I've spent 25 years managing projects overseas and occasionally at home in the United States. I was content to focus on my own work and my own successes.
The January 12 earthquake that destroyed Port-au-Prince also changed me forever. I drove into Haiti less than 24 hours after the earthquake and spent the next five months directing my organization's response. I saw first-hand the devastation. What really hurt was the knowledge that it was not the earth's shaking that killed over 300,000 people. It was the bad decisions that had led to the overcrowding and poor construction that made Port-au-Prince so vulnerable that the earthquake was able to cause such damage.
As I reopened our office in Haiti and marshaled our team, I decided that I would no longer keep my head down and mind my own shop. Instead, I would fight for what I believed to be right and help others to stand up as well.
The early days were the hardest. Half of our staff's houses had been damaged. Many of our people were sleeping in cars or in tents. Despite this hardship, they came to work. We found warehouse space and quickly organized the logistics that allowed us to bring in over 50 containers of food and supplies--nearly $3 million of badly needed assistance. We organized work teams to clear the rubble, provided counseling in the camps, and began working with the government to identify which buildings were safe to use and which had to be demolished.
I ran the Haiti office until May 12th--four months from the earthquake. I then returned to the Dominican Republic to close out that office and moved to Washington. I now support our Haiti operations from our headquarters.
I publish these thoughts in the hopes that others working in Haiti and around the world will find the courage to fight back against inertia, to become linchpins, and to move their organizations from good to great.