How Do You Go On?

How Do You Go On?

Two days after the earthquake, the entire board of the orphanage got together by phone to discuss the question that no one likes to ask……

How do you go on? How do you go on when you’ve never been this way before?

How do you go on when you don’t even know what questions to ask?

How do you go on when you don’t know what you can rely on?

How do go on when everyone is struggling with grief and loss. I can’t verify that it’s true but I’ve been told that everyone in the Port Au Prince area either loss a family member or friend or they are close friends with someone who lost a family member or close friend.

How do you go on? I don’t know how we did. Those of us in Canada and the US who were on the board had the easy part. We had more busy, more planning, more worry, more phone calls, more anxious parents. We didn’t have to worry about running out of water, about whether the roof is going to cave in, about whether our co-worker who isn’t scheduled to work for 2 more days yet will show up or not. We knew our government was still there, that there were rescue teams attempting to rescue and recover the missing. Our people in Haiti didn’t know that.

But the urgency of the situation in Haiti translated to urgency here in the first world. We decided to send an emergency medical team and to set a goal that the whole team be in Miami on Monday (6 days after) and we would work to get them on a charter plane on Tuesday or Wednesday. My wife was on that team. So for 2 1/2 days, we had people dropping off medical donations at our house and we tried to pack in as much as we could. We didn’t really know what we would need, but we knew that there would probably be someone who could use them.

Examples of the “urgency” that we all felt in that first bit…..
– Getting an instant message from my boss asking me if I was working right then – at 3:35 in the morning.
– Waking up an adoptive parent at 1:30 in the morning telling him he needed to be on a plane by 10:00 the next morning.
– Having a fundraising conference call at 11:00 PM Pacific Time (2:00 AM Eastern Time)
– Getting 3 hours of sleep the night before my wife left for Haiti and having that be 50% more than my shortest night for the week.
– Getting e-mails from very nervous adoptive parents that they couldn’t get through on my phone and my voice mail was full. E-mailing them back telling them I was attempting to do that but the e-mails were coming in faster than I could answer them and then the voice mails too……

I want to make something very clear. While I was the only one “officially” involved located in Michigan, I was in no manner unique. Everyone on staff and all of the friends that I know who were working with organizations in Haiti said that it was encouraging how many people wanted to help.

A friend of mine runs an organization that advocates on behalf of orphans with HIV/AIDS. They have a slogan which became very apropos during the first part of the, well, I’m going to use the word recovery, but the case could be made that it hasn’t gotten there yet.

That slogan? “It’s Not About Me.” I keep telling her that I think the back of their t-shirts should say, “It’s Not About You Either.”

How do you go on in light of the worst natural disaster in the Western Hemisphere?

How do you not go on?

You go on because you have to. You go on because that’s what God wants. You go on because you can.

Unfortunately, not everyone who could and said they would help did. But we’ll get into that later.

TV

Around 11:00 the Night of the Earthquake…..

About 11:00 that night….

Like I said last time, the internet was burning up the night of the earthquake in Haiti. People all over the world were trying to figure how bad it was and how people can help. Much of the traffic and communications seemed to be happening on Twitter. Those who were on the ground in the earthquake zone who were on Twitter were getting all of the attention. Different news organizations would ask questions and the answers from the people on the ground were like a front row seat to a disaster. Scary and sad and fascinating at the same time.

And then it happened, Ann Curry (then of the Today Show) posted something on Twitter to this effect, “Looking to set up an interview with someone in Port Au Prince who speaks English.” (Not everyone in Haiti speaks English). I put in a quick instant message to the stateside office (out in Colorado) and verified that there was a cell phone working at the orphanage. I then responded to Ann Curry, “I have people I work with just outside of Port Au Prince. They can talk.”

No response. At that point, I think Ann had approximately the same number of followers as the population in Chicago. I really didn’t expect a response. I mean, Ann Curry talking to me?

And then it came, @tvanderwell, Ann Curry has requested to follow you on Twitter. According to their rules, you can’t message someone directly if you aren’t “following” them. Of course I said yes.

A little later, I get a direct message from Ann (maybe it was her staff, I don’t know and it doesn’t matter) and I passed on the phone number and names etc.

7:00 AM on Wednesday, January 11, 2010 as the Today Show opened up, it jumped immediately to a live phone interview between one of their anchors (who will remain nameless) and the director of “our” orphanage. Don’t tell me that Social Media can’t accomplish good.

I don’t know how many people saw the interview but I know it made more people aware of the plight of kids in Haiti.

And I kept the e-mail that said, “@tvanderwell, @anncurry is following you on Twitter.”

Tom

Haiti – a Decade Later

Haiti – a Decade Later

I’ll always remember where I was on January 12, 2010 at 4:53 PM.

I was sitting on one of the bar stools that we had around the island in our house that we owned at that time. At that time, I was a banker and I was done with an appt outside of the office that didn’t give me time to go back into the office. So I came home and got caught up on some work stuff there instead

At that point, I was lurking on Twitter a lot. I say “lurking” because I was really only talking to a few people on a consistent basis. Most of what I used twitter for at that point was to follow a bunch of news people and organizations to keep up with what was going on in the world. Why?

Well, it was very simple (or I thought so), the market that controls interest rates does best when what it thinks will happen actually happens. So, the market thinks that oil prices are going to go up and they do, not a big deal for the market (speaking in grossly simplistic terms) because that’s what they were thinking would happen. So keeping track of those type of movements in the markets was very beneficial to my clients because it helped them with at least an inkling of what mortgage rates might do.

So, back at the ranch, I’m returning e-mails and such and I had a program called Tweetdeck running. You can specify certain twitter accounts and any time they tweet something it will show up on there. You can also specify certain names, phrases, terms etc. for it to search on. I had put in Port au Prince, Haiti – because that is the capital city of the country where two of my children were born.

I believe it was 5:02 PM on January 12, 2010 that my computer scrolled a little box up in the upper left corner that said the following:

LA Times reports massive 7.5 earthquake in Port Au Prince Haiti at 4:53 PM EST. Casualties expected to be massive.

My heart sank. I had a lot of friends there. I had/have a lot of friends who had or were adopting from Haiti. I was on the board of the orphanage – with lots of employees in Haiti – many of whom were not at work. This was bad. Really bad.

As in, God, why are you allowing this? Bad. As in, “I shook my fist at heaven and said, “God, why don’t you do something?”

Within an hour, darkness settled over Haiti but from what I’ve been told, quiet didn’t come. Sobs of grief, the cries of the wounded, the sounds of impromptu rescue teams trying to pull people to safety. All night long.

Depending on who you listen to, anywhere from 80,000 to 300,000+ people lost their lives on that day or would soon because of injuries sustained on that day.

And while the people on the ground in Haiti were working in horrific conditions trying to figure out what happened, what’s been damaged, who can be rescued and more, all night, there was another group of people who weren’t in Haiti but were burning up the internet trying to figure out how bad it was, what was needed to help and how to get there.

I remember, about 1:00 the next morning, all of the kids from the orphanage were sleeping on the driveway (imagine trying to get 90 kids to sleep on a driveway?) I was able to connect on Facebook with one of our volunteers. When they ran out of the building, she had her computer in her back pack, so she had it. She spent quite some time but located a spot just outside the main building where she could get a weak wifi connection through the router in our building (our buildings were shaken but remained standing.) She and I talked for about a half hour and the information she was able to share with me turned out to be a great comfort to the adoptive parents whose kids were at the orphanage and were worried, literally sick, about them. No one was hurt at the orphanage. We found out later that one of the orphanage’s employees lost 11 family members that day.

Finally, at about 4:00 in the morning, after spending a couple of hours on the phone with another board member trying to wrap our heads around what happened and what to do next. I fell in bed knowing that the sun would come up in a couple of hours and with it a “better” chance for those in Haiti to see how bad it was.

What they saw when the sun came up, it was worse than you could ever imagine.

Tom

The Day after Christmas

It was the day after Christmas, and all through the house
every creature was tired, even the mouse.

All the presents were opened, the stockings too
Most of the goodies were eaten and enjoyed too.

Family close, sometimes, not
Family, close sometimes, sometimes not

Places full, hearts full
Places empty, memories fostered there amid the pain

Traditions – some last long, some start new
Traditions – made to create memories

The Reason? What’s the Reason for the Season?
Is it a new XBox or iPad or laptop?

Or a trip to somewhere that’s not here?
A place to post pictures from that make people jealous?

No, that’s not the reason
Though Best Buy and Apple would say

And don’t forget Hallmark and their happily ever after
Each one ends the same yet people still like them.

Christmas – its a beginning, a time of celebration
It’s also a time to remember and be grateful

Grateful for the Baby
And grateful for the Son

TV

Hmmm….

You know, one of the things I really like is when you can read the Bible in a different version and the change of the words even just slightly produces a thought or a moment that makes you think harder or differently about your life, the Bible, the World or something totally different.

Acts 18:1-8 is one of those sort of packages for me.  Packages?

Yes, when I read Acts 18:1-8 today three things jumped out at me:

  • When Paul got to Corinth, he stayed with displaced people.  But they are Jewish just like he was.
  • Even in Paul’s life, there is a time where he had to “do something else” to make a living while still doing ministry.  The start of his efforts in Corinth were not self sustaining.
  • Paul’s greatest success in ministry in Corinth happened not to “his own” people, but happened with people from other nations.

Hmmmm….

TJV