Help for Haiti still coming in a number of ways

Help for Haiti in the way of relief efforts has been a big, ongoing task. Traditional relief organizations have been spread thin and much-appreciated donations are helping them continue their work. Unlike some other natural disasters that happened in lands with fertile economies, Haiti was not in good shape before the devastating earthquake hit over a year ago. It was virtually a knockout punch for the already down-and-out nation. But some unconventional sourcing of direction for the lost land is making an impact.

Highly-visible to anyone following the situation in Haiti is actor Sean Penn. After some of the world’s biggest entertainers had come, raised millions, then left, Penn stayed behind. At the one-year anniversary of the disaster, he told

“The [current] projects are shelter-focused with connective tissues to basic services, but even the most well-funded among them are poised to take very small cautious steps in terms of permanent housing,” Penn said of the current situation on the ground in Port-au-Prince. “There are 1.2 million people displaced, and only small pilot projects in the foreseeable future. The current challenge is the definition or the selection of beneficiaries [for funds both raised and promised], meaning among these extremely vulnerable populations, we can expect nothing more than demonstration models in 2011.”

To help keep the world’s focus on this situation that is far from resolved, Penn will address the Clinton Global Initiatives Meeting in April but touched base with the Travel Channel’s Anthony Bourdain a few weeks ago.

To start the seventh season of the Emmy award-winning Travel Channel program NO RESERVATIONS, Bourdain traveled to Haiti and spent some time with actor/humaitarian Penn.

Gadling reported just before the season premiere a different theme for NO RESERVATIONS this year aimed to uncover beauty in the dark corners of humanity, a focus promised to be delivered throughout the new season.

“The Haiti episode, which contrasted his tour of the country’s culinary highlights with scenes of its continued blight and poverty, was less a travel show than a kind of multilayered essay on Haiti’s political history, the ethics of tourism, the morality of journalism/voyeurism and the wisdom of well-intentioned efforts. No Reservations is not a news documentary (though it was nominated for a news Emmy a few years ago for an episode on Beirut), but in a way, this was one of the most thoughtful pieces of cultural journalism I’ve watched in a while.” said critic James Poniewozik, on the Season 7 premiere of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations.

One by one, relief organizations, celebrities and businesses help keep the world’s focus on Haiti and the long road ahead. One forward-thinking company had ties to Haiti long before the devastating earthquake.

Royal Caribbean International has a private destination in Haiti called Labadee. It’s an island oasis for cruise ship passengers. Full-time Royal Caribbean Hatian employees work on the island year-round and depend on ships visiting to support their families and friends. Just after the earthquake, many were critical of the line for continuing to visit the island, dropping off cruise passengers for pleasure while so much devastation was so close-by. But the line remained focused on it’s long-term commitment to Haiti, delivering much-needed first-responder supplies and helping in other ways with the survival and reconstruction.

Royal Caribbean International took a look back this week to the building of L’Ecole Nouvelle Royal Caribbean, one of the first schools to be built in Haiti after the earthquake.

The school is on land Royal Caribbean leases from the Haitian government. The cruise line worked with gobal builder InnoVida and used the company’s Fiber Composite Panels to build the entire school complex in just four weeks, using 50 local Haitian workers. All construction materials were transported onboard their cruise ships. InnoVida’s structures can sustain hurricane winds, resist earthquakes due to their high deflection capacity, are waterproof and are a highly energy efficient system.

Beginning just days after the earthquake, Royal Caribbean transported more than 3,000 pallets of much needed supplies on Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises ships that called on Labadee.

I was on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas as one of the first ships to call after the earthquake and remember vividly the comments from local vendors and artisans who told me almost universally

“We need people to come off the ships. People are afraid to come off the ships…that it is not right to be here when so much damage is done. We need the people to come see us, buy what we have to sell, give us a chance…”

To date, Royal Caribbean’s monetary contribution to the Haiti relief effort is at least $2.5 million, which includes money raised from the donated Labadee calls, the onboard guest donations, and matching funds. The company’s operations at Labadee impact over 500 local Haitians who are either employees or vendors at Labadee commuting from nearby villages. Royal Caribbean also employs over 200 Haitian crew members onboard ships.

Flickr photo by newbeatphoto