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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Memories from Haiti 2010

I remember being a little kid, sitting in school, feeling like the days crept by and summer vacation seemed like an eternity away.

I can remember so many different adults telling me to enjoy the time while I can because when you get older time moves a lot faster.

I did not believe them then, but I sure do now… I cannot believe 4 years has passed since Reach Out World Wide made its inaugural mission into Haiti to help with the Earthquake recovery.  In honor of this anniversary, I thought it would be fun to share with you all a few memories I have from those days as well as the days leading up to Haiti.

I have included several pictures below with a little story that goes with each.  I have more pictures from Haiti on my personal Facebook page if you ever wish to check them out, here is a link ( Jesse Brisendine Facebook page ).

Paul first told me about his dream to start a charity called Reach Out World Wide on June 21st, 2009.  I can remember the exact date because it was the Sunday after my friend had committed suicide, and Paul chose then to share his dream with me in hopes that it would lift my spirits.  

Periodically over the next 7 months leading up to Haiti, whenever Paul and I would hang out, ROWW would always be a topic of conversation - how it would run, what it would grow into, and the difference it could make in the world.

When the decision was made to go to Haiti, as fate would have it I happened to be in Costco, and so I immediately started running up and down the isles grabbing what I thought would be essential provisions: calorie dense food, medical supplies, and toilet paper.  I remember my heart was beating so fast; I was nervous, but more than anything I was excited because I knew I was going to get to be a part of something very special.  

Over the next several days Paul and I made runs to REI, the military surplus store, several different sporting goods stores, as well as various medical facilities.  Paul wanted to make sure we were prepared for anything, and that we would be self sufficient; meaning that we would not require resources or supplies from any other agency.  In short we could fully take care of ourselves, which would make us more effective and able to help others.  

This is also the reason that you will see us all wearing "military style" outfits in the pictures below.  You see at the time, the media was reporting about how people, desperate for help, were showing up at various aide areas with machetes and having confrontations and taking supplies.  We felt that if we looked like American Military, people would be less inclined to mess with us and try to steal from us.  

Our "costumes," ended up becoming a running joke for us all while in Haiti because we never encountered anything remotely violent while there.  I felt like we were G.I. JOE and we had showed up to scare off COBRA, but COBRA didn't get the memo to come.  hahaha.

Anyways… before we could get into Haiti we were in the Dominican Republic at a shelter helping to pack up supplies to be sent over to Haiti.  The below picture captures just a small amount of the activity that was going on and the effort that was being put into helping the Haitian people.

It was time to cross the boarder and we wanted to check supplies one last time, see picture below.

At the center of this picture was my proud contribution to our supplies.  Toilet paper :)  There is nothing scarier than to be stranded without toilet paper.

The below picture was from the helicopter ride into Haiti from the Dominican Republic.  This was the first time I had ever been on a Helicopter.

Much of Haiti looked like the below picture… absolute total devastation.  This picture is powerful because it shows how in need of help much of the world is, especially after a major disaster strikes.  All of us can always do a little more to help others.  Whether is is going there directly, donating money, or raising awareness about charities, like ROWW, all of these actions make a difference in helping others in need.  

The spot where we set up camp looked like this when we go there.  People sleeping out in the field, bunched up together, with a small tent or two to help with the more severely injured.  

I will never forget the below moment: the guy giving the thumbs up, came up to me and said, "Sir, sir will you record my picture please."  I happily obliged and took this picture, which I still have on my wall today.  I remember thinking, "I bet he has never had his picture taken before..."

One night  we were woken up by a bunch of big semi trucks that showed up filled with supplies.  In addition, two UN mobile medical trucks also showed up.  It caused quite the commotion.

In the above picture I am wearing "Dog Tags," Paul and I got these made to commemorate ROWW's inaugural mission.  The below picture is a close up of them.  I have been wearing them this week to honor ROWW,  Haiti, and remind myself of my experiences there.  In addition, I have been wearing these camouflage pants a lot the last seven weeks as they remind me of Haiti and of Paul.

Note: you will see on the id's that it says "REACT."  REACT was the original name of ROWW, but we later learned that there was some legal mumbo jumbo that would prevent us from using the name "REACT."  Because of this "legal stuff," ROWW became ROWW.  :)

There were more wounded than we had supplies to accommodate so we had to make do and use things like mattresses, as pictured below, as makeshift stretchers.  People would be moved from the initial assessment area to a separate section of the field based on the severity of their injuries.  

Like I said we did not have a lot of supplies/modern technology to make certain jobs easier.  So this left us to do things the old fashioned way and make a human assembly line.  You can see me below holding the box.  There are probably another 6 or 7 people inside the truck on the left, as well as another 6 or 7 completing the line going into the building on the right.

This guy (pictured below), and I did not share a language, but really formed a bond and mutual respect for one another as we unloaded this massive truck.  The entire process took over 3 hours in the nearly 90+ degree heat.  After we finished we exchanged high fives.

When we got to the spot that we camped at in Haiti, everyone was sleeping out in the fields.  Eventually we were able to get ahold of a bunch of tents.  The below picture is the beginning of setting up "tent city."  As they say: "Team work makes the Dream work."

Below is a picture showing the fruits of our labor.  When we first arrived at this spot we were 5 friends who wanted to make a difference and help people who were less fortunate.  When we left we were Reach Out World Wide, a group of people who knew we could make a difference.  

What difference did ROWW make on its' inaugural mission?  To give you an idea: when we first arrived in Haiti the area we were based out of had about 40 people there all sleeping outside, with minimal supplies.  By the time we left there were over 400 people, tents to house most of them, a well stocked supply room, and an accelerated system of treating patients.

Every single human being has the ability to make a difference in the life of another.

The below picture is me, one of the doctors, and a few of the kids who helped out as interpreters.

The original 5.  From left to right, Lucas, Dave, Me, Brandon, Paul.  Also pictured a couple doctors who were there volunteering as well as a few new friends.

Four years later Reach Out World Wide has grown by leaps and bounds from our initial trip into Haiti, AND, as long as you all continue to support it, spread the word about it, "share" it with your friends and family, ROWW will keep on growing.

Paul had big dreams of what he envisioned ROWW becoming.  He and I would have those "Rocking Chair" talks… You know the ones where you imagine that you are old men sitting around in your rocking chair talking about the "good ole" days.  When we would have these talks, we always talked about how cool it was going to be to see how much ROWW had grown and to know that we were there at the beginning.

With Paul gone, it is now up to us all to pick up where he left off and keep ROWW thriving so that it can continue making the global impact that it is.  Each and every single one of us has the ability to make a difference.  Remember the smallest of gestures, a smile, can change someone's life.  

I hope you all enjoyed this trip down memory lane, I certainly did.

Carpe Diem,


Friday, January 17, 2014


When we are little kids we get so excited about the teenie tiny-est amount of progress.  Simple things like crawling, going pee pee in the potty, and taking a few unsupported steps are huge milestones, major progress and all out causes for celebration.

Then, then… we get older. Unfortunately as we age the joy in the small steps of progress fades.  What replaces it is an expectation, an expectation that we can just show up, put in minimal effort, and expect maximal return.  The expectation is like showing up to run a marathon, expecting to do it in 2 1/2 hours, but you have only run one 5k race to train for the marathon.  9.99999 times out of 10 you are going to fall short of this expectation.

This inevitably creates a problem…

We have become a I want it and I want it now culture.  When we do not get what we want, rather than stepping back and asking ourselves the tough questions: "what could I have done differently?  What do I need to do differently to become successful?  How can I make this happen?" we instead label this unrealized expectation as "failure," and chalk it up as "one more reason why I can't _____ (fill in the blank.)"

I often think what could we all accomplish, how much more successful, happy, fulfilled, could we all become if we had held onto that slow and steady wins the race mantra we had when we were little kids.  How could we ever fail as adults if we celebrated the itsy bitsy progress like we did when we were kids?

The reason this has been on my mind is because for the last 6 weeks I, as many of you know, have been mourning the unexpected death of my best friend.  I had a friend ask me the other day "how was I doing with everything?"  I stopped and thought about this question…

You see there was a small part of me that wanted to answer: "shitty," and make my response all about my loss.  I stopped myself because I realized that if I answered this way then I would be discounting all of the progress I have made over the last six weeks.

Instead I finally spoke up and said, "honestly I am doing great."

My friend looked a little flabbergasted at my response.  His expression said "how can you be doing great already?"  So I shared with him the following:

I believe all human beings are made up of multiple "parts."  These parts come in the forms of personalities, needs, wants, thoughts, hopes, dreams, fears, talents, passions, etc... If I separate my life into two parts right now: Part 1 is Jesse not focusing on the loss.  This Jesse is doing really great.  He is happy, he is healthy, he is making a difference in the lives of others.  This Jesse feels he is living his life on purpose and is motivated to empower others to do the same.

Part 2 is also Jesse, but it is Jesse when he is focusing on the loss of a very special friend.  This Jesse is sad, he misses his friend, he cries when he recalls certain memories, he hurts when he, out of habit, picks up his phone to call his friend to share something that happened today.

Both parts make up of the whole of who I am and my current reality.

I believe, in some cases, there is an unconscious expectation that when one has experienced a tragedy, that the person allows the tragedy to dictate how they think, feel, and act.  This explains the flabbergasted look on my friends face… after all how can I be great after 6 weeks.

Part 1 is doing great part 2 is healing and experiencing all the emotions that come with the healing process.

I often think of the mantra "slow and steady wins the race" while I am going through the healing process. The race, in this instance, is not a physical race to the finish, but rather it is a journey to get to a place where there is full acceptance of what has happened and a complete integration of the impact and legacy that Paul has had and will always have on my life.  This process has no deadline or no time limit on how long it will take because ultimately I decide.

One of the most challenging aspects of the whole process is to begin to let go of the pain.  When we experience a tragic loss, the pain that we feel in the aftermath almost becomes a way to keep the person alive.  After all, when we feel pain at an intense level it validates to us the impact that a person had on our life as well as the depth of love we felt for that person. We become fearful of letting go of that pain because if we let go of the pain, do we let go of the person as well?  Do we let go of the love we shared, the memories we made and the impact they had on our life?

Enter in progress and making the transition from experiencing the loss (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually,) to living in such a way to honor the person... this is where I am at now.

I still have my moments of sadness, I still have some very sleepless nights, I still have those times where I pick up my phone to call or send a text, I still have the aches and pains that come with loss; I have all of those and more.

I now also have the happiness that comes with knowing that every thing I do going forward in life will be influenced by the impact that Paul had in my life, the memories we made and the experiences we created. Thus he will always be a part of my life.  The same goes for my friend Gabe and the same goes for my Dad.  After all, without Gabe and my Dad I would have never done the 1000 Challenge and would not be typing this to you today.

When I adopt a perspective like the above, how can I  not be happy?  After all, if I choose not to be happy then that is a reflection of those who I loved and lost, is it not? 

I believe it is also a sign of progress. :)

Enjoy the pics,

Carpe Diem,


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013 Recap and My Wishes for Everyone in 2014

It is 2014 and there is an abundance of opportunity and possibility staring you in the face.  Will this be the year you seize them?  Will this be the year you resolve to keep your resolutions?  Will this be the year you make all your dreams come true?

I hope so AND I believe that You are fully capable of it.

To cap off 2013 and help bring in 2014 I recorded a video for you all.  In this video I recap my 2013 the highs and lows, and offer some insights that, if you apply them, will help you make 2014 your greatest year yet.

I hope you find value in the video (if you do, please share it with others), and I sincerely hope that this year is nothing less than magical for you.

As always, please share your thoughts below.

Carpe Diem,