Archive for August, 2010

Haiti: Donor funds for oversight

Monday, August 30th, 2010

wonder what this really means

From Caribbean Life:By Azad AliThe World Bank has approved a US$30 million grant that will provide Haiti with urgently needed funds to close its budget gap and support the government’s efforts to increase public sector transparency and accountability.The grant will leverage an additional US$25 million from the donor-supported Haiti Reconstruction Fund (HRF), which is managed by the bank.“These funds will help us to close the gap and address important needs in terms of the efficient and transparent management of public resources,” Haiti’s finance minister, Ronald Baudin said.The new funding is part of the bank’s commitment to support Haiti’s recovery in the wake of the earthquake that killed more than 230,000 people and caused widespread destruction mainly in the capital Port-au-Prince.The Emergency Development Policy Grant supports fiscal transparency in the electricity sector, strengthens budget controls and public procurement and supports anticorruption measures by increasing transparency in payments to independent power producers; reinstate budget controls of external and internal audits at the Ministry of Finance enforcing the Law on Declaration of Assets among members of government to reduce corruption; and strengthening procurement regulation to ensure sound implementation of the new procurement law.

Haiti: Haiti Nursing Foundation hosts international symposium

Monday, August 30th, 2010

if people only knew

 From PRNewswire: Members of WHO/PAHO, Haitian Ministry of Health and prominent nurse educators from U.S.and Haiti move forward with plans for Haiti nursing educationFT. LAUDERDALE, Fla., Aug. 19 /PRNewswire/ — Six months after an earthquake in Haiti drastically altered the future of the small Caribbean country, news of its recovery indicated slow, unsteady progress. But behind the scenes, organizers at the Haiti Nursing Foundation were taking steps to create something good out of a tragedy – more nursing education in Haiti."Before the earthquake, there was only one nurse for every 10,000 Haitians, compared to 94 nurses for every 10,000 people in the United States," said Rosemarie Rowney, President of the Haiti Nursing Foundation. "Sadly, nurses, nursing students and nursing schools were lost in the earthquake, making the ratio even worse at a time when nurses are needed most."With the goal of restoring and improving nursing education in Haiti, over 50 professionals will gather in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, including members of the World Health Organization/Pan American Health Organization (WHO/PAHO), the Haitian Ministry of Health and many nursing educators from both Haiti and the United States.Speakers include Dr. Silvina Malvarez, Regional Advisor on Nursing and Allied Health Personnel Development, PAHO, who will discuss international standards for nursing education. Malvarez will also hold a pre-conference session with members of the WHO Nursing Collaborating Centers to develop strategies for comprehensive collaboration.Dr. Richard Garfield, Professor of Clinical International Nursing, Columbia University in the City of New York, will also speak, giving an analysis of what has and has not been achieved in rebuilding nursing systems in countries with major conflict or disasters. He brings a wealth of experience from his work in Tsunami-affected countries, Liberia and Sierra Leone in Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan."This is going to be an amazing opportunity to share ideas with nursing professionals who bring a wide variety of expertise to the symposium," Rowney said. "It is an important, strategic step for Haiti’s nursing education future."Haiti Nursing Foundation (HNF) was founded in 2005 to serve as a means to advance nursing in Haiti, and to provide support to the Faculte des Sciences Infirmieres [de Leogane] l’Universite Episcopale d’Haiti (Faculty of Nursing Science of the Episcopal University of Haiti or FSIL in Leogane).Contact:Laurie Lounsbury
Communications Liaison
Haiti Nursing Foundation
734-709-7374
llounsbury@haitinursing.org
http://www.haitinursing.org

U.N.: DR’s response to Haiti ‘exemplary,’ ‘inspiring’

Monday, August 30th, 2010

Rome wasnt built in a day!

From DominicanToday.com:Santo Domingo.- "Exemplary" and "inspiring" is how the United Nations yesterday called Dominican Republic’s humanitarian response for Haiti after the January 12 quake that killed as many as 300,000 people and left 1.5 million victims.In a statement the United Nations System stressed "the limitless examples of “solidarity provided by the Government, civil society, the private sector and all Dominicans" to the Haitian people after the earthquake that devastated the impoverished nation more than seven months.It hailed the manifestations of aid and commitments that arose in Dominican Republic from the catastrophe’s onset as “innumerable," and in order to “provide aid and protection to the catastrophe’s victims by using its own resources, also often limited and a display of solidarity and unconditional generosity to save lives and alleviate the immediate needs of the affected population.""The unity and inspiring humanitarian response given by the Dominican Republic to the earthquake’s victims have been and will continue being a model to follow for the rest of humanity," the UN System said.The recognition will be handed to president Leonel Fernandez today by UN representative in the country Valerie Julliand, to mark the World Day for Humanitarian Assistance, established in 2008.

L’Arche communities: differing abilities, one life together

Monday, August 30th, 2010

wonder what this really means

From Episcopal News Service:By Sharon Sheridan and Matthew Davies, August 19, 2010[Episcopal News Service] Twenty years ago, Curt Armstrong went to France, intending to learn French and pick grapes before heading for graduate school. He ended up becoming an assistant in a L’Arche community, where people with and without cognitive disabilities live together, and found a calling. Today, he and his wife – who met through L’Arche – are helping to launch a new community of the worldwide, interfaith organization in Atlanta.Photo/L’ArcheAssistant Victoria Lukanova and core member Jonathan Barraclough at The Skein, a L’Arche community in Edinburgh, Scotland.L’Arche – whose name comes from the French word for "ark" – began in 1964 when Canadian Jean Vanier, acting on the advice of a Dominican priest, invited two men with disabilities to share a home with him in the French village of Trosly-Breuil. A community developed and inspired the founding of similar communities in France, Canada and India. Today, 137 communities operate in 40 countries, with more planned.Within each community, which may encompass one home or several, "core members" with intellectual disabilities, and sometimes other handicaps, share their lives with assistants and other staff under a philosophy stressing mutuality and friendship.At their heart, L’Arche communities are spiritual communities, with members gathering regularly for prayer and celebration."All of our communities are inspired by … the Beatitudes, and that forms a spiritual underpinning for L’Arche," said Joan Mahler, L’Arche USA national coordinator.Many communities are Roman Catholic, reflecting the organization’s roots, but others maintain strong connections with Anglican or other denominations. In the United States, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori affirmed the Episcopal Church connection, confirming the Very Rev. Richard Bower as Episcopal Church liaison with L’Arche USA.L’Arche members may be Christian, belong to another religion or be religiously unaffiliated. Often the impetus to start a community comes from a church group, said Bower, former dean of St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral in Syracuse, New York. He served as chaplain for the local L’Arche community, while his wife was a L’Arche assistant. Now Vermont residents, they periodically lead retreats and formation programs for L’Arche communities in Latin America.Not just caregivers"We’re not just a not-for-profit organization trying to provide group homes," he said. "We have a spirituality that says God is most deeply encountered in service of the poorest of the poor, the weakest among us, and in that encounter we discover our own weaknesses, our own vulnerabilities, our own disabilities, if you want to call them that. We’re not people with everything together trying to take care of people who are not normal."At the heart of the spirituality, Bower said, "is the invitation and the expectation that deep, profound mutual friendships will happen, friendships that transform each other. And the challenge of that and the marvel of it is we’re talking about having a relationship with someone who maybe doesn’t speak, might not hear, might be blind, might [have] Down syndrome."The Rev. David Perry, who became involved with L’Arche in Portland, Oregon, after retiring as the presiding bishop’s deputy for ecumenical and interfaith relations, agreed."It’s a very strong emphasis on hospitality and on mutuality, so that it isn’t a question of somebody who has giving to somebody who doesn’t, or for people who are ‘abled’ helping those who are ‘disabled,’ said Perry, who worked with L’Arche Nehelem to help the religiously diverse community discern its spiritual path. "L’Arche is very much a mutual community in which everybody benefits."Varied backgroundsChosen by their individual communities, core members come to L’Arche in various ways: sometimes from institutions, sometimes from family homes, Mahler said. "There would need to be that desire to live in community with people and to participate on a regular basis in the life of the community: the celebrations, the prayer times, just the general communal life."Likewise, assistants arrive at many ages and from many walks of life.Some end up spending many years with the organization. Doug Mouncey left a job working with emotionally disturbed children in a residential setting in Canada in 1971 to spend a year hitchhiking in Europe and ended up spending six months at the Trosly-Breuil community in France. There, he met Perry, another Canadian Anglican, and the two married and spent a year at a L’Arche community in Canada.In 1974, they moved to Syracuse to help start a community, of which Mouncey became executive director. He also has served on the local board of directors and as a regional coordinator and was a charter member of the U.S. board. Today, he continues his friendships with members of the Syracuse community while working for United Way. His wife is an Episcopal priest doing supply and interim work as well as working in at a dental practice.Mouncey noted the difference between working in an institution, which can be very isolated from the surrounding community, and a L’Arche household with its emphasis on family and involvement with the wider community, including the routine activities of banking, visiting malls, getting haircuts. At St. Lucy’s Roman Catholic Church, L’Arche members serve as greeters and acolytes.L’Arche communities are officially recognized Americorp sites, Mahler said, noting, "L’Arche attracts many young people to serve as assistants."Maggie Heenan, 21, recently completed a year as an assistant at the L’Arche Irenicon community outside Boston. She learned about L’Arche in college through books by Henri Nouwen, a Roman Catholic priest who wrote about his experiences with the L’Arche Daybreak community in Southern Ontario, Canada. She chose the New England community "after prayer and discernment," said Heenan. "I definitely felt like I was being called to L’Arche."Heenan lived in one of four community homes housing 15 core members (her house had four). "I was kind of nervous about moving straight into a house with people with special needs, because I never worked with people with developmental disabilities before," she said. But, "the relationships I was able to build with our core people were strong and mutual."Core members worked outside the home during the day, she said. Everyone took turns making dinner, and evenings were filled with activities such as watching television, reading, going for a walk. Sometimes assistants accompanied core members to classes such as piano or guitar lessons. Often, house members went out together for ice cream or to the movies.L’Arche attracts people later in life as well.In Edinburgh, Scotland, author and former academic Helen Reid Thomas helped found The Skein, a L’Arche community named after a flock of geese often seen flying by, which opened in 1991.
 
In her previous role as a lecturer in literary linguistics at the University of Strathclyde, Thomas said, she began to feel that she was "lacking integrity of my whole being." She wanted "to bring together the spiritual, emotional and intellectual, and the job I was doing was primarily intellectual," she said. "I felt I was missing important bits of me."It’s demanding, but you get drawn in," said Thomas, who is a member of the Scottish Episcopal Church and serves on L’Arche’s international board.Initially, the community’s core members were transferred from a local hospital in Gogarburn that was closing down. Today, The Skein has four core members and six assistants. One member moved to a nursing home because he needed more care than the community could offer.They are beginning to look at different ways to extend the L’Arche community, Thomas said. One person is getting support at home through day-to-day assistance. "So the models are changing in response to social change and funding changes, but the essential is that we’re all members of this community."Two core members – Jonathan and Kirsty – attend St. James’ Episcopal Church in Leith.On Thursdays, Kirsty cooks lunch at St. James with the help of community volunteers. She has a passion for cooking, looking through recipe books and planning meals.All L’Arche communities take mealtimes together very seriously, said Jane Salmonson, coordinator of the L’Arche Overseas Development Fund. "L’Arche is the least likely place where you’ll find a TV supper. L’Arche makes something of sharing a meal together [and] the preparation of food."Core member Jonathan Barraclough, 39, has lived in the Edinburgh community for seven years. Asked what he thought about the community, he responded by simply saying: "good." But his real response was communicated through his wide beaming smile and both thumbs raised in the air. During an ENS reporter’s visit, Barraclough clearly enjoyed walking about, pointing at pictures on the wall, shaking people’s hands, stopping occasionally for a little dance. He also very happily cleared up the tea, washed the mugs and placed them back in the cupboard.John Redwood, a Roman Catholic who has been the community leader of L’Arche Edinburgh for six years, said that the experience "helps you loosen up a bit."He described L’Arche as being on the cutting edge of ecumenism and interfaith dialogue. "We live together with quite significant differences," he said. "There is something authentic in this experience."As in all communities, conflicts sometimes arise. Heenen said she encountered frustrations as well as joys in interactions both with core members and other staff. In conflict, it helped to remember "that everything that you’re saying to this person you might as well be saying to Christ," she said."I was expecting that my faith would be strengthened, and I definitely think it has been," she said, adding, "There’s a healthy and spiritual way to go about conflict, and there’s the way most people go about it. … I think living in a faith-based community, every time you came into conflict or every time you had a really joyful moment, it was kind of in the forefront of your mind that it is because God has brought you all together."New ways to serveIn Atlanta, an ecumenical group including members of St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church and with support from the Episcopal diocese’s Bishop Neil Alexander has met since 2003 to launch a L’Arche community. The group has located its first house but expects it to take a year to complete renovations and gain state approvals before opening, Armstrong said.In the meantime, St. Bartholomew’s has partnered with the organizing group to host monthly events for adults with disabilities and others, which helps build community and support for L’Arche, he said."One of my favorite ones was a family-style contra dance," Armstrong said. "It was really a magical, kingdom-like evening, where everybody participated fully. … The joy of the people with disabilities who were there really was powerful, and it really carried the evening. That’s one of the things we find with our core members or with adults with disabilities, is that their relational gifts of their spontaneity or their joy in being with others is often a real strength for our L’Arche communities."For Armstrong, the lure of those communities proved irresistible. After his initial L’Arche experience in France, he attended graduate school, then returned to L’Arche, where he met his wife. They moved to his hometown of Atlanta, where he taught high school, but then returned to L’Arche in France. They moved back to Atlanta a year ago so he could become executive director of the developing community there.When he first served as a L’Arche assistant at age 23, he said, "I think I wanted to do great things. But there’s something really powerful about these simple relationships and learning to live together and go for walks and to pray together and to cook and eat and forgive. … And of course, in another level, it connects with a lot of questions about faith and a lot of those sort of more serious or hard-to-get-around concepts of the gospel like the Beatitudes."– Sharon Sheridan is an Episcopal News Service correspondent. Matthew Davies is editor and international correspondent of ENS.

Haiti: The Art of Resilience

Monday, August 30th, 2010

does anyone know the real story

From Smithsonian Magazine:"We had 12,000 to 15,000 paintings here," says Georges Nader Jr., with a Paul Tanis work at the remains of his family’s house and museum near Port-au-Prince.Alison WrightWithin weeks of January’s devastating earthquake, Haiti’s surviving painters and sculptors were taking solace from their workBy Bill BrubakerPhotographs by Alison WrightSmithsonian magazine, September 2010Video GallerySaving Haiti’s Priceless ArtworkAfter the devastating earthquake, Smithsonian conservationists are working to preserve Haiti’s cultural heritageSix weeks had passed since a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti, killing 230,000 people and leaving more than 1.5 million others homeless. But the ground was still shaking in the nation’s rubble-strewn capital, Port-au-Prince, and 87-year-old Préfète Duffaut wasn’t taking any chances. One of the most prominent Haitian artists of the past 50 years was sleeping in a crude tent made of plastic sheeting and salvaged wood, fearful his earthquake-damaged house would collapse at any moment.“Did you feel the tremors last night?” Duffaut asked. Yes, I had felt the ground shake in my hotel room around 4:30 that morning. It was the second straight night of tremors, and I was feeling a bit stressed. But standing next to Duffaut, whose fantastical naive paintings I have admired for three decades, I resolved to put my anxieties on hold.It was Duffaut, after all, who had lived through one of the most horrific natural disasters of modern times. Not only was he homeless in the poorest nation of the Western Hemisphere, his niece and nephew had died in the earthquake. Gone, too, were his next-door neighbors in Port-au-Prince. “Their house just completely collapsed,” Duffaut said. “Nine people were inside.”The diabolical 15- to 20-second earthquake on January 12 also stole a sizable chunk of Duffaut’s—and Haiti’s—artistic legacy. At least three artists, two gallery owners and an arts foundation director died. Thousands of paintings and sculptures—valued in the tens of millions of dollars—were destroyed or badly damaged in museums, galleries, collectors’ homes, government ministries and the National Palace. The celebrated biblical murals that Duffaut and other Haitian artists painted at Holy Trinity Cathedral in the early 1950s were now mostly rubble. The Haitian Art Museum at College St. Pierre, run by the Episcopal Church, was badly cracked. And the beloved Centre d’Art, the 66-year-old gallery and school that jump-started Haiti’s primitive art movement—making collectors out of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Bill and Hillary Clinton, the filmmaker Jonathan Demme and thousands of others—had crumbled. “The Centre d’Art is where I sold my first piece of art in the 1940s,” Duffaut said quietly, tugging on the white beard he had grown since the earthquake. Duffaut disappeared from his tent and returned a few moments later with a painting that displayed one of his trademark imaginary villages, a rural landscape dominated by winding, gravity-defying mountain roads filled with tiny people, houses and churches. Then he retrieved another painting. And another. Suddenly, I was surrounded by six Duffauts—and all were for sale.Standing beside his tent, which was covered by a tarpaulin stamped USAID, Duffaut flashed a satisfied grin.“How much?” I asked.“Four thousand dollars [each],” he said, suggesting the price local galleries would charge.Not having more than $50 in my pocket, I had to pass. But I was delighted that Préfète Duffaut was open for business. “My future paintings will be inspired by this terrible tragedy,” he told me. “What I have seen on the streets has given me a lot of ideas and added a lot to my imagination.” There was an unmistakable look of hope in the old master’s eyes.“Deye mon, gen mon,” a Haitian proverb, is Creole for “beyond the mountains, more mountains.”Impossibly poor, surviving on less than $2 a day, most Haitians have made it their life’s work to climb over, under and around obstacles, be they killer hurricanes, food riots, endemic diseases, corrupt governments or the ghastly violence that appears whenever there is political upheaval. One victim of these all too frequent calamities has been Haitian culture: even before the earthquake, this French- and Creole-speaking Caribbean island nation of nearly ten million people did not have a publicly owned art museum or even a single movie theater.Still, Haitian artists have proved astonishingly resilient, continuing to create, sell and survive through crisis after crisis. “The artists here have a different temperament,” Georges Nader Jr. told me in his fortress-like gallery in Pétionville, the once-affluent, hillside Port-au-Prince suburb. “When something bad happens, their imagination just seems to get better.” Nader’s family has been selling Haitian art since the 1960s.The notion of making a living by creating and selling art first came to Haiti in the 1940s, when an American watercolorist named DeWitt Peters moved to Port-au-Prince. Peters, a conscientious objector to the world war then underway, took a job teaching English and was struck by the raw artistic expression he found at every turn—even on the local buses known as tap-taps.He founded Centre d’Art in 1944 to organize and promote untrained artists, and within a few years, word had gone out that something special was happening in Haiti. During a visit to the center in 1945, André Breton, the French writer, poet and a leader of the cultural movement known as Surrealism, swooned over the work of a self-described houngan (voodoo priest) and womanizer named Hector Hyppolite, who often painted with chicken feathers. Hyppolite’s creations, on subjects ranging from still lifes to voodoo spirits to scantily clad women (presumed to be his mistresses), sold for a few dollars each. But, Breton wrote, “all carried the stamp of total authenticity.” Hyppolite died of a heart attack in 1948, three years after joining Centre d’Art and one year after his work was displayed at a triumphant (for Haiti as well as for him) United Nations-sponsored exhibition in Paris.In the years that followed, the Haitian art market relied largely on the tourists who ventured to this Maryland-size nation, 700 or so miles from Miami, to savor its heady mélange of naive art, Creole food, smooth dark rum, hypnotic (though, at times, staged) voodoo ceremonies, high-energy carnivals and riotously colored bougainvillea. (Is it any wonder Haitian artists never lacked for inspiration?)Though tourists largely shied away from Haiti in the 1960s, when self-declared president-for-life François “Papa Doc” Duvalier ruled through terror enforced by his personal army of Tonton Macoutes, they returned after his death in 1971, when his playboy son, Jean-Claude (known as “Baby Doc”), took charge.I got my first glimpse of Haitian art when I interviewed Baby Doc in 1977. (His reign as president-for-life ended abruptly when he fled the country in 1986 for France, where he lives today at age 59 in Paris.) I was hooked the moment I bought my first painting, a $10 market scene done on a flour sack. And I was delighted that every painting, iron sculpture and sequined voodoo flag I carried home on subsequent trips gave me further insight into a culture that is a blend of West African, European, native Taíno and other homegrown influences.Although some nicely done Haitian paintings could be bought for a few hundred dollars, the best works by early masters such as Hyppolite and Philomé Obin (a devout Protestant who painted scenes from Haitian history, the Bible and his family’s life) eventually commanded tens of thousands of dollars. The Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the Hirshhorn in Washington, D.C. added Haitian primitives to their collections. And Haiti’s reputation as a tourist destination was reinforced by the eclectic parade of notables—from Barry Goldwater to Mick Jagger—who checked into the Hotel Oloffson, the creaky gingerbread retreat that is the model for the hotel in The Comedians, Graham Greene’s 1966 novel about Haiti.Much of this exuberance faded in the early 1980s amid political strife and the dawn of the AIDS pandemic. U.S. officials classified Haitians as being among the four groups at highest risk for HIV infection. (The others were homosexuals, hemophiliacs and heroin addicts.) Some Haitian doctors called this designation unwarranted, even racist, but the perception stuck that a Haitian holiday was not worth the risk.Though tourism waned, the galleries that sponsored Haitian painters and sculptors targeted sales to overseas collectors and the increasing numbers of journalists, development workers, special envoys, physicians, U.N. peacekeepers and others who found themselves in the country.“Haitians are not a brooding people,” said gallery owner Toni Monnin, a Texan who moved to Haiti in the boom-time ’70s and married a local art dealer. “Their attitude is: ‘Let’s get on with it! Tomorrow is another day.’”At the Gingerbread gallery in Pétionville, I was introduced to a 70-year-old sculptor who wore an expression of utter despondence. “I have no home. I have no income. And there are days when me and my family don’t eat,” Nacius Joseph told me. Looking for financial support, or at least a few words of encouragement, he was visiting the galleries that had bought and sold his work over the years.Joseph told gallery owner Axelle Liautaud that his days as a woodcarver, creating figures such as La Sirene, the voodoo queen of the ocean, were over. “All my tools are broken,” he said. “I can’t work. All of my apprentices, the people who helped me, have left Port-au-Prince, gone to the provinces. I’m very discouraged. I have lost everything!”“But don’t you love what you’re doing?” Liautaud asked.Joseph nodded.“Then you have to find a way to do it. This is a situation where you have to have some drive because everyone has problems.”Joseph nodded again, but looked to be near tears.Though the gallery owners were themselves hurting, many were handing out money and art supplies to keep the artists employed.At her gallery a few blocks away, Monnin told me that in the days following the quake she distributed $14,000 to more than 40 artists. “Right after the earthquake, they simply needed money to buy food,” she said. “You know, 90 percent of the artists I work with lost their homes.”Jean-Emmanuel “Mannu” El Saieh, whose late father, Issa, was one of the earliest promoters of Haitian art, was paying a young painter’s medical bills. “I just talked to him on the phone, and you don’t have to be a doctor to know he’s still suffering from shock,” El Saieh said at his gallery, just up a rutted road from the Oloffson hotel, which survived the quake.Though most of the artists I encountered had become homeless, they did not consider themselves luckless. They were alive, after all, and aware that the tremblement de terre had killed many of their friends and colleagues, such as the octogenarian owners of the Rainbow Gallery, Carmel and Cavour Delatour; Raoul Mathieu, a painter; Destimare Pierre Marie Isnel (a.k.a. Louco), a sculptor who worked with discarded objects in the downtown Grand Rue slum; and Flores “Flo” McGarrell, an American artist and film director who in 2008 moved to Jacmel (a town with splendid French colonial architecture, some of which survived the quake) to head up a foundation that supported local artists.The day I arrived in Port-au-Prince, I heard rumors of another possible casualty—Alix Roy, a reclusive, 79-year-old painter who had been missing since January 12. I knew Roy’s work well: he painted humorous scenes from Haitian life, often chubby kids dressed up as adults in elaborate costumes, some wearing oversize sunglasses, others balancing outrageously large fruits on their heads. Although he was a loner, Roy was an adventurous sort who had also lived in New York, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.A few nights later, Nader called my room at Le Plaza (one of the few hotels in the capital open for business) with some grim news. Not only had Roy died in the rubble of the gritty downtown hotel where he lived, his remains were still buried there, six weeks later. “I’m trying to find someone from the government to pick him up,” Nader said. “That’s the least the Haitian government can do for one of its best artists.”The next day, Nader introduced me to Roy’s sister, a retired kindergarten director in Pétionville. Marléne Roy Etienne, 76, told me her older brother had rented a room on the top floor of the hotel so he could look down on the street for inspiration. “I went to look for him after the earthquake but couldn’t even find where the hotel had been because the entire street—Rue des Césars—was rubble,” she said. “So I stood in front of the rubble where I thought Alix might be and said a prayer.”Etienne’s eyes teared when Nader assured her he would continue pressing government officials to retrieve her brother’s remains.“This is hard,” she said, reaching for a handkerchief. “This is really hard.”Nader had been through some challenging times himself. Although he had not lost any family members, and his gallery in Pétionville was intact, the 32-room house where his parents lived, and where his father, Georges S. Nader, had built a gallery that contained perhaps the largest collection of Haitian art anywhere, had crumbled.The son of Lebanese immigrants, the elder Nader was long considered one of Haiti’s best-known and most successful art dealers, having established relationships with hundreds of artists since he opened a gallery downtown in 1966. He moved into the mansion in the hillside Croix-Desprez neighborhood a few years later and, in addition to the gallery, built a museum that showcased many of Haiti’s finest artists, including Hyppolite, Obin, Rigaud Benoit and Castera Bazile. When he retired a few years ago, Nader turned over the gallery and museum to his son John.The elder Nader had been taking a nap with his wife when the quake struck at 4:53 p.m. “We were rescued within ten minutes because our bedroom did not collapse,” he told me. What Nader saw when he was led outside was horrifying. His collection had become a hideous pile of debris with thousands of paintings and sculptures buried under giant blocks of concrete.“My life’s work is gone,” Nader, 78, told me by telephone from his second home in Miami, where he has been living since the quake. Nader said he never bought insurance for his collection, which the family estimated to be worth more than $20 million.With the rainy season approaching, Nader’s sons hired a dozen men to pick, shovel and jackhammer their way through the debris, looking for anything that could be salvaged.“We had 12,000 to 15,000 paintings here,” Georges Nader Jr. told me as we stomped through the sprawling heap, which reminded me of a bombed-out village from a World War II documentary. “We’ve recovered about 3,000 paintings and about 1,800 of those are damaged. Some other paintings were taken by looters in the first days after the earthquake.”Back at his gallery in Pétionville, Nader showed me a Hyppolite still life he had recovered. I recognized it, having admired the painting in 2009 at a retrospective at the Organization of American States’ Art Museum of the Americas in Washington. But the 20- by 20-inch painting was now broken into eight pieces. “This will be restored by a professional,” Nader said. “We have begun restoring the most important paintings we have recovered.”I heard other echoes of cautious optimism as I visited cultural sites across Port-au-Prince. A subterranean, government-run historical museum that contained some important paintings and artifacts had survived. So did a private voodoo and Taíno museum in Mariani (near the quake’s epicenter) and an ethnographic collection in Pétionville. People associated with the destroyed Holy Trinity Cathedral and Centre d’Art, as well as the Episcopal Church’s structurally feeble Haitian Art Museum, assured me that these institutions will be rebuilt. But no one could say how or when.The United Nations has announced that 59 countries and international organizations have pledged $9.9 billion as “the down payment Haiti needs for wholesale national renewal.” But there’s no word on how much of that money, if any, will ever reach the cultural sector.“We deeply believe that Haitians living abroad can help us with the funds,” said Henry Jolibois, an artist and architect who is a technical consultant to the Haitian prime minister’s office. “For the rest, we must convince other entities in the world to participate, such as the museums and private collectors who have huge Haitian naive painting collections.”At the Holy Trinity Cathedral 14 murals had long offered a distinctively Haitian take on biblical events. My favorite was the Marriage at Cana by Wilson Bigaud, a painter who excelled at glimpses into everyday Haitian life—cockfights, market vendors, baptismal parties, rara band parades. While some European artists portrayed the biblical event at which Christ turned water into wine as being rather formal, Bigaud’s Cana was a decidedly casual affair with a pig, rooster and two Haitian drummers looking on. (Bigaud died this past March 22 at age 79.)“That Marriage at Cana mural was very controversial,” Haiti’s Episcopal bishop, Jean Zaché Duracin, told me in his Pétionville office. “In the ’40s and ’50s many Episcopalians left the church in Haiti and became Methodists because they didn’t want these murals at the cathedral. They said, ‘Why? Why is there a pig in the painting?’ They didn’t understand there was a part of Haitian culture in these murals.”Duracin told me it took him three days to gather the emotional strength to visit Holy Trinity. “This is a great loss, not only for the Episcopal church but for art worldwide,” he said.Visiting the site myself one morning, I saw two murals that were more or less intact—The Baptism of Our Lord by Castera Bazile and Philomé Obin’s Last Supper. (A third mural, Native Street Procession, by Duffaut, has survived, says former Smithsonian Institution conservator Stephanie Hornbeck, but others were destroyed.)At the Haitian Art Museum, chunks of concrete had fallen on some of the 100 paintings on exhibit. I spotted one of Duffaut’s oldest, largest and finest imaginary village paintings propped against a wall. A huge piece was missing from the bottom. A museum employee told me the piece had not been found. As I left, I reminded myself that although thousands of paintings had been destroyed in Haiti, thousands of others survived, and many are outside the country in private collections and institutions, including the Waterloo Center for the Arts in Iowa and the Milwaukee Art Museum, which have important collections of Haitian art. I also took comfort from conversations I had had with artists like Duffaut, who were already looking beyond the next mountain.No one displays Haiti’s artistic resolve more than Frantz Zéphirin, a gregarious 41-year-old painter, houngan and father of 12, whose imagination is as large as his girth.“I’m very lucky to be alive,” Zéphirin told me late one afternoon in the Monnin gallery, where he was putting the finishing touches on his tenth painting since the quake. “I was in a bar on the afternoon of the earthquake, having a beer. But I decided to leave the bar when people starting talking about politics. And I’m glad I left. The earthquake came just one minute later, and 40 people died inside that bar.”Zéphirin said he walked several hours, at times climbing over corpses, to get to his house. “That’s where I learned that my stepmother and five of my cousins had died,” he said. But his pregnant girlfriend was alive; so were his children.“That night, I decided I had to paint,” Zéphirin said. “So I took my candle and went to my studio on the beach. I saw a lot of death on the way. I stayed up drinking beer and painting all night. I wanted to paint something for the next generation, so they can know just what I had seen.”Zéphirin led me to the room in the gallery where his earthquake paintings were hung. One shows a rally by several fully clothed skeletons carrying a placard written in English: “We need shelters, clothes, condoms and more. Please help.”“I’ll do more paintings like these,” Zéphirin said. “Each day 20 ideas for paintings pass in my head, but I don’t have enough hands to make all of them.” (Smithsonian commissioned the artist to create the painting that appears on the cover of this magazine. It depicts the devastated island nation with grave markers, bags of aid money and birds of mythic dimensions delivering flowers and gifts, such as “justice” and “health.”) In March, Zéphirin accepted an invitation to show his work in Germany. And two months later, he would head to Philadelphia for a one-man show, titled “Art and Resilience,” at the Indigo Arts Gallery.A few miles up a mountain road from Pétionville, one of Haiti’s most celebrated contemporary artists, Philippe Dodard, was preparing to bring more than a dozen earthquake-inspired paintings to Arte Américas, an annual fair in Miami Beach. Dodard showed me a rather chilling black-and-white acrylic that was inspired by the memory of a friend who perished in an office building. “I’m calling this painting Trapped in the Dark,” he said.I have no idea how Dodard, a debonair man from Haiti’s elite class whose paintings and sculptures confirm his passion for his country’s voodoo and Taíno cultures, had found time to paint. He told me he had lost several friends and family members in the quake, as well as the headquarters of the foundation he helped create in the mid-1990s to promote culture among Haitian youth. And he was busily involved in a project to convert a fleet of school buses—donated by the neighboring Dominican Republic—into mobile classrooms for displaced students.Like Zéphirin, Dodard seemed determined to work through his grief with a paintbrush in hand. “How can I continue living after one of the biggest natural disasters in the history of the world? I can’t,” he wrote in the inscription that would appear next to his paintings at the Miami Beach show. “Instead I use art to express the deep change that I see around and inside me.”For the Haitian art community, more hopeful news was on the way. In May, the Smithsonian Institution launched an effort to help restore damaged Haitian treasures. Led by Richard Kurin, under secretary for history, art and culture, and working with private and other public organizations, the Institution established a “cultural recovery center” at the former headquarters of the U.N. Development Program near Port-au-Prince.“It’s not every day at the Smithsonian that you actually get to help save a culture,” Kurin says. “And that’s what we’re doing in Haiti.”On June 12, after months of preparation, conservators slipped on their gloves in the Haitian capital and got to work. “Today was a very exciting day for…conservators, we got objects into the lab! Woo hoo!” the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Hugh Shockey enthused on the museum’s Facebook page.Kurin sounded equally pumped. “The first paintings we brought in were painted by Hector Hyppolite. So we were restoring those on Sunday,” he told me a week later. “Then on Monday our conservator from the American Art Museum was restoring Taíno, pre-Colombian artifacts. Then on Tuesday the paper conservator was dealing with documents dating from the era of the Haitian struggle for independence. And then the next day we were literally on the scaffolding at the Episcopal cathedral, figuring out how we’re going to preserve the three murals that survived.”The task undertaken by the Smithsonian and a long list of partners and supporters that includes the Haitian Ministry of Culture and Communication, the International Blue Shield, the Port-au-Prince-based foundation FOKAL and the American Institute for Conservation seemed daunting; thousands of objects need restoration.Kurin said the coalition will train several dozen Haitian conservators to take over when the Smithsonian bows out in November 2011. “This will be a generation-long process in which Haitians do this themselves,” he said, adding that he hopes donations from the international community will keep the project alive.Across the United States, institutions such as the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, galleries such as Indigo Arts in Philadelphia and Haitian-Americans such as Miami-based artist Edouard Duval Carrié were organizing sales and fund-raisers. And more Haitian artists were on the move—some to a three-month residency program sponsored by a gallery in Kingston, Jamaica, others to a biennial exhibition in Dakar, Senegal.Préfète Duffaut stayed in Haiti. But during an afternoon we spent together he seemed energized and, though Holy Trinity was mostly a pile of rubble, he was making plans for a new mural. “And my mural in the new cathedral will be better than the old ones,” he promised.Meanwhile, Duffaut had just finished a painting of a star he saw while sitting outside his tent one night. “I’m calling this painting The Star of Haiti,” he said. “You see, I want all of my paintings to send a message.”The painting showed one of Duffaut’s imaginary villages inside a giant star that was hovering like a spaceship over the Haitian landscape. There were mountains in the painting. And people climbing. Before bidding the old master farewell, I asked him what message he wanted this painting to send.“My message is simple,” he said without a moment’s hesitation. “Haiti will be back.”Bill Brubaker, formerly a Washington Post writer, has long followed Haitian art. In her photographs and books, Alison Wright focuses on cultures and humanitarian efforts.

Haiti: Barred from ballot, Wyclef remains an inspiration

Monday, August 30th, 2010

if people only knew

From The Miami HeraldAugust 22, 2010 BY EDWIDGE DANTICATIt was the presidential bid heard around the world. However, to those who have been following Wyclef Jean closely, it was no surprise. I remember as early as 2004 hearing of a Wyclef Jean candidacy being discussed by friends and family members, some uneasy and others thrilled at the possibility. As much as carriers of Haitian passports are pestered at borders all over the world, Wyclef, who travels constantly, never traded his Haitian passport for any other.“His journey,” one friend told me, “will begin with his foundation [Yele Haiti] and end at the national palace.”The timing of his presidential run, Wyclef recently told Time magazine, had a lot to do with the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake that all but leveled Port-au-Prince and several other cities. Otherwise, he would have waited another 10 years to run. Now, unless Article 135 of the Haitian constitution — which requires habitual residence in the country for five consecutive years prior to the election — is amended or unless, in spite of reported death threats, Wyclef moves to Haiti for the next five years, he will not be able to run. Haiti’s electoral council has decided that he is ineligible because he has failed to meet the residency requirement. That too is no surprise. Had they ruled in Wyclef’s favor, they might have opened a Pandora’s box that might cast further doubt on their desire and ability to hold elections that are as fair and transparent as possible given the already tenuous and potentially volatile post-earthquake situation in Haiti.At this point, I should mention that I know Wyclef Jean. From the very beginning of his musical career, I have seen him perform on both small and large stages, but I have also seen him write a song on the spot while looking at footage of a dead friend. I have seen him play with his 5-year-old daughter, and I have seen him act as master of ceremony at both a brother and sister’s weddings. I cannot vouch for him as a presidential candidate (and less so as a president), but I must admit that I initially found his candidacy exciting. The idea that he might be our first forty-something, Creolophone, diaspora-hailed candidate — anticipating this very outcome, I had not allowed my mind to go as far as president — was rather electrifying. His entry into the race has energized thousands of disempowered young people. It has also brightened a fading international media spotlight on Haiti, where 300,000 people recently lost their lives and more than a million still remain homeless.Among both his supporters and detractors, Wyclef’s candidacy has also generated a passionate dialogue about the kind of leader Haiti needs at one of the most critical moments of its 206-year-old existence. The fact that only Haiti’s current president, Rene Preval, has been able to finish a full term in office speaks volumes about the office. Whoever becomes president of Haiti this fall will have the Sisyphean task of rebuilding a nation even as other potential disasters — health, economic and environmental — loom ahead. For example, should Haiti be struck by one or a string of hurricanes as it was it was two years ago around this time, there could be as many casualties as during the earthquake.Now that the decision has been made, we must return to the less exciting and more somber business at hand. Nine million people, many of whom live in deplorable conditions in makeshift shelters, deserve no less. Haiti’s next president must burrow in, and along with the people of Haiti, fight corruption, create housing, educational opportunities and jobs, among many other grueling and unglamorous tasks. He or she — there is one woman in the race — will have to keep expectations low while working as hard as possible to deliver tangible results to a long suffering population.I hope that my friend will not be too disappointed that these tasks will not fall on his shoulders. The burden will be enormous on whoever takes on the job. Now there will, of course, be people who lose interest in the race, who feel that they have no dog in the fight. I hope Wyclef Jean is not one of them. What he has promised to do before — create jobs and educational opportunities and inspire young people who have already lost so much to the earthquake that inspired him to run — he can continue to do through a reformed version of his Yele Haiti foundation and his music. As our roving ambassador, he can now do this more freely, without the statesman straitjacket and forced political lingo. He can speak directly to us and from his heart. He can console his young supporters and urge them once again to remain calm. And he won’t have to do it en francais. That could be his most important contribution yet to a country for which he has proven his love and devotion over and over again.Edwidge Danticat is an author whose most recent works are y “Eight Days” and “Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist At Work.”

Haiti: A to-do list for shoring up the country

Monday, August 30th, 2010

wonder what this really means

From The Los Angeles Times:Money has been pledged to help the impoverished nation recover from a devastating earthquake. Now, a sound plan setting priorities is in order.By James Dobbins and Laurel MillerAugust 23, 2010The earthquake that leveled Haiti exposed fundamental weaknesses in its state institutions. Worldwide pledges of $10 billion create an unprecedented opportunity to fix them.Haiti’s own plans for recovery, presented to its international donors in March, contained a broad vision but no road map to prioritize and fix urgent needs.It is not enough to raise stronger buildings. What Haiti truly needs is a more resilient and effective government, starting with these key areas:Establishing an attractive business climate.Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, ranked 151 out of 183 countries in the ease of doing business, according to our analysis for the Rand Corp. Our research also concluded that it takes 195 days and 13 separate procedures to register a business. It’s equally difficult to get construction permits, credit or engage in foreign trade. As a result, industry accounts for only 16% of the nation’s economy despite Haiti’s low-cost labor and the favorable terms for importing goods from Haiti to the United States. As for the seaport, it’s 35% more expensive to bring a container of goods into Port-au-Prince than into any of the developed countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and takes 22 days longer.An efficient, one-stop shop must be established for businesses in Haiti. Then, as in a field of dreams, they may come.Reforming the civil service.Haiti has weak financial control of its ministries; each does its own procurement and suffers as much as 30% absenteeism among employees. Many are phantom employees who collect government paychecks while working other jobs. Poor record-keeping and noncompetitive bidding practices also invite corruption. Auditing is nearly nonexistent. Most government decisions rest in the hands of a few.Change must start with a census of all government employees, to determine their locations and roles. For current employees and future hires, job descriptions should be established with predetermined qualifications as well as metrics for hiring and firing, and performance incentives.Overhauling the dysfunctional judicial and corrections systems.Haiti lacks well-trained lawyers, judges and state-subsidized legal representation for the indigent. An estimated 75% of those in Haiti’s overflowing prisons languish for long periods without ever going before a judge. The police and justice systems barely link at all.In the short term, officials should establish a special pretrial detainee review for prisoners. This step could potentially free thousands of inmates who shouldn’t be in jail. In the wake of more than 200,000 earthquake deaths, Haiti should also accelerate the resolution of property disputes outside the court system using special panels. In the longer run, officials should develop a computerized system that creates one case log for each individual from arrest through exoneration or incarceration.Enhancing education through regulation and enforcement.The quake destroyed 5,000 schools. Even before that, children attended classes sporadically under a system of largely unregulated schools and undertrained teachers.Haiti now needs to tackle education reform and reward schools that embrace a rigorous curriculum, rather than dividing limited resources uncritically among many schools, most of them run by private, charitable or religious providers.For example, the state could subsidize private schoolteacher wages (in accredited schools that cap charges to families) on a par with public school salaries and link pay to academic proficiency. Teacher retraining will be necessary on a grand scale. School-based food programs have increased attendance in the past; this should be standard fare.Shifting all public healthcare to a performance-based contracting system.The earthquake destroyed 73 of Haiti’s 373 hospitals, clinics and medical training institutes; 200 staff members of the Ministry of Public Health died or were injured when their Port-au-Prince facility collapsed. Haitian-based healthcare is crippled amid a continuing imperative to monitor and prevent disease in tent camps, to treat mental illnesses stemming from the quake and to provide prosthetics and rehab therapy.Officials should shift operation of all health centers to nongovernmental organizations NGOs and other private institutions, leaving Haiti’s government to concentrate on setting policies and enforcing regulations for the system as a whole.Haiti can do none of this on its own. The Obama administration should strongly consider naming a point person to oversee all aspects of Haiti’s reconstruction. At the same time, the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, co-chaired by former President Clinton and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, needs to become the prevailing decision-making body, not just a talk-shop for donors and the government.The commission is off to a slow start. To make it work, major donors, most notably the United States, should submit all projects to it for coordination. If the U.S. does not embrace this discipline, no one else will.James Dobbins, the U.S. special envoy to Haiti under the Clinton administration, directs the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the Santa Monica-based nonprofit Rand Corp., where Laurel Miller is a senior policy analyst. The study "Building a More Resilient Haitian State" can be found at rand.orgCopyright © 2010, Los Angeles Times

Mission: Church symposium to present spirituality of philanthropy

Monday, August 30th, 2010

more to read in our archives

From The Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs:August 24, 2010[Office of Public Affairs] The Episcopal Church Office of Mission Funding Sept. 29 will sponsor a daylong symposium on the "Spirituality of Philanthropy," uniting the theological and spiritual basis of philanthropy with a useful practicum on advanced fundraising strategies and techniques.Designed for directors of development at dioceses, parishes and other Episcopal organizations, the event will be held at the Episcopal Church Center in New York.The morning program will offer "The Theology of Abundance"; the afternoon session will cover "Popping the Question: The Romance of the ‘Ask.’"
   
Keynote speakers are:  • Paul Schervish, director of the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College and author of "Gospels of Wealth: How the Rick Portray Their Lives" and "Wealth and The Will of God: Discerning the Use of Riches in the Service of Ultimate Purpose." • The Rev. Canon Charles K. Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop, former professor of ethics and communication and author of "Transforming Stewardship" and "Barnabas: A Model for Holistic Stewardship." • Nicholas Boothman, a corporate communications consultant and author of "How to Connect in Business in 90 Seconds or Less." • Kathy LeMay, founder and CEO of Raising Change and author of "The Generosity Plan: Sharing Your Time, Treasure and Talent to Shape the World."Built into the program are ample opportunities to meet the speakers.  Copies of their recent books will be available for sale and signing.Small-group discussions facilitated by a panel of fundraising experts will focus on practical approaches to fundraising, particularly in the area of major gifts. And Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will celebrate and preach at the midday Eucharist.Registration, including all materials, meals and receptions, is $295 until Sept. 3 and $350 afterward.For more information contact Pam Barry, associate director of Mission Funding, (212)716-6002, pbarry@episcopalchurch.org.

Mission: Seminarians organize for young adult evangelism

Monday, August 30th, 2010

this is bogus, who would think

From Episcopal News Service:By Otis Gaddis III, August 24, 2010Otis Gaddis III is a second-year seminarian from the Diocese of Washington at Berkeley Divinity School at Yale.[Episcopal News Service] In the fall of 2009 a group of seminary students gathered around a table at Berkeley Divinity School at Yale with the desire to facilitate an intentional ministry of large-scale, effective, grassroots evangelism focused primarily on spiritually homeless young adults that would foster the development of vibrant Episcopal faith communities where people could meet Jesus and be transformed into people who co-labor for Jesus’ Kingdom of love and justice.We started by reflecting on our own experience of coming to the Episcopal Church (most of us coming to the Episcopal Church as teens or young adults) and the experiences of people we knew personally who have found the Episcopal Church attractive. Among the people we knew, we found that most attended Episcopal Churches because they deeply appreciated the beauty of our church’s liturgy, its sacramental and mystical tradition and its positive view of reason. Yet, we also noticed that among this group there was a substantial subgroup for whom the initial decisive attraction to the Episcopal Church was its social justice advocacy and service for the poor, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people, women, racial minorities and the environment. It is toward this subgroup — whom we often call "progressives" — that we began to direct our attention, because from our own experience, there is a significant correlation between being a progressive and being spiritually homeless, especially if one is a young adult. We hear it all the time in our peer group, where young adults increasingly self-identify as "spiritual but not religious." Unfortunately, many in this demographic of spiritually homeless progressive young adults — who typically find the Episcopal Church attractive when they encounter it — do not know the Episcopal Church exists, so they could not even choose to make their home with us if they wanted to.Recognizing this, we discerned a call to raise a corps of entrepreneurial missioners — clergy and lay leaders with the passion and gifts to develop spiritual communities that will effectively mission to this large, spiritually homeless, progressive population. Furthermore, these entrepreneurial-missioners must articulate an understanding of the Gospel, which does not substitute social justice for Jesus (as if social justice were the Gospel itself) but rather fully recognizes our profound orientation toward social justice as a proclamation of Jesus within the tradition of Nicene-Orthodox Episcopal spirituality. As the evangelist embodies Jesus’ own fundamental orientation toward love and justice, the act of offering Jesus to others becomes, in this movement, a progressive act.As our conversation crystallized, we came to two conclusions: the Episcopal Church has a critical shortage of entrepreneurial missioners equipped to mobilize and coordinate the building and growing of the literally thousands of new Episcopal spiritual communities necessary for such a movement to be successful; and the widely held perception of progressivism and evangelism as oppositional prevents progressives with gifts for entrepreneurial mission from self-identifying as evangelists.When we looked around the church, we noticed small groups of people here and there attempting to engage these issues, but there was no systemic institutional effort to address these problems. So, we decided to do our part to develop that institutional infrastructure by creating an inter-seminary organization: The Episcopal Evangelism Network (EEN).
     
Our mission is to gather, equip and mentor entrepreneurial missioner seminarians and give them access to the practical training they need to start new mission-oriented communities or to rebuild spiritual communities that have significantly declined; and to create a safe space for progressive Episcopalians to integrate their values with their vocations for evangelism so that they are able to mobilize effectively the large share of progressive Episcopalians in the pews, of whom many themselves are uncomfortable witnessing to the spiritual transformation they experience as they encounter Jesus.We already are well on our way towards creating EEN formation groups at every school where Episcopalians study in significant numbers and knitting these groups into an inter-seminary network. Indeed, during the past year, we have found seminarian partners at Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Episcopal Divinity School, Harvard Divinity School, Union Theological Seminary and General Theological Seminary. Moreover, we are having our first inter-seminary gathering in Baltimore, Maryland, Sept. 23-25 at a conference co-hosted by the Episcopal Village. For registration information, click here. The conference is free for seminarians. Speakers include Brian McLaren, Stephanie Spellers, Karen Ward, Donald Schell, Martin Smith, Simón Bautista and more. Other sponsors include the Church Publishing Group; the Fund for Theological Education; and the dioceses of Maryland, Long Island and Southern Virginia.– Otis Gaddis III is a second-year seminarian from the Diocese of Washington at Berkeley Divinity School at Yale. For more information contact him at otis.gaddis@yale.edu.

Haiti: Plas Timoun offers play therapy to young quake victims

Monday, August 30th, 2010

does anyone know the real story

From The Washington Post:GALLERYBy Edward CodyPORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI – When counselors asked the children at the Plas Timoun psychological therapy center to draw, what came out on the paper were images of crumbled houses, severed limbs and blood spurting from people trapped under the ruins.But Jasmine Etelus, 8, was drawing another kind of house the other day. It was a two-story, pink-painted structure in the gingerbread tradition of Port-au-Prince, with a blazing sun on the mountain-lined horizon behind it."It’s for a wedding," she explained.Jasmine is among uncounted thousands of children who were left traumatized by the earthquake that ravaged Haiti on Jan. 12, killing or maiming their parents and siblings and destroying their homes. But she is also among the approximately 600 children cared for at Plas Timoun, "Children’s Park" in Creole, a little haven run by Haiti’s Ministry of Youth and Sports.Michaelle Newstrom, a kindergarten teacher who runs the facility with 26 counselors and assistants in the upscale suburb of Petionville, said it got under way at the end of February with prodding from Elisabeth Préval, the president’s wife. Plas Timoun is one of two such centers run by the ministry, along with several more run by Haitian nongovernmental organizations or international aid groups such as Doctors Without Borders.Although they reach only a tiny fraction of the children psychologically scarred by the earthquake, the centers appear as islands of progress in a sea of despair. Over the months, for instance, Jasmine has been cajoled by art, singing and counseling, turning her thoughts from horror to happy wedding scenes at least for the time it takes to draw a picture.Before starting Plas Timoun, Préval visited her counterpart in the neighboring Dominican Republic to solicit help. Among other things, she came home with a half-dozen buses from Santo Domingo, the Dominican capital. The forest-green buses were parked in a shady parking lot, emptied of their seats and turned into instant classrooms.One bus is for art class. One is for pottery class, another for music. One is the library, called the "bibliobus." Dance is on an outdoor stage under a tree. Three shifts a day of about 200 children receive therapy, which is conducted so it seems to them like play.With President Rene Préval due to step down at the end of his term in February, Newstrom said, funding for Plas Timoun and the other facilities is uncertain. But foreign governments and aid agencies have pledged $10 billion in aid, and she expressed confidence that at least some of the funds will get steered to the center."I hope it doesn’t have to stop," she said. "The children really seem to like it here."As she spoke, a clutch of children gathered in the street and pushed at the iron gate, trying to get into the lot for the second shift of activities, which begins in the late morning.Newstrom said most of the children who show up still live in tents and under tarps in the homeless camps scattered across Port-au-Prince. Some attend school; others do not. Most days they get a meal at Plas Timoun – sometimes hot soup, sometimes U.S. military rations – which they often hoard to take home with them.It is not always enough. The other day, Newstrom noticed one boy bobbing and weaving when the children were supposed to be lined up for a flag-raising ceremony. She walked over to see what he was doing, she recalled, but before she could draw near, he fainted and fell to the ground.The boy, Victor Mayzer, 9, was dizzy – from malnutrition, Newstrom conjectured. She gave him a bowl of chicken-noodle soup and after a rest, he was back drawing pictures with the others. "I’m okay," he told an inquiring visitor and quickly looked away.But as the children gathered later to dance and sing Carnaval tunes in a circle around two of counselors playing a guitar and beating a drum, Victor held back, apparently not in the mood to join in.Newstrom danced a few steps toward him, urging him to participate. In response, Victor flexed his knees a few times to the rhythm and smiled wanly, but in the end he hung back and just watched.When they first arrive, Newstrom said, many children are withdrawn, silent and aggressive. Psychologists visit the facility regularly to care for those most severely affected by what they lived through Jan. 12. The visits to Plas Timoun probably cannot make them forget, she conceded. But as the months go by, she added, many open up and return to the normal concerns of children.Kieziac Genity, 8, was making a three-legged kitchen table in pottery class recently, for instance, but the boy seated next to her was molding the clay into a small rectangle. On close examination, it turned out to be a cellphone.