April 13, 2010

Expert links businesses to Haiti aid

Darcy Pierce explores the quake-damaged areas to assess how Maine companies can assist with rebuilding.

By Matt Wickenheiser mwickenheiser@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

An expert in connecting corporations with work in developing nations has returned from a weeklong visit to Haiti, where he explored ways that Maine businesses can help rebuild the heavily damaged island country.

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Temporary camps cover the hills near Port au Prince, Haiti’s capital. With the rainy season starting, many of the shelters will blow away.

Darcy Pierce photo

Watch videos

See a gallery of videos videos from Port-au-Prince by Darcy Pierce at http://tinyurl.com/y4cqklr

Darcy Pierce, a senior partner with the Maine-based firm Envoy, returned Sunday from his visit to Cap Haitien, Haiti's second-largest city and a sister city to Portland, and Port-au-Prince, the capital, which was devastated by the Jan. 12 earthquake.

Pierce is working with the new business coalition MaineLine Haiti, whose leadership includes Preti Flaherty, Unum, Kennebunk Savings Bank, Reed & Reed, CD&M Communications and Mainebiz. At least two dozen other companies have signed on as supporting members.

In touring Port-au-Prince, Pierce found that 80 percent to 90 percent of the population lives under temporary shelter such as tents and tarps. He said those shelters won't be of much use during the rainy season, which is beginning. Many of the shelters will blow, or won't protect people from floodwaters that will likely be contaminated by poorly built latrines, which are common in Haiti.

Pierce has been an early responder and provided on-site assessment after disasters, including the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean and the earthquake last year in Indonesia. But he had never seen anything like the devastation in Haiti, even months after the earthquake.

"This is going to be a continuing saga for a long time. The typical process that this takes is, everyone emotionally responds, and then they kind of move on from there," Pierce said. "This is one of those that's almost like a recurring illness -- it's going to keep popping up on us."

MaineLine Haiti is most interested in supporting permanent housing and infrastructure, not temporary fixes, Pierce said. He will brief the group's leaders on the most immediate needs, and they will determine if that is still going to be MaineLine's focus.

Pierce met with non-government organizations in Port-au-Prince, including Food for the Hungry, Project Concern International, AmeriCares and Samaritan's Purse, looking at possible partnerships with MaineLine.

"The difficulty down there is the government, really. There's a lot of (organizations) and a lot of people willing to help, but the government's having a hard time making decisions," Pierce said.

In Cap Haitien, he looked at the operations of Maine-based Konbit Sante, a nonprofit that has worked with Haitian officials for about a decade to improve the public health systems in the city.

The hospital that Konbit Sante works with, the Justinian University Hospital, is seeing patients from the Port-au-Prince area, about 90 miles to the south. Pierce said there may be an opportunity for MaineLine Haiti to work with Konbit Sante to improve health care in Cap Haitien.

 

Staff Writer Matt Wickenheiser can be contacted at 791-6316 or at: mwickenheiser@pressherald.com

 

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