Rebuilding Haiti

There’s been a lot of talk lately about rebuilding Haiti. Two facts need to be taken into consideration when this topic comes up. First, not all of Haiti was destroyed by the recent magnitude 7.0 quake. Second, whether Haiti was ever properly ‘built’ in the first place to now be ‘rebuilt’ is a subject worthy of debate.

As soon as I first heard of the earthquake on January 12 I thought of my friend Salonique.  He, his wife and children live in Gonaives, 85 miles north of Port-au-Prince.  No real damage from the quake came to them where they live and work with a church.  It was a relief to know these people I care about were far from the epicenter of disaster, but the impact is being felt by them in other ways.  Aside from concerns about friends and family they had in Port-au-Prince, Gonaives is now receiving refugees from the earthquake and is suffering from the disruption of its supply chain.  This was a catastrophe for the entire country, even though not all the country was “destroyed” directly by the earthquake.

It could be argued, and I think correctly, that Haiti was never really ‘built’ at any point in its history.  It is the first modern black republic, having won its freedom from France in the 1800s at great cost.  Those expenses were ongoing, as France demanded reparations for war damage and loss.  So much so that by 1900, 80% of Haiti’s budget was dedicated to paying back loans taken out to pay the French bill.  Without sufficient financial resources and with corrupt governance for pretty much all of its history, essential infrastracture was either never put into place, or else built in a very limited fashion.

Some are speaking, however hesitantly, of this nightmare situation as an opportunity.  It is difficult to look for positives in the face of so much suffering and death.  Over 100,000 and perhaps more than 200,000 people lost their lives in the earthquake.  Yet, we the living have grieve the dead and then to look to the future.

Haiti needs to be set on its feet and assume its place among the nations.  It has a unique and noble story to tell.  What will it take?

Doctors, nurses and the clergy have been going on missions to Haiti for decades.  This work needs to continue, not only now but in an ongoing, sustain manner.  Those in the medical profession provide an obvious benefit, while people of the cloth can provide spiritual nurture and counsel to this very religious nation.  What else is needed?

Engineers!  Had the buildings in Port-au-Prince been built to code for earthquakes less property would have been destroy and the death toll would not be so astronomical.  Also, the main supply road into Haiti from the Dominican Republic is said to be quite narrow and of poor quality for the most part.  What Haiti desparately needs is solid physical infrastructure.

Roads, bridges, power plants, phone lines and more are needed in Haiti.  With these phone lines there should also be fast Internet, widely available.  Technology needs to be put into regular use.

How can this be done?  There are many ways the work can be done.  Factories would help.  Not more than 100 miles from the American mainland (so I’ve heard), Haiti could be a fantastic place for garment factories and the like.  Sweatshops?  Well, hopefully nothing terrible, but certainly better than abject poverty and want.

Are there other suggestions?  Is there something you can think of to be done, or that you’d like to do?  Why not take it to “Haiti Rewired”?  This is a new forum for discussing technology, infrastructure and the future of Haiti.  I joined last week and strongly urge anyone with an interest in the topic to take part.  Just talking won’t help Haiti.  Let’s join together, share ideas, strategize and get busy.

See Also:

Haiti Rewired

Used Laptops Needed for Earthquake Victims in Haiti: You Can Help!

Haiti earthquake: engineers work out how to rebuild capital to withstand future shocks

My Doubts About Mobile Giving for Haiti

While everyone seems to be celebrating the rise of mobile giving, I have my doubts.  Shortly after the Haiti earthquake word started circulating online that there were a few ways to give through a simple cell phone text.  One of these is texting the word “Haiti” to 90999.  Doing so bills $10 to your mobile account and designates the funds for the American Red Cross to use in its relief work in Haiti.  As of yesterday the total was over $22 million raised for the Red Cross through this means.  All well and good, right?  Perhaps.

Donations sent via text message are not typically available right away.  Usually the cell carriers wait a couple of months to process and disburse funds.  This makes sense if you take into consideration the fact that people need to pay their bills first…and also the possibility of disputes.  And therein lies the problem.

Suppose a working man, we’ll call him Tom, has a teenage daughter who texts all the time.  Next month he gets his cell phone bill and notices $150 extra, all under his daughter’s number.  Now, he pays for her to have unlimited texting, so this makes no sense.  Without looking further he calls customer service.  30 minutes later he finally gets someone on the line who cheerfully explains to him that these were 15 separate texts sent donating money to the Red Cross.

Now Tom doesn’t want to look like an ass, but how can he pay $150 extra on his phone bill?  He can’t, so he explains that his daughter did this without his permission and asks to remove the donations.  Supposing the carrier complies, as it should in my opinion, this is $150 that won’t be going to help out in Haiti.  Multiply that by a few thousand families with equally irresponsible children plus some people who have second thoughts about their generosity after they see their bill and you can see the problem.

Yes, most of the money pledged may well be paid by mobile subscribers.  Some won’t be, though.  Expect the complaints and backlash to begin shortly, as soon as billing cycles end and statements are sent out.

See Also:
U.S. cellphone users donate $22 million to Haiti earthquake relief via text (The Washington Post)

Factory Reset Rumor 2

When my daughter’s phone, a Rumor 2 purchased through Sprint, started rebooting randomly and not always recharging we took it to the Sprint store.  A battery swap and call to technical support later and we were issued a warranty replacement through the mail.  Before sending her defective phone back I wanted to make certain all contacts and other data were removed.  I knew the factory reset option was in the security section.  A “lock code” was requested to access security, but neither my daughter, a Sprint customer service rep nor I knew what it was.  A couple of days of searching I found it.  I pass the info along here in order to make this simple task easier for others.

The path to reset:

Menu > Settings > More > Security > Enter Lock Code > Delete/Reset > Reset Phone

What’s the “Lock Code”?  It’s the last four of the number associated with the phone.  In other words, if the number assigned to the phone is 212-555-0020 then the “Lock Code” is 0020.

Got it?  Simple, right?

A Brother Has Gone to Be With Christ

The Brazilian Church of Christ in Newark, NJ is mourning the loss of our brother Paulo Magalhaes.  He was a Brazilian man who moved to the United States way back in 1952.  The funeral was today, and for my part I shared the following remarks:

It isn’t unusual to remember the situation in which you first met someone: Where you were and what you were doing.  It may be less common to know the date.  I can say with confidence that I and most members of the Brazilian church first met Mr. Paul, as I came to know him, on May 30, 2005.  It was Memorial Day and a friend had taken him to a cookout at a church in Westfield.  Several families from the Brazilian church were there, including mine.  He sat quietly for a while in the shade near the church building before walking over and stunning all of us by speaking in quite fluent Portuguese.  He sat down in the midst of our group and quickly became the center of attention, regaling us with stories from his life and observations about culture and recollections of Brazil.

For a time Mr. Paul became a regular at our church services and other gatherings.  He decided to take full owndership of his faith and discipleship through baptism by immersion.  He was in everything a thoughtful and decisive man.  When weather or health didn’t permit him to get out, we went to him, talking the Lord’s Supper on Sundays and occassionally holding small group Bible studies in his apartment.

Mr. Paul became a part of the fabric of who we are as a congregation, and his mark and memory will remain with us.  It is perhaps fitting that a man who began his life in Brazil and proceeded to make a new life and career in the United States was able to rediscover to some extent his Brazilian roots towards the end of his natural life.  Most importantly, he found his focus and assurance in the message and hope of Christ.

It was and is our joy to count senhor Paulo Magalhaes as our brother, and he will be deeply missed.

Until we meet again.

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live.” (John 11:25 NRSV)

Globe Skimmer

Do you have a favorite insect? I do. I guess I’m just that sort of geek. The dragonfly has long interested me, though not in the same way ants did when I was a child. An ant colony can be observed in action over the course of time, but a dragonfly just seems to flit about doing nothing in particular. There is a certain beauty to the dragonfly that I appreciate. So, when I saw a talk given by Charles Anderson about the impressive migration pattern of a variety of dragonfly referred to as “the globe skimmer,” I took notice. Watch and enjoy.