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“Our” Earthquake & Eleven Surprises

It has been an interesting week working on this book.  I spent Monday at home, reviewing hundreds of pages of my notes and miscellaneous documents about Fonkoze and marking them up with a highlighter, in order to help steep myself in all that I have learned prior to starting to do some serious writing.  On Tuesday, I was giving a talk to my Washington, DC-based staff about my sabbatical working on this book, and near the end someone said something about an earthquake.  I thought it was a question about Fonkoze but a few seconds later I realized she had said, “I think we are having an earthquake” and the rest is history.  I was one of the few people who have lived their entire lives on the east coast of the U.S. (except when overseas) and had been through a serious earthquake (Seattle 2001), so I was not particularly frightened of this one once I was confident that it actually was an earthquake (I feared it was an explosion in our building and/or a terrorist attack).  

On Wednesday, I interviewed Greg Watson at the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), a part of the Inter-American Bank Group, about the adventure of getting $2 million in cash delivered to Fonkoze ten days after the earthquake.  It’s a great story and one I expect to linger on in the early chapters of the book.  (My latest plan is for the book to basically follow a rough timeline of January 2010 to December 2011, with many longish flashbacks to fill in other parts of Fonkoze’s journey.)  After the interview, Greg got approvals to release some documents to me that will prove invaluable — showing how government, multilateral, humanitarian and private sector organizations can come together and pull off something important quickly when they put their minds to it. 

Today, I sat down and wrote up something that my “writing coach/advisor” Mark Levy had asked me to do in advance of a two-day, one on one “boot camp” he is organizing next week.  He said that one place to look for the best material about a subject like Fonkoze is to ask myself, “What surprised me most?”  It is a deceptively difficult question but I finally sat down and made a list.  Here is what I just sent Mark:

Most Surprising Things About Fonkoze

  1. Anne Hastings’ fearlessness.
  2. How happenings that would otherwise not be noteworthy can be catalysts in a crisis that jolt people to action.
  3. The very distinct karma in an organization where most of the senior staff are women.
  4. The new relevance of some so-called “old ideas” (about fighting global poverty) in the context of Fonkoze.
  5. Lots of people talk about being risk takers, but Fonkoze really does take them (and often pulls them off but sometimes falls flat on its face — but that is beside the point, which is that they “play ball” rather than “play it safe”).
  6. The high degree respect people have for Anne across many Fonkoze stakeholders who do not always agree with each other or her (respect is actually too weak of a word)
  7. The lack of progress in rebuilding Port-au-Prince 18 months after the earthquake.
  8. The strong desire of Haitians (at least those who work for Fonkoze) to develop themselves as professionals through any means possible..
  9. The willingness of a handful of staff at the top of Fonkoze/SFF, whose skills are such that they could work anywhere in the world for fairly high salaries, to settle in with Fonkoze and work very hard in trying conditions.
  10. Father Joseph’s anticipation of what would evolve as “best practices” in microfinance — 15 years before the rest of us smart-asses caught up with him! — and basing Fonkoze on them from day one.
  11. The energy, courageousness, idealism and resourcefulness of a Fonkoze staff member I had not met before this summer (despite my decade-long association with Fonkoze): Natacha Blanc.

Yesterday I had a good meeting at the literary agency that represents me and was glad to hear that they are getting more and more excited about working with me on this book.


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