Haiti: My Heart's Calling...

You have shown me what life is really all about...it is love and determination that makes us able to feel...it is with each breath that we take, our eyes are opened to the surroundings...it is you and I, together, that make the world worth living for...

Monday, March 22, 2010

One Month Is Just Not Enough...

I awoke this morning with a very heavy feeling in my heart. I got out of my mosquitoes net for the very last time and changed into my Tzu Chi uniform. I continue to pack the last few things that I still had laid out on the tables and floors. The luggage is a lot less and a lot lighter than when I came, due to the fact that I am without four big tents. All four tents have gone to Haitian families here, so I am very happy about that. I said goodbye to my room that I have been staying in for the past month and locked the door. Room #5 you have treated me well, we shall meet again one day.

I went into the computer room and doubled checked for any other things that I have forgotten to pack…nothing was in sight that I recognized as mine. I pulled out my laptop and connected to the net to write my last report in Haiti. Just as I start to write my entries, a Si Guo came in and said, “Want to have some breakfast?” So we went and had some breakfast together and had some last few words to each other. I went outside afterward to try to distribute all the letters I had written last night for all the drivers, whom all have become like my big brothers. To my disappointment, only Phillp was present to receive the envelopes. I realized that everyone was at the Stadium for the distribution, so I was not going to be able to say goodbye to all of them. I was quite sad at the time, but at the same time relieved because I knew this was an easier way to leave than hugging each one of them. I went back to continue writing my report. Around 10:35am I heard cars outside pulled in, one after another, I ran outside and to my surprise, three of the drivers had returned. They came bearing gifts in their hands to presented it to me. I was so touched. The person that I most wanted to see was Jacques…he is the eldest out of all the drivers and whom I have a deeper connection with. He put an Haitian necklace on my neck and gave me a box wrapped with newspaper. I opened it and it was cologne. I looked at him puzzled and he smiled. Then it finally clicked! This was his cologne. He told me that I can spray a little each day to remind me of him. Peter gave me a Tap Tap wall decoration, so I will always remember Tap Taps when I get back home. It was very beautiful. I gave them all hugs and told them I loved them all. We were running late and I quickly grabbed my bags to head to the airport. When I was getting in the car, I saw Jacques in the corner of my eyes and I dropped everything to run to him. I hugged him with tears streaming down my face. He told me not to worry and that we shall meet again. He said, “I love you girl” in English and smiled. He had tears in his eyes and made his infamous “Ahhhhhh” and gave me a giant scrub on the head, messing up my hair completely. I am going to miss him doing that.

The ride to the airport was way too short today, even with the traffic made by Bush and Clinton’s visit. The wait at the airport was long but smooth. I waited with two other Si Guos at the AA terminal. They said it was like saying goodbye to a daughter. I walked down the terminal halls and sat on the plane. The view overlooking Haiti looked so familiar. I couldn’t hold back the tears.

Haiti I am going to miss you very much. I hope to return very soon. Thank you for showing me such a wonderful part of the country and for introducing me to your people and way of life. One month has passed by way too quickly. Jum Jum (everything is good in Creole). I will miss your smiling faces and your endearing way of saying hellos. Your laughter filled kitchens, discussing over that day's menus. The way your arms and backs arch over the chairs when you are taking a quick afternoon nap. The way the sun rises after a night full of flash floods, as if saying, new hope is upon us, go out and enjoy the day. The children running down the narrow sidewalks waving a goodbye and a kiss. The women with their baskets and buckets securely standing atop their heads with the occasional reinforcements of a hand. The trucks stuck on the side of the roads just waiting for someone to come by and help them push across the meridian. The crumbled building still carries the cries of the unseen and unheard from below. The dust comes and goes in a swoosh so fast a breathe can barely hold. The elderly, the newborns, and the ones barely hanging on. The mass distributions, the lines that stretches across miles, the military presences, and the trash lining the roads. Good or bad, you can decide for yourself. To me, they all represent Haiti, and they are all the things that I am going to miss the most. It is a package deal. It is like Christmas morning, when I open a surprised gift. That is the feeling I get every time I think about Haiti. It is a country filled with surprises and with the people, language, and culture, its greatest treasures.

Flying high in the skies, slowly the mountains and tent cities disappearing before my eyes. Even though I can no longer see the images, I can still feel the people buzzing about in the city markets and exchanging hellos across tap taps…

I will see you soon Haiti! This I promise you.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

United Nations Babyblue Peacekeeper's Hat

All the new people have arrived by today. It feel super weird because there are just way too many people. I thought the last group was big, but this group is even bigger. There are a total of about 40 new people, plus the 25 that are already here, so that is 65 people total. Literally every single place in OECC is filled with someone or someone’s luggage. You just end up running into people no matter which corner you turn to. I am leaving tomorrow morning, so I wanted to make sure the next group of people knew exactly what to do in every situation before I left. I spent all day today handing over everything that I knew and have done this past month. It was a little bit emotional going through all the details of my work here for the last time…

First thing in the morning, I took the new team to JOTC to conduct a re-con for the distribution tomorrow. Normally the security and escort tasks would be handed to military troops, but this week, due to the large number of distributions, our week long distribution tasks have been handed over to the United Nations Police (UNPOL). What this means is that policemen from different countries would be put together as a team to protect Tzu Chi distributions. It is very much like the military assignments, except all the men are policemen. So we had already had some contact with the UNPOL and went to JOTC (Joint Operations Tasking Center) to conduct a re-con (reconfirmation) of the site for tomorrow. When we got there, we were told that the UNPOL contact person was not there. When asked who was the contact person, Barbara (the coordinator at JOTC), she responded with “Michel.” I was ecstatic, because I knew Michel from before. He was one of the French Military Police (Gendermaire) people that I was talking to and ended up finding out he was from Southern France. I quickly called him up to schedule something. We agree to meet at 10pm back at JOTC to conduct the re-con at the Stadium. The re-con went really well and they were pleased with the layout Tzu Chi had proposed. I am going to miss Michel and the whole JOTC process very much. Michel left saying, “See you in France soon.”

Another group of policemen came shortly after Michel left saying they are suppose to help us with the distribution tomorrow. It was a moment of confusion, but it turned out okay. We showed them the sites and took them back to OECC, since they were going to be the ones that will be escorting us to and from the Stadium tomorrow. It was three policemen, two from Côté d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and one from Chad. Turns out tomorrow there will be a total of 13 policemen, the three from today and also an addition of 10 more Chinese Policemen. It is going to be an interesting experience. The plan is to have both groups go and help out, since normally with the army we would have at least 20 people guarding the sites. We shall see what happens tomorrow…

One of the biggest things that I had to make sure I did today was visit the Brazilian Army Base for the last time. That base and the people there mean very much to me, especially First Lieutenant Beraud. His words will always stay with me forever. “We came here to fight. We were ready to fight. You guys (Tzu Chi) have showed us how to talk with the people without our guns. We keep the peace, while you guys promote the message of peace. Thank you for showing us a different Haiti.” I wrote a small letter to First Lieutenant Beraud and gave it to him when I visited. He showed me around the base camp and even gave me a souvenir…one of the best souvenirs ever…one that I have always wanted…A United Nations Peacekeeper Hat. It even has the Brazil flags on both sides of it. He also presented me with a Brazilian flag pendant. I will always cherish these kind gifts.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Carrefour: The Haiti Earthquake's Epicenter

This morning we headed to Carrefour to visit a Nun's monastery. There were 75 nuns living at this monastery and many of them are in tents due to a lack of space for living. It took us about an hour just to drive to this area of town. Before the earthquake, Carrefour was already considered the one of the poorest part of Haiti. People didn't have a lot and weren't that educated. This would be considered the more country side of Haiti. Now, after the earthquake, people have even less and the small glimmer of hope for a proper education before has been buried under all the rubble, as well.

St. Theresa is quite hidden and it very high up in the mountains. It was very hard to get the trucks up to that place. Nevertheless, we made it! The sisters all greeted us with glee. We sang and we danced and we praised the lord together. They showed us the old buildings where it was nothing but rubble left on the grounds. I learned that four sisters passed away during the earthquake and quite a few were injured, but all have since successfully recovered. Of course, the emotional trauma will take time to remedy. Right now all the sisters are sleeping in temporary beds inside or in tents outside. Many of the sisters spoke about how there is an intense fear to be under a roof right now, so they rather sleep in the hot tents. During the day, the tents get scorching hot, it is not possible to stay in the tents at all. They even said, sometimes when it gets way too hot at night, they would just pull some mattress out on the ground and sleep outdoors without any covers. Of course, this makes their bodies a night feast for all the mosquitoes around.

When the tour was over, we started our small ceremony of giving. The donations that we brought over were rice, corn starch, red beans, tents, stabilizing pipes, and flour. We couldn't bring over a lot of aid, because the sister had told us that they were afraid that other people would see it and come rob them. Tzu Chi volunteers sang for the sisters, and the sisters sang for us in French in return. It was a lovely ceremony.

We said goodbyes to the sisters and headed to another part of Carrefour. We came across this huge area where all the women were washing their clothes by this small stream. It was very deep down and you can still see all the marks left by the previous raining season. It is amazing just how strong mother nature is. When I asked the locals just how far the rain water raises, they all said that many times they would have to abandon their homes because it would be completely submerged in water. The rain season in Haiti is about to start up again. I can only pray for all the Haitian's safety and for mother nature to spare them a little this year. Many of the women who are washing clothes were all nude from the waist up. It was as if they did not care if people looked, filmed, or took pictures of their bodies. I asked our drivers how come this is such a common phenomenon and if it is due to the fact that after the earthquake people are always outside, so they don't have a choice. The drivers told me that this has nothing to do with the earthquake and that this was what happens in the countryside. If we saw this in the city it would be because people have no place to go to take a shower and they are forced to shower outside due to earthquake, but in the countryside it is because lack of education. People don't think the same way.

On the drive back to Port-au-Prince you can really see the huge difference between the two cities. Carrefour's building are not all flat and collapsed, but the poverty level really shows in what the people wear and the way they carry themselves. Even with the car between me and the people, I can still feel the pain they are going through and the desperate faces of wanting something better.

At night time I was invited to attend a party at the Jordanian army base. Turns out it was also a celebration of the Jordanian King's birthday today. A lot of UN people and other army commanders were invited to this party. There were dancing, singing, speeches, and all around good Jordanian food. Normally there would be belly dancers, but since we were in the army base, there were no women present, other than guests. The men still put on some dancing show and it was very entertaining. Some of the movements the officers did were just awesome. Everyone had a good laugh. I loved the music and the motivational words. They also did a parody of the movie 300, Jordanian style. It was pretty funny. I said goodbye to Major Mohammad and all the other officers there. I am going to miss them very much. One day I will go to Jordan to visit all of them.

One more full day to go...it is going to be very hard, this I know...

Friday, March 19, 2010

Pierrot's Little House

Today was our last big scale distribution of this week, 1,500 people again. It poured and poured last night. My heart was breaking with each rain drop. I was hurting for the people outside who were getting drenched and had no coverings to hid under. I prayed and prayed for the rain to stop. It turned into a light drizzle in the morning, but it was still very wet. I heard that there was massive flooding and many people died. This was just like about 3 week ago, where 13 people died in what was marked the start of the pre-raining season. We are heading full force into official rain season this week...I can only pray for people to get as much shelter as they can. When we arrived at the distribution site, people were already waiting outside. It looked calmer and more organized today, which was a big positive. The leaders were actually thinking about canceling the distribution today due to heavy rain, but the Haitian people are in desperate needs of food and shelter, so rain or shine, they will still come. Once, again, I was the MC today, but it was actually changed to Peter (Pierre) who accompanied me. We started out late again due to the container truck having a flat tire. Once again, curve balls. We are pretty use to that by now, so everyone wasn't panicking, they were just doing extra things to keep the crowd entertained.

One huge thing that went on during the distribution was the fact that people thought there was another earthquake. It was in the middle of "We Are The World" when all of a sudden a rush of people came running down. People were crawling over people and people were falling off the railings. We were all trying to calm the people down, but no one was listening. We didn't know what was going on. Then I heard people yell, "Tumbler Terre. Tumbler Terre. (Earthquake. Earthquake.)" So apparently, the base of that song was on too high and the volume was high as well, making the seats tremble like a potential earthquake. It scared the people so much that they ran for their lives. They were in the stadium seating where a big slab of cement ceiling covering, so people wanted to get out from that in case it fell down on them. It was a scary and panicking moment for the people. I was super sad because Haitians are always living in fear due to the Jan. 12th earthquake. It is a very normal reaction to have. The anxiety was high. We immediately played some gospel songs to calm them down. That incident really showed just how affected people are, no matter how damaged their houses are or if someone they knew has passed away, people are still affected

After the distribution, Da Ai TV reporter, videographer, and I went to visit Pierrot and Jacques' house here in Port-au-Prince. We wanted to document and interview Pierrot on his journey in finding Tzu Chi and what life was like before and after the earthquake. Here is a little bit of background information on the two brothers:

Pierrot >>> He is 37 years old, married with two adorable girls. Yannine (5 years old) and Sasha (1 year old). He is a two time Haiti National Tae Kwon Do Champion and he use to work at the U.S. embassy as the special tasks bodyguard/security personnel. Before the earthquake, he lived in a little house in Petroville, overlooking the city. He had built the house with his own hands. Due to the earthquake, his family and him are in a tent outside of his brother, Jacques', house.

Jacques >>> He is 42 years old, married with one adorable 4 year old girl. He use to work as a bodyguard/security personnel for many private companies. The earthquake did not destroy his home completely, so he is still living inside, while younger brother Pierrot and his family has a tent in his front lawn. One week before the earthquake happened, Jacques' wife and daughter went to Miami for vacation. Due to the earthquake, they were not permitted to return to Haiti as planned, so a three week vacation turned into 3 months of agony abroad. Jacques has not seen his family for three months now, but they are expected to return the 10th of April for reunification.

The family has a total of 9 siblings, 6 boys and 3 girls.

We went and visited the house Pierrot and his family had built themselves before the earthquake and it was such a sad sight to see. It was damaged badly and completely unsafe to be in. There were still toys, clothing, and art works displayed on the ground, along with crumbled rubble. When Pierrot stepped into the house, you can sense that tension he had and a feeling of sadness that just came over him. I was very sad for him and admired him for his strong will to keep going in life. He started to pick up some baby underwear from the the partially collapsed bathroom, dusted it off, and held it up for the camera, "This is Sasha's. She would like to have this back." I was trying very hard to fight off the tears. Then we headed to the bedroom, where Pierrot talked about all the good memories in that room. He said he remembers waking up every morning and taking Sasha and Yanine in his arms and walking to the bedroom window. He would tell them, "look there is a car passing by. There is a lady with her laundry done. There is a bird flying in the sky." As he said this, he gave me a nervous smiled and swallowed a huge lump in his throat and walked out of the bedroom. We looked around the whole house and it looked like if there was even a slight after-shock the house would fall over and tumble down the cliff it is built on. We left the house very heavyhearted. Next place we headed to was Jacques' house. His house did not collapse in the earthquake and he actually gave Pierrot and his family a place to stay in his front lawn. We checked out Pierrot's tent and it was a pretty sturdy tent. He said that he reads Master Cheng Yen's Jing Si Aphorisms every night before he heads to sleep. He is very grateful for his exposure with Tzu Chi and would love to be a real Pusa (someone who sacrifices himself to help others).

His family is safe and he says life has to go on. Time will heal the pain that is in his heart and he is stronger because of it.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

3 in 1

Today was our second day of distribution with the Peruvian troops. They were actually low on soldiers, so they brought over some soldiers from the Uruguay's troop, as well. Today's distribution was a little bit more smoother than yesterday's, but not by much. For some reason, the rules of letting in only women representatives were not followed. The rules of the distribution site is that we can only allow female representatives in to receive the donations, because men usually bring trouble. This is not a stereotype, but mostly due to experience. It is true that in Haiti the men tend to be more physical and aggressive in mass population situations. We also started up the Tzu Chi Free Clinic again today, but only afternoon sessions, since the distribution was in the morning. I was MCing the distribution ceremony, along side Pierrot (our driver/body guard). It is really nice doing the MCing job with Pierrot, because we communicate really well and he is like a big brother to me.

Once again curve balls were thrown our way this morning. On the way to the distribution, one of our trucks broke down and wouldn't start back up again. We didn't have another car to pick up the people, so instead the Peruvian army let the people onto their army cameo trucks. It was very cool. It was all the 3 in 1 people (Video, Pictures, Words) that got to go on the cameo. It was pretty cool. For some reason the 3 in 1 people always get in sticky situations. Just the other night, they were at the border of Dominican Republic leading one of our container trucks back to Haiti and I guess the truck driver was having some attitude problems with the police. Instead of just having a vocal fight, the police took everyone back to the police station in Haiti. The truck was taken away, the driver was taken away, and leaving the 3 in 1 people not knowing what to do. They ended up being forced to go to the police station at nighttime and one of our other drivers had to go explain the situation and bail them out. Thanks to Peter (real name Pierre), who used to be one of the heads of the police department in Haiti. He went in and fixed the whole situation in just a jiffy. It is quite a story. Not everyone can be taken to the police station in Haiti.

I had another Haitian lunch box today....can we all say yum???

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Peruvian Troops

The orders that went out to JOTC this Monday has been filed and we started our first distribution of this week today. We are aiming for 1,500 families today in the National Football Stadium in Fort Nationale. Problems always occur here, when planning is not done properly. When we arrived at the Stadium, people were already sitting in the seats. This was not suppose to happen, so there was curve ball #1. The people waited outside ever since 4am and the distribution was not suppose to start until 11am at the earliest. People were all frantically trying to get all the distribution materials ready. A group of Si Guo and Si Bro went and started to dance and sing for the people waiting. It was super hot, over 40 degrees C, it was ridiculous. A huge group of us were outside getting all the plastic recyclable ware ready for all the people. In each bag we needed to put three spoons, a Jing Si Aphorism slip, a plastic bowl, and an accompanied lid. We had to get 1,500 bags ready. It took a while, but we finally finished. We tried to shorten the ceremony a bit due to the ridiculously hot weather. Like always, due to the sun, many people had heat strokes. It is very sad to say, but at every single distribution that is outside, usually a pregnant woman will faint from heat stroke and dehydration. It was not any different today. She was carried out and one of our doctors helped revive her to get well. Her and her baby are doing fine right now. At least we always have a medical team on staff at each distribution for any mishaps during the ceremonies. We started to distribute and people were very impatient. It took us a long while before the lines could form. I understand where the people are coming from. It is super hot and they want to make sure they get their stuff. It took us about 3 to 4 hours total to distribute all the goods, which is wayyyyy longer than normal. Many people, by the time they get to the goods, look like they are about to faint. I was very worried for all their well-beings.

The Peruvian troops were really great. Even when two people cannot communicate we still find a way to connect. They speak Spanish and I was trying to use my broken Spanish to communicate with them, it was quite funny. It is very funny. I could understand more Spanish than I speak it and it is the same thing for them when it comes to English. So you will see Peruvian peacekeepers speaking to me in Spanish and with me answering them back in English. The conversation still flows, it is pretty awesome. They were very professional and it was a great experience. I look forward to working with them for the rest of the week.

Today was super hot; so many Si Guo and Si Bro had heat strokes. Many people came back to the OECC compound around 3pm, when the distribution was over, to rest up. I was feeling okay, so I went to see a couple more possible distribution sites after the initial distribution this morning. We also had three different organizations come to the OECC compound to give us their list of families and to receive vouchers for possible distributions. So the order of how a distribution can happen goes something like this:

1. Received a cover letter of a specific organization that is asking for assistance with aid.
2. Need a list with all the families’ names and the number of people in each family. We need the exact numbers of names to match the exact number of families. One person represents one family to receive aid.
3. We need to visit the sites to make sure that the papers are telling the truth. We want to believe everyone, but sadly, some people do manipulate and lie.
4. Either the people come to OECC or the stadium to pick up their vouchers to distribute to the people before the actual distribution date. The vouchers need to be signed by the person who is responsible and have the organization’s stamp on it. Without that information, the people cannot get in.
5. People arrive at the Stadium for the mass distribution.

I look forward to tomorrow’s distribution. Hopefully the weather will be cooler and the people will arrive a little bit later than today.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Waff Jeremie: The Poorest Part of Port-au-Prince

I have been running errands all day and doing site assessments for possible distribution projects. I went and assessed a total of six different distribution sites today. It was really like an adventure. Each distribution site was in a different part of Port-au-Prince, it was like a treasure hut, meeting new people, seeing new sites, and playing with new children. We went and visited two big orphanages in Port-au-Prince in the middle of our day and it was really a sad site to see. They were very hidden in the rural areas of PAP and it took us a while to find them. It was both due to the fact that the roads leading us to them were very rough and bumpy, causing the car to bump back and forth, and not many people knew where it was. I was riding in the back of the pick-up truck and I had to hold on for dear life not to fall off. When this was going on, I was really thinking that this must have been at least a little bit of what the earthquake felt like. Up and down, side to side, and water splashing on the side. You really cannot control which way our limbs went and where your body fell. That kind of uncontrollable force can be very terrifying.

Doing all the orphanage trips, you really get a sense of just how huge the number of orphans there are in Haiti. It is incredible. It really is out of sight, out of mind for people. If you didn't go see it for yourself, you wouldn't be thinking of it at all. It is just never ending. There were already many orphanages in Haiti before the earthquake, but after the earthquake it nearly increased 10 folds. Not only do they not have the means to survive, but emotionally, people are running on empty. There were many children who were sick and severely malnourished. One little boy was brought to me because he was considered to be "sick enough" that he needed medication. When Haitian children are sick, or just people in general, they do not do anything until it is very bad. This is mainly due to the lack of medication and resources, but it is also due to the fact that they believe in many natural healing methods. This little boy of 4 years old stood in front of me with one of the biggest tummies I have ever seen in my life working with children. I have been shadowing doctors for a while now, so I have seen many of the same cases. This little boy was severely malnourished, dehydrated, and most likely has a case of worms. I carefully inspected his tummy and felt a sense of sorrow in my heart. I knew we did not have anymore de-worming medication and that their food supply was running out. I saw the scar on his scalp and the little scraped up legs...I felt the flow of hot liquid filling in my eyes...I had to hold it...there were 200 children quietly staring at me...

It was a very long day and at dinner time I sat there staring at the clock....it struck 6 o'clock and a si bro called out my name, "Lori Lori. We need to go." I grabbed my bags, not really knowing what's going on. I ran out the door only to find a giant military cargo cameo truck parked in front of me. It was the Brazilian army troops. The soldiers sitting on the cameo started to sing "Hello Hello Hello. Happy Happy Happy. I love you. You love me. We all love everybody. Helloooo." (This is the song we sing at distributions for leading the active participation of the Haitian). Lieutenant Baraud called out my name "Ms. Lori. Are you ready?" I was like half in shock and half super excited. A si bro and I climbed up the giant cameo truck and sat with the other 20 soldiers in full on war gear. Every single one of them had a hand gun strapped to their side with a giant AK strapped in front. The two soldiers at the end had grenade launchers. I, too, had many things strapped to me, I added to the bunch a Nalgene knock-off water bottle and a Tzu Chi cap. I sat there, in between all the soldiers, listening to them speaking Portuguese. It was an awesome experience. We were very high up and passing by all the cars I felt like I could see everything. I really got to experience what it felt like to be an UN solider in a foreign country. When you go through the UN, you are acting as a peacemaker. All the people respect you and especially the admiring eyes by all the children you pass by. We sang in the truck and spoke of all the different weapons. Mostly they were not words, since we couldn't understand each other, they were pretty much all actions. The Brazilian soldiers all pulled out their cameras to show me all the pictures they took of me and them. They started going through each pictures to explain who was who and they also showed me some base pictures in Dominican Republic. It was pretty funny. I had a short conversation with si bro before we got to the destination we were heading to. Si Bro told me we were going to a new place and that he didn't exactly know what was going on. Turns out we pulled into Waff Jeremie, the poorest part of Port-au-Prince. It was already dark when we arrived and you can only see a small number of glimmering glow from far away. They were burning trash to light up the night skies for the people. No one had tents, they were all make-shift shelters, if you can even call it that, made out of four wooden sticks and some thin cloths. A lot of the families lived in cardboard boxes or sheet metal pieces. When the army pulled in all the children started to run toward the cameo shouting at the soldiers. One little boy spotted me in the cameo and started to point and shout at the other children to come look. “C’est une femme! Une femme! Elle est là! Regarde une fille dans la cameo! (It’s a woman. A woman. She is there. Look, a girl in the cameo!) They were all super surprised that a girl was with a whole bunch of soldiers. They were all shouting out of excitement and disbelief.

We pulled into what looked like an old deserted building. We got out of the cameo and we started to take a tour of the building. It turns out that the building use to belong to NPH (Nationale Police D'HaÏti). Haiti's National Police force use to be attacked all the time by guerrillas and was forced out of their own base. In 2003, Brazilian troops marked this vacated building as part of their airborne division base. Seven years later, they are reclaiming what they once found. The building still stands with an exterior wall fully intact. You can really tell that the building was really built for battle of all kinds. We took a tour and I finally found out that tonight was a movie night for all the neighborhood children and families. They put up a white screen roll on the back of the cameo and used a projector to show a french children's film. They used film breaks to transmit positive messages for the Haitians, such as the things they can do to get a job and how to treat people around you. The soldiers even prepared a huge box of popcorn for all the children. We brought candy and cookies with us to distribute to the children. The neighborhood is not considered to be very safe, so the Brazilian commander wanted us to put on bullet-proof vests and UN helmets. I was so excited. Beyond excitement. I have always wanted to wear the UN helmets. It was a dream come true. We geared up and went out into the crowd to distribute all the goods. The timing wasn't all that great, so it was very chaotic. All the children came sprinting toward me. I had 3 bodyguards, then it turned into 6 bodyguards, and then finally it was about 12 of them all around me pulling me out from the pile of children. They were trying not to push the children, but at times it just wasn't possible not to do so. One soldier was pulling me from behind with the bullet-proof vest and another two was pulling both of my arms to lift me up from the swarm of children around me. I saw out of the corner of my eyes a little girl of about two to three years old falling over and all the children rushing toward her direction. I yelled in terror and fought off all the soldiers grab to safe that little girl. I held her in my arms and more soldiers came to clear the way. This all happened in about 7 minutes of time.

It was so chaotic and a very good lesson learned. I can really understand what people are talking about when they say people can get trampled to death in a mob. People really get that desperate and they cannot think of anything else. When people are so hungry, there is nothing that can stop them from getting food assistance, even if that means stepping on top of a small child. The little girl sang to me later when she was brought to safety. The crowd calmed down a lot more later. The army and I talked about alternative ways to distribute candy in that particular neighborhood. We passed a very good night in Waff Jeremie with the Brazilian army. It was really surreal to be honest with you. I stood on the roof of what use to be Haiti's police headquarters and look at the limited lights around. Tears came to my eyes because it was so beautiful at nighttime, but I knew just exactly what the daylight will reveal tomorrow. Funny how a little change of scenery can change everything. The Brazilian army troop took us back to OECC in a smaller cameo. We were still fully geared up from head to toe in the cameo. There were 5 soldiers with us, fully armed. When we got out of the gates all 5 soldiers under the commands of the Lieutenant all pulled out their handguns to add on to their riffles. I was surrounded by weapons, literally neck to neck. Lieutenant Baraud told me that the worst areas in Port-au-Prince is Cité Soleil and Bel Air, especially after the earthquake because the prison break that happened gave 500 prisoners free rean. They are all situated in these two areas. They took us all the way back to OECC and we said our goodbyes. It was a tearful goodbye again, because we were all touched by each other's work. Their work as peacekeepers and us as peace promoters. It is such a great thing that two groups from completely different parts of the world come together in another foreign country in the name of peace.

When we got back home, we found out that 4 police officers were shot to death by rebels in Cité Soleil, which was only 5 minutes from where we were at with the Brazilian troops. Everything has a reason...this is why we had to wear bullet-proof vests and helmets...they are strong enough to stop riffle bullets apparently. RIP police officers.