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Drawing up plans

Haiti, February 10, 2010

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After working on interviews and gathering stories about our Comfort for Kids program, I learned that some of our team was headed out to see our new office and some of the neighborhoods around it, all of which were greatly damaged in the quake. I went along for the ride and to look for signs of Haitians getting back into a more normal routine.

Out in the streets, the destruction caused by the quake is apparent everywhere you turn. Alternating piles of garbage and rubble line the streets, signs saying “Help us — we need food and water” in French, English and Spanish still hang on walls and buildings, and the smell of raw sewage is overwhelming. However, I did see other more subtle signs that people are picking up the pieces and trying to build a day-to-day existence out of the chaos of the past few weeks. There were women selling fruits and vegetables on every corner, people crowding onto brightly-colored mini-buses for trips across town and groups of workers clearing debris. It’s definitely a start.

There is an all-hands-on-deck feeling among our team here, as is common in an emergency response, but I wasn’t expecting to be pulled into the logistics planning quite so directly. When we arrived at the new office, however, I found myself pitching in to help our human resources manager draw out a physical plan of the new space and determine how we will organize our teams within the office. Now back at our temporary office, I’m thinking about the connections between what I saw around me today and the work we were doing ourselves in the new office. It doesn’t seem like the most obvious need in a situation like this — figuring out where desks will go in a new office — but it’s the kind of day-to-day routine that is happening all over the city as people try to pick up the pieces of their lives.

Building a solid infrastructure of talented staff, functional equipment and clear logistics processes will allow Mercy Corps to work efficiently and effectively here for years to come. And this is exactly the mindset that guides all of our work in Haiti: we’re helping people to create some kind of workable foundation and carve out space for a new routine.