As I reflect on 6 months later it is in the individual stories that I keep the hope for the future and get the strength to continue to work tirelessly amid the darkness and destruction to find the light and love all around. These are a few of their stories.
Located an hour outside of Port au Prince sits a small sleepy village on the edge of Haiti’s largest lake. APJ brings a mobile clinic to the village twice a week to care for newborns and the sick. Each visit we bring food, water, clothes, TOMs shoes and medicine and music for the entire village. When we arrived the children in the village were without exaggeration stark naked and dirty. Now they have clothes medicine and a renewed sense of community and hope. Next month we will rebuild the roof of every house in the village. Although these acts may seem temporary the gift of love and compassion by just showing up will last and resonate a long time.
My friend and PA Nicole called me and told me a 13-year-old girl she became friends with in a tent city in Pettionville had been abandoned and was homeless begging on the street. She asked for help. I met Nanoue and immediately fell in love with her spirit sense of humor and intelligence. She told me her father had died and her mother ran off, she had been severely beaten and sexually assaulted in the camp numerous times. I asked Alfonso who runs our orphanage if we could help, without flinching he said yes, we sent social workers to her and the next day brought her to our new orphanage where she attends school, takes care of abandoned babies and is thriving. She is safe today and has a future tomorrow because of our deep commitment to turn no child away.
My best friend in Haiti, Raphael works at the hospital. He lives outside of Croix De Bouquet in a crumbling house. He told me the whole village had to walk an hour for clean water and asked if I could help. The next day with the generous help of Operation Blessing we repaired an old well and set up a large water filter that gives 10,000 gallons of clean water a day. Raphael runs a pipe outside his gate and gives clean fresh water to the whole village for free everyday.
Miguel and Nadia are both schoolteachers who live in a tent city behind the US Embassy. Miguel has become one of my closest friends and my Creole teacher, he is a great singer and guitar player he is also the community leader of the tent city. His wife Nadia teaches in a little one-room schoolhouse made of rusted corrugate steel walls. Through our friendship, we have brought 20 tons of food, new tents, and clothes for all the children many of whom were naked before and TOMs shoes for the whole village. Nadia is now pregnant and we are providing prenatal care for her although Miguel told me the greatest contribution to his life was my guitar I gave him so he can sing lullaby’s to his wife to teach his unborn child a love of music in the womb. I begin work this week on rebuilding Nadia’s school into a place she can be proud of and can match her skills as an incredible teacher.
Maurice came to the hospital three months ago and we became fast friends. Long suffering from Hepatitis he is mischievous, funny as hell and loves little cars. Maurice lives with his grandmother in a tent on the outskirts of town. Through our generous donations his grandmother and him have moved into an apartment and out of a tent. He received top-notch medical care and attention at St Damien’s hospital and I visit him regularly at his new home. Maurice also greatly benefits from the love and prayers of his adopted sister Olivia Wilde.
Buried for three days in the rubble, Davidson lost all family members and three fingers when his house collapsed. Alone at the hospital for the last six months he has gained a new family of a staff that cares for him as their own. I put him to sleep every night by reading to him take him to our rehab center for rehabilitation; he calls me Papa. Through tedious paperwork and endless negotiations including bribes Davidson is now a week away from getting a passport and heading off to the States where his hand will be reconstructed in the best hand hospital in the US. He will move into a loving home in St. Louis and will be a part of APJ the rest of his life.
Augustnel at the hospital and help runs the St Luc program. He grew up in the orphanage and has a special place in his heart for giving kids a second chance. Augustnel started a program called “Hot Plate” which brings 300 abandoned street kids from Pettionville together for lunch time to eat a hot meal and learn a small lesson everyday about health, social issues and basic reading and writing. Augustnel asked if we could help the school, we brought another water filter to the school and for the last three months have provided the hot food for all the children in the program and now in the school next door as well.
Two street kids Wilson and Jason have been out of school for 2 years due to lack of money for clothes, books and without parents to support them. They beg outside the gate of the hospital and have become fixtures in my day. One day Wilson said to me in perfect English “If you don’t go to school you can’t get a job, and I want to go to school, can you help?” We have given generously to these bright young boys gifts of clothes, new shoes, school supplies and money and have enrolled them in the Angels of Light school behind the hospital where they and doing well and thank me everyday when I visit them. We have put them on the right path and I’m proud of their schoolwork.
APJ has made it possible for all the St Luc schools to feed 8000 kids a hot meal and snack every day, we have brought 40,000 gallons of clean water everyday to the people and provided dozens of large tents to teach school under and with our partnership with TOMs shoes have given out thousands of shoes to kids in need. We bring our medical clinic out every other day and bring music, dancing and movies to countless tent cities and communities otherwise forgotten. It may be dramatic to say we have saved lives but it is accurate to say that because of our work in Haiti, we have made many lives brighter and fuller. As Artists we have brought our unique light, love, laughter, music, art, dance, joy and compassion to our brothers and sisters in Haiti and will continue to do so for a long, long time.
Artists for Peace and Justice