martes, 30 de marzo de 2010

My brief visit to Haiti

The closeness of Haiti to Puerto Rico left me terribly restless due to the earthquake that occurred last January 12th near Port au Prince. I knew from watching the news on tv that the tragedy was of unimaginable proportions. I also knew that before this earthquake the majority of the population in Haiti was already living in deep poverty, with the worst health and "development" statistics in the American continent and the Caribbean.

I was compelled to make an effort, more than usual to respond to this tragedy. I decided to somehow get involved directly with the relief effort and in this way express my solidarity with our Haitian brothers and sisters. As a volunteer of the American Red Cross (ARC) I already called the local chapter to inform them of my disposition to go to Haiti as soon as possible however, decisions as to who and when goes to Haiti in the relief effort was and is decided by the Federation of the Red Cross and Crescent Society of which the ARC is a member. No volunteers were being enlisted. The task of the ARC for this disaster was to raise funds, which it did very successfully. According to a report from the Federation "more than 80 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have raised more than $700 million dollars for earthquake relief, recovery and reconstruction since January 12..." The Red Cross and Red Crescent emergency plans proposes to assist 300,000 people for three years at a cost of approximately 204 million dollars.

I signed up as a volunteer with "Iniciativas de Paz", a small non-governmental organization (NGO) in Puerto Rico that decided a few days after the earthquake to organize mobile clinics in Haiti to attend to communities that were either not getting any relief aid or the aid was taking too long to arrive. The called came in and I got ready to go to Haiti.

I was in Haiti for barely a week (rotating teams are asked to volunteer 7 to 14 days), between the 5th and 12th of March, seven days of which three were used in traveling by air and land to and from Haiti via the Dominican Republic. A team of between six and nine doctors (two of them Haitians and one wonderful pediatrician from Colombia), five nurses, a person in charge of security and myself as an epidemiologist (I collected data on the prevalent diseases in the communities we visited), and a team of translators comprised the mobile clinic. My other assigned task was to keep the flow of patients more less in order as they waited their turn to see a doctor.

In four days of intense work, we visited the neighborhoods of Lavoux and Martissant in Port au Prince, and for two consecutive days we visited a internally displaced camp at a soccer field just beyond the town of Petit Goave, a two hour drive West from Port au Prince. We quickly raised two big tents, one with portable chairs and small tables for each doctor and translator. The other tent was the pharmacy, organized and managed by the nurses that constantly provided the requested medicines to each doctor. The clinic attended to 1,517 patients in four days, of which 64% were women and about 17% children less than five years of age.

At base camp we discussed what we were seeing everyday. A doctor summarized it best: the main complaint of the people we were attending is hunger. Hunger is the underlying condition that is made worse by the prevailing diseases such as diarrhea (leading to dehydration), respiratory infections, intestinal parasites, head lice, etc.

One of the greatest harms comes from drinking non-potable water which in some places like the soccer camp, is an obligated risk that is taken to quench the thirst even though it will maintain the vicious circle of illness and hunger.

And so the tragedy passed in front of my eyes constantly. Haitians that survived the earthquake now have to survive the terrible routine of not having much to eat, nor clean water to drink, in addition to having to sleep in a shelter made of a few rags tied between four wooden stick and a piece of cardboard as a bed.

How to get rid of that terrible acidity in the stomach because of having it empty for so many days with no food? The Haitian mothers invented a food staple that it isn't but they eat it just the same. It is a bit of soil mixed with oil or butter and cooked in a wooden fire. What comes out is a big pale pastry that the children eat it. They ate it before the earthquake, and they eat it after the earthquake.

On the last day i
n Haiti, the visiting team said its goodbyes to the Haitian translators. Willie a 12 year old boy with a big heart develops great fondness for all those that come to work in the mobile clinics, and every week, with the rotation of teams Willie gets sad. At the end I thanked Willie for the great lesson he gifted me with. And that is his great capacity to love strangers, his humility and his disposition to do a great job in communicating the patients with the doctors. I told Willie that he was a hero for the simple reason that it is he that is staying behind and figures it o ut how to survive. After a week of living in some discomfort we were returning to the security of our homes. The big difference of course is that we returned with our readjusted life priorities, rejecting the unnecessary and the frugal in our lives. This is the great message from Haiti that we should all attune to.

The first night back in Puerto Rico, as I was about to lay in my clean and comfortable bed I realized for the first time in my blessed life that I have the privilege of not having to worry about having clean water to drink the next day. A worry that Willie and millions of Haitians share.

The work that we did in a week is truly a drop in the ocean, but as my wife remarked when I told her that, it is nonetheless a precious drop. Next May or June I plan to go back to Ayiti and contribute with another drop in the ocean.

Finally I want to close by saying that you need to realize that it is the Haitians themselves that are helping each other with great love and generosity, sharing with each other whatever they have amidst the overwhelming uncertainty and the constant pressure of hunger and thirst. This exemplary Haitian solidarity is complemented by the work of several non-governmental organizations doing what is most needed now.

Follow up on Red Cross work in Haiti here:


Great initiatives in Haiti by Partners in Health here:


Sean Penn and friends are working to improve shelters before the rainy season here: http://www.jphro.org/

Doctors without Borders extensive work is shown here:


Sending Love and Light to Haiti

Diego E Zavala

Member of Amnesty International-USA since 1981

Red Cross volunteer since 2006 (after the Katrina disaster)

martes, 8 de septiembre de 2009

Hong Liu, Qi Gong Grandmaster Visits Puerto Rico

Master Hong Liu, a Grandmaster of Qi Gong (the highest attainable level of training) will be visiting Puerto Rico offering a FREE class on the benefits of Qi Gong, the technique of building, increasing and directing body energy, mental energy, and spiritual energy, 7 to 8:30 p.m. September 25, 2009 at Samadhi Yoga Institute, 800 Roberto Todd Ave. Suite 203, Parada 18, Santurce, Puerto Rico.

Following on the heels of meditation, tai chi, and yoga, Medical Qi Gong is emerging as the next wave of rejuvenating mind/body practices. Qi Gong is a 5,000 year old tradition, places an emphasis on energetic practices and longevity. Qi Gong is a technique of building, increasing and directing body energy, mental energy, and spiritual energy.

In addition, Master Hong Liu will be teaching a two-day intensive course on The Basic 8 Exercises of Qi Gong 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. September 26 y 27, 200, at 1000 Ponce de Leon Ave., Parada 15, fourth floor (above the Walgreens pharmacy) in Santurce, Puerto Rico. Tuition is $285 if registered before Sept. 12th.. Call now to reserve a space. Seating is limited. The Basic Eight Qi Gong Exercises have been shown to be an excellent means of healing and health maintenance. Each exercise is targeted at improving the function of specific organs and eliminating illness. The Basic 8 Exercises represent the primary internal exercises that balance yin and yang, and are recommended as a way to unblock the 12 meridian channels of the body. By unblocking meridians, many diseases can be prevented or treated.

Master Hong Liu, is the author of the first book on medical Qi Gong: “The Healing Art of Qi Gong: Ancient Wisdom from a Modern Master”. His story has been featured on NBC “Unsolved Mysteries”,“Extra” and CBS in addition to being featured in national and local newspapers and magazines. After studying with three of China’s most well-known and respected Qi Gong masters, he relocated to the United States upon the recognition of his life destiny: to introduce the valuable secrets of Qi Gong to the West.

Master Hong Liu is a teacher/healer for numerous clients, included high-ranking Chinese officials, the Chinese Olympic Swimming and Diving teams and Asia's biggest celebrities. Today, his clients include Sir Elton John, Julia Roberts, Mel Gibson, Ang Lee, Cameron Diaz and Jackie Chan.

To reserve a seat for the free lecutre or enroll in the intensive two day course on The Basic 8 Exercises of Qi Gong please call 787 525 5488 or write to masterhonginpr@gmail.com

lunes, 7 de septiembre de 2009

Hong Liu, Grandmaster de Chi Kung (Qi Gong) Visita Puerto Rico

Grandmaster Hong Liu, un Grandmaster de Chi Kung (Qi Gong) -el nivel de entrenamiento mas alto obtenible- estará visitando Puerto Rico para ofrecer una conferencia GRATUITA sobre los beneficios del Chi Kung el 25 de septiembre 2009, de 7:00 a 8:30 p.m., en el SAMÅDHI YOGA INSTITUTE, Ave. Roberto Todd # 800, Suite 203, Parada 18, Santurce.

Siguiendo los pasos de la meditación, el Tai Chi, y la yoga, el Chi Kung medicinal esta emergiendo como la próxima ola de las prácticas de rejuvenecimiento de la mente y el cuerpo. El Chi Kung, es una tradición China de 5,000 años que enfatiza las prácticas energéticas y la vitalidad. El Chi Kung es la técnica de construir, incrementar y dirigir la energía corporal, la energía mental y la energía espiritual.

Adicionalmente, Grandmaster Hong Liu ofrecerá una clase intensiva de Los 8 Ejercicios Básicos de Chi Kung, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Septiembre 26 y 27, 2009 en la Avenida Ponce de Leon #1000, parada 15 en Santurce, Piso 4 (altos de la Farmacia Walgreens). El costo de la matricula es de $285 antes del 12 de septiembre, después de esta fecha la matricula es $300. Llame ahora para reservar su espacio. Participación limitada.

Grandmaster Hong Liu, es autor del primer libro sobre el Chi Kung medicinal en los Estados Unidos, El Arte Sanador del Chi Kung: Sabiduria Ancestral de un Maestro Moderno (The Healing Art of Qi Gong: Ancient Wisdom from a Modern Master). Grandmaster Hong ha sido documentado y entrevistado en los programas de television de la cadena NBC “Unsolved Mysteries”, “Extra” y en la cadena CBS, además su trabajo ha sido reportado en múltiples revistas y periódicos. Después de estudiar con tres de los maestros de Chi Kung más reconocidos e ilustres en la China, Grandmaster Hong se trasladó a los Estados Unidos, reconociendo el destino de su vida: presentar los valiosos secretos del Chi Kung en el Occidente.

Grandmaster Hong Liu es un maestro/sanador con numerosos clientes, incluyendo a oficiales del gobierno Chinos del más alto rango, miembros del Equipo Olimpico de Natación y Saltos de Trampolin de la China y de las celebridades mas importantes del Asia. Hoy, sus clientes incluyen a Sir Elton John, Julia Roberts, Mel Gibson, Ang Lee, Cameron Diaz y Jackie Chan.

Para reservar tu espacio en la conferencia abierta al público ó matricularse en la clase intensiva de los 8 Ejercicios Básicos, llame al 787-525-5488 ó escriba a masterhonginpr@gmail.com

sábado, 5 de septiembre de 2009

On the meaning of "living well"

Today I would like to share with you what I am learning about what it means to "live well". I am not saying "live better", there is a subtle but important difference. I don't say live better because this implies, according to the Native Andean wisdom, to live better than someone else,
to live in inequality, and this concept when analyzed carefully reveals that this eagerness to live better has created an imbalance in human relations and with nature. Now is the time for this imbalance to be corrected or nature will do it for us. Witness the global warming dilemma.

A while ago, I have been thinking about what I really should be doing now. I've always had this restless desire to help others in one-way or another. I believe that helping others is something innate of ourselves; we only have to respond to this feeling according to our possibilities. In a way, I have been able to respond to this internal restlessness for more than 25 years of my life by working as a volunteer with Amnesty International a well known and respected human rights organization. Thorough the years, this work has given many rewards and I have certainly learned much about the human quality. Some people are incredibly resilient in extreme adverse situations and others are cowardly strong, taking advantage of their authority or economic power.

Now I sense I have to do more, I feel I must contribute in a greater scale, so I have decided to dedicate all of my time to a more direct humanitarian work aimed at the country where I was born, Bolivia.

Bolivia is an incredibly beautiful country, with great ecological and cultural diversity however, the majority of the population are poor, specially in the rural areas where potable water is not necessarily accessible.

According to the United Nations' estimates for the 2005-2010 period, the infant mortality rate (children less than one year of age), in Bolivia is 48 per 1,000 live births. Compare this number with the lowest rate in the world found in Iceland (2.9), or the United States (6.3) or Mexico 16.7. The highest rate is found in Sierra Leone (160.3) in great part due to the armed conflict that afflicts this nation. Another revealing finding is that diarrhea is one of the main causes for the high death rates in children less than 5 years of age.

Like many people who live away from their country of origin, I think it is indispensable to do 'something' to improve the living conditions in my country. For this reason, with two childhood friends of mine, we have decided to form a non-profit organization and develop humanitarian projects in Bolivia focused in two basic human necessities: access to (potable) water and (solar) energy, in rural communities where these basic services are deficient or nonexistent. We are in the process of raising the necessary funds ($US 100,000) for our first year of work.

I will be very happy the day when I see our first project completed. By then I will be closer to fulfill with the ancient Andean resolution of living well. In Qi Gong terms, and according to my teacher, Grandmaster Hong Liu, to live well is to walk the line between Yin and Yang, in harmony with all that surrounds us. That two ancestral cultures like those from China and the Andes coincide in this foundation is not really surprising. If you have red this far, I thank you for your attention.

jueves, 30 de julio de 2009

Sobre el significado de vivir bien

Hoy quisiera compartir sobre lo que estoy aprendiendo sobre el vivir bién. No digo "vivir mejor" y esto es una pequeña pero importante diferencia. No digo vivir mejor porque esto implica, según la sabiduria Andina, vivir mejor que otros, vivir en desigualdad, y este concepto analizando cuidadosamente revela que el afán de vivir mejor ha creado un desvalance en las relaciones entre seres humanos y con la naturaleza. Ahora es el momento de que este desbalance se corrija o alternativamente la naturaleza lo hara con nosotros. Testigo de esto es el calentamiento global.

Hace tiempo que he estado pensando en que es lo que debo estar haciendo realmente ahora. Siempre he tenido esta inquietud de querer ayudar al prójimo de una u otra forma. Creo que ayudar al prójimo es algo natural en nuestro ser, solo tenemos que responder a este sentimiento según nuestras posibilidades. De cierta manera, he logrado corresponder a esta inquietud interna por mas de 25 años de mi vida trabajando como voluntario en Amnistia Internacional,
una organización de derechos humanos muy reconocida y respetada. A través de los años, esta actividad me ha dado muchas satisfaciones y ciertamente he aprendido mucho de la calidad humana. Algunas personas increiblemente valerosas ante la adversidad y otras cobardemente fuertes abusando de su autoridad ó su poder económico.

Ahora siento que necesito hacer más, siento que debo contribuir en una escala mayor, asi que he decidido dedicarle tiempo completo a un trabajo humanitario mas directo y dirigido al país donde naci, Bolivia.

Bolivia es un país increiblemente hermoso, con una gran diversidad ecológica y cultural, sin embargo, la mayor parte de la población es pobre, especialmente en el área rural donde el agua potable no es necesariamente acesible.

Según datos estimados por las Naciones Unidas para el periodo 2005-2010, la tasa de mortalidad infantil (niños menores de un año de edad), en Bolivia es de 48 por 1,000 nacimientos vivos. Compara este número con la tasa mas baja en el mundo que es de Islandia (2.9), o de los Estados Unidos (6.3) ó México 16.7. >La tasa mas alta es de Sierra Leona (160.3) en gran parte por el conflicto armado que aflige este país. Otro dato revelador es que la diarrea es una de las causas principales por las altas tasas de muerte en niños menores de 5 años de edad.

Como muchas personas que viven fuera de su país de origen, pienso que es indispensable el hacer "algo" para mejorar las condiciones de vida en mi país. Por esta razón, con dos amigos de infancia, hemos decidido crear una organización sin fines de lucro y desarrollar proyectos humanitarios en Bolivia que se enfocan en dos necesidades humanas básicas: acceso al agua (potable) y energía (solar) en comunidades rurales donde estos servicios básicos son deficientes o no existentes. >Estamos en el proceso de recaudar fondos ($US 100,000) para nuestro primer año de trabajo.

Estaré muy contento el día que vea nuestro primer proyecto finalizado. Entonces estaré mas cerca de cumplir con el dictámen ancestral Andino de vivir bién. En términos del Chi Kung, según mi Maestro Hong Liu, el vivir bién es caminar la linea entre el Yin y el Yang, en harmonía con todo lo que te rodea. Que dos culturas ancestrales como la de la China y la de los Andes coincidan en este fundamento, realmente no es sorprendente.

Si llegaste hasta aqui, agradezco tu atención.