Algonquin College & Save the Children: Relief efforts in Haiti

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On Feb. 15, two students from Algonquin College‘s Documentary Production program (Suma Suresh and Christian Roblin) along with four Civil Engineering Technology students & their teacher (Matt Philip, Shane Barteaux, Marek Szymborski, Brian Watson & John Barteaux) landed in Haiti to participate as volunteers and journalists alike.  Hosted by Save the Children, the engineering students were there to train Haitians in building Housall shelter systems, all the while being captured on film with gear rented from Vistek.

Save The Children will be using the completed documentary for fund raising and plan to air the documentary on regional and local broadcast outlets. There are also plans to enter the Save the Children documentary in student and other film festivals.

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Blog Entry 1: February 14, 2010

On a cold Sunday morning we meet at the Ottawa Airport. As soon as I walk in the door and take a look at the massive amount of gear we have, the reality of our situation hits me. This is a going to be a challenge. After one final cigarette, I pop the first of 22 malaria pills and embark on the 16 hour trek To Santa Domingo.

It is interesting to note that our instructor, Peter Biesterfeld, is NOT going to Santa Domingo and then crossing overland into Haiti. He will be flying to Miami, meeting with our handlers, and then flying directly into Port-au Prince on a cargo Plane carrying all Houseall shelters. The thought of Peter sitting in cargo netting with a Camera in hand brings one his favorite saying to mind: “You’ve got to be ON IT!”

Just before we are about to leave Peter,  Miles casually mentions to him that the cargo plane is 11, 000 pounds overloaded. Truly a Kodak moment.

The ins and the outs of that trek are nothing to write home about.

Stop. Take off shoes and belt. Go. Wait. Stop. Take off shoes and belts, fill out form, struggle with mountain of gear. Go. Wait

And wait.

And wait.

Finally, the crew lands in Santa Domingo. After another massive struggle with gear, we’re whisked away in taxi van for a ride I am sure the crew will never forget. Stop signs, yellow lines dividing the road and speed limits seem to be just for show in the Dominican Republic. Almost able to see his heart in his throat, I tell our young engineering colleague Matt that it is best to just sit back, throw some Pink Floyd on his iPod, close his eyes and not think about it.

At 11 p.m, I am surprised when we pull up to a ritzy Holiday Inn (right beside a taco bell and McDonald’s). I was under the assumption we were grabbing an overland convoy to Haiti that night, but Miles Kennedy (our Houseall lead) made the arrangements after the 16 hour flight time finally hit him.

So, again, we wrestle the mountain of gear upstairs into our rooms, sample the minibar briefly, order a hamburger from room service and crash. All the modern conveniences conflict in my mind as I think of the journey to come.

to be continued »»

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