Video: Message for Amputees in Haiti from Paralympian Josh Sundquist

Duration: 5 minutes 53 seconds

This project was the brainchild of Luc Castera, a Haitian born entrepreneur who also lives here in Arlington. He saw my videos on YouTube and thought my message would be an encouragement to those affected by the earthquake.

Luc has arranged for the video to be dubbed into Haitian Creole and shown as part of the Cinema Under the Stars, a mobile outdoor movie theater that brings entertainment and inspiration to rural Haitian communities.

Our amputee video will be shown to tens of thousands of Haitians during 260 showings in 52 communities on Cinema Under the Stars’ current tour.

For more info

Hat-tip @anacaona

Related Posts

10 things I learned from being in Haiti during the earthquake
Kouraj, cherie: Dispatch from Port-au-Prince
More pics from the Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Awards [Includes v interesting roboprosthesis]

Team #1 of 10: MCEER-AIDG Coordinate with UN on Haiti Earthquake Engineering Relief Mission

10 Engineers Provide “Emergency Engineering Support” in Response to the Haiti Earthquake

From the Preliminary MCEER-AIDG Team Report (University of Buffalo)


On Thursday, January 21, 2010, MCEER director Andre Filiatrault led a team of 10 French-speaking engineers to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Their mission was to assess the safety of buildings – principally, hospitals and food storage facilities – damaged by the January 12, 7.0M earthquake. The “Emergency Engineering Support” effort was initiated by the Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group (AIDG) on behalf of the United Nations and in collaboration with Partners in Health. It was quickly joined by MCEER, with the University at Buffalo-based Center playing the pivotal role in the recruitment, selection and deployment of the initial structural engineering team. The seven-day mission was critical to easing the delivery of medical services, food and water to the Haitian people. Perhaps more importantly, it laid a foundation for a more sustainable UN effort to continue the evaluation of an estimated 100,000 damaged structures still standing in Port-au-Prince.

MCEER-AIDG Emergency Engineering Support Unit get debriefed by Andrew Morton, UNEP
MCEER-AIDG Emergency Engineering Support Unit get debriefed by Andrew Morton, UNEP

Dubbed the “Emergency Engineering Support Unit”, by UN officials, the team was stationed at the United Nations Stabilization Mission In Haiti (MINUSTAH), adjacent to the Port-au-Prince airport. Members included Andre Filiatrault (MCEER, University at Buffalo), team leader; Reginald DesRoches (Georgia Institute of Technology), Caroline Zennie (Parsons Corporation), Scott DeHollander (MRB Group), Wassim Ghannoum (University of Texas), Eddy Germain (New Jersey Department of Transportation), Dan Gregory (Green Energy Corporation), Gabrielle Rigaud (Tufts University), Jean-Philippe Simon (U.S. Department of Defense), and Vladimir Charles (Second Floor Studios).

The team followed ATC-20-1 (Applied Technology Council-20-1: Field Manual: Postearthquake Safety Evaluation of Buildings) tagging procedures:

  • INSPECTED (Green): Appears safe for lawful occupancy;
  • LIMITED ENTRY/RESTRICTED USE (Yellow): Limited entry/use, controlled by building owner/manager;
  • UNSAFE (Red): No entry unless controlled by jurisdiction.

ATC donated 15 field manuals and condensed instruction materials to the effort.

Upon arriving at the UN compound, the team met with relief officials to recommend and establish a protocol to field and fulfill inspection requests. They created a special email address (EES-Haiti [at}hotmail {dot] com) and a database to log requests and monitor the inspection process to completion. Included for each facility are its GPS coordinates, assigned ATC-20-1 placards, and hyperlinks to corresponding ATC-20-1 evaluation reports and building photos, among other relevant information. These procedures have been adopted by the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), which will continue to direct emergency engineering support going forward.

Entering WFP Shodecosa Warehouse
Entering World Food Program Shodecosa Warehouse
Delmas 2 Warehouse
Delmas 2 Warehouse

One troubling aspect to the team was the realization that many hospitals and other critical facilities that remained undamaged following the earthquake were going unused as Haitians feared they would collapse from aftershocks. Consequently, medical procedures were being conducted outdoors, and a good deal of food and water needed for the relief, was going undistributed.

In addition to hospitals and food storage facilities, team members also assessed stability of other infrastructure including government buildings, UN buildings, embassies, and NGO headquarters. In all, they inspected 115 buildings.

The collapsed Ministry of Justice
The collapsed Ministry of Justice
Inside the basement
Inside the basement
MCEER’s director, Andre Filiatrault

MCEER’s director, Andre Filiatrault, inspects the collapsed Ministry of Justice to determine whether it is safe enough to enter the basement to extract important legal records.

Their volunteer efforts took place under the guidance of representatives from the United Nations Development Programme, Food for Health International, and other AIDG humanitarian partner organizations, that escorted them through the various inspection sites in Haiti. At times they traveled under the protection of UN forces.

Upon return to the U.S. the members of the team expressed how they were moved by the experience and the plight of the Haitian people. They are proud of the contributions they made to help speed relief at a time when it was needed most. All agree that they are changed by the experience, and now share a special bond.


Members of the AIDG-MCEER “Emergency Engineering Support” team pose together before their return from Port-au-Prince. They are (standing l to r): Andre Filiatrault, team leader; Jean-Philippe Simon, Reginald DesRoches, Dan Gregory, Scott DeHollander, Gabrielle Rigaud, Vladimir Charles, Eddy Germain, Caroline Zennie; (front) Wassim Ghannoum.

The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) is continuing “Emergency Engineering Support” activities, which may take several months to complete. Those interested to volunteering their expertise to this continuing effort should contact:

Felipe Munevar
Manager a.i.
Haiti Project Centre
5, Impasse Delvime, rue Daniel Brun
Bois Moquette, Petion-Ville, Haiti
Tel. (509) 25 13 17 08 or (509) 25 13 17 09
Cell: (509) 37 02 35 36
E-mail: felipem {at] unops [dot} org
UNOPS website:

Additional Information

Work in Progress: This is a partial list of structures inspected by AIDG’s earthquake and structural engineering volunteer teams. The color of the pointers indicate the placard assigned by the inspecting team. Green pointers means the structure was inspected and appears safe for lawful occupancy. Yellow indicates that use or entry into the building should be limited or restricted. Red means the building is unsafe and should not be entered unless controlled by jurisdiction. We’re currently working with volunteers, including Far McKon of Philly hackerspace Hive76 to create more interactive maps of this dataset.

Progress Report: Interim Emergency Engineering Support Unit (EESU) 01/27/2010 [pdf]
Preliminary MCEER-AIDG Team Report 02/11/2010 [pdf]
Haiti Earthquake Clearinghouse

Related Posts

10 things I learned from being in Haiti during the earthquake
Kouraj, cherie: Dispatch from Port-au-Prince
Haiti Quake: AIDG News Roundup 1/12/10 – 2/5/10
Updates from Haiti

10 things I learned from being in Haiti during the earthquake

1. Everything I learned about how to react during an earthquake from growing up in California does not apply in developing countries. Forget standing in the doorway. Get outside and get outside fast.

Apartment Building on Delmas 33
Apartment Building on Delmas 33
Collapsed building on Delmas 33
Partially Collapsed building on Delmas 33
Collapsed building

2. You can be in an impromptu IDP camp, your world can be turned upside down, but if your family is safe, you still can find happiness.

Us and Marc Orel's family in a spontaneous camp in Jacquet, Port-au-Prince

We (Marc Orel, Sasha Kramer, Wisnel Jolissaint, Paul Christian and myself) drove down to Port-au-Prince from Cap a few days after the quake. Our second stop after dropping off our things at Matthew 25 house and picking up our friends Elie and Berto was Jacquet where we found Marc Orel’s family all safely accounted for.

3. Humanitarian responses are far more chaotic then you would ever believe and logisticians are totally underappreciated.

Health Cluster Meeting at MINISTAH Log Base
A chaotic health cluster meeting at MINISTAH Log Base
NGO internet refuge on Log Base

In the early stages of the humanitarian responses, aid workers crowded in this room to get reasonable high-speed internet access. Télécoms Sans Frontières were responsible for setting up the internet.

4. Stories of looting and violence however rare are news. Stories of people banding together to help their communities however common are human interest pieces. TV news by design does not show a representative sample of life on the ground. It only shows what reporters think will maintain viewer interest and ratings with far too little regard of the larger scale effects that such practices will have on society at large.

Inside St Claire's soup kitchen

Inside St Claire’s soup kitchen. After hearing so much about the trouble the larger agencies and NGOs were having with large scale food distributions, Sasha and I were very surprised when we visited this well organized and peaceful soup kitchen at St Claire. This feeding program, which has been in operation for 9 years, has been serving 2,500 to 5,000 people a day since the earthquake, according to Lavarice Gaudin. Though Father Gerard Jean Juste, a strong advocate of liberation theology who headed the church, passed last May, his staff and partners try to “carry on his legacy” of serving the poor.

Community members unload food to be distributed to sick patients and IDPs in soccer field behind Matthew 25 House.

Photo by Elie Happel

5. Music, art, and play are more important in crisis situations than people fully acknowledge. It takes more that food and water to nourish the human spirit.

Ti Rose serenades

Our friend Rosemond Jolissaint, serenades a small crowds before he and friends and family members are evacauted to Cap Haitien from Pap. (I’ll try to post an mp3 of my favorite song of his later).

Girl jumping rope at St Claire
Girl jumping rope at St Claire

6. People will allow you to take their photograph even when in despair if they think the story of their pain will help others or serve the greater good.

Mother and child at the field hospital at MINUSTAH logbase
Mother and child at the field hospital at MINUSTAH logbase

7. There is no UN agency charged to deal with engineering issues before and after disasters in the same way that say the World Food Program or the World Health Organization deal with food and health respectively. [Update: After of a few months of scrambling in Haiti, UNOPS has now taken the lead and is helping the government perform 1000’s of structural assessments.]

Engineering team inspects Matthew 25 House
Engineering team inspects Matthew 25 House
MCEER's director, Andre Filiatrault, inspects the collapsed Ministry of Justice

Part of AIDG’s response to the crisis has been to recruit earthquake and structural engineers to assess buildings on the ground in Port-au-Prince. The 2 teams, one fielded in close cooperation with the Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research at the University of Buffalo, assessed nearly 200 government buildings, schools, orphanages, residences and food distribution warehouses during their stay in Port-au-Prince. Above MCEER’s director, Andre Filiatrault, inspects the collapsed Ministry of Justice to determine whether it is safe enough to enter the basement to extract important legal records. I’ll be writing a lot more about these fantastic engineers in future posts.

8. You can ride in the back of a pickup in the middle of Champ Mars and not get mobbed or shot at or caught in a riot. I’m talking to you CNN. Their reporting, which largely misrepresented the situation here, is a big reason why some teams of foreign American doctors are not allowed outside the gates of the General Hospital without escort.

Dr Steven Keller in the back of the SOIL truck on his way to a community hospital.
Dr Steven Keller in the back of the SOIL truck on his way to a community hospital.

9. Fate has a sick sense of humor.

Members Only
The Petionville Club. Private Club. Members Only
IDP camp
Internally displaced persons camp at the Petionville Golf, Tennis and Country Club.

10. Even when the apocalypse comes, life goes on…

Having a friend braid your hair
Having a friend braid your hair

and on…

Friends in Cap

Friends in Cap: Magistrat Jhonny Estimable (Mayor or Borgne and brother of AIDG’s Edline Estimable), Tony (SOIL), Paul Christian Namphy (SOIL, Oxfam), Marc Orel (SOIL), and ?

and on.

Waiting for a tap tap
Waiting for a tap tap

Kouraj, cherie: Dispatch from Port-au-Prince

I haven’t been able to write about what’s happening here. Thinking too deeply about it all makes it too overwhelming. Below our good friend, Sasha Kramer from our long-time partner organization in Haiti SOIL, writes about the situation on the ground.

From the San Francisco Bay View

Port au Prince, Haiti, Jan. 19 – This afternoon, feeling helpless, we decided to take a van down to Champs Mars, the area around the palace, to look for people needing medical care to bring to Matthew 25, the guesthouse where we are staying which has been transformed into a field hospital. Since we arrived in Port au Prince, everyone has told us that you cannot go into the area around the palace because of violence and insecurity.

I was in awe as we walked into downtown among the flattened buildings in the shadow of the fallen palace. Amongst the swarms of displaced people, there was calm and solidarity. We wound our way through the camp asking for injured people who needed to get to the hospital.

Despite everyone telling us that as soon as we did this we would be mobbed by people, I was amazed: As we approached each tent, people gently pointed us toward their neighbors, guiding us to those who were suffering the most. We picked up five badly injured people and drove towards an area where Ellie and Berto had passed a woman earlier.

When they saw her, she was lying on the side of the road with a broken leg screaming for help. As they were on foot, they could not help her at the time, so we went back to try to find her. Incredibly we found her relatively quickly at the top of a hill of shattered houses. The sun was setting and the community helped to carry her down the hill on a refrigerator door. Tough looking guys smiled in our direction calling out, “Bonswa, cherie” (Good evening, my dear) and “Kouraj” (Courage).

When we got back to Matthew 25, it was dark and we carried the patients back into the soccer field-tent village-hospital where the team of doctors had been working tirelessly all day. Although they had officially closed down for the evening, they agreed to see the patients we had brought.

Once our patients were settled in, we came back into the house to find the doctors amputating a foot on the dining room table. The patient lay calmly, awake but far away under the fog of ketamine. Half way through the surgery, we heard a clamor outside and ran out to see what it was.

A large yellow truck was parked in front of the gate and rapidly unloading hundreds of bags of food over our fence. The hungry crowd had already begun to gather and in the dark it was hard to decide how to best distribute the food.

Knowing that we could not sleep in the house with all of this food and so many starving people in the neighborhood, our friend Amber, who is experienced in food distribution, snapped into action and began to get everyone in the crowd into a line that stretched down the road. We braced ourselves for the fighting that we had heard would come but, in a miraculous display of restraint and compassion, people lined up to get the food and one by one the bags were handed out without a single serious incident.

During the food distribution, the doctors called to see if anyone could help to bury the amputated leg in the backyard. As I have no experience with food distribution, I offered to help with the leg. I went into the back with Ellie and Berto and we dug a hole and placed the leg in it, covering it with soil and cement rubble.

By the time we got back into the house, the food had all been distributed and the patient, Anderson, was waking up. The doctors asked for a translator, so I went and sat by his stretcher explaining to him that the surgery had gone well and he was going to live. His family had gone home and he was alone, so Ellie and I took turns sitting with him as he came out from under the drugs.

I sat and talked to Anderson for hours as he drifted in and out of consciousness. At one point one of the Haitian men working at the hospital came in and leaned over Anderson and said to him in Kreyol: “Listen, man: Even if your family could not be here tonight, we want you to know that everyone here loves you. We are all your brothers and sisters.”

Cat and I have barely shed a tear through all of this – the sky could fall and we would not bat an eye – but when I told her this story this morning, the tears just began rolling down her face, as they are mine as I am writing this. Sometimes it is the kindness and not the horror that can break the numbness that we are all lost in right now.

So don’t believe Anderson Cooper when he says that Haiti is a hotbed for violence and riots. It is just not the case. In the darkest of times, Haiti has proven to be a country of brave, resilient and kind people and it is that behavior that is far more prevalent than the isolated incidents of violence.

Please pass this on to as many people as you can so that they can see the light of Haiti cutting through the darkness, the light that will heal this nation.

We are safe. We love you all and I will write again when I can. Thank you for your generosity and compassion.

Link of the Day: Haiti 48 hours later [Boston Globe's Big Picture]

Haiti 48 hours later from Boston Globe’s Big Picture

A woman walks among debris in Port-au-Prince, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2010.

Haitians set up impromtu tent cities thorough the capital after an earthquake measuring 7.0 rocked the Haitian capital.

Three and a half weeks may have passed, but the situation on the ground is still much the same as what is shown in this photo series. The major differences are that the search and rescue operations have come to a close. The field hospital at MINUSTAH logbase where much triage of earthquake victims was occurring has also closed. The type of medical personnel needed on the ground has shifted. Initially surgeons, especially orthopedic surgeons, were in high demand to deal with trauma, fractures and amputations. Now many of these patients require post-operative care. The 1000+ amputees will require intense physical therapy. An untold number will need grief counseling. Many doctors have answered the call, including my good friend Dr. Megan Coffee, who is manning the TB tent at the general hospital (see Haiti Hospital’s Fight Against TB Falls to One Man in NYTimes). Unfortunately, nurses who spend much more time delivering care to individual patients than doctors ever can are in short supply. As we move out of the early phase of the post-earthquake response, infectious diseases ranging from diarrheal diseases to tuberculosis are becoming a grave concern. Most of the remains of quake victims that are visible (i.e. not under rubble) have been cleared, burned or buried. Many will never find the bodies of their loved ones to give them a proper burial.

Haiti Quake: AIDG News Roundup 1/12/10 – 2/5/10

Boing Boing Video

Haiti Earthquake Update: AIDG’s Catherine Lainé, live from Haiti (BB Video)

Duration: 7 minutes 53 seconds

See also: Haiti: Photos from the ground, by AIDG’s Catherine Lainé

Time Magazine

After the Destruction: What Will It Take to Rebuild Haiti?

“Earthquakes don’t kill people,” says John Mutter, a seismologist and disaster expert at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. “Bad buildings kill them.” And Haiti had some of the worst buildings in world. There are building codes, but in a country that has been ranked as the 10th most corrupt in the world, enforcement is lax at best. The concrete blocks used to construct buildings in the capital are often handmade, and are of wildly varying quality. “In Haiti a block is maybe an eighth of the weight of a concrete block that you’d buy in the U.S.,” says Peter Haas, the executive director of the Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group (AIDG), an NGO that has worked on buildings in Haiti. “You end up providing buildings quickly and cheaply but at great risk.”

Democracy Now

Security “Red Zones” in Haiti Preventing Large Aid Groups from Effectively Distributing Aid

Compared to the sensationalist reporting and scaremongering from other major news organizations, Amy Goodman and her team covered the situation on the ground with a great deal of sensitivity. I very much appreciate their balanced reporting as a counterpoint to dominant narrative being put forward at the time by CNN.

BBC News

Haiti devastation exposes shoddy construction

There are also significant problems with the quality of building materials used, says Peter Haas, head of the Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group, a US-based non-profit group that has been working in Haiti since 2006.

“People are skimping on cement to try to cut costs, putting a lot of water in, building too thin, and you end up with a structure that’s innately weaker,” said Mr Haas, who was on his way to Haiti to help assess the safety of damaged buildings.

“Concrete blocks are being made in people’s backyards and dried out in the sun,” he said.

Mr Haas said there were also “serious problems” with the enforcement of building codes in Haiti.

He said the government did not function at all in several parts of the country, and many communities lacked basic services such as electricity, sanitation services or access to clean water.

“So the problem of code enforcement is low down on the list,” he said.

CBS News

Reaching Out To Haitian Victims On and Offline

New York Times

Managing Disasters With Small Steps

At the Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group, a small nonprofit organization in San Francisco, projects are also developed from the ground up by providing support to local entrepreneurs, said Peter Haas, its founder.

Mr. Haas spoke while traveling to Haiti, where, before the earthquake, his group had been set to announce a competition for local entrepreneurs to develop plans for infrastructure projects. The competition has been delayed, and the group has added a new category: earthquake-resistant housing.

In Haiti, Mr. Haas’s group has already been helping Coopen, a business cooperative in Cap Haitien that will collect organic waste and human waste from public toilets and convert it to biogas, a fuel, for cooking. And in Guatemala, the group has aided a small company, XelaTeco, that builds hydroelectric projects for rural villages.

“We’re really not trying to dump some new expert solution on the population,” Mr. Haas said. Working through local businesses, he said, ensures that ideas that do not work do not stay around. “If a business fails and the market doesn’t accept the product, it disappears,” he said.

Boston Globe

Mass. native’s group lends a hand

In a telephone interview, Haas warned that victims of the earthquake are fanning out from the capital to smaller centers across the country, raising the potential for problems beyond Port-au-Prince. To avoid a long-term refugee crisis, he said, the central government and its international supporters must help not only victims in the capital but those who have fled elsewhere.

Haas estimated that several thousand people a day are arriving in Cap Haitien from the capital and are largely left to fend for themselves.

“I think the immediate concern is intake and tracking [the displaced] for support,’’ he said. “Then they can be moved to temporary shelters and more permanent residences.’’

He sees ways to combine the postquake relief work and the longer-term rebuilding. For example, he has been talking with a Virginia company called Shelter 2 Home that builds prefabricated shelters designed to serve as a refuge in a crisis and then be improved to become a permanent house.

Shelter 2 Home