Friday, June 25, 2010

There's No Give Up in Haiti

We left Haiti this morning with a last image of frustration. We visited the compound of "Rebuild Haiti," a joint venture of multiple reconstruction entities focused on clearing and rebuilding. There, on the lot stood lines of bulldozers, heavy earth movers, and massive dump trucks. And they're not being used despite miles of debris and hundreds of thousands in desperate need. And there's no good answer for why not, just the same old--bureaucracy, competing turf, politics, control. Despite the massive scale of the problem, the very resources needed for action sit idle.


Needless to say, we asked for help with our future sites for Special Olympics Camp Shriver sites and they're going to respond. Hopefully, the barriers to action will fall for others too. The need is just so great that I can't believe people won't find a way.

At the end of our short visit, Rose and I leave with one overriding feeling: admiration for the people of Haiti. Never once did we hear anyone complain; they are a people unbowed, strong, unflinching. Everywhere we went, we saw thousands of people busy, trying, working, surviving.

There's no give up in Haiti. They left us in awe.

Haiti will be a great Special Olympics program soon. We don't yet know how we'll overcome the lack of schools, fields, health, and equipment. But I know it will happen somehow. There's just too much need and too much potential in those athletes. Somehow, together, we're going to find a way.

We'll post more pictures when we get home tonight. And we'll try to get a message out soon about how everyone can help. For now, donations can be sent to Special Olympics Haiti Fund at 1133 19th St, NW, Washington, DC 20036.

Thanks always for everyone who works and prays for a Unified Haiti.

More Pictures from Haiti - School and Camp

Here are some more photos by Rose. These are from our meeting with Haitian families before the press conference to announce the five Camp Shrivers and the five year plan to rebuild Special Olympics Haiti. There are also some from our visit to Foyer D'Amour which has been entirely destroyed and relocated to open structures next to the original building. Then there are some from our visit to the site for one of the Camp Shrivers this summer which, like so many of the areas we visited, is under construction).

Thursday, June 24, 2010

This is Our School Now

At the Foyer D'Amour (House of Love) school, future campers and Special Olympics athletes welcomed us with smiles. They are so proud and excited to join a movement of pride and sports joy. When David Rosenthal, Special Olympics track and field star, spoke to them about how he was called names as a child but now has found his pride, they cheered. We all danced in celebration of the future.

Then I asked the parents what else we could do besides sport to help.

"Food" was one response. "My son is in school all day with no food."

The next asked for a brace. "My daughter cannot stand because her back is bad and she has no brace. How can she play?"

"Please a psychologist. My daughter--I don't even know why she's different. A psychologist could help."

I turned to Madame Legoute, the charismatic head of the school who has tried to rebuild after her simple buildings were destroyed in the quake. "Do you not have any of this? Psychologists? Braces? Food?"

"Not yet," she replied. "Not yet."

Those parents made it clear: if Special Olympics is a movement, we'll have to work hard to be true game changers in building community here. The Foyer D'Amour isn't just her school. Its our school now.

Any and all help welcome. Stay tuned for ways you can contribute and email Beth Alldridge at Special Olympics if you've got resources or want to be more involved.

An Official Announcement

*Editor's Note:

As Tim is busy with some activities in Haiti right now, I just wanted to share that in a press conference this morning in Haiti, Tim unveiled a five year plan to rebuild Special Olympics Haiti through Camp Shriver. You can read the full announcement in the Special Olympics press room.

Also, for some back story on Special Olympics in Haiti, here are some items to read:

Meet David Rosenthal

Special Olympics Haiti athlete David Rosenthal with Tim Shriver

The surprises continue in Haiti. Last night, the most pleasant surprise was meeting David Rosenthal, a star athlete in every way. Sitting between David and his mother at dinner last night was an honor. David's mom told her story of trying to raise a son with challenges-- of David's seizures during childhood and of her feeling totally lost and rejected. Her word's echoed the ones I heard as a child when my mother spoke of her sister: "There was nothing for David and nothing for me. It was so difficult. There was nothing."

You wouldn't know it talking to David. He's all grown up now, 31, handsome, funny, and incredibly athletic. His mother has done a fantastic job and his smiles are biggest when he talks of his two medals won in Shanghai. "I'm ready to play other sports as soon as Special Olympics calls me," David said. "I'm ready."

Needless to say, there are over 30,000 other potential athletes like David in this struggling country. Our challenge is to call them. We start next month with 300 at our summer camps. But that is only a start. We have so much more to do to help create a unified Haiti. Thank goodness we have David who will help lead the way.

More Pictures from Haiti - Meetings

We have a pretty tight schedule of meetings in Haiti. Here are a handful of the photos from most of those meetings. The folks we met with included:

  • Haitian First Lady Mrs. Elizabeth Preval
  • Dr. Pean, Secretary of State for the Integration of Persons with Disabilities
  • Mr. Jean E. Baker, President of Haitian Olympic Committee
  • Mrs. Marie M. Rey, Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Mr. Gwenael Apollon, Secretary General of the YMCA
  • Special Olympics Haiti HQ Staff, Volunteers and Regional Delegates

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Time to 'Stop Pretending'

We had a great meeting with our new coaches and camp managers this morning. The Special Olympics Haiti office, though full of cracks in walls and ceilings, is still standing. And that's where we introduced our new team to the goal of standing up for people with intellectual disabilities this summer and beyond.

We were also honored to meet First Lady Elizabeth Preval. She was totally committed to our work and wants to come to our summer camps and then convene a national meeting to put our athletes on the agenda for the future of the country. And then Haiti's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marie-Michele Rey, said something so powerful: "in Haiti, we must stop pretending...stop pretending that people with intellectual disabilities don't exist, stop pretending that what we are doing as a government is working. Special Olympics can help us build a new Haiti where we face the reality that everyone has a right to a decent life. Everyone!"

If today is any indication, we're going to have a lot of support for our announcement of the relaunch of SO Haiti tomorrow!

Stay tuned.

Pictures from Haiti

My daughter Rose got a few pictures to show what it looks like on the ground here in Haiti.

Hope Amidst the Rubble

We've all heard it before: you can't believe it unless you see it with your own eyes. Well that's Haiti--the miles of destruction, the breathtakingly beautiful land beyond the rubble, the resolute faces of minute to minute perseverance, the goats..

Our first day in Haiti was all that and more. Led by Jean Chevalier, Special Olympics Haiti is coming to life. For Jean, SO is a pathway to rehabilitation-of rebuilding broken spirits but also for rebuilding Haitian society to be about the inclusion of all. We met with USAID and OAS leaders who challenged us to think about social change, about sustainability, about engaging government leaders. And most excitingly, we met with the leader of the YMCA which will open a new center and wants every Special Olympics athlete to become a member and have a year round fitness and sport development plan.

I must admit that Rose and I are a little in shock with it all. But when we met this morning with 30 new trainers and managers who are ready to help us open 5 Special Olympics Camp Shrivers this summer, we felt at home again: people offering to help, wanting to fight discrimination, ready to give the gift of skill, the joy of a smile, the power of an example for others to follow. I hope during the rest of the trip we find the leaders and the money to empower them to success.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Off to Haiti...

I'm off to Haiti today with my daughter Rose and I'm not sure what to expect. Special Olympics has long worked in Haiti but needless to say, everything is different now. My colleagues Beth Alldridge and Bob Gobrecht have been working tirelessly with Maureen Weber to get our movement back up and running and it can't come soon enough.

So I can't wait to open 5 Camp Shrivers this summer. It may be a small help to an island in pain but the smiles will be worth all the effort. And they will be a healing all their own--a symbol of a more hopeful way of life. May it come soon and very soon.

We're off. Stay tuned.

Tim and Rose