Crisis Camps: Computer Techies Helping Response for Haiti

Computer programmers and other technical people are building valuable tools for helping the people of Haiti after the devastating earthquake on January 12. Crisis Camps have been set up for volunteers to develop applications that help with damage assessment, mapping, locating of survivors, locating first aid stations, translation, radio communications, food and water deliveries, free phone services, and many more.  At the root of the effort is the basic understanding that good data must be given to and easily shared between all of the aid organizations, both public and private, helping with aid and rescue in Haiti. Some of the earliest volunteers for Crisis Camp came from Google, NASA, the United Nations, the American Red Cross and the Los Angeles City Fire Department.

Google developed an online tool to help people locate missing persons in Haiti.  The technical effort has a Wiki page at Crisis Commons Wiki, that gathers resources, updates on projects, and calls for volunteers in specific areas.

The Crisis Camp volunteer approach is building something very powerful that will have a huge impact on disaster response in the future.  This is the internet and tech world at its very best.

Folktale From Haiti: Wings on Her Feet

adapted by Adam Price (Peace Corps Volunteer, Haiti, 1996–1998)

You can also listen to this story by clicking here.

Photo by Garrett Crawford

There once was a gentle little donkey named Zel Nan Pye. Everyone in town would call out, “Hello, Zel!” as she trotted by, and Zel’s long, furry ears would stick straight up at the sound. Although Zel longed to turn her big, brown eyes and reply, Madame Charity, her owner, held her reins too tight.

“Keep moving!” Madame Charity would call out from above her. “I haven’t time for any social calls.”

As much as everyone in town loved Zel, they feared Madame Charity. She was an angry, spiteful old woman who threw stones at birds when they sang and hollered at little girls when they laughed. But to poor Zel, she was the meanest of all.

Every Saturday, Madame Charity loaded Zel down with heavy sacks of rice and sugar that she sold at the market. Although the old woman knew that whoever arrived at the market earliest sold the most, she always woke up late.

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Folktale from Haiti: Why Cats and Dogs Never Get Along

adapted by Donalson Latour

'Children Playing' by Montas Antoine (Port-au-Prince, Haiti) 1960

One day Mr. Cat and Mr. Dog were in a discussion about going to God to ask him a favor. Mr. Cat says he was going to God to ask him “can dead people don’t come back to life,” and Mr. Dog says he was going to ask God “can dead people come back to life.”

So they decided to race each other to see who’s going to get to God first. Mr. Cat was so clever; he puts a bone in every corner that he knows Mr. Dog was going to turn on so he can slow him down. Mr. Dog thought of something smart too but he was not clever enough to trick Mr. Cat, so Mr. Dog puts a bowl of milk in every corner that he knows Mr. Cat was going to turn on so he can slow down.

While Mr. Cat was running he saw the milks but he didn’t pay any attention to them because he knows what Mr. Dog was trying to do. And Mr. Dog was so stupid and greedy, he stopped in every corner to enjoy the bones that Mr. Cat prepared for him but he didn’t know if it was a trick to slow him down.

So then, Mr. Cat reaches God first, when Mr. Cat gets to God he started talking to him and said, “God I don’t want you to bring dead people back to life,” and God said, “Okay no problem.”

Then Mr. Cat went home. When Mr. Dog finally finished enjoying his bones, he went to God and said “God, can dead people come back to life?” and God said, “I’m sorry Mr. Dog, Mr. Cat already came here and told me that he doesn’t want dead people come back to life.”

So, since then, dogs don’t like cats. And every time a cat sees a dog, the cats always trying to approach the dogs friendly but dogs always give them mean look. That’s why cats and dogs never get along.

The End

“Why Cats and Dogs Never Get Along” has a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

Here are some ways to give earthquake assistance to the people of Haiti:

The Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders and the United Nations Food Program are putting medical supplies, doctors, nurses, food and water on the ground in Haiti to try to prevent the worsening catastrophe and enormous loss of life.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines Docks Ship for Fun and Sun in Stricken Haiti

Perhaps the most disgusting company on the face of the planet has made itself known today: Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines has docked the cruise ship Independence of the Seas at a private beach in Haiti which is fenced off from the rest of the stricken nation, for some fun and sun along the beach.  The resort beach is about sixty miles from the devastation of Haiti’s earthquake zone and is surrounded by tall fences and armed guards.

Apparently, the cruise line company has excused its shocking act by saying that it delivered some pallets of relief supplies.  So, with millions of people injured, two hundred thousand dead, everything lying in heaps of rubble, this Royal Caribbean company thinks it can dock its ship for fun and NOT pick up survivors or provide beds and rooms for survivors or transportation for survivors.  What Royal Caribbean should be doing is running its ships back and forth to ferry people to hospitals on other islands.  That’s what a responsible company with real sailors in its employ would be doing.  How could a ship’s captain or crew live with itself after behaving in such a monstrous fashion?  How could the passengers not mutiny?  What are the names of the people on board this ship?  Let’s find out and post them on the web.

Ship photo from Bernt Rostad

Haiti May Be Providing Slave Labor to U.S. Corporations

Haitians Hang French Troops For Their Acts of Cruelty

During the earthquake crisis in Haiti I have continued to ask the same question of my friends: How, in the 21st Century, can a country so close to the richest nation on earth be so poor?  No one seems to have an answer except for Pat Robertson (who is not a friend, by the way) who suggests that the Haitians made a pact with the devil when they made the French leave.  Seems an odd way to refer to a successful uprising against slavery, doesn’t it?

Since the earthquake, I have learned that Haiti was apparently the location of the world’s first successful uprising against slavery.  They fought the French and won.  It is also the world’s oldest black republic.  It is this achievement that a person like televangelist Pat Robertson suggests is a pact with the devil.

But now it seems that U.S. corporations are using Haitian workers in sweatshop factories to manufacture goods at wages of approximately 30 cents per hour.  That must be why the tiny nation is too poor to build things that can withstand earthquakes.  It will be useful to learn how many of these factories or sweatshops/slave camps have collapsed in the earthquake.  I would imagine that there will be some investigation of such places in the near future.  Perhaps the slave trade never really ended at all, but simply changed its name to ‘cheap labor’ or ‘sweatshop’ or ‘globalism.’

Here’s a history of Haiti from Wikipedia.

Here’s an article about the U.S. role in keeping Haiti poor.

Disney has used cheap labor in Haiti.  They say so themselves right here.

I particularly like their response to a question about child labor:

Q. What is your policy on child labor?
Our Code of Conduct for Manufacturers prohibits child labor. Companies that make Disney-branded products must sign a contract stating that they do not and will not use child labor. Child is defined as “a person younger than 15 (or 14 where local law allows) or, if higher, the local legal minimum age for employment or the age for completing compulsory education.” If child labor is discovered in a factory, we generally seek to work with the factory, as well as the licensee that uses the factory, to identify the most feasible solution to remedy the situation as quickly as possible. This may include collaboration with government, multilateral institutions, NGOs or other companies that use the factory.

So Disney will ‘seek to work with the factory’ if it finds child labor going on. Am I the only one who’s shocked that a U.S. corporation would print such a statement of its own accord?  Because if it were me finding out about child labor, I would ‘seek to work’ a hammer into someone’s head.  For my part, I can only define very cheap labor in a very poor country where workers are threatened with reprisals if they try to improve their lot as slavery.  In fact, the more I learn about Haiti the less it looks like a country and more like a camp.