PCOC - Fall 2010 - (Page 18)

Haiti Relief – Than Ever By Lee Whitmore More Important On Jan. 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck the capital city of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, leveling over 60 percent of the city’s buildings and killing an estimated 230,000 people. This utter devastation which occurred in just over 30 seconds is virtually unfathomable by those of us accustomed to our way of life and the comforts of western civilization, but just 700 miles away from the sunny shores of Florida, our neighbors continue to squalor in the destruction and waste left behind by this catastrophic natural disaster. Today, more than eight months after the tragedy, Port-au-Prince continues to resemble a devastated war zone rather than a bustling, metropolitan district. Areas of greatest sensitivity include a completely destroyed infrastructure, and the complete loss of most of the hospitals, schools, and residential properties, displacing the majority of the population from their homes. Today, an estimated 1.5 million people have been left homeless and fending for themselves. Most of these families have taken up temporary residence in one of the 1,300 makeshift tent cities that have sprung up since the earthquake. Many of these accommodations are nothing more than lightweight blue tarps strung around the trees in what used to be the city parks and common squares. Due to limited space and the desire to be away from potential falling debris from damaged buildings, displaced families have even been forced to set up camp on the median areas between the busy streets. These deplorable living conditions have exacerbated problems with disease and infection, providing the perfect breeding ground for pests. Malaria, dengue fever, plague, West Nile virus, e-coli, salmonella, parasitic infections, and rabies have all become much more prevalent since the earthquake. Due to worsened sanitary conditions, fly populations have exploded, and in some areas, rodent populations have increased dramatically as well. As a result of these pest-related concerns, the Haitian government and the United Nations contacted NPMA to request professional assistance. My roommate for three days, Terry Clark, and I were honored to have been selected as the California contingent of this 12-man delegation that first went to Haiti to assess the pest situation and develop an action plan focused on improving the Haitian people’s living conditions. Having travelled to many third-world countries in the past, and having dealt with catastrophic earthquakes in Japan and volcanoes in the Philippines, I thought I was emotionally and psychologically prepared for this endeavor; I was wrong. I believe what our team observed and experienced in those short, three days in May may have changed all our lives and outlook of the world. Arriving in Haiti Immediately upon our arrival and after clearing customs at the airport, our team was faced with the cold reality of life in Port-au-Prince. The airport security gate www.pcoc.org / Fall 2010 appeared to be under attack. Dozens of police armed with rifles were physically forcing an unruly crowd back away from the gates, supposedly so we could get out of the gates, exit the airport and walk into this crowd! After about five minutes of standing around and staring at this situation in disbelief, our team began sheepishly working our way out of the airport and into the mass of people, dragging our luggage, supplies, and video equipment along. To say I felt vulnerable (with my wallet and passport transferred to my front pocket and my luggage clinched in a death grip) is an incredible understatement, but I could see real fear and grave concern in the eyes of some of my other team members, and I knew they were already asking what they had gotten themselves into. Ironically, shortly after surging our way into this crowd, we realized this pandemonium was nothing more than local porters and drivers fighting with the guards to get to the front of the line for the opportunity to assist us 18 http://www.pcoc.org

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of PCOC - Fall 2010

PCOC - Fall 2010
President’s Message
Martyn’s Corner
PCOC’s 2010 Convention and Tradeshow Highlights
Change or Be Changed by Change
Haiti Relief – More Important Than Ever
State Capitol Report
Capitol Scope
Firm Profile
Index to Advertisers

PCOC - Fall 2010