Sustainable Recovery in Haiti Panel

Join a select group of key stakeholders this Saturday Jan 12 on the third anniversary of the earthquake as we look back and forward to the future. A joint effort of Relief 2.0, Stanford University and ESIH. (more...)

Road to the Future Photo Exhibit

A visual journey through the impact of the earthquakes that hit Haiti in January 2010 and Japan on March 2011, the joint response and sustainable recovery efforts. (more...)

Journey of the X

Bicycle ride from Santo Domingo to Port-au-Prince, New York and Boston. Bringing together the TEDx communities on these cities and raising awareness on the challenges and opportunities of innovation and collaboration. (more...)

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Talk on Media and Disasters at Ithaca College Media for Social Responsibility Course

We were given the wonderful opportunity of sharing some of our experiences and perspectives on the role of media in disasters at the Media for Social Responsibility course by Ithaca College with live remote participation of students from Hong Kong, Mainland China, Korea, Liberia and USA. I spoke from the Ecole Supériore of Infotronique d'Haïti after riding my bicycle 55km. solo from the border to Port-au-Prince to prove the point that media reports on the insecurity and lack of safety in Haïti are largely exaggerated.

Below is a short summary of the topics I covered.

  1. The Physical Infrastructure may be gone,
    but the social networks, the human capacity remain:
    • use them, do not displace them.
      • Locals have skills, know the zone, the people, their ways, the language, have contacts, are in direct contact with field conditions and the feelings and conditions of the people and communities.
      • Locals can save you money while you contribute to the local economy and give you a competitive advantage over other reporting teams.
  2. Do not rely on Second Hand Sources:
    • make your own assessments based on first hand observations and careful review of others’.
  3. Always Assess - constantly Assess:
    • Conditions change quickly and from one place to another,
      in a matter of 5 minutes, or 100 meters.
    • It doesn't matter if you've been driving or walking for hours and are just 15min. or 1km. from your destination. If the situation becomes unsafe, return or wait, but do not proceed.
      • A dead reporter or relief worker or a team in distress will not be able to do any good for anyone.
    • Locals can make better assessments as they can read gestures, people, local conditions we may not be familiar with, but they can also be less careful or dismiss imminent threats or dangers.
      • so always make your own assessment combining the available information, suggestions and your own good judgement.
  4. Disasters are about People, human and inhuman stories:
    Find Them.
    • Lives disrupted, communities displaced, fragmented.
    • Before the disaster, the survivors had normal lives like the rest of us: had jobs, went to school, ran businesses, played sports, had friends, enjoyed parties, celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, promotions.
    • Seek to convey and enable empathy. The survivors deserve dignity and to be treated like equals, not pity and in need of saving.
    • Survivors deserve enabling opportunities, acknowledgement of their capacity and their inclusion in the plans, decisions, actions and recovery plans, not handouts and not other people to provide for them.
  5. Avoid sensationalism:
    • Be tender, be kind, be original, be human, be true.
      • Everyone else is being sensationalist, alarmist, writing stories about the scale of the disaster, the tragedy of its impact, the worsening conditions.
      • Report on the challenges and opportunities, on the individual stories of courage, hope, distress.
  6. Do not supplant the Voice of the People:
    • Do not tell their story, share it, convey it, let it be heard.
  7. It is not about you reporting the story, it is about the story and the people in the story.
    • Do not be the reporter holding the baby or crying for the inhumanity of the tragedy in front of the camera.
      • There is a human story behind that baby that does not include you: a missing mother, a rescue team, a team of nurses trying to save him, a destroyed home, a school lost to which he or she will not be able to return to...
  8. Beyond Reporting: enable engagement and connecting.
    • Add a Valid piece of information on what actions your audience can take to engage the story being reported.
    • Large relief organizations may be safe recipients of funding and resources, but they are slow and inefficient in the short term and are often not able to run the last mile and care for immediate or individual needs and requirements.
    • There are local community organizations, clubs, unions, etc. which will accept volunteers, funding, clothing, food and other stuff large organizations will not accept and which will focus on very local and specific needs and problems without the limitations of bureaucracy and hierarchies.
      • Rotary Club, Lions Club, Boy Scouts, Parents Associations, Teachers Associations, professional guilds, truck drivers unions, chambers of commerce, etc.
  9. Disasters can be Addictive: The Danger of Instant Gratification.
    • What you do in the field, matters and you can see the impact immediately. That is something we lack in our normal lives where we...
      • study for a test, take the exam, wait for the grades; apply for a job or a loan or a scholarship, wait for a phone call to be accepted; work hard at school to get good grades at the end of the semester and graduate with a good average that can get us a good job or a scholarship; work hard at work, hoping for a promotion sometime; save money to buy a house in the future, etc.
    • This immediate impact and gratification has a big psychological impact on those working in the field.
      • That is why many soldiers after returning from war, volunteer a few months later to be deployed again in the battlefield.
      • That is why volunteers, rescue and response teams keep returning to the disaster areas time and time again.
    • The unique feeling of doing something that matters and being able to see its impact right away transforms our perception of values, priorities and perspectives.

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