January 18, 2010

LKL Web Exclusive: Nigel Barker on rebuilding Haiti

Posted: 03:31 PM ET

This is a LKL Web Exclusive by Nigel Barker: Photographer, philanthropist and judge on "America's Next Top Model."

Although the whole world is aware of the situation in Haiti since the earthquake on January 12, what so many people had no idea about was how dire things were in the country before the disaster. Haiti was the poorest country in the western hemisphere and now it may hold the world title. It is also only a 45 minute flight from the U.S., a sobering fact when you remember how affluent we are.

About two years ago - a party promoter, entrepreneur and Haitian friend of mine in New York City, who goes by the name of Unik told me about his charity, Edeyo. Unik was born in Haiti and came to the U.S. over a decade ago and has been a big splash in the fashion/club/party scene ever since. We had become friends over the years and his dedication to Haiti and his people seemed like a story that needed to be told. We planned in 2008 to go to Port-au-Prince and report on exactly what we saw, what needed to be done and what was being accomplished.

Edeyo - which means “Help Them” is designed to do exactly that. The foundation is based in Port-au-Prince with the fund raising based in New York and Los Angeles. Unik told me how desperate the situation in Haiti was and how he had set up Edeyo as a way to give back and help the country he loved.

As I mentioned, the situation in Haiti had been troubled for many years prior to the earthquake - with corruption at all levels, a serious drug problem, poverty affecting 95-percent of the population, and hunger a constant issue.

50-percent of the population is below the age of 18 and less than one in 10,000 have access to a health care physician. In fact, between the time I had my first meeting with Unik and our trip to Haiti, riots broke out in Port-au-Prince over massive food shortages. The rioters attacked the Presidential Palace, driving a garbage truck through the front gates.

The U.S. Embassy warned us not to go to Haiti and to postpone our trip, so we did. However, the situation calmed and after speaking with a friend at the World Bank who'd just returned from Haiti, she told me:

"Nigel, the people of Haiti need to be heard please go down and shine a spot light on what's happening there."

The U.S. Embassy had closed in Port-au-Prince, so if anything were to happen we were on our own. We decided to make the trip, albeit with a smaller team...

(Read MORE of Nigel's commentary HERE)

Filed under: Haiti Earthquake • International • LKL Web Exclusive

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Donna Gulley   January 18th, 2010 4:13 pm ET

When ever you mention the Christian Churches in Haiti not once have I heard about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Their meeting house sustained very little damage and has been set up as a medical centre – I never heard CNN talk about that.

A. Smith, Oregon   January 18th, 2010 5:17 pm ET

For the past 10 years, American Taxpayers giving CASH to the Haitian government is not a problem, the problem is WHO did Bush-Cheney supposedly give that money to, and WHERE did all of the Hundreds of Millions of taxpayer dollars supposedly spent on the Haitian people really go?

MORE and MORE Americans are demanding FULL accountability during and since the infamous Bush-Cheney administration. They have no faith, no trust, and do not accept pledges, promises and words to have any truth contained within them.

Sending CASH is not the problem, never has been the problem. WHERE that cash is ending up is the problem. HOW that CASH is spent is the problem.

All of the honest Aide Agency's in total are spending far less than 10% of the total CASH that Bush-Cheney supposedly gave to the Haitian people in 2007 alone. The difference is striking. It is clear and obvious that mass FRAUD took place by the Bush-Cheney administration against American taxpayers and the Haitian people. It is also clear Bush-Cheney didn't expect to be caught.

pva   January 18th, 2010 7:24 pm ET

we need to change our way of dealing the Haitian Government. Instead of giving them money for infrastructure project, we should put the infrastructure project for bid in the US. The only biggest contractor in Haiti is Vorbes and Fils. These guys are short changing the people in Haiti when it comes to road project. We need accountability for any money donated to the Haitian government.

Dr Eugene McCabe   January 18th, 2010 8:31 pm ET

The access difficulties may easily in the case of a flat terrain in Port au Prince and the grid nature of the streets, to clearing in straight line road access and squares by small bulldozers brought in b y air.
Dozers led by sniffer dogs could search ahead for victims until access to the centre of the city is opened to some to the cities interior
THere could even be tanks about with bulldozer blades.
Once there is road access in even a few cases dozers could shift debris to make a series of flat compounds which could be serviced by air and provide a series of food and water centers.
Persistence must find enough dozer made access roads to use this simple plan to feed make room for and generally assist the multitudes.
Give it a go ,some nation, and stop the bickering.

John Merine   January 18th, 2010 9:57 pm ET

I just talked to my uncle in Port Au Prince Haiti. He just told me that the rescue workers are passing the area they live in because the see the main road is fine. But actually where he is in Lamentin 52, Carrefour is pretty devasted please send help to them.

Gerald Jolly   January 19th, 2010 12:09 pm ET

I know this is off the topic, but I would like your opinion on this issue.


jean kajan   January 26th, 2010 12:08 pm ET

picture of house is July 2009
Please pass this Ideal on to the people in government to Help the Haiti people to get a house of safety.

We build this house from a small shipping container and move it to the mountain out side a city called mostar in Bosnia more than 5 years ago. The house gets big snow lots of wind and rain it is ideal for Haiti .
The Haiti people will have no fear of going inside. The Ship yard in Haiti has many shipping container on the dock of Haiti today.

just wanted to help .
The kajan Family

arlene lord   February 3rd, 2010 2:00 pm ET

Can anyone tell me, why it's acceptable to take the children from their parents, but not help the parents of Haiti keep them. How much are paid for these children? Who in their right mind think it's ok to pick up children and take them out of the country without documentation?These faith based organizations have been in Haiti for years and still more than half of the population can not read. Parents are forced through proverty to give away their children while they wait for God to come to their aid.

Gina   February 4th, 2010 2:33 pm ET

I did know how poor the Haitian people were prior to the earthquake. I did read about how some people ate "mud pies". My childhood story is that I made and played with "mud pies". If I had known a way to send a bag of rice to a family in need I would have done so. I do know what poverty is like.

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