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Hey everyone, sorry for the late post - internet just now came back into my life! I woke up this morning in a little bungalow about 10 minutes from the airport. I packed up and headed down to the office area, which is the only place there is internet there. I started to go about my morning routine - it’s Wednesday, so I usually gather up all my notes from the week and prepare the weekly chat. This week I had internet about 5% of the time, so I’m not going to be able to give much of a dinar update. Suddenly I realized I’m only an hour away from takeoff and I still have to return the rental car! I grab my things and make it to the airport with 45 minutes to go until my flight leaves. Here’s the river that rose during TS Erika and took the airport out of commission: As I got to the rental office, the lady checks the car and notices it isn’t full. I missed the gas station, and now I only have 30 minutes before my flight leaves. “Tirty minutes love, dat’s plenty time! Gas station is only 5 minutes up the road, go so I don’t have ta charge you." Island time… lol! Ok, I figure I’ll trust her. It takes me 12 minutes round trip to race to the gas station, fill up, and get back. Another 3 minutes and I was checked out and headed to security with 15 minutes till takeoff at 8:30! It’s currently 8:46, I’m sitting in the Melville Hall airport waiting on the 8:30 flight out of here…island time is really something else. It took all of 3 minutes to get through security at about 8:20. There is no internet, or food, or bottled water anywhere. The storms basically demolished 75% of the airport, and there’s really only one small working terminal that can be used. My plane hasn’t even came in, much less unloaded the last passengers. I’m starting to doubt that I will make my connection in Antigua, which means I’ll be that character that was stuck in the airport for months… oh well, I really do love a good adventure! This will be the third update on our mission to help those in Dominica. Now that the money was raised, shipping logistics sorted, and our goods in the container… it’s time to find a home for it. (You didn’t think we could just ship it and let it find it’s own way to the people, did you?! ) Originally I started off by calling churches in the area. They all sounded very friendly and appreciative, expressing their gratitude for our generosity and kindness. Gratitude is one thing, capability is another… so I decided it would be best to go to Dominica and find out first-hand who would do the best job with our gifts. I also thought it would be prudent to not hand it all over to one individual organization - for example, if we just gave the entire container to the Catholic Church in the capital city of Roseau, it’s safe to assume that the Catholic community in Roseau would get preference from them. That’s not what we had in mind, of course. (8:52AM - I think the plane just got in! I might make it after all whoop! Whoop!) As it turns out, a majority of the churches simply didn’t have the capability to unload a container at the port, and the bishops and priests I spoke to at the Catholic Church were too busy to talk to me on my schedule, insisting that I “call the office” and just let them handle it. Tsk, tsk, tsk… one thing I will note here is that with the Catholic church having about 70% of the population as theirs, the authorities in that organization seem very full of themselves and really important. It wasn’t a nice feeling talking to them, almost like I was bothering them with our petty efforts and we should have just given them money. I'm sorry, but I don't work that way. As usual, going in person rather than trying to accomplish everything over the phone was the right decision. The 2nd hotel I stayed at was owned by an active member of the Rotary Club, and I was put in contact with a few people in Roseau. Those led to other contacts and at the end of the trip, I am VERY satisfied with the two organizations that will be distributing the goods: The Rotary Club of Roseau and Lifeline Ministries. A little about Dominica… if you ever make it here, and get the least bit carsick - you’ll want to take something for that! The roads are nothing but series of switchbacks through miles of tropical rainforest. You honk as you go around corners in the daytime to let hidden oncoming traffic know you are there. At night you can see the headlights of oncoming traffic, but you miss the amazing flora and fauna of this beautiful mountain island. There are rivers EVERYWHERE - on the hour+ drive from Portsmouth to Roseau, I personally saw many bridges that were washed out, and the road diverted to the side where temporary bridges had been set up. I believe the bridges were brought over from Martinique, a neighboring island that has been a huge help to Dominica. Here are some of the bridges and landslides I saw: But don’t let that discourage you from coming here! Here is some of what you can expect, in addition to quite literally the nicest people I have ever met in all my travels. I have never felt so safe anywhere in the world. I mean literally so safe that I stopped at roadside shops, in the dark, on poorly lit side streets, surrounded by strangers… and every single time I was greeted with nothing but kindness and friendly words. Those are situations where you’re likely to be robbed in other places… but not Dominica. Back to the groups I chose to handle our operation on the ground in Dominica: Both of the representatives I met with are very likeminded and aligned with what we wanted to accomplish. I learned that the government is telling all the aid groups to simply give them any goods received, yet they have warehouses full of rotting food due to their incompetence (like most government programs). Rather than do that, the Rotary Club and Lifeline Ministries are connected with other NGO’s (Non Governmental Organizations) throughout the island, and they believe in serving personally. They will separate, bag, and box the items we have sent, and give them to the families personally. I wish I had a camera on their faces when I showed them the list of things we are sending: 1750 lbs of flour - (70) 25# bags 2250 lbs of long grain rice - (45) 50# bags 2000 lbs of long grain rice - (80) 25# bags (960) 15oz cans of black beans (960) 15 oz cans of kidney beans 640 lbs of brown rice - (64) 10# bags 2250 lbs of jasmine rice - (90) 25# bags 720 Quarts of canola oil 720 Quarts of vegetable oil (800) 15oz Chicken Soups 7200 Super Large MAXI (pads? I don’t know about these things!) 8640 Tampax Pearl regular 41760 Huggies baby wipes 6264 size 2 diapers 8910 size 3 diapers 5400 size 4 diapers One of our contacts specifically said “I am so happy to see pads on that list - I was in the maternity ward the other day and there were none!" I’m not sure what more I can say about this… it’s a job well done, and I have every bit of faith that our items will go to those most in need and will not be wasted. They promised to send pictures later, so the 4th and final update on this endeavor will include those pictures. To everyone that helped… you’re amazing, and I thank you for teaming up with me on this. We really did a great thing here! P.S. 9:08AM - I was wrong earlier. NOW my plane has landed. I am pretty sure I’m going to be stuck in Antigua… oh well, at least it’s not Detroit!
This will be chapter 2 of our Dominica project. As you know, Chapter 1 was a Tropical Storm named Erika basically wiped out the island, setting them back a couple decades. They are a very small island, not important in the world, and although this only happened about a month ago… it’s no longer on the news. They have been forgotten by the MSM and much of the world... … but not by us. As you probably know, I spend a lot of time working with banks and attorneys in central/latin america and the Caribbean, and I actually had a business trip scheduled to Dominica for the week following the storm. After the storm came through, I learned that I would not be able to keep my appointments due to the natural disaster. I decided that I would go there anyway, and offer my help cleaning up. That wasn’t even possible, as the airstrip was so covered in mud that planes could not land. Shoot. I searched and found no dedicated organization to donate to help specifically Dominica. Every organization either had high overhead (i.e. only a portion of your money goes to the actual people) or they were not actually dedicated to Dominica, and again only a portion of donations would help the people there. I wasn’t happy with that, so I called some churches in Dominica and they were all very appreciative, but did not want money… they need food and supplies. Here at our home site DinarVets we devised a plan to help - we found a shipping company, a wholesaler that could fill a container, and we worked out the logistics. Within about a week and a half our relatively small community, without any advertising or outside help, raised over $20,000… $22,410 to be precise! Although Dominica will need help for a long time to come, we all knew how critical it was to act fast. I’ll be the first to admit that we might have squeezed more out of our money if we had more time or experience… but the important thing, in my opinion, is that we ACTED. And if we ever feel the need to do something like this again, you can bet we are more prepared. At one point in the process it seemed like everything would just fall in place... ...the shipping company had experience shipping containers, the Costco we chose had experience loading containers, we had a list of items that fit our budget AND in the container we could afford, so everything was working great! But at the last minute, I started getting phone calls from the above named parties, and I sensed confusion… … so I decided to fly into Miami and make certain things went as planned, or as close as possible. You know what they say... if you want something done right, you do it yourself! When I got into Miami it was about midnight EST. I checked into a hotel and was laying in bed about 1 AM… by then I was overtired and had a hard time falling asleep, which I guess is pretty normal for me. I finally did fall asleep but I was up at 6 AM with my mind racing - I was excited to go do this! There was some time to kill in the morning, so I started the day off with a jog. Good morning, Miami! Not a bad way to start the day… up here in Wisconsin, we’re about out of “nice” mornings, so that was nice! After a LOT of phone calls to get things coordinated, it had been decided that we would do a 10AM load. The Costco assured me that everything was ready and it would take about 15-20 minutes for them to load the entire container by forklifts. I get a call from the Costco at about 9:30, the person who helped organize this all realized she hadn’t taken payment yet, and we’re talking about $15,000 worth of items. “Don’t worry”, I said. “I’m on my way right now and I’ll make payment at the store by credit card.” (It turns out they don’t take anything except Debit and AMEX - BOY am I glad I have that Platinum Card!) But before I could make the payment, something else happened… and it made the whole trip worth my time. My Uber dropped me off at the Costco I had Googled for Miami and I went to the office to fill out my paperwork… turns out I was at the wrong place. Or the truck was at the wrong place. Or both! Either way, panic starts to set in… this container is a $4000+ expense. I have ONE day - THAT day - to make this work. And the shipping company only gave us 2 hours at the loading dock to make it happen! I would say I “frantically” started calling people, but really I don’t do anything frantically. The 3 Cs my grade school teacher taught me always ring in my head - Cool, Calm, Collected. (Write that down. It's simple and it works!) I’ll cut to the chase… I worked it out. 40 minutes later the same Uber dropped me at the correct Costco, and at this time we only had an hour and 20 to get everything loaded. While we were scrambling around running to different Costco's to figure everything out the charges were racking up but I was able to talk the company into minimizing it for us - the confusion only cost $220 extra. Whew! I was prepared to hear a much higher number, which I would have had no choice but to pay - after all this work, this container WILL be on it’s way to Dominica! Here is our Little Yellow Box. (Kind of ironic that it’s sort of faded, but that’s a VIP thing ) Back it on up! Since it took so long for the container to get there, other trucks had to be unloaded and loaded. By the time our container was at the correct location, all of this was in our way: It was a lot more than it looks like… there was NO way to get our items to our truck without moving a LOT of items. I offered to help, but they wouldn’t give me the keys to a forklift. No worries… If I had to lay down in front of our truck to keep him from leaving, I was prepared to do so. This container WILL be loaded! The men (and one very feisty and capable small woman) in the loading area were very competent and they began the reorganizing… things went pretty quick. As I started doing inventory on the pallets I actually had a couple of tears in my eyes. Here's what we were able to buy and fit in our container: 1750 lbs of flour - (70) 25# bags 2250 lbs of long grain rice - (45) 50# bags 2000 lbs of long grain rice - (80) 25# bags (960) 15oz cans of black beans (960) 15 oz cans of kidney beans 640 lbs of brown rice - (64) 10# bags 2250 lbs of jasmine rice - (90) 25# bags 720 Quarts of canola oil 720 Quarts of vegetable oil (800) 15oz Chicken Soups 7200 Super Large MAXI (pads? I don’t know about these things!) 8640 Tampax Pearl regular 41760 Huggies baby wipes 6264 size 2 diapers 8910 size 3 diapers 5400 size 4 diapers Are you overwhelmed yet?? I AM! As the items went on I took pictures. I got in the way a lot, they were little annoyed, but I had a job to do. There was no way I was going to let all of YOUR efforts not get recorded and shared with you! ...........TO BE CONTINUED......