Mavericks Impact Haiti
by Douglas Doebler, Maverick1000 Member #35 and CHPF Board Member
Hosted by Yanik Silver, Frank McKinney and the Caring House Project Foundation
Click here to watch the video! Maverick Business Adventures Impact Tour To Haiti
Frank McKinney—well known Real Estate artist, five-time bestselling author, previous Maverick celebrity guest, and founder of Caring House Project Foundation (www.frank-mckinney.com)—was the host of our Haiti Maverick IMPACT Experience this February. Here’s what he had to say about our trip:
“Since building the first of what is now 15 villages in Haiti, I’ve led many donor excursions there—and I believe this Maverick trip will prove to be the most impactful by a significant margin. Why? Well of course we had 14 action-takers and what I call “loop closers” on this trip; and sure they will experience the culture shock and emotional struggle that occurs when people witness this level of rawness and suffering for the first time. What most excites me, however, is that these individuals will quickly digest what they experienced, and then rally their myriad talents to find immediate solutions to the challenges CHPF and our partners are experiencing in Haiti right now. It is my belief that there will be a brand new “Maverick/CHPF village” before the end of 2011, and that this village will contain some form of free enterprise and capitalism. That’s right—you Mavericks will be responsible for the creation of an entire village. I can’t wait to participate as the momentum and relationships grow! A special thanks goes to Maverick extraordinaire and CHPF Board Member Doug Doebler, who was the catalyst for making this February trip possible. From what I understand, Doug’s trip was over-sold by five people, so who knows—we may be scheduling a second trip soon! Thank you again to Doug, Kim Jacobson, Kimberley from CHPF and Yanik for making this happen.”
After a year of planning (and near trip cancellation due to increased US State Department warnings against travel to Haiti), Frank, Yanik and I officially completed our mission of making a Maverick impact in Haiti this February. Equally as important, we made a major impact on the 14 Mavericks and guests who were brave enough to travel to Haiti with us. We took the safety of our group very seriously, as the new State Department warnings are no joke. They state:
“The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to Haiti unless essential and only if travel is fully supported by organizations with solid infrastructure, evacuation options, and medical support systems in place. U.S. citizens traveling to Haiti without such support have found themselves in danger in the past.
The number of victims of violent crime, including murder and kidnapping, continues to increase in Port-au-Prince. Some kidnapping victims have been physically abused, sexually assaulted, shot, and even killed. No one is safe from kidnapping, regardless of occupation, nationality, race, gender, or age. In a number of cases in the past year, travelers arriving in Port-au-Prince on flights from the United States were attacked and robbed shortly after departing the airport…
In addition, beginning last year, protests, demonstrations, and violent disruptions have occurred regularly in Port-au-Prince and in cities throughout the country. During these demonstrations protestors threw rocks, burned tires, damaged vehicles, and blocked traffic. In several cases, U.S. citizen missionaries and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) workers were trapped in their compounds with limited supplies of food, water, and medicines. During the most recent disruptions, airports throughout Haiti were also closed for several days, making it impossible for U.S. citizens to depart the country once they were able to leave their shelters.”
Well I’m happy to say the trip went off perfectly. (Okay…except when our flight home from Port-au-Prince was cancelled). We started our trip at the Sheraton Miami Airport Hotel; and in true Maverick style, Frank sent a Hummer limo to transport us to his oceanfront home in Delray Beach, Florida. (Of course we had to stop at a convenience store along the way so Yanik could get beer and beef jerky for the one-hour ride.)
Frank and Nilsa McKinney shared their beautiful home and a fantastic meal with us, while Frank updated us on what to expect on our trip. During this time, everyone got to know their fellow travelers from around the USA. Each Maverick also got some one-on-one time with Frank in his famous tree house—where he designs the beautiful oceanfront mansions he builds, and authored his five best-selling books.
Then…a 5 AM meeting in the hotel lobby and an early flight to Haiti, and before you know it we were there—just a two-hour flight from Miami. We had a local “tap tap” open-air bus pick us up for transport to our hotel (The Port-au-Prince Haiti), and a tour of the city. (See Yanik’s story to find out why they call it a “tap tap” bus…)
In Haiti, you see destruction from the earthquake everywhere, including the ruins of the Presidential Palace—the equivalent of our US White House. So many people are living in tents and under scrap tin shelters propped up against fallen buildings. We visited the fallen Haiti National Cathedral in Port-au-Prince—our first experience seeing the small kids rubbing their bellies and asking for food.
Across the street there is a beautiful park that has been turned into a refugee tent camp for thousands of people. We walked into the center of the camp, where we had more interaction with the children. Our visit was on a Sunday and therefore the streets were calm—but on Monday there was a big protest in this same location. Luckily and contrary to the State Department warnings, we felt safe on this tour. (We did have a couple armed Haitian private police guards in a chase vehicle with us at all times.)
We continued our tour of Port-au-Prince, viewing all the devastation caused by the 2010 earthquake, which killed over 300,000 people. Many of the buildings and homes still lay in ruins. There seemed to be some minimal clean-up effort, but we didn’t see any actual rebuilding efforts. Tent camps were everywhere—some with real tents, while some just had sheets, tarps and cardboard. Women were selling rice, beans, fruits and vegetables along the streets.
After our tour, we settled into our comfortable hotel in Delmas 19, near downtown Port-au-Prince. There was a big gate at the entry with a shotgun-armed guard, plus armed guards wandering the grounds. We were shocked that this hotel was still standing at all, after seeing all the fallen buildings on the way there. It was a true oasis amidst all the rubble and devastation; from our hotel room windows, we could see back alleys full of tents and little shacks made from scrap metal and wood.
Our Sunday host was Scott Bonnell, director of Hope to Haiti and partner of the CHPF. His organization feeds 3,500 kids each day and runs multiple schools and orphanages around Haiti. Scott had arranged for an orphanage and neighborhood to be fed on behalf of the Mavericks; and while our original plan was to visit and assist, security concerns kept us at the hotel. So instead, our Maverick group made additional impact by feeding over 300 children in Port-au-Prince itself.
Everyone enjoyed meeting Scott and his local Haitian associates, who explained how difficult it is to do business in Haiti during our business panel meeting. Most of these panelists are attending local universities, and it seems like everyone needs a small business of some sort to survive. I know some Mavericks expect to support Scott’s work in Haiti.
So we happened to be in Haiti on Super Bowl Sunday, and that night, our hotel provided a great pre-Super Bowl dinner—even bringing in a big TV with satellite hookup so we could watch the big game! Plus, we had an open bar from our arrival at noon until the end of the game. (Luckily the Haitian beer was cheap and tasty.) By half-time, many had gone to bed (we’d had a very early morning flight), but not Yanik and Maverick Ryan Deiss, who hung in there till the end.
Next up: an early Monday morning ride to the domestic airport for our Maverick charter to Jeremie. (Jeremie is either a 10 hour drive through the mountains, a 14 hour ferry ride, or a one-hour plane flight. We opted for the flight.) CHPF had purchased and packed full backpacks for each Maverick to carry from Florida to Haiti, full of toys to deliver to school kids on our visit—so we all came fully prepared!
At the seaside village of Jeremie, both Yanik and Lionel Filsaime (Mike’s dad) were shocked at the living conditions. Small children, pigs and goats wandered freely, scavenging for food, through streets and homes that fill with water and raw sewage when it rains. We mostly stood in silence, taking in all the sights, sounds and smells. Caring House funds the construction of new homes in places like this one—and each of us on the trip donated $2,500 of our trip cost to building another complete new home for these communities. The Jeremie people were friendly and happy to see us…a huge impact!
Our Monday host was the Haitian Health Foundation, a $3+ million/year organization run by Dr. Lowney and his family from Norwich, CT. For over 30 years, Dr. Lowney, his wife, and his daughter Marilyn, along with hundreds of their dedicated employees, have been serving the people of Haiti. Frank has been working with the HHF for years now, together building self-sufficient villages, new homes and schools, and fishing cooperative, which we visited later.
It was a special honor for the Mavericks to meet Dr. Lowney, to see and hear about all the work his foundation does. That night, we stayed at the main clinic, sleeping in the double rooms on the third floor for visiting doctors and nurses, who come to see patients on the first and second floors. Once again, a very comfortable spot for us to rest. Not your typical Maverick 5-Star resort, but certainly a very comfortable location.
Dr. Lowney, Marilyn and Sister Mary Ann also took us to a women’s clinic, where pregnant women stay before and after childbirth. Touring this facility and seeing all the pregnant women walking around the beautiful clinic property was quite a contrast—after a day in Port-au-Prince, witnessing all the devastation and poverty, and then visiting the village in Jeremie, the grand scale of hope offered by the Haitian Health Foundation was a true change of scenery.
Next, we were treated to songs and getting to watch children learning their daily lessons at the Caring House Testasse School. What a beautiful school, full of very happy and well-behaved children. The school was clean, so well organized—and the children all looked wonderful. We spent a couple hours handing out toys and toothbrushes from the backpacks we all carried from Miami—and the children were very happy to see us! I think all of the Mavericks were emotionally taken by this experience.
After school, we got to interact with the kids for a while. All the students were very friendly and inquisitive. Marilyn from HHF showed them magic tricks—and it didn’t feel much different than any other schoolyard full of kids in the USA. Here I am in the schoolyard, after school let out:
Next stop: the Caring House Fishing Cooperative in Testasse, where we experienced a Haitian fete (festival). This fishing cooperative was funded by the CHPF, who purchased large, new fiberglass boats with powerful motors and GPS systems, so the fisherman can go further out to catch bigger fish. This cooperative also provides a place to prepare and freeze the fish (with big coolers and generators), which feeds the village and provides income to purchase other essential items.
Each of us introduced ourselves via an interpreter to the over 300 people who gathered to greet and thank us. The village leaders gave long thank you speeches, the village women sang and danced for us, and we were fed a wonderful meal. (Of course leave it to Yanik and Ryan to find some Colt 45 beer in the cooler…someone said they don’t make Colt 45 any more?)
After we ate and the villagers were fed, all of the Mavericks walked the village together, guided by the kids, who loved our attention.
That night, we relaxed with Marilyn Lowney from HHF and Frank McKinney, discussing what Mavericks can do to help the situation in Haiti. The next day, an early morning sunrise gave me a one last great view from the clinic balcony where we spent the night. Then, we were off to the airport—which was heavily protected by many United Nations guards—for our final charter flight back to Port-au-Prince.
What an amazing trip for all of us. A huge thank you to everyone involved in this hugely successful Maverick IMPACT trip. Of course there’s no way to capture this trip in words, so check out this video I created for a deeper peek into the experience: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-An9Ke9yrY
Plus, a special thank you to Kimberley Trombley Burmeister with the Caring House Project Foundation. Kimberley worked tirelessly behind the scenes for months, organizing all the details and logistics of this trip, including purchasing and packing the toy and toothbrush backpacks for each Maverick to carry into Haiti. A big THANK YOU, Kimberley!
Maverick Host and Celebrity Guest:
Frank McKinney frank-mckinney.com
Attending Maverick1000 Members and Guests:
Yanik Silver (Maverick1000 Founder)
Mike Filsaime, Maverick1000 Member #1 – mikefilsaime.com
Lionel Filsaime (Mike’s Dad)
Jim Spano, Maverick1000 Member #16 – spanopartners.com
Ken Spano (Jim’s son)
Douglas Doebler, Maverick1000 Member #35 – doebler.com
Tom Puentes, Maverick1000 Member #36 – smithbarney.com
Sasha Ablitt, Maverick1000 Member #50 – www.ablitts.com
Mike Cline, Maverick1000 Member #61 – techguyswhogetmarketing.com
Brett Fogle, Maverick1000 Member #71 – optionsuniversity.com
Scott Marlow, Maverick1000 Member #102
Ruth Ann Bowe
Also, many thanks to our Maverick friends who donated, but were not able to attend: Carrie Wilkerson and John Ferber (Mavericks Scott Marlow and Brett Fogle quickly filled their spots!)