Paul McCartney Supports ASR Haiti

This past Thursday I accompanied our two “Win the Ultimate Concert Experience with Paul McCartney” winners to Candlestick Park.  I doubt there could have been two people more moved by the experience:  Zenda cried during the entire first half an hour of soundcheck(!) and Leslie, who had been to 12 Paul concerts before last week, broke down uncontrollably after we met with Macca – despite being in the company of former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, California Governor Jerry Brown and other dignitaries.

Paul took exquisite care with us, welcoming us very warmly and giving us ample time with him.  Paul’s been a strong ASR supporter for the past 10 years so I was beyond honored to be able to thank him for that.

Our official photo with Paul will arrive later, but here’s the crew at soundcheck (after Zenda had recovered…).

Leslie, Zenda, Paul (behind us at the colorful piano) and myself.

Leslie, Zenda, Paul (behind us at the colorful piano) and myself.


 For a detailed account of the day, check out Leslie’s blog here!


Farewell Letter, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (revised)

[Correction: The letter that is referenced at the bottom of this blog was attributed to Marquez, but not actually written by him. It is still a nice reminder of what to value in life though so we are keeping it up!]

I received this today from a dear friend who often helps to “keep me in check” and I wanted to share it with you.  There are portions that I think many of us need to be careful of–”I would sleep little, I would dream more, because I know that for every minute that we close our eyes, we waste 60 seconds of light.”  Marquez may be speaking to something deeper than I am understanding here, but it seems that in our fast paced world where there is often more to do that can be done, we need to sleep.  I do not necessarily refer to the time we spend in bed, but away from our work.  We can not be as effective at our “work” if we do not balance it with “everything else.” 

An older gentleman I know recently told me that the reason he has lived so long and stayed healthy and happy throughout the process is that he lives by the rule of 8. Eight hours of rest, eight hours of work, and eight hours of play (he gardens, reads, goes to flea markets, spends time with his grandchildren and has the occasional glass of good scotch).

Many of us are good at telling people how much we love and appreciate them, but there are times when it’s something that can be said without conscientious depth of feeling.  “I love you,” as I run out the door isn’t good enough.  An e-mail to an old friend isn’t the same as a handwritten letter or even a phone call, but it often suffices for “connection” in a digital life. Let’s take note of what may be Marquez’s last public writing and remind ourselves to ponder what we truly value, what we choose to spend our time doing (and remember that it is a choice), and take the time to reflect on our days, challenge ourselves to live better tomorrows, and enjoy it all in the process.

Farewell Letter

by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

For reasons of health, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Colombia’s illustrious Nobel Laureate for literature, has declared his retirement from public life. He has terminal cancer and sends this letter of farewell to friends and lovers of literature.

If God, for a second, forgot what I have become and granted me a little bit more of life, I would use it to the best of my ability.

I wouldn’t, possibly, say everything that is in my mind, but I would be more thoughtful l of all I say.

I would give merit to things not for what they are worth, but for what they mean to express.

I would sleep little, I would dream more, because I know that for every minute that we close our eyes, we waste 60 seconds of light.

I would walk while others stop; I would awake while others sleep.

If God would give me a little bit more of life, I would dress in a simple manner, I would place myself in front of the sun, leaving not only my body, but my soul naked at its mercy.

To all men, I would say how mistaken they are when they think that they stop falling in love when they grow old, without knowing that they grow old when they stop falling in love.

I would give wings to children, but I would leave it to them to learn how to fly by themselves.

To old people I would say that death doesn’t arrive when they grow old, but with forgetfulness.

I have learned so much with you all, I have learned that everybody wants to live on top of the mountain, without knowing that true happiness is obtained in the journey taken & the form used to reach the top of the hill.

I have learned that when a newborn baby holds, with its little hand, his father’s finger, it has trapped him for the rest of his life.

I have learned that a man has the right and obligation to look down at another man, only when that man needs help to get up from the ground.

Say always what you feel, not what you think. If I knew that today is the last time that that I am going to see you asleep, I would hug you with all my strength and I would pray to the Lord to let me be the guardian angel of your soul.

If I knew that these are the last moments to see you, I would say “I love you.”

There is always tomorrow, and life gives us another opportunity to do things right, but in case I am wrong, and today is all that is left to me, I would love to tell you how much I love you & that I will never forget you.

Tomorrow is never guaranteed to anyone, young or old. Today could be the last time to see your loved ones, which is why you mustn’t wait; do it today, in case tomorrow never arrives. I am sure you will be sorry you wasted the opportunity today to give a smile, a hug, a kiss, and that you were too busy to grant them their last wish.

Keep your loved ones near you; tell them in their ears and to their faces how much you need them and love them. Love them and treat them well; take your time to tell them “I am sorry,” “forgive me, “please,” “thank you,” and all those loving words you know.

Nobody will know you for your secret thought. Ask the Lord for wisdom and strength to express them.

Show your friends and loved ones how important they are to you.

Send this letter to those you love. If you don’t do it today…tomorrow will be like yesterday, and if you never do it, it doesn’t matter either, the moment to do it is now.

For you, with much love,

Your Friend,
Gabriel Garcia Marquez

A Note from ASR Supporter Jill Higgins

While Hunter and Andrea were in Haiti for the last two weeks, Jill Higgins and her daughter Ivy took time to fly in for 6 days to visit and get a look at several of the Aid Still Required programs around the country.  Below is Jill’s reflection on her time there.


I chose to go to Haiti with Hunter and Andrea of Aid Still Required for several reasons.  My daughter has spent time in Ghana and Liberia and will be getting her Masters and teaching credentials in May and she was really excited to go. We both believed she could be of service in Haiti. I was asked to donate a not inconsequential amount of money, which in my job as a private investor means I’d be an “owner” of the projects and the work, so, while all the portraits of the people were exquisite and I’m all for being of service (for those given much, much is expected), I needed to know exactly what I’d be “buying.” 

Jill and Ivy's arrival in Haiti

Jill and Ivy’s arrival in Haiti

Aid Still Required is a small NGO (with a lot of heart) which is the plus and the minus.  Could they accomplish as much or more than a large non profit?  They certainly don’t have a lot of overhead and fixed costs. While I did get very hungry during our 12-14 hour days there often wasn’t time for a sit down of rice and beans. I did pack enough protein bars for all, a habit that stems from raising six kids, and I was on this trip with the hungriest of them. We stopped at grocery stores for fresh water and snacks. It’s also not feasible to eat in front of people who don’t know where their next meal is coming from. And, another observation is Hunter is thrifty. He is not about to “splurge” on a buffet of $25.00 when that amount of money could literally change a life.  Father Joseph, founder of the University of Fondwa, provides all food for the college students at the cost of $6.00 a day.) Besides, I brought all those protein bars and nuts.  I imagine that larger NGOs were the ones in the two or three nice places where we met them. They could afford to stay where they’d be most comfortable and have such delicacies as fresh vegetables and identifiable meat. I don’t know, as we were not allowed to scope out the buffet. On our last day we did eat at one if the best local Haitian restaurants. The local food was satisfying and delicious and about half the price of the big resort. So ASR uses most every dollar directly on the recipients.

So while my reasons were sound they were very American. For six days I was dropped into Haiti and began thinking like I was a Haitian. More like an American Haitian Mom.

Nothing can describe the feeling of seeing a child in a settlement camp come to you, see you, grab your pinky and hold on for an hour. In my head, I was raising him. I was thinking of his needs today, as well as his needs over the next 18 years.

Walking in Wharf Jeremie with little ones tagging along.

Walking in Wharf Jeremie with little ones tagging along.

He chose me. I don’t know what was going on in his head. In my head I felt responsible to him and for him. I felt responsible for his brother, who tried to keep him from following me and getting into trouble. He trusted me to do right by him as did the dehydrated orphans we checked in on later. I am responsible. The help is doable.

To build a school in Haiti and to train teachers can be done for tens of thousands of dollars, not millions of dollars. To support a student to be educated in Agriculture, animal husbandry or business management, and then sent back to one of 570 villages (which is approximately 75% of the Haitian population) costs approximately five thousand dollars a year plus small stipends of around $6.00 a day to eat. The students work for part of the money and go back to improve their village for some defined to time. This program as well as micro finance for people has been championed by Father Joseph, he himself the son of a mother who was a street vendor, his father a laborer, both pushed him to be educated.  That is job one according to most of the experts we met with.

Thank You from Les Cayes

The problems are big and complex but the people are optimistic and spend the majority of their meager funds sending their children to school. It doesn’t take a lot of money to change people’s lives. Creative solutions like the Art of Living and programs helping children to learn English and showcase their talents, learn other skills that will make them employable and think of themselves as leaders are being piloted now.

At OADENN, an Aid Still Required children's program in Cap Haitien in northern Haiti.

At OADENN, an Aid Still Required children’s program in Cap Haitien in northern Haiti.

Some just need a few thousand dollars for space so children aren’t packed on top of each other  They show up in droves for these programs. The parents allow them to attend instead of cooking and washing and being entrepreneurial to keep the household running. Children emerging from tiny cement shacks with dirt floors arrive to class groomed, scrubbed and perfectly clean. We saw the kids come down the stairs barefoot to go out by the toilet pit. We cringed. They smiled and helped the littlest ones down the stairs and took their belts off so they could use the facilities. 

All of these children are the future of Haiti. They will have to accomplish much with not much food to grow their brains. These were kids that are being helped. 

We visited an unregulated orphanage where what food and water and care was available was not

Patience Orphanage

Jill and Ivy with children at the Patience Orphanage

being provided. Emergency intervention of the magnitude of hundreds of dollars could change the course of these children’s lives. Here were 30 orphans, most with bloated bellies, skinny arms, some very listless and apathetic, some grabbing hands to hold and rock them. All babies that I rocked instantly relaxed and fell asleep. It wouldn’t take many dollars to bring in consistent love and care, nutrition, water, books and loveys of their very own. It is a matter of life and death.

My work is cut out for me. The cost of one if my children’s tuition could cover a rural school, teacher training, three scholarships and the life of thirty kids. 

What would you like to “own?”


Jill and Ivy Higgins

Indiegogo Here We Go : Haiti and the Jatropha Tree Program

Fund a Jatropha Seed Oil Press for Haiti, Change the Lives of Thousands

For the past three years, 1,000 farmers have been growing hundreds of thousands of Jatropha trees in southern Haiti.  Why?  Because the seeds from these trees produce oil so rich it serves as a straight replacement for diesel fuel.  Yes, that means you can run your car, truck or farm machinery on it.  Right now, Haiti has to import all of it’s petroleum.  The jatropha program can reverse this trend.

These trees are now mature and ready for harvest, the oil press is ready to be put to use, and the agronomist and project manager are in place.

Coming together for a better Haiti

Coming together for a better Haiti

Jatropha doesn’t just produce clean fuel.  It produces jobs – thousands of them – plus, a cleaner atmosphere and dignity for the farmers.  In a nation like Haiti that has struggled for centuries to become self-sufficient, this is huge. 

Along with Sirona Cares who designed and initiated the program, Aid Still Required is making this program happen.  Together we can create a new future for thousands in Haiti.

Turning these jatropha seeds into fuel can only happen with your help.

Kelly Kruger and Darin Brooks have worked to put together the Indiegogo campaign that will help to fund this program.

“We are getting involved with this project because we know that once a disaster leaves the headlines, people forget about the work that still needs to be done years later. Haiti is no different and we want to do all we can to make sure the people of Haiti have a chance at true, sustainable recovery. Thanks for joining with us.” -Kelly Kruger and Darin Brooks

Sampling of Saplings!

Sampling of Saplings!


Today 95% of the people in Haiti live on $2 or less per day.  Almost none of them have electricity, running water, or seemingly a future. 

We can change the course in Haiti.

Kelly Kruger and Darin Brooks video about the jatropha tree program and their involvement in the campaign.

What we know:

1.  People need jobs.

2.  People need access to energy – clean energy.

3.  People need to protect the environment.

4.  These oil presses will allow all of this to be accomplished, providing enough income for thousands of farmers to provide for their families.


Please go to the Indiegogo campaign here.

Handful of Jatropha Seeds

Handful of Jatropha Seeds


Fuel the Future

Fuel the Future

Haiti 4 Years After the Earthquake

4 years ago, Haiti experienced a devastating 7.0 earthquake that ravaged what is still the poorest country in the western hemisphere. While billions were pledged around the world to help the small island country left with hundreds of thousands in temporary shelters without access to food, water and medicine, what few realize is how little actually made it to the country. After the earthquake

Martha Mendoza and Trenton Daniel wrote a fascinating piece back in 2012 about the real lack of impact that aid to Haiti had in the months after the earthquake. For one “less than 12 percent of the reconstruction money sent to Haiti after the earthquake has gone toward energy, shelter, ports or other infrastructure. At least a third, $329 million, went to projects that were awarded before the 2010 catastrophe and had little to do with the recovery — such as HIV/AIDS programs.

And this: “Of the $988 million spent so far, a quarter went toward debt relief to unburden the After the earthquakehemisphere’s poorest nation of repayments. But after Haiti’s loans were paid off, the government began borrowing again: $657 million so far, largely for oil imports rather than development projects.” Of the nearly $9 billion pledged to Haiti after the earthquake, less than $1 billion had been spent in the two years after the disaster.

Now, 4 years later, there is still an incredible amount to do. At Aid Still Required, we know that the challenges in Haiti are great. We also know that they are not insurmountable. Together, we can improve the lives of thousands of women, children and men in Haiti that, at times, may feel hopeless.

In the Haiti settlements the UN estimates that 90% of women are raped or sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetimes. Raising a family and being a productive member of your community is difficult enough without the pain and suffering experienced when one is attacked. ASR’s trauma relief programs are helping women to find peace and healing, allowing for long term community building and a stronger family structure.

After the earthquake, Haiti’s orphanages overflowed with children whose parents had died or could no longer take care of them. ASR’s OADENN program is providing mentorship, counseling, safe OADENNplaces for play, education and healthcare to over 100 children in Cap Haitien. These children will have the opportunity to become the leaders in their communities when they get older–they are being given a new chance at life they may not otherwise receive.

By partnering with Sirona Cares, ASR is launching the Jatropha Tree Program to give thousands of farmers and their families a new life while also improving the environment and creating long term financial development. This is how we can help Haitians help themselves. The old way of charity–simply handing out food, water, medicine and shelter–is not the path toward long term redevelopment. We must provide the financial assistance to get well designed, effective programs off the ground and then we must train Haitians to run these programs on their own so that they can be the source of their own country’s future success.

Join with us and help to make the future of Haiti a bright one.

Visit Haiti Awareness Campaign 2014 landing page to learn more and donate. Do you think that you can’t make enough of an impact? “Whoever thinks they are too small to change the world has never been in bed with a mosquito.” Let’s come together and make real change for people who just need the opportunity for a better life. These are the people who will change the future of Haiti.

The men and women of ASR's programs