Friday, May 14, 2010

the band

I have told you about distributions, and how complex they often are, and how we often need military protection to ensure that they are being conducted in an orderly manner.

Not anymore. I am not sure who was the genius behind the idea, but it must have been one of our Haitian staff, who understand this country so much better than the army of expats we have mobilised so far. We have some 5000 NFI kits - NFIs, in case you have not been paying attention in the past few months, are Non-Food Items, and the kits contain blankets, jerrycans, buckets, rope to tie your plastic sheeting, and in this case also tools, a hammer and nails, to work on your own shelter. Under normal circumstances distributing even a small part of these, say 500, will take well over a morning, and many of the beneficiaries - more NGO speak, self explanatory this time - will need to wait for hours in line until it is their turn to pick up their kit. They have been identified and registered before, but we do need to verify all the relevant information about the - the donors, ie the general public that has been giving to Haiti so generously, expects that level of scrutiny from us, and that takes time. In Haiti, where music is a way of life and rhythm a second nature, what better way to make the waiting palatable then organising a band?

So that's what we did, and by just having the music there, we turned the waiting into a big of moving, shaking and dancing people. Brilliant! They were almost reluctant to pick up their allocation, as then they were expected to move on....

It is just a pity that I am still too naive with a digital camera to immediately identify the potential of recording a short video, with sound and all. So you will have to imagine the rock & roll, or the kompa rather, whilst looking at photos only. But it was quite an experience, and oh so Haitian!

(1) In Haiti these days a large crowd gathering is usually a sign of "distribution" going on,
(2) and indeed, in this case shelter kits - the plastic boxes containing plastic sheeting, ropes, tools like a hammer, nails etc., the carton boxes are hygiene kits, with soap, towels and no doubt a whole lot more.

(3, 4, 5) and in order to entertain the crown during the long waiting times, bring on the band! A classic Haitian Ra Ra band - usually active between carnival and Easter - comes for the altogether very reasonable sum of US$ 25,- per hour, and plays as if there is no tomorrow!

(6, 7) the response is predictable, young and old - believe me, I have many more pictures of the kids in front, but I wish I had used the video function.

(8) one last view of the band and the crowd.

(9) and of the satisfied beneficiary carrying his treasure home - most likely to be sold, rather than used, most products from distributions end up on the market. Perhaps for future emergencies we should consider giving just money, it makes life a whole lot easier for everybody, the donor, the NGO who does not have to guess what people want most, or need most urgently, and the recipient who doesn't have to go through the trouble of selling the stuff.

(10) and less relevant for most of you, but I am sure that some of my readers will be interested to know that I accompanied the German Ambassador to Haiti on this specific trip, who told me in passing that he receives regular individual contributions which he happily distributes on behalf of this particular generous donor.

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