over 30% are illiterate), Ederne did not have access to a phone or the internet, didn't even know how to boot up a computer, how to type together complete sentences or even write them down for that matter.

To me Ederne's story is sad, uplifting and wholly emotional.  It is a testimony of love and a testament to the fact that Haitian's need laptops, internet, and a portal to the rest of the world.

My dream is to provide laptops and high speed internet access to everyone in Port-au-Prince.  Yes, this dream seems extreme in a land where the biggest need is a tent to cover their heads and flip flops to protect their feet.  But how are we going to get them these materials quickly, proficiently and completely if we don't know how to request them, ship them, deliver them so that passion and compassion can be displayed with the best of humanity.

Here's what I'm thinking: tap off the existing backbone by building dozens of antennas strategically located throughout the city and connected via line-of-sight. Lend the laptops to women as part of a microfinance program and provide WiFi access via individual passwords.

Once built, the system is permanent and self sustaining.  Besides providing security, we would have to provide technical assistance to use and maintain the laptops.  We will hire local Haitians and provide them an opportunity to be trained, intern and return their knowledge and skillsets to the local population.

Providing laptops with high speed internet access is not just for the Haitians. First and foremost, this capability should be provided to relief workers and non profit organizations who are providing their time and capital to save lives and make life better in this country.

Often times, these organizations are comprised of very large groups where nearly 100 people per organization may need simultaneous access to high-speed internet.  These relief workers depend on the power of internet communication to ensure that their equiptment and resources (tents, flip flops, medicine, clothing, Bibles, etc) as well as people get moved smartly, quickly, touching as many Haitians as we possibly can.

Once the backbone is built, there is no reason why the appendages cannot be extended to the Haitian people so that every individual can enjoy the power and speed of the internet.

Critics may say, that people are not familiar with the use.  My response is that we can teach them, create skilled labor through internships and thus create more jobs.

Some may add that this country has a 30% illiteracy rate.  If people can't read a book, how can they read what's on their computer screen  -- my answer: Perhaps the computer more than the book with actually be the vehicle that introduces them to the power of language.

I have additional ideas how we can provide a large amount of laptops to the Haitians that can not only be a Win-Win, but a WIN-WIN-WIN-WIN for the folks at home involved in this large-scale endeavor.

I also have an idea how an application can be created in Creole that will be more icon intensive with fewer words and less complexity that I hope the Haitians will happily embrace.

I also don't want to bore you with these logistical and technical details.  If you would like to discuss with me the specificity of my plan, please drop me a line.

I hope that this vision will soon come to fruition and we can provide free high-speed internet access to every Haitian in Port-au-Prince.  Meanwhile, at home, I am hard pressed to find a WiFi signal even in the most busier parts of DC.  Yes, I know that this vision can be a hard endeavor, but if you don't try, we will never know life's true possibilities.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Visiting Haiti

I am so glad that Haitian President Rene Preval met with President Obama today at the White House.

Although there are many issues and contention, we must look forward.

In less than six hours, I will be boarding a flight from DCA to Haiti. 

Besides my backpack, I will be carrying a piece of important equipment for the monastery - a laptop projector.


Thank you so much for the detailed directions.  I am looking forward to arriving in Haiti, to help, to learn and hopefully make a difference.  Best to you.  I am hoping Pere Firto Regis will also connect me with people so that I will have an opportunity to document and report on the story.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Tribute to the Troops


Marathons is a time to reflect and to remember. While running through Miami Beach, I was presented with a pleasant surprise.


As I ran by 2800 grave sites, I was taken back that each one of these tombs marked a young American who gave their lives so that I could have the freedom to live and run.

This memorial made me think of my friend: Florence Choe who was shot in Afghanistan earlier last year, as well as my Navy friend Phil Murphy-Sweet.


I was really touched by the Tribute to the Troops gravesite in Miami Beach. Many of the graves marked young men and women, some who were only half of my age. As I ran past them, I felt spirited and touched by their sacrifice.


During the latter part of the run, I was given a round of applause by some very nice people who were outside with friends and family, dining and supporting the runners. I was deeply thankful and pleasantly surprised. But the real applause should go to the brave men and women who gave their all to our country. That is what I am celebrating today.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Team in Training

The  Marathon Expo at the Miami Beach Convention Center was huge and had everything under the sun.

  The ING folks put on a marvelous race.  As expected, the course was spectacular (The courseway with the sun rising) and it was extremely well organized.  Best of all, the weather was splendidly delightful. 

The incredible team from Team in Training:  Heather, Samantha, Abby, Sarah, Manny and Ryan running and raising money for a 6-month old girl who was diagnosed with leukemia.

The five are running for the girl, but she alone is providing deep inspiration for the whole team.

Shansy from Team Lifeline. Team Lifeline was the most represented charity in Miami representing all 50 states plus Washington DC. 

Team World Vision

Team World Vision is an incredible organization doing amazing things for the people of Haiti.