9/2010 – UPDATE
I’ve been following this organization since I found CAN-DO in July. I continue to be impressed with how much CAN-DO can do with modest funding. On Founder Eric Klein’s Facebook, he talks about hiring electricians, installing boxes and lights all through the building for $500. This was just one check on the TO DO list for the Orphanage Revitalization Project which kicked off at Patience Orphanage earlier in the month. Local craftsmen built and installed kitchen cabinets for $625. Bunk beds and mattresses were found for little more than $300. And that electricity? First time this orphanage has ever had lights!
It’s been terrific to see their work unfold and I was and am so moved by their efforts that I donated $100 to their organization. I wanted to provide some help, and I have 100% confidence that my donation reached them and went into repairing that orphanage and putting a few smiles on some very special kids’ faces.
I don’t often use my blog to promote or publicize, but I feel very strongly that CAN-DO is the David versus the Goliath of NGOs. The big NGOs have collected millions of dollars in donations, filled up over 50 warehouses of goods, but have done very little to ensure that the assistance falls into the hands who need it. This is the biggest flaw in the system – accountability. And this is where CAN-DO comes in. This is very much a grassroots organization which was on the ground in Haiti just 72 hours after the quake, and has made several trips to distribute medical supplies and food, provide water, build structures, and now revitalize orphanages and build sustainable shelter. They work with and employ the locals, pay local companies to rent trucks, cut through red tape and deliver the goods where needed. As Founder, Eric Klein says in THIS VIDEO, “It’s not brain surgery.” It is refreshing to watch this organization’s “no-nonsense” approach and see real results.
If you’d like to visit the CAN-DO website to learn more, please go to: www.can-do.org.
I also enjoyed this video posted of a moment in the field.
If you’d like to learn more about their Haiti Domes Project (which is really cool) they have a dedicated site www.haitidomesproject.com
And finally, if you want to continue to follow CAN-DO’s projects in Haiti, you can Like them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CanDo.Org or for tweeters follow @candoorg.
I’m really pleased to shine the spotlight on this organization. And when you take a moment to learn more, I think you, too, will become a huge fan of CAN-DO.ORG.
7/2010 – ORIGINAL POST
I was sitting in my hotel room excited that I had most of the evening to myself. Ms. Lan, who was with me in HCMC to conduct sales calls had plans for dinner with a travel agent who didn’t speak English and who claimed she already met me. So much for me trying to build relations.
As I normally do when I’m in a hotel room, I turned on CNN to catch up with my news. It was a brief segment on Haiti which caught my attention. The situation is still dire after six months and much of the aide that was sent is caught up in red tape, sitting in warehouses, not being delivered to the people in need. Good old Sanjay called on of his “contacts” who happened to be a guy who runs an organization which is actually bypassing all of the bureaucratic nonsense, putting donations to work by paying for trucks and labor, filling up the trucks with supplies and delivering them to the people. Sanjay happened to be at an orphanage which was desperate to feed hungry and malnourished children.
I sat back and thought to myself a bit. I’m ashamed that I haven’t really thought of Haiti too much recently. And yet here was a guy and an organization using personal and donated funds, risking personal safety and health and helping to clean up a complete and utter disaster. I looked down at my notes from my appointments, “Discussed contract rate which is always an issue. Market still price conscious. Low season lower than last year. Eager for specials and discounts. Look to get the charter and reply on series booking.” Wow. My “work” for the day seemed like blowing dust instead of moving mountains.
I did a bit more research on CAN-DO.ORG. I discovered that they’ve been helping with recovery efforts in Sri Lanka after the tsunami in 2004, with Hurricane Katrina, the Iowa floods and now very much so with Haiti, among a host of other programs. Impressive, to say the least.
I was compelled to write to the founder, Eric Klein, to lend moral support and congratulate him on his efforts and well as see how I might do some volunteer work, even from afar. It’s a sound organization, remaining accountable for the donations it receives by filming all the drops and deliveries. So in short turn around, you can see your name on a water or delivery truck which you helped pay for. They do this through their www.virtualvolunteer.tv channel, also posting updates and any news they are featured in.
You know sometimes we meet someone, see something, read or hear news which lends us those ah-ha moments in life, the epiphany that allows us to envision a better version of ourselves, to look up and admire someone and hope that we can possess just an ounce of that compassion and drive which makes them a truly remarkable person. That was me in my hotel room in HCMC, wishing I could be as bold and brave as those folks helping the Haitians.
I hope you’ll take a moment to visit this website, learn more about the good work these people are doing and hopefully make a donation so they can remain on the ground helping where it matters and really getting it done. If you’ve already made a donation to an NGO or NPO, I have to ask if you have followed up to ask where your money and contributions have gone? It’s very clear that there is a huge lack of accountability with far too many and even very large organizations. If you did already make a contribution, raise your voice and ask for a progress report. Because from what it appears on CNN and with reports from workers joining forces with CAN-DO.ORG, Haiti is off the radar, it’s been just six months since the earthquake and the people are still very much in need of help.
It always sounds a little weird for me to say, but I employ a maid. It’s pretty much the norm here in Vietnam, but it’s the first time in my life that I’ve had hired help. Hien comes to my house two days a week. She helps me keep things tidy, does my laundry and occasionally my grocery shopping. Even though I am a single gal and not particularly messy, my work schedule doesn’t really allow me the time to do these things. I have only Sundays off, and the last thing I want to do on my one day of rest is laundry! I’m super grateful for Hien’s help.
In my first apartment (the one that leaked really bad), she came to my house just once per week and I paid her 500,000 VN Dong per month. When I moved to my current home, I increased her salary to 750,000 VN Dong, as she could come twice a week, for a bit more than half a day’s work. I moved one year ago, and while I did give her a 13 month salary bonus for TET in February, Hien brought up the topic of providing her with a raise.
I knew before we negotiated that I would give her a raise, but I wanted to help her understand, too, that I am not made of money and that while I appreciate her services, having her help is a luxury for me. I could do these things for myself, I just choose to have her assistance. I also explained to her that if I gave her a raise, I hoped that she could think ahead (always a challenge in this country!) and make sure there was always milk in the fridge and that the bed sheets just get automatically washed on Friday. I usually leave her notes, but I’m a creature of habit, so there are some things I like to have done, which should be common knowledge by now.
She understood that with the raise, it meant just a wee bit more initiative on her part. I asked her how much more she wanted. She requested only 100,000 or 150,000 VND more. So I told her that I would be generous and would help her out a bit and give her now 1,000,000 VND per month. This is about $13 USD more than she makes now, and a total of about/just over $50 per month, depending on the exchange rate. You would have thought I actually was giving her hundreds of dollars more. She was so happy and promised that she would never ask for a raise again.
I wanted to make sure that Hien knew that I valued and appreciated her. Even though her job has not become more difficult or she’s working longer hours, it felt good to give her a raise. It was the right thing to do.
I spent most of today out and about in town shopping for warm socks, knit hats and mittens. While the temperatures have dropped a bit in Hanoi, the shopping spree was for small little people who I will meet in Sapa at Christmas time.
I’m headed to the very North of Vietnam for the holiday, spending the occasion with Pete and friends. Our festivities will include giving warm clothing to young ones who don’t have the proper gear to face the cold winter. We’ll also serve them a proper dinner and give them as much Christmas cheer as we can! I’m also going to bring some notebooks and colored pencils, because I think no matter what, kids love to have a toy or a coloring book for fun.
The mall was crowded today, I should have known. The very random Christmas displays outside the center were the biggest draw. Children, young girls posing sexy and whole families had their picture taken with big, fake presents and ugly snowmen in the background. It was the tackiest display I’ve ever seen!
My drive to and from the mall was a good dose of sightseeing in Hanoi. Honestly, I don’t get out much, and I know all to well the sights on offering on the road between my house and office. It was good to see some other parts of life in the streets. You know, the motorbikes with sliced-open pigs thrown over the seat, bus drivers openly peeing in public, and women holding their pantless children over the gutter so they can poop. Sundays are good for a bit lighter traffic, and some of the traffic lights are even turned off, opening the streets up for a special game of chicken in major intersections.
One of the things I really can’t stand is that when you go into a shop in Vietnam, one of the shop keepers will stay on your heels and follow you around, readjusting anything you touch. They don’t do this for Vietnamese customers, of course, only we foreign folks because, you know – we just can’t be trusted. I don’t mind so much when its a nice store, but when I am in the Citimart hunting through a bin of discount underwear, mittens and socks, no adjustment to the merchandise is needed! I also get a little peeved when other shoppers stop to watch me. Is it really that exciting to watch me pick out socks?
Anywhoo – I’m excited to power though the next few days and then get on that train to Sapa to celebrate Christmas with one of my favoritest people and put smiles on some very cute and tiny faces. That part will be the best and I can’t wait to share pictures with you! Merry Christmas!
Previously I posted information about my childhood friend, Jeff Lapinski, who has been battling cancer this year. After a successful lymph node removal surgery, we all had great hopes that this battle had come to an end. However, a recent scan showed an enlarged node, which may or may not be news. We have to wait and see. I’m sure the waiting is the worst part!
To read more about Jeff’s status and to leave him a message of support, please visit his website, www.jefflapinksi.com.
Jeff, like my friend Bobby, has an amazingly positive attitude and is so highly admired for the manner in which he has taken on his battle with cancer. If you know Jeff, please leave him a message on his website. If you don’t know him, please send him some positive energy and your prayers. Every ounce of support matters!
On the Bright Side,