Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Passport to Haiti

Passport to Haiti was a fundraiser organized by REBUILD Globally and held at the Lockhaven Community Center (610 Lake Formosa Drive). Funds raised by the event would go to the relief efforts following the huge earthquake that devastated the country. The mission of REBUILD Globally is to help with community development and education as well as to stimulate the much needed economic and cultural growth in Haiti. Put more simply,"Helping Haitians help themselves." There were silent auction items including original Haitian art. I sat down next to a table where fresh coconut juice was being offered. I tried a cup and it was sweet and delicious. Behind the staging area there were tents to represent the tent cities of Haiti.

I focused my attention on the table where sandals were being sold. Matthew Von Herbulis stood behind the table explaining the manufacturing process to anyone who was interested. These sandals called Re:Treads are made from old used tires. The company has been manufacturing these shoes for the last 4 months. The sandals are made locally now but they are going to train Hatians of Port au Prince to do the same. The tires used to make the sandals are just collected from dumps and roadsides. This small company has the goal of helping bankroll the Haitian economy by helping Haitians find work that involves craftsmanship and dignity. Although the country is in ruins thanks to centuries of poverty, Haitians are full of energy and drive and when given the opportunity to work towards building their own future they excel. A portion of all sales go towards putting shoes on the feet of orphans.

As I was sketching, Julie Colombino, who had organized the event, got behind the microphone and started describing the conditions she found on the last trip she took to Haiti. She got very choked up and was in tears as she described conditions that are beyond human comprehension. I later found out that Julie will be moving to Haiti for 6 months to help rebuild and restore a neighborhood. Sultana Fatima Ali showed up to the event after I finished my sketch and I found out that she is a part of a core group of activists who have been friends for years.

When my sketch was finished I didn't linger much longer. As I walked out to my truck Julie ran out after me saying I had forgotten my gift basket. Inside was a Hershey's kiss, a gift certificate for a beauty spa and a recycled bottle with a note inside. The note offered information about Rebuild Globally. I was touched by the generosity and thoughtfulness of the organizers. The note told the story of Zilice who has to travel a long distance to a city slum everyday to get water from a government water site. The water if not treated with bleach or boiled often causes fevers. Charcoal for a fire is a luxury and bleach is too expensive so she must take her chances. 10 percent of infant deaths in Haiti are attributed to dehydration according to government statistics. Several Haitian families were at the event and they told their stories of survival with the help of an interpreter. Each story was more heart wrenching than the last. When the speeches and stories were all told, a beautiful young blond woman and a 10 year old Haitian girl danced and laughed to the music.

Go to the people,
Live among them.
Learn from them.
Start with what they know.
Build on what they have:
But of the best of leaders,
When their task is accomplished,
Their work is done,
The people all remark
We have done it ourselves.
-Old Chinese poem 

Should you ever want to help,
REBUILD Globally
P.O. Box 3756
Winter Park, Fl 32790

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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