Jan 18, 2010

Petionville Golf Course - Ground Zero In Ravaged Haiti

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The Port-au-Prince suburb of Petionville, nestled in the hills to the southeast of the capital was... not long ago... a bastion of affluence in the largely impoverished nation of Haiti. The Petionville Club was its hub, a place where diplomats, businessmen and visiting foreigners relaxed poolside after a game of tennis or a round of golf on the undulating nine hole course. ~ That course is now a massive refugee camp, home to tens of thousands of displaced people, most of whom have lost family and friends. It's a disaster that veteran aid workers are calling the worst they've ever faced.

Shortly after the quake struck six days ago, amidst the chaotic initial reports, I came upon a website for The Petionville Club, which featured photos of the golf course's once verdant fairways, including the one above, which judging from its title I take to be a view from the women's tee on the fifth hole. There were also shots of the the clay tennis courts and the large rectangular swimming pool (left).

The site urged members to come to "Wednesday Happy Hour" at the Zona Bar and invited them to the spa for "Gym with Gina" exercise classes. It also suggested they participate in a book club where, "In addition to the books, most members appreciate the opportunity to socialize with a diverse group of people from different sectors of the Haitian & international community while indulging in wine and exotic foods offered by members."

Today, Haiti's only golf course has become the forward operating base of the 82nd Airborne Division. Where privleged club members once dined on on grilled shrimp, and conch with creole sauce, soldiers now distribute boxed humanitarian meals to hungry children and families. The once sparkling pool is empty and debris-strewn and the fairways and greens of the golf course have been transformed into a massive tent city.

Earlier today I went back to the the Petionville Club website and saw that that the header had been changed. It now read, "The Petionville Club Base - 82nd Airborne" The navigation menu was being updated as well. At one point I refreshed my browser and in a click the list of options changed from Tennis-Golf-Racquetball-Stretching/Yoga-Restaurant/Bar to Food Distribution-Logistical-Medical-Security. Some vestiges of the lighthearted copy and alluring photos remained as of my last page view but they too are quickly being replaced by dramatic scenes of the current situation.

Before the earthquake I had never heard of Petionville Club... or its nine hole golf course with sweeping views of the sea. In fact, I never would have guessed there was a course in Haiti because, like many Americans, I knew very well that Haiti was one of the poorest countries in the world... and I conveniently stored that fact in the back of my mind along with other things "I'd worry about later".

The natural disaster that took place there almost a week ago has moved me... and many others... to focus on Haiti and the Haitian people while they attempt to restore order to their devastated country. I hope we can take our assistance beyond the disaster to help them fight the poverty that we ignored for so long. There are many ways to donate to Haiti, the important thing is to find an organization that genuinely helps the people in need. I feel the Red Cross is a good place to start.

In addition Golf Dash one of my favorite golf blogs posted yesterday with a unique and thoughful suggestion on how golfers might collectively empower each other and ourselves to stick with Haiti and help this neighboring country long term.

13 comments:

  1. Nice, important post, and Red Cross is the best place to start.

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  2. It's been heartbreaking to see the death and destruction, and my heart goes out to the families whose loved ones are still missing. We tend to think of all the sunny islands to our south as tropical vacationlands. It's too bad it takes a disaster for us to see that many are living in abject poverty.

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  3. Like New Orleans, it soon be forgotten and the rich will go back to there golf games.

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  4. As the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere Haiti should have been getting more attention than it was, however they had valuable natural resources and did fraternize with the kind of people who blow up buildings in the US and Europe.

    When you look at what we've spent on the Iraq war, "The squeaky wheel gets the oil" certainly rings true here. Only it's more like the squeaky wheel HAD the oil, ran with terrorists and got the money.

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  5. Another excellent organization helping Haiti is

    http://www.haitichildren.com/

    This is an organization for children that was started long before the earthquake. Susan Scott Krabacher a former model started it and has dedicated her life the poorest people in Haiti.

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  6. Thank God for the kind President of the Petionville Club for offering the property to help the people.

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  7. Blessings to our brave soldiers of the 82 Airborne based at the club and the generous leaders of the golf club who have graciously allowed their land to be used for the relief effort in Haiti.

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  8. Haiti had been changed forever and everyone has lost. This golf course will never reopen. The golfers were regular people who also lost their homes, their business', their friends and family. The Club grounds are offered freely for the good of all Haitians as a relief distribution center.

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  10. Great writing, as usual. Always a truly fresh slant.

    I agree with TXQ that the Red Cross is one of the best with their established infrastructure in Haiti.

    Some other posted comments indicate might wish to read something like 'The Sorrows of Empire' trilogy.

    Our own government has contributed to the dimensions of this disaster. For decades we've deposed democratically elected leaders in developing and 3rd world nations--by whatever means necessary--and installed dictator puppets that skimmed everything out of the country leaving pockets of wealth, and vast populations in utter despair.

    Our Big Banks that are the #1 money launderers in the world that keep dictators, gun and drug lords and worse, in biz. And siphon off as a condition of loans what would otherwise go to infrastructure.

    Haiti may become a success story because--except for deforestation that needs to be addressed--there is natural beauty and only 9M population, so the size of NYC, and a very attractive people at that--and with powerful benefactors like Bill Clinton.

    Beyond meeting the immediate dire needs of this Dante-esque tragedy...I believe there will be aggressive International support for redevelopment.
    And that US Contractors, esp Green Builders, are already lobbying in their minds on contracts that don't yet exist.

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  11. Moving post Patricia. Who would have thought a golf course existed in Haiti, much less become a place of relief and assistance.

    The course may never reopen, but it may offer hope and resources to many Haitians—which is so desperately needed right now.

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  12. Neat post.

    My husband left for Petionville this morning with a team to provide medical relief. This is the group's third medical team sent since the earthquake. It's amazing to watch the world pull together, from the golf course to the church and more, to care for the Haitian people.

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  13. Haven't seen all that much of the Red Cross and their billion$.

    Donate blood, not money.

    Send money to Doctors Without Borders, Catholic Relief Services, etc.

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