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This blog exists only as an archive. It is a journal that serves as a window into my life as a Marine combat veteran serving in Iraq and Afghanistan; it was written with no filter, no politics and no agenda. Please feel free to follow my journey from beginning to end. Welcome to my life.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Daily Reflections

Every day we hear the common story of people who want us to hire them for translators, workers, or anything possible.  Most of this large city is homeless, without work, and in grief.  The tent cities everywhere are improving in some ways, and deteriorating in others.  After driving through the city several times today I became aware of just how long the rebuilding process is going to take. 

There are now many medical teams in town, and most of the wounds we see have at least been treated one time.  Much of what we are now doing in the city is badly needed follow-up work.  Wounds once treated are getting infected, and people are now starting to report the problems associated with living in their new conditions. 

One of our doctors heard about a wounded girl, and another wounded father, mother, and son.  All of them were about an hour and half outside the city and were in need of surgery.  We took our truck to go out and transport them to the hospital were our surgeons were working.  All this week I have often smiled at doctors who have told me to tell a person to keep a wound elevated and clean, or to take a medication three times a day with food.  Of course none of this is possible to a person living on the street with no food.  Today after arriving at the hospital I told the people to get out of the car and follow me to the registration area.  The little boy did not follow me, and I thought he did not understand.  After repeating myself in my clearest Creole, he still sat there looking at me.  Of course he could not walk.  I realized my mistake, walked over to him and carried him through a gate and down to an empty tent where he will spend the night waiting for surgery.  In carrying him I saw every little child in my past who had captured my heart.  I saw Darren, Dennis, Dean, Maria, David, Tommy, Mark and Amanda.  I saw Lily, Michael, Edward, Thomas and Anna.  I saw 14-year-old Jeffry Duck, Billy Q., Martin and Chris.  What happened here almost two weeks ago was an Earthquake, not a Haiti shake, and that little boy was not just Wilenson, but every kid I have ever known.

Brother Jim Boynton, S.J.


  1. Just keep the faith, Jim. Your work continues to amaze and inspire me, and you're making a difference in so many lives.

    I love the phrase "an Earthquake, not a Haiti shake." How true!

  2. Brother Jim, I truly miss your friendship already. I'll see you sometime, but in the meantime, enjoy your new hat- earned, not given :)

  3. Brother Jim forward is the path.and it's time for the UN to start(pay for work)jobs. for the locals. bless you.

  4. God bless you, Jim. You're referenced in scripture -- Matt. 25:40 Hope to see you soon!

  5. Hey Brother:
    I suspect my church is sending a team this summer for reconstruction.

    Some things I learned/observed while working near Phuket, Thailand following the December 2004 Tsunami, on the rebuilding of a small Muslim fishing village, I would like to share with you in the hope that you and those with you might be better at it than what I experienced.

    Too many of the locals have no experience and this can cause a problem. The same for lay volunteers. This can be mitigated by a good work ethic and THE ABILITY TO FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS.

    Language then becomes a problem, more so I bet, for medical terms than for construction, but still. Great opportunity for employing locals right there, but big organizations have all these stupid rules, do's and don'ts, as it were. So if you can fund yourselves for this, things happen more quickly and efficiently.

    Now about basic high quality construction vs. third world construction techniques and attitudes. It can be challenging to get locals to use the correct ratio of cement to aggragate as well as rebar size, quantity and placement parameters. I suspect that this stems from the cost of these. Cement and rebar are expensive, so the natural tendency is to minimize the use of them - bad idea.

    The UN was furnishing what looked like about 10mm and 4mm smooth rod for reinforcing. The problem is, not only is that too small, it's SMOOTH. Real reinforcing bars(rebar) have deformations and ridges all over them. So again, if you can furnish your own, you will get better results. Or perhaps, a way to make this known to those in the UN who would buy these ...

    Another problem with the UN was that they didn't provide all the accessories required for working in reinforced concrete. In Thailand, all the wood for form material was teak. Nothing was provided for BRACING and we weren't allowed to cut anything. That darn near brought everything to a skreeching halt. I understand that Haiti is completely deforested(why do they never replant??!!), so that needs to be imported also ... and then guarded so it doesn't get used for cooking fuel.

    About the composition of volunteer teams. IMO, in these situations, experienced construction people should never be outnumbered by the eager, but inexperienced, other members of the team. Too much time lost to explaining this or that and not accomplishing the mission. I guess it depends if you are trying for maximum building or maximum opportunity to love our neighbors.

    Last, if there could be one individual per structure who was there from the foundation to the finish, that would help a lot in eliminating wasted motion and bottlenecks.

  6. wow, Jimmy. you are truly, truly, a man for others.

  7. Brother Jim,
    I will be forever grateful that my son, Clay Hunt, was able to work side by side with you in Haiti. You have obviously made a tremendous impact not only the people of Haiti, but in Clay's life and that of all the volunteers you work with. May God bless you and keep you safe and strong. You are doing tremendous work.
    Richard and Susan Selke