Mission Haiti Accomplished
We did it!!
Well, here we are back in Toronto after our rich and reflective visit to Haiti. We’ve already heard back from Sow A Seed and here is what they have to say about our visit to the Rose-Mina Orphanage in Port au Prince: “It was a pleasure working with you. Nothing but rave reviews came about from this experience. We are so happy we had the opportunity of working with you. Hope to work with Centre for Art & Soul again in the near future.”
I made a point of not having any expectations going down to do this endeavor, as I wanted to be totally open and adaptable to any changes that might occur to my own vision of how things should run. And I’m happy I did as things did indeed run differently from how I first imagined.
Let me try and paint a picture of the experience. First off – french will only get you so far, as Creole is the native language in Haiti. So, ecstatic as I was with my son Julian’s french immersion already paying off (he hit the ground running and was speaking fluent french from the moment we arrived), it didn’t help much at the orphanage. And instead of me doing several back to back classes with volunteers and translators spread over 2 days during the week — it ended up being one sole 4 hour visit with 90 kids doing the class all at once. It also fell on a Sunday – which was part of a long weekend in Haiti, so our volunteer resources were limited. In the end, we had one volunteer/Creole translator (Khatia, a native Hatian and ambassador to SAS), my friend Melora and her daughter Jihnny (who live in Port Au Prince), and myself and my son, Julian. Many of the children were also very young and unable to really draw, but that didn’t seem to matter. The kids were apparently told that our visit was to be a ‘fete’ for everyone, and was obviously a momentous occasion. I don’t really know how well my theme of boosting self esteem translated, but it was pretty clear that the children enjoyed our visit no matter what they really thought it was all about. This is not something that happens everyday for them!
The children were told to draw something about themselves that they loved; to convey what they thought made them special or unique. Once their drawing was complete, we used wheat paste (a cheap glue/varnish made by myself and Melora out of flour, water and sugar the day before) to glue their creations in a puzzle mural. The intended outcome was to (hopefully) beautifully convey the essence of collaboration and interconnectedness via a colourful tapestry of the children’s work. And comically, the wheat paste became a bit of a surprisingly tasty treat for some of the kids for whom I kept telling to stop licking the glue brushes!!
Included in the event was treating the children to a fancy lunch which Sow A Seed had arranged ahead of time to be delivered to everyone. It consisted of rice and beans, chicken, macaroni and cheese and a soda pop. The kids LOVED it!
* Be sure to go to the last shot in the slideshow, where Julian gives his Toronto Blue Jays cap to his new friend Clifford — who seems so proud to put that hat on his head.
So to summarize my view of the mission: The grand day and art project at Rose-Mina was a success. I could not have dreamed it to be any better under the circumstances really. And to my delight, Julian was a STAR helper. He took about 90% of the photos, helped lots of kids by directing in french, and already said he wants to do this again. It was a bit chaotic and I must admit I did feel limited and at times almost frustrated due to my inability to converse with the kids, but overall I am very satisfied with the outcome of the day. I know one of the children told me they wanted to do the event AGAIN soon. And so did my son, so in my eyes that’s true success! In fact the moment we got in the truck to leave the orphanage, Julian said emphatically ‘That was AWESOME!’ and ‘I’ve made a new best friend’.
I am truly humbled by the generosity of friends, family, friends of friends and especially the support that came from the people who don’t even know me! An enormous thank you goes out to all of you folks who sponsored a kid’s art workshop, donated art supplies and contributed to the lunch every child had. Without your help, this mission would never have been accomplished.
To echo Sow A Seed’s comments – “A pleasure and blessing working beside all you modern day angels”, I say the same back to all of the people who supported me in this. A million thanks go out to:
Sharyn Abelson, Mandy Au, Alex Baisley, Natalie and Chris Binney, Scott Boland, Marie Boland, Jane Campbell, Joe and Judy Canario, Josee Caron, Pamela Chan and Oliver Mandsfelt, Rich Cooper and Julie Stolberg, Jann Coppen, Daphne Gordon and Terry DePasquale, Ellen Himmelfarb and Jason Stanard, Angelika Helm and Cam Wong, Sarah Houghton, Donna, Rick, Alicia and Emma Jokinen, Dianne Kelly, Lindsay Kelly, Ryan Kelly, Frank Kelly, Clara Kim, Carrie Klassen, Lainie Knox, Kat Lantienge, Kiki Livas, Ines Mazzotta, Stacey Mitsopulos, Kate Monro, Christine Pensa, Janine Poplak, Andrea Poptsis, Lorne Sokoloff and Cindy Smith, Shoshana Sperling and Maury LaFoy, Severn Thompson, Melissa Trinh, Warren Sheffer and Katherine Stearns, Corinne and Brian Slinger, Denise Trevisan, John, Jenn, Calvin and Nate Warrilow, Wendy Warrilow, Noel Wright, Susan Yun.
The ladies from Sow A Seed
Claudia Apaid, Sandrine Alkhal, Joanne Batroni, Annabelle Theard and Khatia Jiha
My life coach Alex Baisley.
Friends and family emailing and facebooking me words of encouragement.
My great friend, and ‘big sis’ Melora Palmer and her daughter Jihnny.
And to my son and helper extraordinaire, Julian Kelly.
This entire experience – from the initial spark of an idea, to the nurturing of the dream, to the manifestation of the plan, to the support of many people, to the execution of the project – was so truly rewarding; I can’t tell you how lucky I feel to have these incredible memories to cherish forever. What a gift. And upon journaling my reflections, I think I left a little piece of my heart in Haiti.
To see other pics from our trip click here.
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